Roadrunners ‘virtual’ heroes? Nonsense, they’re the real deal!

Following the cancellation of the National Road Relays, Reading Roadrunners have been competing in the inaugural ‘virtual’ competition which replaced them… with stunning results! Here’s the inside story of our success, told by ladies captain SAM WHALLEY and the fastest Roadrunner in the event, JACK GREGORY. First here’s Sam’s report…

With race calendars empty, 20 female Roadrunners jumped at the chance to pull on their green vests and represent the club in the Virtual National Road Relays. The wearing of club kit was not even a requirement for this race, but it just felt right, and certainly helped get the adrenalin flowing for what was essentially a 5k time-trial.

The beauty of this race, while being pretty tough to run solo, was its convenience, with no choice but to run loops or an out-and-back from your own front door, including warming up and down, of course. Routes were carefully plotted in advance, taking into account the negative elevation limit of 30ft. 

We also thought about the most suitable time of day, the number of road crossings, and any potential obstacles — wheelbarrows, toddlers, barriers — to try to ensure our best performance. In hindsight, some might have chosen differently, and some did indeed have another go, before uploading their fastest attempt. I don’t think anyone had bargained for this week’s sub-tropical weather either.

Still on her way back from injury, Gemma Buley led the women’s team home in a great time of 19:21, just ahead of Carrie Hoskins, in 19:39 (fourth FV50). Just missing out on a sub-20 were Nikki Gray, in 20:01, and Katherine Sargeant, in 20:05 (seventh FV50). With Sarah Dooley in 20:16, and Jane Copland in 20:46, this put the women in 31st place in the six-stage competition, with a combined time of 2:00:08. Apart from Gemma, all of these were also FV35 scorers, and just needed Mel Shaw’s 21:18 to achieve an excellent fifth place out of 47 complete vet teams — amazing  — with a combined time of 2:02:05.

Making up the remainder of the women’s 12-stage team were Chloe Lloyd, with a huge PB of 21:42, Julie Rainbow, in 21:58 (ninth FV55), Swinda Falkena, in 22:17, Liz Johnson, in 22:45, and Claire Woodhouse, in a post-baby PB of 23:29. 

The 12-stage team was an incredible 13th, in a combined time of 4:13:37. Well done!

Once the results were in, an FV50 category was added, with four to score. Had we had one more runner in this age category, I think the club could have won! Our three FV50s ran a combined time of 1:01:42, with the winning team of four coming in at 1:36:25. Someone please check my maths!

Another great thing about this race was that there was no limit to numbers. Just run, and the fastest 12 would be counted.

So, also running like they had stolen something were Caroline Jackson, 23:31, Claire Raynor, 23:33, Claire Seymour, matching her track 5000m PB, in 23:53, Angela Burley, 23:58, Sam Whalley, 24:17, Liz Ganpatsingh, just days after her three-day Paris Marathon, in 24:48, Alex Bennell, 25:44, and Katie Gumbrell, in 27:48.

Well done to everyone who represented the club and put in 100 per cent effort. It was so nice to hear about your experiences, pre-race nerves, and near-vomit finishes. That’s what it’s all about. I hope you enjoyed being part of the virtual team, and, who knows, maybe we will take an actual team to the Nationals next year?

And here’s the in-depth report from hugely enthusiastic speed merchant Jack:

The National 12 and six-stage Road Relays are a staple of the UK racing season, providing a competitive transition from cross-country to marathon/road (and track), while also truly showing which club can boast the most depth of distance talent.

Personally, it is an event I have been trying to compete in for years both in my time with our rivals (Reading AC) and more recently since I made the jump to Reading Roadrunners (more controversial than Spurs to Arsenal). 

It does though involve some considerable organisation from team captains and also having 12/6 runners available to help you qualify at the Southerns, and then represent at the National at Sutton Park in Birmingham. This is far easier said than done as it does often clash with popular road races and seems to be a common time to get injured.

Having seen the success of the club in the Southern 6/4 stage in September, Jamie Smith, Mark Worringham and myself on the men’s side, and Sam Whalley on the ladies, had been pushing for our first appearance in the event. 

This was sorted, with almost two full teams registered on both sides, ready to head up to Milton Keynes. Unfortunately, as with every other event, it fell victim to Covid-19; leaving us rather disappointed.

Talk had begun a few weeks back on various forums and groups of the organsiation of a virtual event. Fortunately our sport has many great characters and volunteers and the Virtual National Road Relays were created by the small team at Opentrack, who have done an outstanding job at short notice with almost seven times the amount of entries they were expecting.

Jamie and Sam quickly went to work in drumming up interest among the members and the regulars quickly made themselves available. What I have been particularly happy about though is members who maybe don’t always feel “quick” enough or have not competed in club team events before getting involved. It has paid dividends as we have seen a number of “PBs” (very unofficial) from top to bottom.

