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Long distance events near and far kept Almost Athletes and their support crews busy again this weekend. A band of six travelled to Newton Abbot in Devon to take part in the hilly Dartmoor Discovery Ultra comprising 32.5 miles and 4,100 feet of elevation. Organised by Teignbridge Trotters the event is the longest single lap road ultra marathon in the UK.

Competing in her first event beyond the marathon distance, Amy Sheer led the team home in a time of 5:15 for seventh lady overall. Strong runs by Kim Mansell (5:36) and club coach Fi Barnes (6:11) helped the trio scoop the prize of glassware for second ladies’ team.

Richard Knightley achieved his aim of completing his first ultra, his finish time of 5:38 falling well within the course cut-off of 6 hours 30. Competing in his second ultra and first race of the 2021 season, Matt Proome was pleased to record a 5:42 finish. Mark Wreford-Bush rounded out the club’s contingent, recording a 6:16 finish, comfortably within cut-off.

Picking up supporter duties from where he had left off the previous week, Matt Barnes joined Helen Fursman on two wheels to provide invaluable support to the runners out on the hilly course.

Closer to home a larger contingent of Almosts, many of whom are training for longer events later in the year, participated in the Sharpness Canal 16 mile and 50km ultra events. The club’s sole competitor in the 50km out and back event was Chaweewan Hartley, who completed the course in the scorching afternoon heat in 7:12:43, almost certainly with a beaming smile.

In the 16-mile event, starting at Sharpness Marina and finishing at Llanthony Secunda Priory and running the full length of Sharpness Canal, the club was led home by Christopher Benjamin, who completed his 84th half marathon along the way and finished in 2:46. Next in were Karla Cleverley and Coralie Pearson, who ran together in 4:00. Iris Mayo recorded 4:29, one minute ahead of Sarah Fennell and Rachael Nolan. Dave Mayo completed the course in 4:35; Helen and Steve Yarnold in 5:12 and Kim Rodway-Pugh in 5:39.

Bev and Ollie Nolan turned out to cheer everyone on from the towpath. A much appreciated ‘prosecco pit stop’ was laid on by Penny Lewis and Ju Averiss and gave our runners a well-timed boost in the heat of the morning sun.

Finally a huge round of applause to Cat Davies Perkins, who completed the virtual Race to the Tower along the challenging terrain of the Cotswold Way from Stroud to Broadway, notching up 84km over two days in memory of Tommy Squire and raising funds with her friend Georgina for the Starlight Ward at Bristol Children’s Hospital through the Grand Appeal. Way to go, Cat!

With club coached sessions and Wednesday social runs back in full swing after the recent lockdown and virtual events such as the Cheltenham Challenge and London Landmarks half marathon still an option, Almost Athletes returned with a flourish from their enforced race cocoons at the popular Cleeve Cloud Cuckoo race on 2nd June, with three club members finishing in the top ten of this long-established event: new member Mike Johnstone (4th overall and 2nd MV40), Josh Hand (6th overall) and Nick Lewis (8th overall). They were followed by Mike Kennedy, Duncan Mounsor (1st MV50), Shaun Carr and Ross Greening. First lady home for the club and first senior lady overall was Chloe Farrar, just one second in front of Neil Tring (3rd MV60). Next in were Pete Blakeman, Olly Bell and Mike Daly. Second lady home for the club was Michelle Balchin.

Other finishers were: Eddie Munro, Graeme Stopp, Steve Wallbridge, new member Gary Whiting, Jim Trowbridge, Des Beer (1st in category), Cat Daly accompanied by club mascot Archie, Barry Irvine, new member Lizzie Renn, Sarah Wallbridge, Mike Line, Jane Russell, Sue Monaghan, Nela Trowbridge, Peter Allsopp, Sheila ‘Zippy’ Chatterley (2nd in category), Bob Spawton, Bill Jones, Forrest Wheeler, Jack Helliar and Virginia Pawlyn. Phil Jeyes completed the lumpy five-mile route as tail walker.

in May a smaller group of Almosts braved the atrocious wet and windy conditions to tackle the muddy and hilly Dick Whittington run, a new 5k off-road event in Longhope. First club member home in a top ten finish was Neil Tring (1st MV60) followed by Jim Trowbridge (2nd MV60). Next in were Steve Wallbridge (2nd MV55), David Garnett (3rd MV60) and Eddie Munro (1st MV65). First lady in for the club was Lorraine Taylor, third in her age category, followed by Alison Hume, also third in category. Fresh from her three-minute PB at Worcester marathon the previous week, the strongly improving Coralie (Cos) Pearson was third lady home for the club, bagging first spot in her age category. Kevin Richards (2nd MV65), Bob Spawton, Julie Averiss and Janine Bennett rounded out club entries for this short but challenging trail event.

