Tough French connection, but now we’ll always have Paris

GLOBE-TROTTING runner-writer ANDY ATKINSON follows up his dispatches from Berlin, New York, Bilbao and Verona with this report from the Paris Marathon…

QUESTION: What activity do you come out of feeling worse than when you went in? 

ANSWER: Not running a marathon, but going to the doctor to ask for a medical certificate to run one! 

The French ask for conformation from a medic prior to allowing you to enter the Paris Marathon and I went into the surgery confident that this would be a formality.

After much sucking of teeth and comments about high cholesterol and blood pressure my doctor said no! She would have to get confirmation from the senior partner before risking a signature on the form. 

Fortunately, it turned out that the senior partner is a parkrunner and after a few questions and agreeing to appropriate medication I was in.

Liz, my wife, had similar problems — her doctor flatly refused to take the risk and sign the form, leaving her to find a more enlightened medic at a bureau in Paddington. Charlie Macklin submitted the form all right, only to have it thrown out for having the wrong wording. It turned out that the words were right in the end, but this only came clear on collecting bibs at the expo.

The medical certificate obstacle surmounted, a small group of Reading Roadrunners independently took the Eurostar to Paris. We consisted of David Walkley, Charlie Macklin, Anthony Eastaway, Liz and myself, supplemented by our neighbours, Joelah and Linda Flintoff.  Unfortunatley, Sev Konieczny was unable join us, but her sister, Véronique Chalmandrier ran in support.

We also had the backing of supporters in Paris — Anthony’s husband Jeremy and Charlie’s children, as well as the warm good wishes of a large number of Roadrunners following us back home on the event app.

On the eve of the race Anthony, Jeremy, Liz and I ventured to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to view the start and finish of the course, while Charlie opted for a view from the Eiffel Tower. We also managed an evening rendezvous to enjoy a meal together and talk race strategy before retiring early in preparation for the next day.

Weather on the day was ideal for running — cool to the point of being cold, bright and sunny. The course is flat and fast, provided you watch your feet on the notorious cobbles and can squeeze through streets sometimes alarmingly narrowed by pressing spectators. 

But you don’t run Paris just to get a personal best… the course takes in all the major tourist landmarks of the city. 

We started in the Champs Elysees, passing L’Opera, La Bastille, through the Bois de Vincennes, back past Notre Dame, the Musée d’Orsay and the Tour Eiffel.

The last five miles is a tough slog through the Bois de Boulogne, but relieved in the end by the sight of Frank Ghery’s magnificent Louis Vuitton building. The finish culminates along the Avenue Foch in front of the Arc de Triomphe — a fitting end to an exhilarating tour of the town.

We all felt we had good runs, and caught up afterwards to compare notes over a beer or two. David in particular turned in a well-deserved PB at 3:40.46 and Charlie was very near her best at 4:23.18.

Anthony ran a solid 5:49.36 and Liz, relaxed as ever, cruised in at 5:41.14, just under two minutes behind her PB scored at Berlin last September. Véronique achieved a creditable 5:17.46.

As for me, I was pleased, not so much with the time of 4:34.24, but with my state at the end — managing a strong finish and a little sprint over the line with a noisy squad of ‘London to Paris’ marathon-running nutcases pulling me along.

After the run, most of us stayed on to do a little sightseeing and relaxing. Paris can be an expensive place to eat and drink, but once you get the feel of the city, not really any more than London. Liz and I certainly enjoyed visiting some new sights and discovering interesting cafés and restaurants.

In common with many great cities, Paris has a fantastic metro system and it is easy to get to most landmarks, so it is a good place to combine running with tourism. We saw some signs of gilet jaune damage to the shops in the Champs Elysees, but there was no trouble.

Much more distressing was, as we left, the reports of the fire at Notre Dame. Television pictures of the fire and the distress of Parisians were very moving, but I have no doubt that the resilient French will bounce back and soon have this eternal monument restored.  Overall a great race and I think a few of us are keen to return next year.

Heartbreak Hill conquered… now it’s Chicago here I come

SPECIAL report from Roadrunner BRENDAN MORRIS on yesterday’s Boston Marathon… and it’s aftermath!

IT’S 3.30am local time and I’m wide awake lying in our hotel room in Boston. Yesterday I ran the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:47.50. It was a time that I was quite happy with and celebrated accordingly afterwards.

The trouble is now that I’m rather uncomfortable. The hangover is bearable,  but not pleasant, the muscles in my upper legs are particularly sore, but the worst thing is, I need the toilet. 

This will be the third time that I would be going during the night (an issue with maximum rehydration after a marathon). The first time, my left leg gave way underneath me completely and I ended up in a heap on the floor and crawled to the ensuite.

The second time, I made so much noise groaning in pain that I woke my wife up and she was less than sympathetic. 

So I’m now weighing up the options available. The most attractive one seems to be to wet the bed, but I think the most acceptable one will be to attempt to roll out of bed into the floor quietly and then once again crawl to the toilet and muster up the strength to stand, then hobble back. 

