Sargeant’s major triumph caps season of joy for Roadrunners

FOLLOWING an exciting finish to the Southern Counties Vets League fixture at Palmer Park, FIONA ROSS has filed this review of the 2019 season…

‘Reading Roadrunners win the Vets League’ is not a headline you would expect to read. You would wonder if it was factually accurate. But it all depends on your perspective.

If athletes were scored according to their sterling performances and personal achievements —despite the fact that many are not normally training for such events or have entered for the first time in many years or the first time ever and, if they were scored according to their team spirit. — then Reading Roadrunners would be in a league of their own!

It is impossible to list all the performances during the season, but I will summarise here some of the highlights shared by the athletes who took part.

The first fixture took place at Horspath Stadium in Oxford on April 29th.  Chris Manton, who organised our team for the entire league, told me that his highlight was to achieve a PB in the men’s 35A 800metres.

Adele Graham came third in the womens’ 50 100m and told me that her personal highlight was achieving a personal best in the W50 hammer(up from 17.17m to 18.33m).  She also achieved a very respectable third place, as did Dave Fiddes in the M50, in the long jump.

The second fixture took place at Tilsley Park, Abingdon, on May 20th. Ian Giggs stormed round the track to take third place in the M35B 800m while Helen Pool also took third place following a very strong performance in the W35A 3000m. In the field events, a new club triple jump record was set by new member St John Ford with 9.01m.

The penultimate League meeting was also held at Abingdon, on June 30th, and saw Nigel Hoult and Pete Jewell take third places in the M60 400m and M50 5000m races respectively. I was delighted to achieve a PB in both the 100m and 400m events.

The grand finale July 14th was jointly hosted by Roadrunners and Reading Athletic Club at our home ground, Palmer Park Stadium.  Sam Whalley, our ladies captain, summed up this fixture very well when she said: “I was pleased to see such a good turn-out of participants, supporters and helpers.  There were some really impressive performances and it was a great way to end the season.”

Indeed, Katherine Sargeant flew around the track to win the women’s 5000m event and both she and Helen Pool came first in their age categories and achieved a PB for this event. Katherine said: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to represent the club over 5,000m. It’s a challenging distance for me, I’m better over longer distances.

“But with the work which our training group has been devoting to this distance and challenge, I seized the chance to test myself, as many others have done recently with race wins at 10k and parkrun PBs.

“Supporting my club-mates was brilliant fun too, and there were many truly inspiring performances.”

Helen added: “My highlight was getting an Athletics Weekly standard and it was great that Katherine and I both scored maximum points.”

Her team-mate Claire Seymour finished a creditable third as our B string at the same distance, while Mark Worringham was just edged out by the experienced Oxford runner James Bolton after a thrilling battle in the 3,000m, with Lance Nortcliff third as our B string.  Another Roadrunner to pick up a very good third place was Tracy Jenkins in the W50 800m.

Off the track, Gill Manton won the W35 discus with a throw 16.10m to follow up her PB in the hammer at Abingdon.  In the W50 discus, Adele Graham achieved another PB (up from 11.72m to 13.07m).  She told me that it was “really nice to be competing on home territory with great support.”

Mark Andrew proved his credentials as a great clubman by stopping off on his way home from running the Hell-Fire Half Marathon at Wycombe to compete in the M50 triple jump for the first time, finishing in third place.

Alan Freer took part in the javelin event for the first time in 47 years, initially as a non-scorer, but was then invited to join the Vet 35 competitors.  He told me: “Not only was I up against youngsters and mainly seasoned athletic club javelin throwers, I also had the joy of a heavier and longer javelin to throw!”  

Nevertheless, he was pleased to have had one throw which was deemed good and to have managed not to be in last place.  Overall he said it was “an enjoyable experience that I will have another better go at next year, with a bit more practice.”

Personally, I was delighted to achieve a PB in the 200m event (down from 37.6 to 35.3 seconds) and Adele Graham, Tracy Jenkins, Hannah McPhee and I were proud to take part in the 4 x 200m relay. We managed not to come last, but above all, this event highlights the amazing team spirit of the green vests!

If you take into account this team spirit, which cannot be beaten, and the personal/team achievements highlighted above, the Vets League 2019 season certainly was exciting and the Reading Roadrunners are definitely in a league of their own.

Thank you very much again to Chris Manton for co-ordinating our team as well as to all the volunteers/supporters and coaches.  Kerri French supported the triple jump event at the last fixture and said: “I loved helping out at the event.  I wasn’t up to speed to compete, but assisting the officials meant that I could participate in a different way.”

Congratulations again to all the athletes!

We would like to encourage other Reading Roadrunners to take part next year, because it is a great opportunity to try something new, support your fellow Roadrunners and get to know other club members — and an opportunity to have some fun.  

Adele Graham said: “It is a welcoming introduction for anyone trying track and field for the first time.” Come and join us next season!

Pictures: Gill Manton, Fergal Donnelly, Tony Ford, Fiona Ross.

Results of Vets Track and Field League match four:

W35 Shot Putt

  5 Gill Manton 5.79m

W50 Shot Putt

 4 Adele Graham 6.02m

W35 Discus

  1 Gill Manton 16.10m

W50 Discus

  7 Adele Graham 13.07m PB

W50 800metres

  3 Tracy Jenkins 3.10.2

W35A 200metres

  6 Fiona Ross 35.3 PB

W50 200metres

  3 Adele Graham 36.6

W50 Triple Jump

  4 Adele Graham 5.77m

W35A 5000metres

  1 Helen Pool 19.57.7 PB

W35B 5000metres

  3 Claire Seymour 23.56.0

W50 5000metres

  1 Katherine Sergeant 19.37.6 PB

Women’s 4 x 200m Relay

 5 Roadrunners (Hannah McPhee, Tracy Jenkins, Adele Graham, Fiona Ross)   2.38.5

M50 Discus

  6 Brian Grieves 10.16m

M35A 800metres

  5 Tony Page 2.27.8

M35B 800metres

  4 David Fiddes 2.42.6

M50 800metres

  5 Alan Freer 2.51.3

M60 800metres

  2 Nigel Hoult 2.47.9

M50 Triple Jump

  3 Mark Andrew 8.74m

M35A 200metres

  8 Chris Manton 31.7

M35B 200metres

  5 John Fenner 29.7

M50 200metres

  6 David Fiddes 31.2

M35 Javelin

  7 Alan Freer 14.70m

M50 Javelin

 5 David Fiddes 15.77m

M60 Javelin

  7 Nigel Hoult 11.00m

M35A 3000metres

  2 Mark Worringham 9.22.5

M35B 3000metres

  3 Lance Nortcliff 10.00.8

M50 3000metres

  5 Tony Streams 12.23.6

M60 3000metres

  2 Alan Freer 12.22.9

Men’s 4 x 200m Relay

  7 Roadrunners (Tony Page, Brian  Grieves, Tony Streams, Mark Worringham) 2.16.3

Vets League non-scoring performances

Women’s Shot Putt

  – Hannah McPhee 3.99m

Women’s Discus

  – Hannah McPhee 6.90m

Men’s 800metres

  – Mark Worringham 2.22.0

Men’s 3000metres

  – Tony Page 11.12.00

Men’s 200metres

  – Brian Grieves 37.00

Women’s 2000metres walk

  – Gill Manton 15.58.2

How brave Brendan conquered pain barrier on the longest day

 BRENDAN MORRIS has joined the ranks of the local running legends who have completed a solo 100 miles during Endure 24. Now, in his own words, he tells the enthralling story of his odyssey through the pain barrier and how he finally crossed the line with the help of a great Roadrunner pal…

I’M quickly establishing a theme in my articles; feeling terrible, lying in bed and not being able to make it to the toilet. My wife has had to help me out of bed twice in the night so I can make the groaning shuffle down the corridor and back.

Her suggestion after the second time was that I sleep in the spare room and wear adult nappies. Not a solution to our relationship I was expecting to hear just four years into marriage.

I think I’m feeling so terrible due to severe dehydration, but unfortunately I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol (apart from sipping some of Phil Reay’s beer as I ran past him about 50 miles in). 

I’ve done something far more reckless and ran (walked lots) 100 miles in under 22 hours at an event called Endure 24. The event has participants do as many laps of a five-mile multi-terrain course as they can in 24 hours. There are options to enter solo, as a pair, or as different-sized teams. 

Two years ago I entered this event as part of a team of five which included Ashley Middlewick. We both enjoyed the event and decided to enter as solo runners the following year, with the aim of supporting each other in training and on the day. I had to defer last year’s place though because it clashed with a friend’s wedding. I would have deferred again if they let me, as this year I’ve been struggling with a foot injury. 

Due to the injury I had not been able to do any specific training for this event. I had put in a 20-mile run three weeks previously and towards the end my left foot had started to hurt, so I was expecting something similar at Endure 24 and made the decision to not risk further damage and pull out as soon as I felt pain in my foot. 

My main aim is the Chicago Marathon in October and my recent training had revolved around Wednesday’s track sessions to improve VO2 max and 5k and 10k times. I was going to use this as an opportunity to put in a hard long run of about 20-25 miles, and then see how the foot was and decide whether I wanted to continue.

So on went the racing flats and off I went. The course is objectively superb (subjectively less so now), with a great mixture of scenery and terrain, lots of undulations and a couple of steep ups and downs as well. Though picturesque, it was definitely more technical than I remember; sharp twists and turns in places, the odd ditch to jump and tree roots to avoid. 

I went pretty hard in the first five laps (25 miles) and completed them in 2hr 53min. This obviously put me in the lead. No one in their right mind (bar David McCoy) would start a 24-hour endurance race at this speed. I walked the next lap with a rucksack on full of food, trying to eat as much as I could stomach. 

During the 70-minute walking lap I was assessing the state of my foot and it strangely seemed fine. I decided to try and run another four laps after the walk, then would take another walking break. 

But after just two laps into this next running stint though (around 41 miles) I really hit a brick wall. I suddenly felt dizzy and sick. I found the nearest tree to lean against and get my breath back, which is a lot harder to do when you’re reassuring every passing runner that you’re fine. 

I was not fine. I suddenly realised my hamstrings were killing me and lifting my legs just to even walk was painful. The enormity of what I had done so far also dawned on me, as well as the challenge that lay ahead if I was to make it to 100 miles. 

I walked the remainder of that lap with a couple of ladies who were also going solo. Their encouragement and distraction snapped me out of the pit of despair I was falling down and my legs loosened up a bit.

I decided to try and run the next lap as I felt a bit better. This lasted about 300 metres, or 50 metres into the first ascent (known as The Hill Of No Return). Again my body was rebelling and just wouldn’t move as much as I wanted it to.

I walked the rest of that hill and even found that difficult. I knew my days of running up the hills were over. I was seriously contemplating walking to the end of the lap (50 miles) and dropping out. I had gone further than I had expected and the pain was starting to outweigh the enjoyment.

Towards the end of that walking lap, I was caught by another guy going solo. We were walking up a hill together. He had done 35 miles, so was a couple of laps behind me. He said he had got to the stage where you walk the uphill sections and only run down the downhill ones. 

This kind of run-walk strategy was not one I had considered adopting before. With the legs feeling a bit looser, I decided to try it for the next lap at least and see how I got on. It worked quite well.

That lap took me 65 minutes and most importantly felt sustainable. I did a couple more like this, then walked a lap again to take on a good amount of food.

The run-walk strategy then got harder. I managed another two laps of it, but my quads were smashed to bits by this point and it felt more like I was stumbling down the hills with no control, rather than running. At 80 miles I had come to terms with the fact that I could no longer run.

I had made the decision at around the 65-mile mark that I was going to go for the full 100 miles. I still had over 12 hours to complete seven laps, and I worked out I would need to travel at around three miles per hour to complete the distance in time, so could probably walk it home if necessary. 