The brief for the race was very simple: run a 5k as fast as possible, while following all social distancing guidelines, and then upload to Strava and the Opentrack website. This obviously means some will take liberties here and we all know the slight limitations of GPS; but did mean everyone could access safely and close to their homes, while providing a fairly accurate 5k time.

The standard of the racing has been sky high. Based on entries, over 60 current or ex-GB internationals signed up and this can be seen in the results.

On the men’s side, notables include Marc Scott for Cambridge, a Nike professional who recently broke Mo Farah’s European Indoor 5000 record in 13.08. He was only third fastest (although the athlete in first has a slightly suspect time), in 13.43. To get into the top 50 times you had to run 14:43, 15 flat would get you 97th, 16 minutes 394th and 17 dead 798th!

At the front end of the men’s race there was an epic battle with the lead changing hands regularly over the last 48 hours as each of Tonbridge, Leeds, Bedford and Cambridge added rapid times to their fastest 12. It was eventually Leeds, who crept ahead of Cambridge in second with Tonbridge taking bronze. Bedford were fourth. I mention four teams as they all went under three hours total. It does not take a maths graduate to work out that these teams therefore averaged under 15 minutes per leg, Leeds getting exceptionally close to 14:45.

The Roadrunners were not put off by the competition, rising to the challenge of the top athletic distance clubs in the country. Friendly rivalry between the guys meant many ran ‘PBs’ in their efforts. As results were compiled together, the men finished a highly respectable 41st out of 118 complete A teams in a total time of 3:21:05 (for comparison, Leeds were 2:57), averaging 16:45 per leg.

Scoring legs were: Jack Gregory (15.34), Mark Worringham (15:52), Stephen Ridley (15:59), Chris Burt (16:41), Mark Apsey (16:51), Ryan Faulkner (16:52), Matthew Davies (16:53), Sibrand Rinzema (17:13), David Parton (17:16), Brendan Morris (17:16), Callum Pratt (17:19) and David McCoy (17:19)

A key feature of the team was the excellent depth. All 12 of our scorers were in the top 1000 finishers, something not common in many teams outside of the top 20. Motivation is there to bring all of those times down by just 30 seconds and suddenly we would move up 10-15 places.

Special mentions in the scoring team must go to Stephen Ridley, who dipped under 16 minutes for the first time. He should probably scrap that triathlon stuff! Also, I believe there were ‘PBs’ for Chris Burt, Matthew Davies and Callum Pratt, while also excellent efforts from Sibrand Rinzema and Brendan Morris, both coming off injury but delivering solid runs. While part of the challenge of a 12-stage relay is to get your 12 strongest runners out, it is worth noting RR were missing Rob Corney, Matt Richards and Seb Briggs, all of whom would likely have scored.

As mentioned, RR’s depth is certainly a strength and this was shown by an excellent showing by the B team, finishing ninth among B teams in 3:51:36. Lots of the guys here were knocking on the door of the A team, with sub-18 performances from Jamie Cole (17.22), Jamie Smith (17.28) and Tony Page (17.47). 

Backing them up were Alex Harris (18:18), Brooke Johnson (18:51), David Clay (18:53) and Pete Jewell (18:56), who was the first Roadrunner to complete a leg, early on Saturday morning. Next up were Stuart Hyslop (18:59), Rob Thompson (20:21), David Caswell (21:13), Chris James (21:40) and finally Ben Fasham (21:48).

And if these 24 runners were not enough, there were outstanding efforts many more men. A shout-out must go to our youngest runner, Under 17 Jacob Atwal who ran an excellent 17:49 but due to age restrictions could not be slotted into our B team. Further top efforts came from Peter Cave (22:07), Clinton Montague (22:14), Chris Barkus (22:28), Alan Williamson (22:59), Stuart Wylie (23:31), Roger Ganpatsingh (24:11), Paul Monaghan (25:30) and Peter Reilly (25:41).

As well as the 12-stage race, there were the veteran six-stage competitions, categories that RR tend to perform particularly well in. This was no different with the vet men (V40 and above) 13th, counters being Worringham, Parton, Cole, Page, Harris and Jewell. The V50s were also an outstanding fifth with David Caswell adding to Parton, Harris and Jewell.

Thank you as usual to our team captains Jamie and Sam for drumming up interest and continued encouragement to get more and more RR out of their comfort zone and competing for the club. We continue to grow and improve and this can be seen in our results. 

It’s great to see over 50 runners coming together during this difficult time and has been a welcome distraction alongside the many other excellent initiatives and activities going on (virtually) at the club. Well done and thank you all

Finally, following on from my above point on our continued improvement, I thought this would be a good way to sign off. There was an overall 12 stage competition including men and women based on age grading. I won’t go into details, as most will be familiar with parkrun, however I feel this is an excellent way of bringing together the overall performance standard at a club. 