At the hilly Worcester half marathon the club was well represented by Karla Cleverley, busy training for an ultra, who earned a whopping ten-minute PB, coming home in 2:48:36. In the full marathon two members, Richard Knightley and Mark Wreford-Bush reaped the rewards of recent training efforts to bag personal bests and oh-so-sweet sub 4 finishes to boot. First home in the marathon was Amy Sheer (3:46:29) followed by Richard Knightley (3:55:34, PB), Michelle Balchin (3:57:25, 1st in category), Mark Wreford-Bush (3:58:55, PB), Coralie Pearson (4:40:12, PB) and marathon ever-present Allan Green (5:22:07, 2nd in category).

The club fielded both runners and helpers at the Maverick Adidas Terrex Original Cotswolds run at Sudeley Castle on 15th May. In the longer 15-mile event and running his first event in club colours Mike Johnstone recorded a highly creditable 7th place finish in 1:43:48. He was followed by Ian Williams (18th overall), Shaun Carr, Cat Daly, Bob Spawton and Claire Gallagher. Andy Holmes and Sharmila Door competed in the middle distance event.

Martyn Fisher completed the Monkey Meander marathon, his 16th, at Horseheath Racecourse in Cambridgeshire. In early May Russell Jones took on the Bath Two Tunnels 10k and was pleased to come in under the hour (59:17) in his first race for well over a year.

On 22nd May several club members attended the Westonbirt ‘Run for the Trees’ 10k. Continuing his good racing form, Duncan Mounsor placed highly (33rd out of 505 finishers) in 44:05. Cat Daly was first lady home for the club in 51:34, followed by Natalie Pluck, Felicity Read (PB) and Naomi Daly. Sam Wizard and Gareth Wilkes also competed. Elsewhere busy Christopher Benjamin clocked up his 82nd half marathon at the Royal Windsor Half Trail Marathon and his 83rd in Walton-on-Thames.

Meanwhile on 23rd May a handful of Almosts – Kev Fairs, Claire Gallagher, Thom Stephens, Lorraine Taylor and Neil Tring - made the two-hour journey south for Roly’s Run in memory of club member Rich Walklate. Thom merits recognition for completing the very hilly (over 3,500 ft of ascent) White Star Running ‘Ox of Two Halves’ marathon in Wiltshire in 4:58, following it up just two days later with the even hillier 40 mile ultra at Roly’s Run.

Finally, this race report would not be complete without a special mention for Mark Willicott, who quietly and without drama, conquered the 148-mile Grand Union Canal Run from Birmingham Gas Street Basin to Little Venice in London. Out of 90 starters only 44 completed this extraordinary challenge. Ably supported by club coaches Fi and Matt Barnes and his family over the course of the weekend, Mark crushed the event in 39 hours and 7 minutes, registering 28th place overall.

I finish with a plug for upcoming club road races – Linda Franks 5 on Wednesday 7 July and Bugatti 10k on Wednesday 11 August (entries opening soon) – and a big shout out to all members currently recovering from illness or injury. We hope you recover well and are able to join us on road or trail very soon.

Two major challenges have kept many of you busy throughout the month of July, both of which have now been completed.

The Baton Relay certainly proved extremely popular and many thanks are due to both Jason Hulance and Prash Sripathi for providing such detailed summaries and statistics of the distances covered. 90 club members carried the baton for the whole distance from John O’Groats to Land’s End (and then some!), with a massive final total of 895 miles run.

Some of the many runners who took part in the final stages of the relay included Matt Proome, Jayne Adams, Graeme Stopp (several times!), Jayne Murphy, Michelle Balchin, Pete Mitchener, Prash Sripathi, Duncan Mansour, Lorraine Taylor, Jane Russell, Sue Monaghan, and Frances Ferguson.

The grand finale took place at Pittville Pump Rooms at 5pm on Friday 31st with Frances Ferguson carrying the baton home to a welcoming crowd of club members. 

The Cotswold Way Virtual Relay was also completed on Friday 31st with members completing their respective leg of the event throughout the month. Participants competed as part of twelve teams of five and were able to run together, or in smaller groups, as long as social distancing was observed. Final results as to how the Almost teams fared against other clubs are awaited at the time of writing.

Several members also took part in the virtual Race to the Stones which took place between the 6th and 12th July. The options were to run a half, full marathon or 100km during that time, and Deb Cartlidge, Catherine Daly, Dave Chittock, Piotr Michaelski, Sharmila Door and Dave Nelson all successfully completed their chosen distance. 

Jason Hulance and Zakia Hussain were delighted to complete the Tough Runner UK Trifecta at the end of the month. This consisted of 100 ‘Beast’ miles, an altitude challenge and a final 10km run on the 26th. Throughout the event they both managed more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain.