The prestige of the Boston Marathon needs no introduction. It’s an event that is on many amateur runners’ bucket lists, with a difficult qualifying time and no opportunity to run it otherwise, making it a race to aspire to. The city seems to have embraced this event with open arms as well, with the locals generating a great atmosphere throughout the marathon weekend. 

Upon signing up to run Boston, my initial thoughts were… “it’s that marathon with a hill in it.” After running it, I think it would be better described as “the marathon with one flat bit in it.” 

The more I read about the course in the build-up to the event, the more it started to worry me. “Though it has a net drop in elevation, do not let that fool you into thinking it’s a quick or easy course.” This was just one of the cliche-type phrases that I read and in hindsight all of them seemed to have been true. 

Another element to the Boston Marathon is the unpredictability of the weather conditions and this year did not fail to disappoint. As myself, Gary Tuttle and Grant Hopkins sheltered from torrential rain in a marquee, wearing ponchos and bin-liners around our feet, we spoke to a local runner who had done Boston “around ten times”. He claimed that your finishing time in Boston can’t be compared to other marathons; it’s a different kind of beast. 

He said you cant even compare your Boston time to other Boston Marathons as the weather each year is so different. Again, more cliches that rang true. 

This year they had initially predicted heavy rain throughout and for it to be cold. It was actually pretty mild in the end and the rain had passed by before the race started. The real issue during the race was the humidity to begin with and I would say in the final stages it felt pretty hot as the sun came out. 

The crowds along the course were great. Again, the area seems to have not grown tired of this event but to relish in it. Lots of unofficial feed stations, water stations, live music and co-ordinated cheerleading had been set up and in true American style they are unapologetically loud and bold. The Wellesley scream tunnel left my ears ringing and the last couple of miles in Boston proper were incredible. 

My build-up to the race had been hampered by a foot injury. I was only able to build up to the distance slowly and was not able to put in the amount of training I would have liked. I could only manage four runs greater than the half-marathon distance, which for me is not many (London and Berlin ten runs of 18 miles-plus).

So I was looking for a decent performance in the region of 2:50.00 but wasn’t going to be too harsh on myself if I only managed sub-three hours. My tactic was to run comfortably on the downhill stretches, not slowing myself down, then respect the uphill sections and not put too much effort into attacking them. I thought this would leave me good energy to finish strongly in the last five miles, which are pretty much all downhill.

Unfortunately this didn’t seem to work as well as I had hoped.  A lack of long hilly runs in my training meant that around the halfway mark my quads were sore and I could feel my hamstrings tightening. 

This seemed to coincide with the temperature increasing and I knew it was going to get tough in the second half. I made a decision at that point to stop looking at my pace and concentrate on feel. 

I still respected the hills through Newton (a series of four inclines culminating in the infamous Heartbreak Hill) and took them steady in the hope that I could run strongly in the final stages. 

The course had taken it’s toll on my upper leg muscles though. By the top of Heartbreak Hill I was in agony. My legs couldn’t turn over quickly enough to take advantage of the last downhill section. In fact i was cursing the downhill parts by this time due to the pain. 

The last five miles became “let’s just finish without walking” mode. I was in a world of pain by the time I got into Boston proper, but the crowds and a runner who I was keeping pace with really spurred me on.

I snapped out of my defeatist mindset in the final stages and suddenly realised that I was still on for a good time. I gritted my teeth in the last mile and tried to make sure I ran under 2:48, which I managed.

It was a tough race. I would like to tackle it again with more specific training and higher volume. Considering the conditions and lack of preparation I’m happy with my time, the injury was fine and it gives me good confidence going into Chicago in the autumn. 

Pictures: Gemma Morris and Brendan Buxton

Boston results: http://registration.baa.org/2019/cf/Public/iframe_ResultsSearch.cfm?mode=results

SPOTY selection as the cry goes up.. Corney for England!

ROADRUNNERS have nominated Rob Corney for a prize at the 2019 Reading Sports Personality of the Year awards.

The club’s announcement comes a few days after he took a stunning eight minutes and 15 seconds off his own club marathon record when he finished fifth in the big race at Brighton.

It’s not clear yet whether Rob’s nomination comes in the ‘achiever’ or ‘improver’ categories, but he’d look a good bet to win both. He’s certainly improved a few times on the club honours board!

Club chairman Phil Reay – responsible for Rob’s nomination from his role of mens’ captain last year – said: “I’m running out of superlatives when talking about Rob. It’s not just his speed which is impressive, it’s the way he goes about it. He leads by example with his strong work ethic and is a role model to all at the club and the town’s running community.”

Corney’s astonishing time of two hours 19 minutes and 12 seconds in one of Europe’s principal marathons has started people talking about the possibility of our man being called up for international honours.

The England marathon coach, Nick Anderson, was impressed by Rob when he took some Roadrunners training seminars last year and was at the public address announcer at Brighton, so he was able to witness his current form.

The Woodley flyer will be 33 at the time of the next Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, while Bournemouth athlete Steve Way was 40 when he represented England at the 2014 Games on the back of a 2:16 qualifying time.

Corney said: “I don’t know about international call-ups. I think I’d need to go a couple of minutes quicker at least. There’s a lot of very fast runners on the scene at the moment. But never say never.”