We averaged an exceptional 83.06 per cent across our top 12, finishing 31st out of 148 clubs. This included beating local rivals Reading AC, Windsor and Newbury and national powerhouses Belgrave and Serpentine. An incredible achievement! Below are the scorers (ordered by highest age-grade score):

Mark Worringham, David Parton, Carrie Hoskins, Jamie Cole, Jack Gregory, Pete Jewell, Stephen Ridley, Katherine Sargeant, Alex Harris, Tony Page, Julie Rainbow and Chris Burt.

 

swallowfield

Swallowfield 10K and 3K Races

The 10K is a sensational measured road race through rural Berkshire countryside. Starting in Swallowfield village the route passes along quiet country roads to Farley Hill and then back along country lanes to Swallowfield Parish Hall. Every competitor completing the course will receive a finishers medal. There will be special awards for the fastest in class. Once again, the roads will be closed to through traffic in Swallowfield.

The 3K fun run is on an (almost) completely off road course mainly on grass through the grounds of Swallowfield Park.

Duathlon

The Duathlon consists of a 6.7km run through Farley Hill, followed by a 18.5km cycle across rural West Berkshire and finishing with a flat 3.7km run around Swallowfield.

Road Closures

Roads in and around Swallowfield and Farley Hill will be closed to through traffic from 9:30am on 15th September reopening at 2:30pm. There will also be delays to local traffic at Brookside Nursery in Swallowfield at 10:30am to allow the races to start safely; traffic will be held for 10 minutes at Swallowfield Park. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

More information is available in the letter provided to local residents. The map of the closure can be found here.

1st Swallowfield Scouts

The Swallowfield 10+3 is run by the 1st Swallowfield Scouts Group to raise funds for the benefit of all the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Young Explorers who belong to the group. Please support us by entering the races or helping on the day. For details of how you can support, please contact the committee at: info@swallowfield10plus3.com

For the 2019 results, please visit: www.racedirector.co.uk/events/swallowfield-10-plus-3-2019

Thinking of Joining?

Thinking of Joining Us?

Thank you for your interest in joining our running club!

You can find out more about us as a club here

Unfortunately, we have had to suspend introductory sessions in the present circumstances, and we can only allow members who have booked to take part in our track sessions.  However, new members may still join the club online here and then be eligible to take part in club activities, including booking places for group training sessions so long as we are able to provide them.

The track session starts at 6:30pm at Palmer Park, see more here

You don’t have to tell us you are coming in advance, but it’s worth getting to the track a little early so we can chat to you and put you at ease before the session. Soon you’ll be able to keep an eye out for one of our buddies to chat to in reception and at track side before the session starts.

Once you’ve come along to your first session we’ll email you more information about the club (if you are happy for us to do so) and you the have two further free sessions to try us out before we ask you to join us.

Once you feel ready to join up you can do so online here

So you win again! How Ed Dodwell and our XC vets grabbed the glory

CLIMBING was the theme of this weekend’s racing for Reading Roadrunners. The dreaded ascent up to the mansion house in Prospect Park was the big feature of Saturday’s Hampshire Cross Country League fixture and that was followed today by the killer 3k drag up to the finish of the Woodcote 10k and the iconic remake of The 39 Steps at the Cliveden 10k. Club captains SAM WHALLEY and JAMIE SMITH have again filed accounts of the cross-country action and their reports follow my own missive from Woodcote…

QUIZ question: Who has been the most successful Reading Roadrunner over the last year?

Step forward please… Ed Dodwell.

As Ed climbed the podium to collect his customary M60 prize after the Woodcote 10k he said: “I’ve been very lucky. In the last 19 races I’ve entered I have had two second places and 17 wins.”

That’s not luck, Ed… that’s good running!

Roadrunners would have cleaned up at Woodcote but for four little problems…

1 There was no team prize. Had there been one, our four guys in the top 18 — Chris Lucas third, Brian Kirsopp ninth, Fergal Donnelly 17th and Tony Page 18th — would have walked away with it. No other club had more than one athlete in the top 20.

2 First lady home was our second-claimer Ellie Gosling. Unfortunately she was wearing the wrong kit!

3 No prize for Sarah Dooley for winning the W40 group… they handed it to someone else by mistake! Was coach Sarah miffed? Just a bit!

4 And no M70 prize for yours truly. There wasn’t one! Pity, the day had been going OK right up until the time I head-butted the pavement.

But there were still trophies for Dodwell, Jane Davies (F60 prize in her second tough race in less than 24 hours) and Lucas, a winner of this race in 2018 but a bronze-medallist this time after being run out of it in the last 400 metres.

Amazingly, three Roadrunners chalked up PBs on this tough course. On his comeback from injury, Tony Page managed an improvement of 28 seconds, George Nyamie progressed by 25 seconds and new member Julie Sugden (right), donning a green vest for the first time, found it made her over a minute quicker.

Brian Kirsopp, a winner last year, had to settle for second place in the V50s but my spies tell me that the man who beat him, David Parton, may soon be racing in a green vest.