At 80 miles though, even walking became a great effort. The blisters I had created were suddenly very apparent and painful. The monotony of the course and the lack of sleep were starting to take their toll. I became irritable and once again was thinking about quitting after 85 miles.

I managed to continue though, and had the incredible good fortune of bumping into Ashley in the start/finish area at the 90-mile mark. His race hadn’t gone so well and at this point he had only managed 45 miles. He said that he would walk with me to 100 miles to make sure I got there.

Ashley’s companionship was key to me finishing the 100 miles. He started as a great motivator and distraction and evolved into more of a shepherd and guardian of a toddler-like man stumbling along whinging about how far there was left to go.

I was in a bad way by 95 miles. I was seeing double and feeling quite faint. I had to close my eyes at times while walking to fight the dizziness. I’m not sure I could have gone the full distance without Ashley’s stewardship. 

Finishing the 100 miles in 21 hours and 53 minutes meant there was probably time to walk another lap. I was thinking about the money I would need to be paid to even attempt to do it. I settled on a year’s wages. Due to the nature of the event, finishing is rather an anti-climax. Only Ashley and I knew that I had finished. I didn’t really have the energy to celebrate and couldn’t stop thinking: “How the hell am I going to take my tent down?”

Ashley put me in a chair. It was the first time I had been off my feet for 23 hours. It felt incredible.

For completing 100 miles there is a prize of… a tee-shirt! I’ve been there and got the tee-shirt, so there’s no need to return. Never. Ever. 

In fact, is it too early to put one’s name down to do the Ridgeway Relay in 2020 instead?

Pictures: Chris Drew.


Who’s the daddy! Roadrunners triumph again on Ridgeway

LAST year it was a runaway victory, this year a thrilling close-fought battle as Roadrunners retained their Ridgeway Relay title. Ladies captain SAM WHALLEY, one of the architects of both successes, gives a blow-by-blow account of how the drama unfolded…

THE Ridgeway Relay is, for me at least, one of the best days to be a Reading Roadrunner. It’s the day when, for as many years as I am aware, we have had around 40 members running the length of the Ridgeway National Trail, with a couple of deviations along the way to avoid dangerous road crossings, or to finish at a more practical venue for a prize-giving than Overton Hill.

We knew a year ago that there would be a date clash with the ever popular Endure 24 event, so I was delighted to find 40 willing participants for this year’s race. (Note: there is no clash next year, so do bear this in mind before you sign up to run for 24 hours, solo, around Wasing Park, or even Comrades, or just a marathon every other week.)

Having run in the Ridgeway Relay for the past three years, I was slightly miffed at having to attend a wedding on the very same weekend (shh, don’t tell the bride), and my involvement was limited to putting the teams together with Grant Hopkins, nagging people for their predicted times, and then letting everyone know when they needed to be at the start of their leg. 

Some runners requested certain legs that they knew, ran all the time, or were on their doorstep. Others fancied the challenge of particular legs they had heard about. 

We set up a WhatsApp group for each team, and this enabled us to share locations, updates and stories throughout the day. With chairman Phil Reay following the teams in person, from start to finish, there was no shortage of information, and it was a really exciting event to be a part of, even without the running bit.

When I woke up in North Devon on Sunday morning, my phone was already well awake. The race had started, and there was a picture of a very chilly looking foursome on Ivinghoe Beacon. 

At that moment, I felt really chuffed that everyone had got up at the crack of dawn to drive all the way there, to run for us. That’s commitment, and we are really grateful. Enough of the soppyness, though, with it having rained a lot during last week, much focus was on the footwear — were we to go with road or trail shoes? 

The answer was that it really depended on which leg you were running, with each one being so different: some with stretches of road, others with steep ups and downs, muddy tracks, chalky sections….. the list goes on. Of course, if you have done your homework and completed a recce, you know what to expect. (I’m looking at you, Sarah Dooley.)

As expected, David McCoy, the younger (left), led everyone off down the hill for the A team, with Sarah Dooley for the ladies, late replacement Alan Freer for the vets, and Dan Coleman for the Bs. 

Having broken the course record with a storming run last year, the A team, albeit made up of different members this year, had a trophy to defend, and we may just have given that team a disproportionate amount of attention. 

At each checkpoint the questions were, What position did they come in at? How much of a gap was there in front and behind? And who did they have left to run? If we were to try to be competitive across all three categories, we would ideally have a team manager following each team throughout the day. Any volunteers?

At the end of leg 1, which was 11 miles, the A team was third, vets 28th, ladies 33rd and Bs 34th, out of 42 teams. Ask Dan Coleman why he might have been held up for a few minutes. Not my place to divulge.

Swindon Shin Splints had a five-minute lead, with a talented Tonbridge runner on their first leg (second-claim Swindon). This is completely legit — a runner doesn’t actually have to be a member of a club to run this race. St Albans Striders were in second, but didn’t seem to feature throughout the rest of the day.

Leg 2 is one of the shorter legs, at six miles, and seems often to be run by women. Not necessarily in this club though, and it was Mark Apsey (A), Ben Fasham (B), Miriam Coleman (ladies) and Susan Knight (vets) who took over, with the As coming in second, Bs 23rd, vets 26th and ladies 36th. Swindon were still in the lead. Mark (above) was the second-fastest runner overall on this leg.

For Leg 3, it was the first of the two required women for the A team, Laura Peatey (below), with Derek Cheng for the Bs, Gary Tuttle (one of the two allowed men) for the ladies, and Tom Harrison for the vets. In this race a vet is over 50; I don’t know how many of the teams had an over 80 raring to go! 

This leg was 9.4 miles and the As finished in fourth, Bs 25th, ladies 27th and vets 37th. Headington were now in the lead. Gary (for the ladies) was the fifth-fastest runner overall on this leg.

Leg 4 is the only other short leg in the race, at 5.4 miles, and this was requested by men’s captain Grant Hopkins for the As, Clinton Montague for the Bs, Sophie Hoskins for the ladies and Julie Rainbow for the vets. The uphill finish for this leg is brutal, and the As finished in fourth, Bs 22nd, ladies 26th and vets 36th. Vale of Aylesbury were now in the lead. Grant was the seventh-fastest runner overall on this leg.