Corney will be joined at the Reading SPOTY awards gala dinner by ladies’ nomination Gemma Buley, who kicked off the Roadrunners’ PB-fest at Brighton with a brilliant 37:20 in the 10k race which preceded the marathon.

That race featured a welcome return to top form by Jack Gregory, whose best time for four years, 31:51, suggests he could soon threaten Corney for the club No.1 spot at that distance.

The other half of Gemma’s Mr-and-Mrs PB club, husband Chris, made a triumphant return to Brighton, where he debuted at the distance last year. 

Chris slashed an amazing 18 minutes off his best with 3:03.19, finishing just outside the top 200 in a field of nearly 17,000.

Another Roadrunner to boast an 18-minute PB was Sarah Richmond-De’voy, who ran 4:38.27, while Simon Brimacombe ran 3:47.55, a 13-minutes improvement, and Clinton Montague hacked an ever bigger margin, 26 minutes, off his previous mark with 3:39.47.

Bragging rights of the day, though, went to Vince Williams, whose 3:40.08 represented a 27-minute mark-up.

Three others RR ladies to run PBs were Nikki Gray, making a welcome return to the green vests with 3:01.07, Sophie Hoskins (3.44.15) and Julie Rainbow (3:51.22).

There was no PB on the day for Sophie’s mum, Caroline, just the consolation of victory in the 50-54 age group by almost half an hour and the knowledge that she had clinched her third international vest at different distances.

She will now line up in the England age group masters squad in the marathon at York in October as well in the half-marathon at Maidenhead in September.

Despite missing eight weeks’ training in the winter through a hamstring strain, Carrie was 11th lady to finish in 3:00:54. Her training partner, Alex Harris, was second Roadrunner to finish in 2:57.52. 

So, a great day at the seaside for the club and returns on their efforts for those who did the training. Those who wonder whether all the winter miles are worthwhile should have a study of Rob Corney’s Strava output for three months before the race.

Anyone else do half that training? No, me neither.

Results link: https://resultscui.active.com/events/BrightonMarathon2019

Pictures: Gemma Buley and Sophie Rainbow

 

Lamb bam, thank you mam… but no noose is good noose

AFTER a tough trail run across two counties — the iconic Combe Gibbet to Overton race — Roadrunners’ coaching co-ordinator KATIE GUMBRELL still found the strength to send us this report…

A 2pm start made for a lovely lazy Sunday morning, with tea in bed and a rather portentous chapter from The Art of Running Faster, by Julian Goater and Don Melvin.

En route to the race there were several signs to a local lambing event, which seemed like a much better plan than 16 miles of hilly trail running.

It was especially inviting given that the weather forecast suggested that all but the very fastest runners would get soaked. As it was, three intrepid Roadrunners – David McCoy, Chris Cutting and myself – made it to the start after a hair-raising coach journey. 

Not only did the coach entirely fail to stop at the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery, but the route necessitated a hairpin turn to head up towards the highest point in Berkshire (Walbury Hill; which is actually the highest point in the south-east of England – have that, Leith Hill).

The race start was at the Combe Gibbet, a short way west of Walbury Hill. The original frame, long since gone, was erected to gibbet the bodies of lovers George and Dot, who were convicted of murdering the former’s wife and child in 1676.

Luckily for us, the only dead body to be seen was at about the 11-mile mark, where a hare was having a particularly bad day.

The terrain was rough, wet in places (puddles up to my knees – bliss!) and, although technically a downhill race, there was enough up to challenge even the most mountain-happy goat.

Other significant landmarks included a fabulous huf haus, the Highclere Castle estate, plenty of lambs and some scallies on motorbikes: the 16 and a bit miles flew by.

With a proper cuppa in a mug at the end and plenty of friendly marshals and runners en route, it was a lovely event.

I think the lambing and/or the gin distillery would have been better, though.

Our picture shows Katie with Chris Cutting and David McCoy. Chris and Katie were both credited with personal bests and David a season’s best. Right: The course profile.

Results link…. https://www.runbritainrankings.com/results/results.aspx?meetingid=286079

Marathon madness: I stumble over the Sale of the century

A NEW correspondent to the Roadrunners’ website, DAN RICKETT, has filed us this report on yesterday’s ASICS-sponsored Manchester Marathon…

THE Manchester Marathon has a reputation for being fast and flat, which is no doubt why it attracts a field of nearly 20,000. 

This year 21 Reading Roadrunners and a plethora of supporters made the trek there and back by train, automobile, and (in one case) plane. 

It is probably a good thing the course profile is favourable, because the views are not exactly scenic. Perhaps my limited knowledge of Mancunian landmarks meant I bypassed these unknowingly. 

Aside from the occasional Oasis track, we could have been anywhere, and were mostly running through residential streets. 

However, the benefit of this was a continuous embrace of local support: children with power-up high-fives, street-party cheering, live music and a constant supply of jelly babies. Manchester is certainly a friendly place to run.

I embarrassingly confess my confusion passing through a pleasant looking suburb which I had mistakenly thought to be falling on hard times, since every public building seemed to be for sale, only to later realise we were running through a town called Sale. That’s marathon brain  for you.