There were 29 Roadrunners contesting the Woodcote event and 22 competing at Cliveden, where Ian Giggs was our first finisher and Elizabeth Ganpatsingh our first lady home.

Here’s SAM WHALLEY’S report on the Hampshire League fixture…

With this being our second visit to Prospect Park this season, the BBO XC Champs having been held here in November, there were to be no surprises in store.

The course, though, felt markedly different. I heard the mud described as soft, sticky, claggy… it was certainly deeper in places, especially on the hills and through the woods, and the boggy end of the field was indeed boggy. The course was, as usual, short, at 5k, and we continue to be baffled as to why we don’t run an extra loop that the men run, to increase the distance to nearer the advertised 6k.

Regular TVXC winner Freya Martin was once again first for the team, in an impressive 13th, followed by Hannah Green, making her debut for the club, in an excellent 37th. Helen Pool completed the team, in 44th (8th vet), and the team placed a fantastic fifth.

Mel Shaw, not really feeling the love for this league after a few years away from it, was hot on Helen’s heels in 46th, while Jane Davies did battle with a Reading AC rival for 52nd (11th vet, first V60), during what she called her warm-up for the Woodcote 10k. 

Chloe Lloyd continued her great run of form not far behind in 62nd, and our other Hampshire League debutante, Emma Paton, completed the vets’ scoring team in 73rd (24th vet). The vets team was a brilliant third.

Also having strong non-scoring runs on the day were Sam Whalley (that’s me!), Alex Bennell, Claire Seymour and Cecilia Csemiczky, with Cecilia just being pipped by her arch-rival from the Victory running club.

Well done to everyone who ran, and thank you to those who came out to support, mostly on the worst hill — what a motivator!

With one fixture to go, the women’s team overall is sixth on aggregate, while the vets are third, just one point ahead of Stubbington Green. We had a team of 11 at this race; It would be great to have an even bigger turn-out for the finale at Popham Airfield on February 8th. If you’re free, join us!

And here’s JAMIE SMITH’S report on the men’s race at Prospect Park:

A fantastic turn-out of 19 Roadrunners lined up for the penultimate Hampshire League fixture. It was great to see 11 runners making either the debut this season or turning out at the Hampshire League for the very first time. 

Having run the same course in December at the BBO, everyone was well aware of all of the hills and, indeed, once again the mud that was to come. 

Speaking with lots of the new faces, there was a mixture of excitement and nervousness pre-race. The Hampshire League is seen to be a step up in class from the TVXC, and one that really should not be there. This was best summed up after the race by first-timer Daniel Rickett: “Really enjoyed that” he said. “If I can do it anyone can!” 

Unfortunately, having picked up a few niggles in the recent TVXC event and with the depth to the team these days I had the chance to watch the race from the sidelines. It was thoroughly impressive to see the commitment and enthusiasm from all who wore the green vest yesterday.

At the front of the race there were plenty of top-level runners, including recent TVXC  winner Jack Gregory, who led the team home with his highest-ever finish of tenth. Jack has set himself a number of goals for this year and a top-10 finish in the Hampshire was one of those. One down, three to go!

Finishing in a fine 23rd was Ben Paviour, who was making his debut this season. Ben was second vet40 to finish after a run that was nearly perfect apart from an unfortunate stumble on one of the downhills.

Behind our leading pair the scoring team was made up by Mark Worringham in 33rd (fifth vet), Mark Apsey in 37th and this season’s cross-country ever-present Chris Burt in 57th.

This led to the senior team finishing in a fine sixth place, cementing our current sixth place in Division One for this season.

With one race to go our men’s vets team have all but secured the league title. They won the fixture yesterday thanks to a fine run from Andrew Smith, completing the team as 15th vet 40.

Congratulations to those who have scored and made this league win possible. Beating the Aldershot team is no mean feat.

In the men’s vets individual competition, we have an exciting conclusion to the season with mud-lover Mark Worringham currently in fourth place only one point away from third ahead of the final race at Popham airfield on February 8th.

Thanks to everyone who turned out on a cold and very windy day. Let’s be seeing some more of you, either at Popham or next season!

Hampshire League ladies: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2020/20200111_hlwomen.html

Hampshire League men: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2020/20200111_hlmen.html

Woodcote results: https://www.woodcote10k.org.uk/copy-of-results-2019

Cliveden results: http://onyourmarksevents.org/results-2020-cliveden-10k.html

Pictures: Pete Jewell, Jeanette Allcock, Nigel Hoult, Eddie Thorpe, Matt Davies, Chris Drew.

Love is all around as our ladies vets grab the Berkshire title

MELANIE SHAW reports from the Berkshire Cross-Country Championships and was too modest to mention in her intro that she led the Roadrunners’ veteran ladies team to a gold medal triumph…

THE Championships were a superb event. Race director Sam Whalley once again proved her superhuman skills in organisation to produce a slick, competitive and certainly difficult course at Ashenbury Park. 