Leg 5 is 10.1 miles, but it has a lot of downhill to the river, and is notoriously muddy and overgrown. Still, it is popular with A teamer Chris Lucas (right) as it is the closest leg to his house. For the Bs it was Belinda Tull, for the ladies Liz Jones, and for the vets, David Fiddes. 

At this point last year, the course-record-breaking year, the A team was already well in the lead, but the team remained composed. It was, however, time to pull out the big guns. The As finished in third, Bs 23rd, ladies 29th and vets 35th. Vale of Aylesbury were still in the lead, but Chris was the fastest runner overall on this leg.

Having recently realised that the race was actually on Sunday not Saturday, Rob Corney (below) was in the right place at the right time and ready to take over for the A team at leg 6, at 10.4 miles and including the climb back up from the river. 

“He’ll never maintain that pace,” laughed the Aylesbury team as Rob set off through South Stoke village like a rocket. Ahem. Don’t they know who he is? 

With Rupert Shute for the Bs, Chris Buley for the ladies, and Colin Cottell for the vets, things were getting exciting. Needless to say, the As finished first, putting Reading Roadrunners in the lead, with Rob the fastest runner overall on this leg, and even faster than his time last year. The Bs were 15th, ladies 21st and vets 31st. Rupert and Chris were eighth and ninth fastest respectively.

Leg 7 typically has a mass start for those teams whose runner has not arrived by 2pm, so all apart from our A team runner, Gemma Buley, were in this. For the Bs it was Bryan Curtayne, for the ladies, Claire Seymour and for the vets, Brian Kirsopp. At the end of the 9.1 miles, Vale of Aylesbury had given themselves back a four-minute lead, with our A team finishing second, Bs 13th, ladies 29th and vets 31st. Super Brian was the third fastest runner overall on this leg, and Gemma was 10th.

Leg 8 was my first experience of the Ridgeway. I like to call it the tourist leg, as it goes behind the White Horse at Uffington, and it is incredibly well signposted. I challenge anyone to get lost on this leg. Still, it is not easy, with chalky hills and narrow treads, and another brutal uphill finish.

Lance Nortcliff was up for the As, Angharad Shaw for the Bs, Belinda Drew for the ladies, and Peter Reilly for the vets. As they finished, Lance was still in second, but had had a storming run and closed the gap to two minutes, with the Bs 23rd, vets 27th and ladies 34th. 

Lance was the fastest runner on overall on this leg, but I still reckon that wasn’t as hard as trying to get changed afterwards with a flimsy towel in a high wind.

As I arrived at leg 9, I saw the Aylesbury runner leading off, followed shortly by Mark Worringham for the A team, whose legs were definitely turning over a lot more quickly than those ahead of him. Indeed, Mark had (above)checked the Power of 10 profile of his opponent while waiting, and knew it was in the bag. 

For the B team, it was Ben Whalley, en route from Devon, the ladies, Alice Carpenter, and the vets David Caswell, who had accidentally signed up during a post-Manchester Marathon celebratory drink. I forget nothing. 

No surprise that the A team took the lead and finished this very tough 10.7 mile leg in first, with the Bs 15th, vets 24th and ladies 34th. Mark was the fastest runner overall on this leg, and Ben was third. 

Alice incurred a five-minute penalty due to inadvertently taking a short cut, that I had inadvertently shown her as the correct way when we did a recce of the leg together. Oops. Fortunately the fate of the ladies’ team was not hanging on this fact, and I promise we will go back and do it properly.

And so the A team went into the final leg with an eight-minute lead over Vale of Aylesbury, and with Headington a further 28 minutes behind.

While our supporters were hoping anchor man Matt Davies could hang on for 9.4 miles, Matt (left) had other ideas, increasing the lead to bring the team home to Marlborough Leisure Centre nine minutes ahead of second place. He had run the fifth-fastest time for that leg. 

The trophy that Glynne Jones had come all the way back from family in Slough for, to unlock from the cabinet so it could be returned, was coming straight back to Palmer Park.

Meanwhile, there was another mass start for leg 10, at 5.30pm, and up were Ollie Watts for the Bs, Liz Johnson for the ladies and Pete Jewell for the vets. They finished in 15th, 32nd and 23rd respectively, with the ladies fourth Mostly Ladies team, and the vets second Vets team, only two minutes behind the winners. We definitely have the depth in this club to aim for more than one trophy!

Next year’s race will be on June 21st. Yes, it is always on Father’s Day, but what better way to spend it?

Pictures: Barry Cornelius, Phil Reay, David Fiddes.


Oh what a Knight! Roadrunners put on a capital performance

AFTER a day out in the big city on marshalling duties, ladies captain SAM WHALLEY reports on a highly successful British championship event for the Roadrunners…

THE second May Bank Holiday Monday is always the date for what is now called the Vitality London 10,000.

Why is it 10,000 and not 10k, asked my daughter, with it being on a road and not a track? I don’t know, is the answer. 

Still, it is an incredibly popular race, with almost 20,000 finishers today. For many, it is the closest they will get to ‘running London’, as the course starts on The Mall and takes in sights as far as St Paul’s and the City. 

There are a couple of stretches where the course is two-way and, if you’re lucky, you get to see the elites on their way to the finish.

Our club is allowed to apply for six free male and female places for this race if we participate in the Autumn road relays, and Carl Woffington organises this for us. 

These places are ‘captain’s pick’; we want to choose some fast runners as this is a British 10k championship race, with team positions at stake, but it is also nice to reward some of our less elite runners. 

Personally I like to recognise those who have put themselves forward for team events throughout the winter.

Our men’s team was: Jack Gregory, David McCoy (the younger), Chris Lucas, Brian Kirsopp, Lance Nortcliff, and Pete Jewell. Rob Corney qualified for a complimentary championship place through running a sub-32 minute 10k elsewhere.