Roadrunners did not waste the fast and flat opportunity with personal bests and target times smashed. Social media has already flagged personal bests for Darren Lewis (pictured with fellow 2:56 finisher Alex Warner) and Ben Fasham, smiling medal shots from several runners, and congratulations aplenty.

Several runners commented on the support from members of other clubs local to Reading, and I have to agree — lovely camaraderie away from home.

For me personally (race report writer’s prerogative), I surprised myself with an enjoyable race. My finishing time of 4:29.17 was far from a PB, but I didn’t set out to achieve this. 

My training had gone well, but not excellently, with some nice social long runs, so I aimed for a realistic target (hoping my time started with a four) and the objective to enjoy it. 

By mile 23 I still felt in control — this was new territory — so I decided to be a little more ambitious and aim for an arbitrary time. 

By mile 25 I was slowing, cursing myself, and wondering why certain arbitrary numbers have more gravitas than others — just who do they think they are?

Until, that is, a kind (perhaps psychic, perhaps imaginary) stranger on a bike pulled up and cycled alongside me. “Just over the brow of that hill,” he said. “Then you will see the finish line. It’s a great finishing straight.” 

I looked at my watch, re-engaged arbitrary smug number, thanked stranger/fairy godfather, and pushed on to succeed — still managing to enjoy it. And he was right: Manchester does have a nice finishing straight.

Lesson learned for me: that targets should be re-evaluated appropriate to training. Life gets in the way sometimes, and I won’t punish myself for that by hankering after a rigid target, no matter how tempting. Sometimes it’s OK to just want to finish or enjoy the atmosphere. 

Which brings me to a nod to those who didn’t have a good day’s race, who were sadly DNF, or who were injured and didn’t make it to the start line. You may be feeling a little faecal now, but this doesn’t make you any less awesome for making the right decision. There’s always next time, and plenty of RRs ready to cheer you home. 

Manchester was a fast and friendly course, but I’d recommend staying an extra night when the cheers have faded if you want to see Manchester itself. 

Results available here

Pictures courtesy of Paul Monaghan & Anna Balogh

That’s ‘Andy! Datchet cut Dash with training stroll in the park

 

WITH the Spring marathon season kicking off in earnest this weekend, several Roadrunners were grateful to our friends at the Datchet Dashers club for staging their annual warm-up 20-miler last weekend.

Roadrunner Andy Atkinson, himself off to Paris for 26.2 miles of fun next weekend, said: “Great kudos to our Datchet colleagues for a properly marshalled training run in the Great Park. Fantastic!

“The Dashers run it as a service to all local runners as preparation for London etc. With a bacon roll to finish (at cost price) and/or a pint in the local rugby club if you prefer, it’s a magic day.” Worth remembering that for next year, especially as it is only £1 to enter.

Only snag with the Datchet event is that no official results are published.

Across the other side of Windsor, at the Dorney Lake London Prep races (which cost 18 times as much to enter), results were published on Sunday night. Then some different results on Monday. And then some different ones to those on Tuesday.

So 48 hours after crossing the line, David McCoy dropped four places in the 20-mile race, Chris Lucas, Gemma Buley and Brian Kirsopp each dropped six places, and Alan Freer ten.

Brian’s only consolation was that he was deemed to be the fourth lady to finish!

Biggest loser of all was Paddy Hayes, originally declared the winner of the 24-mile race but later relegated to ninth. “I guessed I was about sixth or seventh,’” said a rueful Paddy. “Shambles!”

Whatever, here are all last weekend’s results, plus a couple of overseas marathons from the previous weekend…

March 24th

Marseille Marathon

Pos       Name                             Chip

305       Andrew Butler            3:47.10 PB

Limassol Marathon

Pos         Name                           Chip

 174        Caroline Jackson       3:56.30

 202       Paul Monaghan         4:05.57

The Big Cheese (15 miles)