She even managed to bake for the runners. A huge, unwavering thank you should go to all the amazing volunteers who braved the wind and cold to marshal the race and ensure its success. They should consider a career in aircraft control or, failing that, professional cheerleaders. They certainly kept me going.

From a competitor perspective — I am sure we all face races with trepidation (I certainly do) and this is normal. I want to take the opportunity to say nerves make us strong, they mean that our team and races matter to us; we want to do well. Nerves are to be celebrated, not feared: don’t let them put you off racing.

The conditions were arguably perfect for cross-country; wet,wet wet, and as Marti Pellow once sang: “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes” and we certainly felt it in our toes after the end of a muddy, slippery, sodden 10k. 

In some places — most notably the last 200 metres — it seemed more akin to running through a swamp than a park in Woodley. I considered swimming through the larger puddles.. it may have been more effective in places.

This was a day to celebrate the brave; the new 10k distance in competitive fields is not for everyone and certainly put off a few. However, the marvellous Shweta Siakumar stepped forward nervously to help the women’s senior team and without her they would not have been eligible to score for the team prize. 

Wearing her rather lovely new trail shoes, Shweta attacked the course. What a hero! Her participation meant the ladies secured second place in the women’s team event. 

Chloe Lloyd, first senior finisher, and Swinda Falkena, second finisher, completed the team. It just shows that if you are brave enough to show up you will be rewarded and Shweta was rightly delighted with her medal following a tough race.

There were some inevitable tumbles on the course, Chris Burt taking a second slip this season, so perhaps we can have a new Roadrunners award for most XC wipe-outs. Mind you, the speedy Helen Pool even took a fall (apparently the most dignified and graceful topple) on her own turf, so it just shows you how difficult the terrain was. 

Despite the conditions, roadrunners were out in spectacular full force. Jack Gregory secured third senior in the men’s race and with the men’s senior team of Sibrand Rinzema, Brendan Morris, Chris Burt, Chris Lucas and Calum Pratt won the second senior team prize.

Roadrunners vets also pulled out a fantastic performance in draining conditions, team captain Jamie Smith leading home the squad, with Tony Page and Lance Nortcliff following to guarantee third place in the men’s vets race.

With Sam ‘cool as a cucumber’ Whalley occupied with an abundance of race procedures and management — terrifyingly the caterers asked on the morning if it was an event at Newbury Showground — I had the absolute pleasure of stepping in as women’s captain and what a day to take on the role!

Bragging rights earned: Every one of the ladies who competed today took home a medal! They were amazing. Claire Raynor faced the technical run on her birthday like an absolute pro. Together with the legendary Lesley Whiley and Claire Seymour (who was unjustly wary of the field) they took home the vets’ bronze medals. 

The Roadrunners team also took the gold vets team medal, Mel Shaw (again weird talking about me in the third person, but I will get over it soon), Helen Pool and Sarah Dooley taking the shiny gold medals.

So, to conclude, a beautiful sunny day out in the mud, with fantastic rewards for the brave and valiant runners. I’d like once again to applaud the volunteers. This would not have been possible without you. I salute you. 

On a personal note, thank you for keeping us running when at times it would have been easier to give up and also for keeping us en route when disorientated in the sun. We would have quite happily run in the bushes to hide.

Feeling inspired? You should be! Fear not, you can recreate this joy next week in the final XC fixture of 2019. The Thames Valley League sees us once again splashing our way round the glorious hills and hummocks of Ashenbury Park on December 22nd at 11am. 

Thanks for that, Mel. Now the rest of the action…

The Henley mafia cleaned up at the Muddy Welly 10k in Crowthorne, Caroline Hoskins being first lady home. Carrie’s win meant the FV50 prize went to her great friend Julie Rainbow, whose son Matt, the Reading AC speedster, was first overall. Ed Dodwell picked up yet another MV60 prize.

There was a big personal triumph in Spain, where the popular Paloma Crayford finally crashed through the marathon’s four-hour barrier.

Paloma ran 3:52.59 in Malaga, an improvement of nearly 12 minutes on her time in London earlier this year.

“I’m feeling rather emotional as Malaga was my mother’s home town,” said Paloma after the race. “I would love to say that I am out celebrating but I’m drinking herbal tea. My body is feeling a little battered as the last three to four miles were painful . 

“I had to stop a couple of times to have a good drink and was battling with my mind to just keep going and push on. I’m hoping I’ve done enough to scrape through for a place in Boston in 2021.

“Now I’m off to meet my 90-year-old aunt. She lives a 20-minute from the course but I need to allow an hour as I’ll be shuffling.”

Paloma’s achievement will go down as another big success for the Katherine Sargeant-Sarah Dooley coaching team.