The women’s team was: Nikki Gray, Laura Peatey, Helen Pool, Sarah Dooley, Angela Burley and Claire Seymour. Gemma Buley qualified for a complimentary championship place through running a sub-38 minute 10k elsewhere.

From our marshal spot on the Strand we were able to see the runners at just before 2k and just after 7k. The race was won by Mo Farah (above, with Susan Knight) and Steph Twell.

There were 37 Reading Roadrunners listed in the results, and it was hard work trying to spot them all. As usual our eyes were tuned to spot green vests, so apologies if you did not get a cheer — you were invisible.

I will never understand the non-wearing of the green vest. Indeed, in an event such as this, it is a bit risky; not wearing a club vest is a violation of the championship rules and your time would not count towards the team total. You don’t want to be that person.

It will come as no surprise to read that first club member to finish was Rob Corney, in 29th place. Only a week or so after another great marathon, Rob (right) proved once again he was worthy on an England vest (which he will wear in the Toronto Waterfront marathon in October). 

Rob’s PB of 30:29 is another new club record, taking 56 seconds off his previous best.

Rob was backed up by Jack Gregory, in 32:41, still managing to run great times despite the inevitable restrictions and tiredness that come with having a new baby in the house, and James Rennie, in 34:00.

Not yet 18, James is showing so much talent, including some for even pacing, with his first 5k being 16:59.

Today James (left), who switched his allegiance to Reading AC since entering the race, latched on to the international Gemma Steel to help him achieve his very evenly-paced PB. (He must have left her for dust in the end; I notice her finish time was 34:31).

The second men’s team was made up of David McCoy (34:10), Chris Lucas (left, 34:51) and Chris Burt (36:48), but the PBs did not end there. There was also a first sub-37 for Mark Dibben, a sub-38 for Chris Buley, and PBs for Brooke Johnson, David Lennon and Peter Rennie, so far as I know of at the time of writing. 

Brian Kirsopp was running his second 10k of the Bank Holiday weekend, having raced at Birmingham the previous day. He finished today’s race only five seconds slower. Lance Nortcliff felt unwell during his warm-up and made the sensible decision to not start the race.

Gemma Buley didn’t run with husband Chris but did finish at exactly the same chip time as him, leading the women’s first team home in 37:59. Gemma was supported by Nikki Gray, with a PB of 39:11, and Laura Peatey, also with a PB, in 41:14.

The second women’s team was made up of Helen Pool (41:34), Sarah Dooley, in another PB of 41:42, and the ever-improving Liz Johnson, again with a PB, in 46:42. 

There were also PBs for Carmen Fuentes-Vilchez, Angela Burley, Susan Knight, and Hilary Rennie, with others possibly to be confirmed. Susan (below) was delighted with her achievement, coming as it did less than a week after her 57th birthday.

Tina Woffington and Sandy Sheppard had a fantastic day out in the atmosphere, while Jenny Dimmick celebrated her newly-regained mojo with Gill Manton, the latter fresh from a PB in the Westminster Mile yesterday.

I don’t know if I am the only person who caught up on all the TV footage as soon as they got home, but I am taking two things from it. 

Firstly, the 800 women who were running in their underwear were part of the Celebrate You initiative, which aims to use plus-size models and normal-sized women to promote body confidence and prove that exercise is for everyone. Aha, that explains a lot. 

Secondly, the first three women to finish were noted for the strength they had built during the tough, hard, muddy winter of XC. Just saying..

Well done to everyone who ran today — you did us proud!


Pictures: Tina Woffington and Pete Morris

Seventh heaven as Roadrunners ladies Pool their resources

CHAUFFEUR, head cook, team organiser, runner and race report writer… SAM WHALLEY covered the whole gamut of jobs on the first weekend of the summer relay season. Here’s her report from our ladies’ trip to the Midlands…

IT WAS Helen Pool’s idea to try and get a team together for the British Masters Road Relays at Sutton Park, so we have her to blame/thank. 

An email was duly sent out to all women of an appropriate age, and we were delighted to have replies from seven who were both interested and available.

Team entries are based on the number of runners anticipated in each ten-year age group; V35 teams needed four runners, while V45, V55 and V65 teams only required three. 

The age spread of our women was one x35, five x45 and one x55, and with runners allowed to run in a younger age group but not an older one, we had to be organised into a V35 and a V45 team, with our three strongest runners put into the latter.

Disaster struck on the eve of the race, when Katherine Sargeant’s iffy hamstring was deemed unsuitable for the task of running 5k. 

This is when it would be really good to have a pool of reserves to call upon at very short notice. Alas, we had no such pool, and runners were only allowed to run once, for one team.

Nevertheless, we were all still keen to run, even with an incomplete team. Indeed, Claire Seymour was already halfway through her mini-break in Birmingham, and raring to go.

We were thankful for our 7am departure for Sutton Coldfield, when, for reasons best known to herself, the designated driver (that was me) veered off the blue line indicated by the sat nav and then missed the first exit that would have set us back on the right track, in favour of a half-hour detour down the M6 and back up the other side, in the average speed limit stretch, no less. 

I can neither repeat in print the words that emerged from my mouth, nor apologise enough to my passengers.

In spite of this brain malfunction, we arrived with the desired hour to spare, enough time to put up the tent, update our team declaration sheet, and prepare for the race, with the leg one runners on the start line at 10.30.

Helen Pool and Paloma Crayford did the honours for leg one, with Helen keen to beat her big local rival, and Paloma already chuffed to be trying something out of her comfort zone. 

With this being an undulating one-lap course, the first runners were due back after around 18 minutes, pretty swift for senior female athletes, let alone masters. 

The changeover line was a serious business. We were called from the holding pen in order, as our incoming runners appeared halfway up the finishing hill — oh yes, it finished on an uphill, why wouldn’t it? — and were told not to waste time looking behind us, as we would be given a three-second countdown and a tap on the shoulder when they had crossed the line.

This made me feel really nervous, and fearful of a false start. Lesley Whiley had already been told off for only having two pins on her numbers.