Pos          Name                          Chip

273          Juliet Fenwick          3:41.27

March 31st

Dorney Marathon Prep Race, 16 miles

Pos          Name                           Chip

   9           Chris Buley                 1:51.04

 43           Sahan Jinadasa         2:25.22

 46           Alice Carpenter         2:25.41

104          Dave Wood                3:01.30

Dorney Marathon Prep Race, 20 miles

Pos          Name                                   Chip

 13            David McCoy (Snr)            2:04.07

 26            Chris Lucas                         2:13.35

 38           Gemma Buley (3rd lady)  2:17.47

 44           Brian Kirsopp                     2:25.26

 70           Alan Freer (1st M60)        2:36.40

150          Brian Fennelly                   2.53.05

166          Jana Nehasilova                2:57.01

174          Ben Adams                         2:59.05

178          Carmen Fuentes-Vilchez 2:58.43

239         Judith Ritchie                     3:10.01

390         Corinne Rees                      3:43.13

Dorney Marathon Prep Race, 24 miles

Pos          Name                                    Chip

   9           Paddy Hayes (3rd M40)   2:54.25

 31           David Dibben (1st M70)    3:35.13

Wokingham 10k

Pos          Name                                     Chip

   2           Richard Hallam-Baker       39.28

   6           Chris Cutting                        42.25

 12           Ed Dodwell (1st M60)        43.22

 22          Stuart Bradburn                   45.33

 65          Katie Gumbrell                      53.53

135          Angelique Haswell            1:00.22

137          Adele Graham                    1:00.35

158          Liz Fletcher                         1:03.36

178          Amy Hawkes                       1:06.33

Wokingham 5k

Pos          Name                                    Chip

  4            Nick Adley                           21.59

Treehouse 10k

Pos         Name                                        Chip

  50          Bryan Curtayne                     45.53

Dorset Ooser Marathon

Pos          Name                                     Chip

  88          Simon Denton                     4:44.14

  89          Sian James                           4:44.14

181           Donald Scott-Collett          5:37.08

Marseille Marathon 2019 Run Report

Report by Andrew Butler.

Had a good first day, picked up the race numbers at the race village. Very easy, nothing much going on there in particular, got a customary shot in a Roadrunners top, spotted our names on the entrants wall for a couple more selfies etc. Free T-shirt (in what are apparently Marseille colours) picked up. Looking at the mountains of Tee’s for 10km and half runners, a slight concern on the much smaller pile of shirts for Marathon runners. Noticed there was no proper course map in the bag, or race magazine, nor were there little country flags on the bibs as there is at some races.
Spent the day chilling out, didn’t end up sleeping in the day as per the original plan. Found a good Pasta place for the customary pre-race Pasta.

Back at the hotel for an early night, but then sadly woken up by our ‘Neighbours’ about 2AM. Managed to get back to sleep but it was hardly ideal prep.
Left the hotel a little later than planned and walked down to the start (this time we hadn’t ‘pre-walked’ the route). Arrived to find the organisers had provided a woefully inadequate number of loos (about 10 near the marathon and half start, and with the marathon, half & 10km about 13800 runners (!) Made it but meant we were a bit frazzled at the start, having just about navigated to the right start pen, the only directions given in very fast French (and again something that could be solved by printing it out before hand, as happens at many races.

For the race itself, I was looking for the 345 pacer, so we pushed through the pen to find him, only too later see he had moved back in the pen. Pen was a mixture of marathon runners and half marathon runners.

Off  we went, having the half runners with you for quite a bit of the route, making pacing harder and emphasising the need to ‘run your own race’. For myself things went largely according to plan, was happier when the half marathon runners split off; less happy with a park we had to run around with two big ‘out & backs’ in, and after that the two hills, both on the coast road.
Was running well then came back through the city for the 2nd Lap, at about 16 miles or so… Then there was a large group of apparent runners, hundreds of them high fiving me as I went through…(which gave me a lot of energy)..I had been thinking, that’s nice of the finishers to high five, then I noticed they were in a pen, and the 10km course car ahead!
The 10K runners were then chaotically released just behind us! This caused me and the few other marathoners around me quite a bit of trouble; first we had to move out of the way of the course car & motorbikes, with the quick runners for the 10km just behind. It was a real rhythm breaker, and a bizarre, and frankly idiotic way to organise a race, and caused us to need to run on the far left hand side, plus caused more pacing issues.
Just about recovered from that and then it was time for the marathoners to split off again, into the lovely park, with (somewhat confusingly) a different route to run it in (but including the two hated out and backs).

Was still feeling quite good on 20/21 miles as reasonably on target and a good 300 minutes ahead of the 345 pacemaker. Once we started the coast road, it was time to ‘merge’ with the masses from the 10km field. This caused no end of trouble, with some of them running back down the course the wrong way, stopping suddenly, fiddling with phones and getting in the way by stopping for selfies. Had my rhythm broken at least 4 or 5 times and had to keep running round people which was quite chaotic in the narrower bits (forced to jump into curbs, pavements, traffic Islands). Was struggling slightly but still overtaking the 10K runners when at about 25.2 miles I was eventually overtaken by the 345 pacer. This was slightly heartbreaking as I think I could easily have made that pace without the 10K runners  in the way; and he  went past in an area where an unnecessary course car basically forced me to stop, since I wouldn’t get round it in the narrow cobbled streets of the last mile. In addition to the 10kmers, one man at one point blocked the marathon route in his car and argued with a fellow runner (in French) then shouted at me, cyclists and scooter riders where someone on parts of the course (sometimes going the wrong way).

There was sadly more chaos at the finish as was still trying to pass people all the way to the line plus there was no way of immediately getting water.

A chaotic and badly organised queue for medals formed in the small finish area. I only got the finishers bag (which is quite nice tbf) because they happened to be getting a box out when I went past. Eventually I found the water, so took 3 bottles to make sure. Wasn’t feeling too smart at the end; possibly as a result of energy gels and/or too much water.

On the course, for a hot day (about 20 degrees by finish time) there was insufficient water for the marathoners (not too much of an issue personally as I was wearing my race pack).
Having said all that, I did manage to finished with an 8 minute PB though  would have been nice to hit 3.45. To be honest I’d been  aiming/hoping for 3.40 but it just wasn’t to be on the day.