Berks XC results: http://www.berkshireathletics.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019/events/Berks%20XC%20Results%2015.12.19.pdf?fbclid=IwAR15x7nrFygjiBhlkA0XVYFNZecS1xXlsKuM0xOXxbs3vaE-YzgeDZnOkXY

Muddy Welly results: http://dbmaxresults.co.uk/results.aspx?CId=16421&RId=12013

Malaga Marathon results: https://sportmaniacs.com/es/races/zurich-maraton-de-malaga-2019/5df63a9f-ef58-4275-88bd-303eac1f122f/results#rankings

 

Worringham’s warriors tops again as new girl Freya shines

AFTER another busy weekend of cross-country action, ladies captain Sam Whalley wraps up all the Roadrunners’ news from at home and abroad…

As if standing around volunteering at a local parkrun in the cold wasn’t enough, 24 Reading Roadrunners made the journey, through driving rain, to Winchester, for the second Hampshire League fixture of the season. 

Sparsholt College was a new venue, and promised grassy fields and woodland. I don’t believe anyone had mentioned hills, although these were to be expected, or steps. Steps? Even the flat bits looked to me like they were on a camber. And of course there was mud, plenty of it. Even heading to the area allocated for club tents was pretty slippery, and one of two may have taken a tumble.

Having been ill on the Friday, I was delighted to see such an impressive turn-out of women, which meant I didn’t feel obliged to complete the team. However, I was slightly disappointed to not have been able to experience the ‘brutal’, ‘horrible’, ‘horrendous’ conditions first hand, because that’s what it’s all about, after all. I can certainly confirm that I was wet and very cold, and almost as muddy as if I had run.

First back of our nine women was new second-claim member, Freya Martin, who runs first-claim for Tadley Runners. Although she didn’t feel she had run as well as she would have liked, Freya (right) was a real asset to the team, in 23rd position, which is excellent for a race of this standard. 

Next for the club were Helen Pool, in 62nd (8th vet), and Sarah Dooley, in 70th (15th vet), to make up the women’s team, who finished eighth.

Chloe Lloyd was 94th and Claire Raynor 118th (34th vet), with Claire completing the vets’ scoring team to earn us fourth place.

Alex Bennell and Claire Seymour put in really strong performances, as did triathlete Kira Moffat, making her debut in the Hampshire League (coerced by friend of ten years, Claire Raynor, who hoped this baptism of fire — well, water really — wouldn’t signal the end of their friendship), and Cecilia Csemiczky, who had run the Nice-Cannes marathon only a week before. She kept that quiet!

We will be missing Katie Rennie this season, having switched her first and second-claim status in order to secure a London Marathon place through the University of Southampton; we cheered her on regardless, and hope to see her back with us next year.

Fourteen men made up the men’s team, in a race which was of an incredibly high standard. There were comments from some that they felt that their finishing position was not representative of the effort they had put in, such was the tight packing of teams such as Aldershot, Farnham and District, with over 30 runners in total, including six in the top ten, out of 298 men.

First to finish was Jack Gregory, in 34th, followed by Mark Worringham, in 60th (4th vet, above), Mark Apsey, in 63rd, Jamie Smith (68th) and Brendan Morris (74th). This meant the men’s team was fifth, which was a fantastic result.

Chris Burt (below) was next, in 86th, with Tony Page (105th, 13th vet) and Lance Nortcliff (115th, 18th vet) completing the vets’ team. The vets’ team was first, again, which was absolutely brilliant.

There were also gutsy performances by Matt Davies, still feeling his recent marathon in his legs, Pete Jewell, Andrew Smith, who handed me his finish token from a very muddy, bloody, hand, and Mark Andrew, an infrequent participant in the Hampshire League, but who can definitely hold his own in this field. Colin Cottell opted not to finish the race. Despite the conditions, which, it was pointed out, were almost identical to those in Aldershot on the same weekend last year, this was an incredible day for the club, and everyone gave it their absolute best. The next race will actually be in Aldershot on November 30th.

The weather was somewhat different on Sunday, for the third Thames Valley XC fixture of the season, hosted by Datchet Dashers, where 65 Reading Roadrunners were in action. I always give this race a miss — three feet of elevation, what’s that about? — and had volunteered for admin. It’s a great way to put faces to names, and you get a real feel for everyone’s race.

Not put off by Saturday’s experience, Chris Burt had a strong run on a very different course, and led the club home, in ninth place. This position alone shows the calibre of the previous day’s race! He was followed in by vets Fergal Donnelly, in 23rd, Tony Page, also still not tired from the Hampshire League, in 35th, Andy Blenkinsop (43rd), Brian Kirsopp (47th) and Darren Lewis (49th). That was enough to earn us fifth place.

Matt Davies was another who did the XC double this weekend, while Stuart Hyslop and Mike Hibberd made their debuts.

There’s no stopping Sarah Dooley at the moment, and she was first of our woman (and vet woman) to finish, in 31st, even after a bout of Hampshire League fun 24 hours earlier. Claire Marks was next, as second vet, in 33rd, with Renée Whalley in 34th. Chloe Lloyd had also ‘done the double’, and she was 45th. That put our ladies in sixth place and the club also sixth overall.