Helen was back in sixth place for the V45s, in 21:31, ahead of her nemesis — yes! — while Paloma felt the benefit of the inevitable leg one speediness and ran a fantastic 24:36 for 26th place. Had Paloma been running in her actual age category, this would have been 15th.

Lesley and I took the metaphorical baton for leg two. With numbers worn front and back, it should have been easy to see who we were racing against. 

From a personal point of view, those age group numbers needed to be quite a lot larger for me to be able to see whether someone was in my race or not, given that everyone had spread out so much over leg one, but as with any team race my aim was to run as fast as possible, not lose any positions, and pick people off if I could. 

Such was the nature of the course, that splits were somewhat erratic, and, while I felt like I should have been able to run faster, I was pleased to not lose any places — phew! — and come in at 25:16, while Lesley, running in an age group one below her own, slipped one place, courtesy of second-claim runner and former Reading Roadrunner Sarah Urwin-Mann. 

Lesley was still the eighth fastest V45 runner over this leg, with a great time of 23:43. This would have been the 12th fastest time of the day in the V55 race.

Lesley and I handed over to Julie Rainbow and Claire Seymour, respectively. Julie, who is in fantastic form at the moment, achieving PBs in some distances for the first time in many years, ran an excellent leg, the fifth fastest V45 time in that leg, with 22: 41, and brought the V45 team home in seventh place. 

Claire also had a great run, in 25:35, and gained one place, with the team finishing in 25th after the three legs.

As an incomplete team, however, we were then left hanging, with no final position listed, but could be pleased with our performance, and that none of us had got caught by the V55s or V65s, who had set off five minutes after us.

A relatively uneventful journey home had us brushing with travelling Manchester City fans and discussing the best marathon training plans, but mostly involved refuelling with sandwiches, salads and home-baked goods from Paloma and myself. See what you could be missing? 

We all agreed it would be a brilliant event to have on our regular race calendar. Note: You can see a copy of such a team race calendar on the noticeboard at Palmer Park.

Later, Lesley reflected on her best performance at the very same road relays, back in 1999, when she ran 17:57, and the Reading Roadrunners V35 women won the prize for second team — wow! Something for the speedier veterans among you to aspire to, perhaps? 

In the meantime, we will most definitely be back.


Pictures: Bryan Dale


Greek Island Retreat and Sore Feet

Crete Marathon Long Weekend 2019
By Paul Monaghan

Because of budget and time constraints it was necessary for Myself and other half Caroline Jackson, Pete ‘The Train’ Morris & Martin ‘Bushy’ Bush to fly to the Crete island capital Heraklion for the marathon which is based in Chania and a 2hr 45 minute coach ride. We’d be flying back from Chania the following Wednesday, so the most difficult part was getting there.

We had this worked out so we’d make it easily in time for the Chania expo which closed in the evening at 8:30, however we didn’t bargain for and hour getting through passport control and then getting off the wrong stop on airport bus to coach station. Anyway 2 hours later than planned we caught the 3:30 coach to Chania, there were no loos on board so it meant no drinks could pass our lips. Pete Morris brought on board an empty drinks cup to be on safe side. Thank god he didn’t use it especially whilst trying to hold his phone in the other hand.

The journey itself was picturesque as we were travelling through stunning mountain ranges and along the coast, though we were feeling really parched and in bad need of a drink. Not ideal prep for marathon the next day.

We got off the coach with about two hours to spare so decided best to head to Expo before checking in to our hotel. The Expo was held at the Kucjk Hassan Mosque which is the oldest Ottoman building in Crete and was a great sight. It’s on the sea harbour which in itself was impressive but typical of a Greek island. There was also a lighthouse on the sea front which made for quite a few good photo opportunities.

Inside the Mosque was a photo exhibition but Bushy looked far more impressed with his free towel and t-shirt in the goody bag. He prob has enough towels himself to dish out to every runner and enough marathon t-shirts to clothe the island, but that’s never stopped him collecting them (I won’t go into his medals)

We finally got to check into our hotel which was great as we had a roof terrace. One thing I never knew about Crete is there’s an ice tipped mountain range within sight, so it made for a great view from our terrace, mind you saying that, it was 25 degrees in the UK at this time but only 18 in Crete. Always nice to think you’re getting money’s worth weather wise but guess we’d missed out this time. A case of unusual high temperatures back home.

A pre-marathon Torch carrying relay was due to finish at the marathon start area so we headed in that direction to see what it was about and also hook up with some 100 marathon club pals. As we arrived there were about 15 torch carrying toga wearing guys just entering the area. After a pose for pictures they lit an Olympic style cauldron which was an impressive sight especially as it was at night. After a few speeches in Greek a band then started playing. It was an amazing buzz that got us right in the mood for the next day

Whether it’s placebo effect or not, I think it divides opinion but regardless we headed to an Italian restaurant to carb up for the next day. Easy enough for Caroline, Pete & I, but Martin ‘Bushy’ Bush always has a few issues with food and is quite happy just eating chips. He’s also not a big fan of cheese so pizzas usually need to be minus the

cheese.  Anyway, he ordered plain pasta but the waiter brought it and explained how the chef had covered it in a lovely spicy tomato sauce he would enjoy. WRONG!! That was not all, his garlic bread then came with lashings of cheese WRONG!! Poor old Bushy had to send 2 dishes back but by this time we were eating at 10pm. Luckily Caroline & I were not taking this marathon serious and would run together taking pics. London was looming so not a good idea to push yourself the week before. Anyway, Bushy was finally happy and it did give us all a few laughs. I kind of like chaos especially on holiday, so right up my street.

The next morning was the marathon so we were up early and grabbed a bit to eat before our 10 minute walk to the start. But hey, where was everyone? The place was empty except for about 20 officials and runners. We spent the next 45 mins in and out of the loos as was a novelty not to queue for a change, so decided to take advantage. Then 20 mins before the start about 400 runners turned up, definitely not quite as laid back as we’re used to but a refreshing change. That was not all, as at 9am race start time there was about 10 mins of passionate speeches (all in Greek of course) as 400 runners all raised their right arm. I’m sure I heard the words TeamJackMon, Bush & Morris mentioned but I could have been mistaken. Anyway, 10 minutes later than scheduled we were off.