I did really my time in Marseille. Hotel excellent, good food and  lots to do. Nearly 10 miles of the race where on the coast which was really nice, and the flights here a lot cheaper than the other marathons we were looking at. The bag, medal, and T-shirt are nice, you can stay near the start and Port Vieux is a really nice area, especially near the start zone.

I’d have to only give a 4 out of 10 for the race. Good marks for the pretty route. The day before was well organised, but not enough water stations plus the 10km started just behind us causing chaos during the route and at the finish  A shame because these things are easily fixed.

Parting is such sweet sorrow after Roadrunners’ Italian job

 

RUNNER-WRITER Andy Atkinson has recently reported from Roadrunners’ trips to races in Germany, Spain and the USA. “Wherefore art thou?” now, Andy? The answer is Italy for the Romeo and Juliet Half Marathon in the beautiful northern city of Verona. Here’s his dispatch…

IN my view, different countries suit different seasons. England’s season is the autumn, with golden leaves, cooler nights and often brilliant days illuminated by a low-slung sun. 

Canada’s season is winter, with crisp snow, frozen lakes, skating and skiing. 

But for late winter and early spring, there is nothing to compare with Italy. Although sometimes variable, the climate is often ideal for running — cool, even cold, in the shade, with a bright blue sky overhead and enough heat in the sun to sip Chianti outside.

Thus it was when I arrived at Verona with my wife Liz to run the Guilietta and Romeo Half Marathon. Motives for the visit were mixed as romance was also very much in the air.

The Half is set over St Valentine’s weekend and the city was busy with tourists eager to live the Shakespearian dream. 

The city authorities have embraced Shakespeare with gusto, turning fictional locations to reality and charging for admission accordingly. We took up the spirit of the weekend and queued with the rest for a go on Juliet’s balcony. (Above: the star-cross’d lovers).

We were doing the half with friend and fellow Roadrunner Fiona Ross, but went out a day earlier than her on the Thursday. 

After an overnight stop at a Gatwick hotel, with two other Roadrunner friends, John and Lorraine Bailey (who also happened to be travelling to Verona, but on a skiing trip), we arrived in time for some sightseeing and food before sleep. 

Fiona’s trip was not so smooth, if a little more adventurous. Italian air traffic control decided to strike on the Friday of her journey, delaying arrival by a day and making all subsequent flights doubly busy. 

The best flight she could get was to Milan, with a train transfer to Verona. This, at least, gave her plenty of opportunities to practise her Italian, while we strove to minimise the delay by collecting her number at the expo.  

The delay was compensated on Saturday evening by more speaking practice with Fiona’s Italian connections — her sister, Italian husband and two delightful children live near Padua and travelled over to meet us. 

After some difficulty finding anywhere to eat on such a busy weekend, we settled down at a swish, but minimalist, restaurant. Liz, who is studying Italian, promptly dug out her homework and got both father and children to help her. I don’t know if you call that cheating or creative exploitation! 

Interestingly, the race pasta party was AFTER the run and thus not much help to us on that evening.

The half marathon is one of three races run on the day — a ‘fun’ 5k, the half itself and the ‘duo’. The last is a relay designed to be run by couples, presumably keeping to the Romeo and Juliet theme. One half of the couple runs the first half of the race and the other takes over at halfway (which is back at the starting point as the course is a two-lapper). 

This format conveniently keeps the couples apart except at the changeover — I suspect a very clever device to maintain harmony between lovers. Liz and I needed no separation and, more or less, stuck together from start to finish. 

Fiona, restrained by no such fettering, sped onwards to a near five-minute personal best. We later commented that, if Romeo was in pursuit, he would not have caught her!

Overall, this is a very good race. It is flat and fairly fast, provided you can negotiate some uneven cobbled streets. It is not too big at about six thousand runners, most runners are Italian and of a good standard and it is well organised.

Spectator support is enthusiastic and positive, the route takes in the best sights of the city and weaves through interesting streets in the old town. The finishing line commentary is excellent and, after reaching the 21k-mark still in harmony, Liz and I were greeted with our own special announcement. 

Verona is welcoming, well worth a visit and forms a beautiful backdrop to lively races. 

Pictures: Fiona Ross and Liz Atkinson.

Headline and caption: William Shakespeare.

Record breakers! Matt finishes Corney’s gloss in Bramley glory

TWO new Reading Roadrunners club records were set and three team trophies captured at the highly successful 25th anniversary Bramley 20/10 races.

Rob Corney demolished the club’s long-standing ten miles’ benchmark and Matthew Richards improved his own 20 miles record by exactly one minute.

There were team prizes at the longer distance for both our squads, Seb Briggs and Lance Nortcliff helping Richards take the men’s honours and Caroline Hoskins, Sarah McDade and Katherine Sergeant clinching the women’s award.

And, more than 24 hours after the event, the club collected a third trophy from our flagship event following a dispute over the men’s ten-mile team prize.

Newbury, ironically led by our second-claimer Matt Green, were originally announced as winners, but Roadrunners’ men’s team captain Phil Reay contested the award, claiming that the prize should go to our three scorers – Corney, Jack Gregory and Grant Hopkins – on aggregate times rather than positions. FR Systems, who organised the chip-timing and results, later confirmed that Roadrunners were the rightful champions.