There was great running by everyone, and we look forward to the next race, hosted by Sandhurst Joggers, on November 24th.

While the two XC leagues provided some challenging conditions, the prize for the toughest task of the weekend should probably go to first-time marathoner Nicki Randall, (left), who conquered the 27.5-miles Endurance Life trail race on the Gower peninsula in west Wales.

Total elevation gain in the event was 3,115 feet which, as Nicki points out, is nearly the height of Mount Snowdon. At the start it was “lashing it down and really windy.” Nevertheless her finishing time of seven hours and six minutes was good enough to win her F55 age group!

“Thankfully the rain eased as we made our first climb from the beach up to the moor,” said Nicki. “Then the trail got muddy… proper serious mud that sticks to your shoes.”

After another couple of tough climbs, a run along another beach, a coastal path, lots of undulations and more mud, our hero in green and her husband Martin finally made it through the line.

“That was my first marathon,” she said, “but it probably won’t be my last. In fact I will probably go longer now. I love trail running, it’s such a lovely way to see the countryside.

“These events are so friendly and inclusive and there’s a mobile buffet at the checkpoints.”

Another brave Roadrunner competing on the Gower coast was Maddy Smith, who described the 14.8-mile half marathon as “definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done.”

Maddy (pictured right with boyfriend Dan) finished in a time of 2:56.39 and was 34th female. “It was the first trail half marathon I’ve ever done,” she said, “and the furthest I’ve ever run.

“Luckily it stopped raining for about three hours for our race and the sun came out to allow some stunning views. I’m feeling incredibly sore now but it was a great experience.”

Conditions were a lot better in Athens, where the great and the good of the local running scene gathered to celebrate the 100th marathon run by Roadrunners” second-claimer Mary Wilson.

A veteran of nearly 200 volunteering stints at local parkruns, Mary has also competed in marathons in the United States, Thailand and Spain.

She’s pictured with Roadrunners’ chairman Phil Reay, his partner Christina Calderon, Reading Joggers chair Jayne Woodhouse and Steve Harlowe.

Phil described the run as “one event too many for Christina and me. It was a “long and painful slog on a very hilly course.”

Nevertheless Christina survived to finish her second marathon in a month just after completing the Grand Slam in the Centurion 100-mile series.

Results: http://www.tvxc.org.uk/results/team?race_id=91

Pictures: Chloe Lloyd.

Dutch courage pays off with big PB for Swinda in the Big Apple

Roving reporter SAM WHALLEY brings you up to date with all the news from the weekend races at home and abroad…

THE unique Marlow 7 was the place to be if you wanted to pick up some bling this weekend.

Three of our amazing veterans — Ed Dodwell (M60), David Dibben (M70) and Carrie Hoskins (F50) — picked up prizes at this reportedly well-organised, value-for-money race, although for Carrie it was the trophy for second female overall.

Rita Dykes was unlucky not to get the F70 prize. She was quickest in her age group by 22 seconds but she lost out because it was awarded on the ‘gun’ rather than ‘chip’ time.

David said: “Last year in this race I was pleased to knock three mins off the course record for an M70, previously held by the great Jim Kiddie.

“Today I knocked another three and a half minutes off that. My wife Jill improved her personal best at this distance by 72 seconds and was over four minutes quicker than this race last year.” First Roadrunner to finish was Fergal Donnelly, following his excellent form throughout an autumn of tough trail races and half marathons. Just goes to show how good off-road training is for your overall performance!

Marlow 7 results link: https://www.racesonline.uk/results/2019-results/marlow/marlow-7/

In the Marlow half marathon, Richard Usher was first RR back, in 1:32.06, while Katie Gumbrell brought it home for the women, in 2:12.25. This is a tough course!

Marlow Half results link: https://www.racesonline.uk/results/2019-results/marlow/marlow-half/

The prize for the Roadrunner taking part in the toughest race of the weekend went to Gary Tuttle in the Mission Mount Somers Half Marathon in the south island of New Zealand.

The clue is in the title… ‘Mount’. This is basically a trail race up a volcano. The degree of difficulty can be gauged by the winner’s time, 2:06, and the final finisher’s.. over SEVEN hours. In the full marathon staged simultaneously, the winner ran 4:13 and last man over TEN hours.

Gary (right) finished 16th in the Half in 2:44.59 just a fortnight after his sub-3hr PB marathon in Auckland. “No PBs here,” he said. Never mind, that should toughen him up for a spot of XC action when he returns to the UK.

Meanwhile, over in the United States, Roadrunners’ Dutch star Swinda Falkena was celebrating a 10-minute PB in the notoriously tough New York City marathon. Swinda ran 3:47.38 and her boyfriend, Sibrand Rinzema (top picture), was the first Roadrunner to finish in an impressive 2:51.56.