The scenery on the route was something else as it started along the coast, though not many supporters as guess they were busy getting ready to support the kids 10k which would start in 4 more hours.  Caroline & I decided to run together, take this easy and enjoy, and that is exactly what we were doing. It was an out and back route and before we knew it Bushy was overtaking us.. For him no magnet shops or photos during race today for some reason. The sniff of beating us may have been a factor 😊. We eventually saw Pete who looked far more interested in his phone then the scenery. Must be some phone, that’s all I can say.

It was an out and back route and support gradually improved as we hit the towns. Mind you so did the traffic and became almost unbearable for us during second half, though must add that the marshals did an amazing job controlling it under the circumstances, and with a smile.

We were having fun running this but eventually all must come to an end. The last few miles were really undulating and to our surprise during last mile or so we had the kids 10k runners all walking along the same route to the finish line, It was a nightmare getting around them and if you were going for a time it would be out of the question. However, the finish was a party atmosphere despite the congestion, and we were glad to eventually finish running in intense heat. I’d recommend this marathon for the scenery and atmosphere but if you’re seriously thinking of a time then probably not ideal. Bushy had managed to finish before us and had a great run considering how many marathons he’d just ran. Pete was also not that far behind us and told us he really enjoyed the course.

The next day we stayed in Chania and decided to visit the lighthouse via a route paved with broken rocks. This was nearly as difficult as the race but great fun. After we struggled to reach it we clocked a group of local ladies who must have been older than the rocks, sitting near it. As far as I can gather, they must have had jetpacks hidden or had perfected the ancient Hellenism art of levitation (should have asked for tips for next marathon)


No trip to a Greek island would be complete without a boat trip and Captain Nick with his glass bottomed vessel was glad to oblige. It was choppy and cold at sea that day, but he went out with around 10 of us regardless. We even all had a go at steering the boat. Pete Morris managed it with one hand whilst holding phone (I’ve recommended a surgeon who may be able to detach it from his hand) and taking selfies in the other. Got help us if we had of hit a storm. Even in the cold-water captain nick swam out and attached bait to the bottom of the glass so we could witness some cool looking fish feeding. We had the option to swim but Pete said his phone may leek, so we gave it a miss. Besides, it was not the warmest of days.

Nice local Greek restaurants are plentiful in Chania especially down the side streets. It’s real friendly 5-star service. If tacky British bars on every corner aren’t quite your thing or you prefer a more cultural trip, then Chania in Crete delivers, even if it does have its fair share of tourist souvenir shops. We found it similar to Seville or San Sabastian if you’ve ever visited. We even had Martin trying stuffed vine leaves rather than his usual chips, so I guess that says it all.

Will we be back? I love the Greek Islands and will find any excuse to go especially if there’s a marathon. We plan on returning to Rhodes next year, if only for the awesome pre marathon pasta party, but I’m sure we’ll be back to Crete soon.

If you fancy joining us on any races abroad then visit are Runners on the Road section on our website or give Caroline & me a shout.  All are welcome.

Horse sense prevails in search for club championship points

ROADRUNNERS’ ladies captain SAM WHALLEY reports from the wilds of Hampshire after the first of the three five-mile races in this year’s club championship…

THE eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the Hurstbourne five-mile race on the club championship calendar was listed as ‘by request’.

This had appeared in the champs last year, and although it is around an hour’s drive from Reading, it was so enjoyable that Tina Woffington (below) asked for it to be included again. She then forgot to enter until the day, but that’s another story!

The course has everything: farm tracks, grass, uneven ground, a big hill, woodland paths (up and down hill), bluebells, fallen tree hurdles, the big hill again, more grass…. you get the picture. 

It’s hilly (see profile below) and you really need to watch your footing to avoid tripping up or turning an ankle. It wasn’t as muddy this year, so most of us found our times to be a couple of minutes faster.

There was a good turn-out of 20 green vests, enough for a bit of friendly competition, and it also felt good to be supporting such a small event. There were 266 finishers overall.

First Roadrunner to finish was Ben Whalley (above, right), in third overall, achieving 50 points in the MV40 category. Next in that category was Tony Page, who also picked up the prize for first MV40, followed by Bryan Curtayne.

The MV50 category was as competitive as ever. Mark Andrew took everyone by surprise by by-passing the pre-race banter and turning up on the start line.

Rumour has it that he arrived early for an on-the-day entry, and then caught up on some sleep until race time. He was first of our MV50s home, bagging himself 50 points. 

He was followed by the Davids, Caswell and Fiddes, Tony Streams (still with broken toe in-tow — that was interesting on the downhills, ouch!) and George Nyamie.

Alan Freer picked up the prize for first MV60, and with he, Andy Atkinson and Jim Kiddie being the only competitors in the MV60, MV65 and MV70 categories, respectively, each could also take away 50 points. Ben Fasham was the only senior RR male in attendance, so he too was able to take home an easy 50 points.

For the women, it was Katherine Sargeant who was first RR home, as fourth female, and first in the FV45 race category.

As far as the club championships were concerned, it is rare that Katherine doesn’t pick up 50 points, and Saturday was no exception, in spite of changes to the female age categories to bring them in line with the men’s. Katherine was followed by me and Caroline Hargreaves.

There were grumbles in the FV50 category, following the removal of the FV55s. “Where’s the incentive now?” asked Sarah Bate, as she scooped the full 50 points, ahead of Catherine Leather. 

Sarah will have to take solace in the fact that not every club member takes interest in the club champs, and there’s still everything to play for.

In the FV60s, Tina Woffington took the 50 points, followed by Sandy Sheppard, while Liz Atkinson was the only contender for the FV65s. Liz had the grace of a carousel horse as she came into the finish. “That was tough,” she said afterwards to Katherine. “Why would a thoroughbred like you want to enter something like this, where you could injure yourself? Leave it to us Shetland ponies.”