The issue followed an amusing few days of kidology in the Roadrunners camp. Corney and Gregory calculated that they would have a good chance of the team prize if they could find a quick third finisher and they settled on Hopkins as the man to do the job. “No pressure,” they told him. “But…”

The bearded Welshman (left) showed he could take a massive step up with a stunning nine-minute PB, coming home 35th in a time of 62:44 and completing a brilliant weekend after a first-place finish at a parkrun on the previous day.

Corney, meanwhile, was celebrating his SIXTH club record, taking no less than two minutes and 42 seconds off the mark which had stood to Howard Grubb way back in 1995 and more than three minutes off his own PB.

“It’s always nice to break a club record,” said Rob, “and I was quietly confident I’d get it today. The original aim was to try to go as close to 51 minutes as possible, preferably under. It just turned out to be one of those races where you feel good on the day, so when the first mile came up at about 4:45 I just went with it.”

He went though the first 5k in 14:48, a time which would have slaughtered the club record at that distance, and from there the result was never in doubt.

In fact he won by almost five minutes and club chairman Carl Woffington, waiting at the finish, said: “ Rob was so far ahead we were starting to wonder if something had gone seriously wrong with the race.”

He now holds club records at parkrun, five miles, 10k, ten miles, half marathon and marathon.

Rob’s training partner Jack Gregory (54:38) was just pipped for second place by the Southampton runner Matthew Bennett.

Besides Corney and Hopkins there were personal bests for Chris and Gemma Buley (right) as well as Chloe Lloyd, Moira Allen, June Bilsby and Jenny Boxwell. 

But the real bragging rights of the day went to the club’s social secretary Hannah McPhee, who sliced an amazing 20 minutes off her previous best for the course.

Gemma, following up her successful Hampshire Cross Country League campaign, was third lady home behind the Reading AC speedster Naomi Mitchell, and her time of 63:22 represented an improvement of more than five minutes.

She was helped to second place in the team competition by birthday girl Julie Rainbow, the second FV50 to finish, and Chloe Lloyd (left), who benefited from some well-judged pacing by Stuart Jones to secure a six-minute PB.

Back out on the course, Matt Richards was showing the 20-milers the way home and his finishing time of 1:52:39 took exactly 60 seconds off the club record he set at the same event two years previously.

And while Corney will target an autumn marathon this year, Richards, who beat him at London last year, will head to Boston in April in winning form. “It was not as comfortable as I would have liked,” he said. “I probably went a bit too hard on the first lap but I’m definitely on track for Boston.”

The second Roadrunner under two hours was Seb Briggs, third vet home in 1:57.37, and the trophy was secured by Lance Nortcliff with 27th place in 2:08.28.

Lance’s comment “Matt and Seb were racing but I was on as training run” suggests he will be in good shape for the London Marathon.

In the women’s race our first finisher Caroline Hoskins (2:19.13) had no less than 12 minutes to spare over her nearest FV50 opponent and with Sarah McDade (2:21.26) and Katherine Sergeant (2:21.47) in close support they were convincing winners of the team bling.

PBs at the two-lapper were achieved by Sarah Dooley, Fleur Denton, David Walkley, Andrew Butler, Alice Carpenter and, by the little matter of 24 minutes, Ben Fasham.

As ever, the true heroes of the day were the behind-the-scenes back-up crew of committee members, marshals, volunteers and other helpers who made the event such a success.

Corney himself said: “Congratulations are in order to the race organisers and all the volunteers who put their time and effort into the race. They should be very proud of the result and are a huge credit to the club.”

Race director Adele Graham said: “Huge thanks to everyone. You are all awesome.”

Speaking as someone who plodded around towards the rear of the 20 miles race, I would like to add special thanks to some of our noisy, proactive marshals, like Peter Higgs, Simon Denton and Chris Cutting, who provide such great support on the course.

Particular gratitude must go to Sian James, who came straight to the race off a 12-hour flight from Hong Kong to marshal on the nasty incline at mile six, running down to pace runners up the climb while shouting encouragement. Priceless!

Pictures: Chris Drew, Mike Sankey and Melvyn Lovegrove

Results: http://results.sporthive.com/events/6502862085676377600

How Corney’s jolly green giants finished the XC season in style

CONCLUDING our series of in-depth bulletins on the 2018-19 Hampshire Cross Country League season, SAM WHALLEY reports on a highly successful conclusion to Roadrunners’ campaign for honours…

THE final fixture of the Hampshire League season is often the least well-attended of the five, with winners in each category having already been decided. Still, it is always worth turning up and trying to improve upon individual and team positions.

Such was the attitude of the 24 Reading Roadrunners who made the trek to the Hampshire League race at Dibden Inclosure, in the New Forest. 

With the vet men already set to win their league, and the seniors sitting in joint fifth, the race was on, literally, for podium finishes all round. You just know things are getting serious when Mum and Dad Apsey come along to spectate.

Club hero Rob Corney (right) looked incredibly comfortable on the first lap, and extended his lead during the second, to make club history by winning the race, beating Aldershot’s Philip Sewell, who is the individual league winner, by over 20 seconds. 