“It was a tough course,” said Sibrand, “but I really enjoyed the ambience. It was good until 25k, on a pace for 2.35 but I had a hunger knock and needed to walk/run after 32k.

“Swinda really enjoyed it as well, and didn’t even think the bridges were too bad. The final part in Manhattan just slightly uphill was tough, but she managed to not slow down too much.”

Like Sibrand, David McCoy also managed a sub-3hr time, finishing in Central Park in 2:58.35, but it wasn’t such a great day for the veteran marathoner Dave Wood, who struggled round in 5:42.05. “That was horrible,” said Dave. “Having been injured throughout the summer and only doing three training runs I got what I deserved.”

Over in France, first Roadrunner home in the Nice-Cannes marathon was Tony Walker (right), who was delighted with 3:12.01, a time he said would be good enough to renew his Good For Age status. Andrew Butler finished in 3:45:11, David Walkley in 4:06.02, Pete Morris in 4:33.18, and ‘marathon man’ Martin Bush, struggling with a foot injury, in 4:51.37.

Hel’s bells! Executions, torture.. then we raced a half marathon

TRAVEL writer-cum-race reporter ANDY ATKINSON tells the inside story of another successful trip abroad by a group of Reading Roadrunners…

DID you know that the “Gravensteen”, or Count’s Castle, was built by Philip I of Alsace as a show of power and wealth and to keep the burghers of Ghent in order? No, neither did I. That is not until I heard one of the quirkiest audio guides I have ever encountered. 

Full of interesting anecdotes about Philip I, his wife, Elisabeth, the executions and tortures routinely inflicted there, it certainly takes your mind off the exhausting climb up winding stairways to the pinnacle. Once up there, however, and elated that the climb is finally over, you have the town before you!

It was not surmounting old ruins, however, that attracted a group of Reading Roadrunners to the Belgian town, but a different kind of challenge.       

October 27th saw a running festival take place and we were targeting the half marathon – flat, fast and situated away from the town centre, there are no real hills and cool weather promised good times. Ghent is also easily accessible by Eurostar – an ideal venue for a short bit of running tourism. 

Of the ten of us originally up for this, two were non-starters! Fiona Ross and myself, with illness and injury respectively, decided not to run. Undaunted by this little difficulty and unwilling to give up on the chance of a weekend away with good company, we switched our entry to the 10k walk. 

This was much more civilised, allowed for some sightseeing and photos, and was rewarded by personal bests for the two of us of about 2:09:00. Probably not astonishing in the world of race walking, but should there ever be a “leisure walking” event, we would be up there!

The rest of the group took the half marathon race rather more seriously and were rewarded by some exceptional results. Fergal Donnelly turned in his second best-ever time at 1:25:57 and Mark Andrew completed at 1:35:50; but the greatest credit should go to Helen Pool. 

With a two-and-a-half minutes PB of 1:32:02, Helen was on the podium as second female overall and first in her age category. As cool and collected at the finish as the start, she made it look easy!

The rest of the group also performed well – Dan Rickett was well within his predicted two-hour time at 1:54:47, John Bailey and Liz Atkinson chased each other in at 2:26:17 and 2:28:31 respectively, despite John sporting a shoulder injury, and Lorraine Bailey followed with a solid 2:37:10. Liz and Lorraine bagged the second and third FV65 placings in the process. 

We were joined for the event by Reading parkrunners and long-term friends of Reading Roadrunners, Aleid Busser and Adrian Wadham. Aleid turned in a superb 1:59:39 as first FV70 and Adrian 2:05:24 as first MV75. 

Veronica Andrew also attempted the half, but under-trained and a little under the weather, she wisely decided to call it a day at 10k before things went pear-shaped. Her prudence paid off and she is none the worse as a result.

As for Ghent – not so well known as its flashier neighbour, Bruges, it is, however, very quaint, with a long history as a mercantile town. It sits on the rivers Lys and Scheldt and is criss-crossed with canals. 

As well as the castle and mercantile history, Ghent is famous for the “Adoration of the Lamb” triptych by the Van Eyck brothers in St Bavo’s Cathedral and, at the other end of the artistic scale, “Graffitistraatje”, where you can try your hand at your very own graffiti. 

The half marathon has only been running for about three years, but next year it is planned to route through the city centre. This will add interest, but perhaps not speed — much of the centre is paved with cobbles. I am also unsure of how they will deal with all those thousands of bicycles that zoom around. Between the cyclists and the trams, walking, never mind running, can be a hazardous experience.

Overall verdict: A well organised, multi-terrain, friendly race with a super finish line in the Topsportshal Stadium and the bonus of a big bottle of exceptionally strong Belgian beer in the goody bag.

Cartoon: Veronica Andrew, from her personal collection.

Pictures: JohnBailey, Dan Rickett, Andy Atkinson, Fergal Donnelly