A great event, and with many of our runners only a week post-marathon, some impressive performances too. 

The remaining five-mile races in the championship are the Marlow 5 on May 12th (also a Berkshire Road Running Championship race), and the Headington 5 on August 25th. Don’t miss out.


Pictures: Emma Caswell

It’s Back to Back to Cyprus

Paphos & Limassol Marathon 2019 Week Report.

By Paul Monaghan

We’d last ran Paphos in 2015 and ran Limassol marathons a few times over the years but one thing we never expected was that in 2019 they’d each announce their Marathons within a week of each other. As Caroline’s parents live over there this was a perfect excuse to spend 10 days away and run 2 marathons.

After arriving we checked in at a great hotel called Nereus it seemed tons of runners were also staying there. We got chatting to a couple at the hotel bar, the guy Clive had his eye on the big win so we chatted about marathons we’d done for the rest of the evening before being sensible and calling it an early night.

The Paphos marathon expo itself is a a lovely area next to Paphos castle & the beach and near the finish. To anyone new to the race it’s an impressive area and soon gets you I the mood.

Race morning we made our way for the coach pick up as we’d be transported about 20 miles to Aphrodite’s Rock where the marathon would kick off as this was an out and back course. I’d previously ran this in 2015 but what surprised me is just how much this marathon had grown. Three coaches were there in 2015 but this time there was a queue of about 10.

You have to be there to appreciate the start. Aphrodite’s Rock area is just stunning and as it was sunrise it looked even more spectacular. A sight to behold.

We eventually started, and although being stunning there was the slight problem of a Kilometre up hill to contend with. Caroline shot off but I knew at that moment it was not to be my day. A great race but support is sparse amongst many sections of main road leading to Paphos town. I found myself running solo on some parts but about 12 mile in at an out and back section I spotted fellow 100 marathon runner Adam Holland leading the race by a serious margin.

Many runners seemed to struggle with the heat but Adam Holland took first in 2:35:03. Our pal Clive from the hotel came 5th in just a few seconds over 3 hours. My lady the other half of #TeamJackMon Caroline Jackson managed 3:53.

The best part of this race is the awards ceremony. They gave out lots of age cat prizes which many of our pals picked up. Caroline only just missed out on the vet female 40. Free beer was flowing as well as a local DJ. Our friends and fellow RRs Stephen & Julie Wing had a good marathon and also joined us at the end.

Did we rest the following day? Erm not quite as we walked about 8 miles to and from Tomb of The Kings which was a welcome quiet day.

A couple of days later Caroline & I joined the local Cypriot running club West Coast Runners for about 10K around Paphos. Was one of the highlights of our stay as they were a great bunch, we’d meet some of them a few days later at Limassol marathon.


Next port of call would be Caroline’s parents in Pano Lefkara for a couple of days before heading to Limassol. A can was needed for this but as usual for us we were ill prepared which meant us walking around Paphos for a couple of hours to get the right one, one back alley place we ended up by accident was a used car, car park with prices sprayed on the windscreens which we decided may be worth giving a miss, luckily we found a great Europcar garage that gave us just what we needed.

Caroline’s parents as always were great as hospitality & food were in abundance, not to mention the bottomless wine carafe her dad always produces. I really do need to get myself one of these. Pano Lefkara is up in the mountains and a stunning typical Cypriot village that specialises in linen and has managed to keep it’s culture despite the tourist buses that frequently visit. I’ve been close on a couple of occasions to buying a set of curtains whilst just going for a loaf.

They have a local running track at the village which in our wisdom decided to do about 20 laps on in the 25 degree heat. It was empty so we had it to ourselves, we even managed to  collar a local old lady to grab a few pics though 5 minutes later she returned with curtains and a few table cloths.  We did eventually manage  enjoy a ice cold local beer after our track & linen dodging session.

It was eventually time to leave Caroline’s parents so we drove to Limassol to check into our second hotel. This was slightly more out of the way from the marathon start but had great views from our balcony.

We managed to get in a few tourist sites including Kolossi Castle and the brilliant Kourion archaeological site whilst in Limassol which required a lot of walking, not really ideal for our marathon in a couple of days but well worth the visit.

The expo on Friday was a quiet affair but the pre-race pasta party was a different matter. They’d put on the entertainment of Greek dancers doing their balancing glasses on the head routine. As the sun was setting this was great fun but the lack of lighting meant we couldn’t see how many glasses were on his head, still I’d lost count after 15 anyway. The Cypriots know how to put on great pre and after marathon shows which seem to lack back here in the UK.

Marathon morning was buzzing, as the race starts parallel to the beach surrounded by Palm trees. With the DJ pumping out tunes, this really is a mega experience. Caroline was recognised by some of the organisers as she’s won the 2015 Marathon so there was quite a few pics taken though no autograph hunters I’m afraid .


Before we knew it we were off. This year the race was in waves for the Marathon, HM and 10K meaning there was no congestion as in previous years. I was feeling a lot more up to it then at Paphos the following week so shot off at 7:15 min mile pace though just 1 mile in I had a case of the runs so shot into nearest loo. Caroline also seemed to be on better form as I didn’t catch her until 20 mile in when after seeing me she found some competitive energy to leave me for dead. This is a great course though support can lack in places. The heat and hill at about 15 mile make this tough but the scenery and atmosphere more than compensates.

I came in at just over 4 hours which was 20 mins faster than the previous week. Caroline also finished faster. Can never really run your best in these hot climates but these races were as much about the holiday as running.


After the obligatory #TeamJackMon video and a few post drinks it was time to celebrate in the evening at the Guaba Bar who organise the official race after party. Live bands, DJs etc play well on until after midnight. It would be rude not to indulge so we did the decent thing by singing along to cheesy tunes and returning to our hotel long after the door had been locked.

Cyprus as always is a great island to visit as so much more to do besides running, but take my word for it, It’s far more fun if you run. It would be rude not to.