Jack Gregory was next to finish, in 11th place, and this propelled him into the top ten, for a ninth-place finish for the season overall. 

Third Roadrunner home was Ben Paviour, in tenth (second vet), followed by Mark Apsey, in 17th, which was enough to improve his individual position from tenth to seventh overall. 

It’s hard to believe the club could have a team where someone of Mark Worringham’s calibre is fifth home, but such is the impressive depth of the squad at the moment. Mark completed the scoring team in 24th (third vet). 

The Wednesday evening training group that these guys are organising for themselves is obviously doing the trick. And despite feeling like he had run badly all season (it’s all relative), this secured Mark’s position at the top of the vet men’s leaderboard, with Ben Paviour not having run enough of the races this year to qualify (you have to run four of five). 

The senior men’s team was second, which gave them an end-of-season position of third – mission accomplished!

Next across the line was Chris Lucas, in 31st, followed by Lance Nortcliff, in 36th (sixth vet), having had his run interrupted by the appearance of some New Forest ponies on the course. This vet placing was enough to give Lance a second-place finish overall, and the vet men’s team retained their title. Great work!

The course having been listed as unsuitable for spikes led Andy Mutton to have an interesting run in road shoes. In fact, the course was OK for short spikes. 

Ashley Middlewick was next, with a parkrun already in his legs, followed by Chris Burt, making his debut in the league, but looking forward to next season. Brian Kirsopp was unable to catch Chris this time, but can celebrate being third MV50 nonetheless. 

Andrew Smith, on his way back from injury, was next, with Chris ‘I hate XC’ Buley, in 100th place, out of 194 runners. Another parkrunner, Ian Giggs, followed, with Colin Cottell, and the last two park-runners, Hampshire League newbie, Paul Monaghan, and Pete Morris, completing the men’s team. You have to wonder what kind of runs people could have without a parkrun beforehand? 

Pete Jewell unfortunately pulled up with a hamstring injury on the first lap, and did not finish.

The women’s team has been plagued by injury this year, and you have to feel for Gemma Buley, whose new coaching has taken her from strength to strength, as she doesn’t always have a strong team to back her up. 

Still, we did manage to get a team out for every race this season, and a number of women have tried this league for the first time, so this is progress.

Saturday’s fixture saw Gemma (right) finish 12th, her best position yet, and this gave her an overall tenth place on the season’s leaderboard. Well done, Gemma! She then had time to refuel, and put some layers on, before returning out to the course and cheer on every single one of us on her cool-down.

As we were missing some of our stronger runners, with Chantal Percival, Bithja Jones, Helen Pool and Nicole Rickett nursing injuries and niggles back to full health, and a jet-lagged Sarah Dooley having other commitments, our next runners to finish, vets Caroline Jackson and Claire Raynor, came in 69th and 70th.

Caroline has done very little in the way of XC before, preferring to run one marathon after another, but found that she enjoyed this short race, and said: “If all XC was like that, I would do more.” Breaking news, Caroline… all XC is like that, and it may even help with training for the longer distances. 

Claire Raynor is a new member, and another one of us who has been bringing Reading AC children to these events for years. In my spare club T-shirt, Claire had a great race, in spite of her worry that she might be last, picking people off from start to finish, showing that her training for the Manchester Marathon is going well. 

Despite both these two having run parkrun in the morning, I was still unable to catch them, and they completed the senior women’s scoring team, which finished 12th on the day, and eighth overall for the season.

I was the third vet scorer for the team, in 77th, and the vets team finished in ninth, and sixth overall.

Chloe Lloyd was back for more after her debut at Prospect Park, and this time she meant business, and had ditched the leggings for shorts. Chloe came in in 91st, closely followed by Claire Seymour, in 94th, out of 146 runners. Claire is the only one of our women to have run every fixture this year. 

Cecilia Csemiczky didn’t make the journey this time, recovering from a chest infection, but we must thank Cecilia for her participation and support throughout the season. 

I am also grateful to Phil Reay for coming along to record the numbers for us this time, and maybe next year we will see him back at full fitness and running in the league.

This turn-out and set of results was a fantastic end to a great season in the Hampshire League. It would be brilliant to see even more runners join us next year. 

The fixtures are generally on the first or second Saturday of the month, and run from October to February, so pencil in those dates! I’m off to treat myself to some new spikes.

Pictures: Paul Monaghan and Phil Reay

Men’s results: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2019/20190209_hlmen.html

Women’s results: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2019/20190209_hlwomen.html

  • Following the cancellation of the final Thames Valley Cross Country League fixture of the season, due to be staged by the Bracknell Forest club at Lightwater, Roadrunners have been confirmed as runners-up in the overall league positions.

Ladies’ final places: 1 Datchet 11pts, 2 Windle Valley 14pts, 3= Roadrunners and Maidenhead 20pts. Men’s final places: 1 Datchet 6pts, 2 Roadrunners 20pts, 3= Bracknell and Windle Valley 20pts. Overall: 1 Datchet 6pts, 2 Roadrunners 13pts, 3 Windle Valley 15pts.

Full details at: http://tvxc.org.uk/content/league-tables