A new challenge began on Monday 3rd August which consists of four virtual 5km handicap races – one a week throughout the month of August. Each run needs to be completed during the following periods of time, and should be on a single loop:

  • Race 1 – 3-9th August
  • Race 2 – 10-16th August
  • Race 3 – 17-23rd August
  • Race 4 – 24-30th August

All times should be submitted to Philip Jeyes, and the best three scores will count towards the final result.

Finally, a reminder that Ashley Stevens will be running a marathon along the Honeybourne Line on 30th August, in aid of WellChild. 

The 5k Virtual Relay 2020 summary can be seen by clicking Link.

Once again, members of Almost Athletes have continued to find inspirational and imaginative ways to keep running and to keep both themselves, and others, motivated in these difficult times

Keep safe and keep running everyone.

May and June have continued at a pace for Almost Athletes’ runners and with combinations of solo and social distanced runs being undertaken, this report will be focusing on the wide variety of different places that members have been visiting, plus some excellent individual achievements. We asked for “favourite routes” as a theme and the club’s Facebook page has been awash with idyllic pictures, inspiring stories and motivational messages.
Despite the obvious lack of organised races right now, we have seen a number of club runners take on virtual challenges and Kev Fairs and Wan Hartley led the way, earning a Trimax Virtual Medal and the “Cotswold Warrior” title for their 10 mile, Cleeve Hill efforts. Ingrid Harris also did the Trimax 14, picking up the “Immortal Sinner” medal as a reward.
David Garnett completed his first ever half marathon distance at the end of May and took in a great route. He completed the distance via Charlton Kings, Colgate Farm and Cleeve Hill and braved the warm conditions for 13.1 miles. Well done David! Also taking on the hills recently was Richard Knightley – doing the “10 Mile Twister Virtual Race” – where you take a minute off your time for every 25 metres of elevation you gain. Richard managed a great net effort of 70 minutes and the intensity level was increased by the fact he ran in torrential rain.
As a club, the highlights of the last few months have included sharing ideas for places to go for a run and there has been a real sense of reconnecting with why we all love this sport so much. Claire Hawes recommended running through Hartley Farm, where the larks have been in impressive voice. Jason Hulance shared some amazing images of Cheltenham’s murals and highlighted why Pittville Park is such a fun route to run. Karen Gomm’s dogs Bradley and Geoffrey looked like they enjoyed a run up Aggs Hill and Prestbury and Adrian Courtenay evoked memories of the club’s winter routes when he walked 10 miles of the Cotswolds Way.
We have had a number of members really embrace lockdown and get out and run some super distances. In May a number of Almosts reported some fantastic totals including: Shaun Carr (amazingly running the height of Everest in the month of May – 29,029ft and 137 miles), Melvyn Harris (60 miles in May being his best total for over 5 years), Ashley Stevens (ran 125 miles and walked 100 miles!) and Sarah Carr (ran 100 miles using #raceatyourpace as motivation).
The last few weeks have, of course, seen more events cancelled, but Almost Athletes haven’t let that bother them! Well done to Kerry Knowles who was supposed to be running the Race for Life 10k on 7th June, but with the event called off, went out and completed her first sub 1 hour time over that same distance. Mark Stojanov was in a similar mood and with the Cirencester Summer Sizzler off, he marked the occasion with his longest walk of the year, to the Severn Ham in Tewkesbury.
There really have been good news stories galore of late and Rob Rennell ran his longest ever run on a treadmill in early June – an astonishing 9.5 miles! It is also good to hear that when club runs can resume in the future, Pete Mitchener will still be leading the way, he has completed some solo runs of club routes and his pacing is as on point as ever.
These reports continue to provide a small showcase into the wide range of activities that our members undertake. It is really heartening to see how everyone has carried on, undeterred by a difficult few months, and it is evident that getting out running has really helped. With 3k challenges nearly concluding, there will be plenty more to write about next time, and the stories continue to tell themselves. Do keep them coming in!

As the social distancing measures continue, members of Almost Athletes continue to find enjoyable and interesting ways to keep running and motivated.

Many of you are still working your way through the Bingo challenge, with the ‘sunrise run’ and ‘finding your name run’ proving particularly popular during the past week. Sue Monaghan, Claire Hawes and Forrest Wheeler all completed the sunrise challenge and posted some beautiful photographs, whilst Mary Welsh found a creative way of combining a photo from the 2019 Linda Franks with a street sign from Bellshill in Scotland to complete her personal Name Sign challenge.

Ian Coggin felt it would be difficult for him to complete many of the Bingo squares due to where he lives, so has turned to the countryside for a different kind of inspiration. So far, he has provided us with a ‘moo-ving’ image of cows and his latest offering of himself with a flock of ewes and wearing a ‘sheepish grin’!

The 80s music challenge continued to attract several of you, particularly Pete Mitchener and Steve Taylor who provided some very witty postings, whilst Bob Spawton contributed with a tribute to his personal 80s idol Prince.

Claire Hawes’ suggestion of finding flowers in club colours has proved popular with lots of you sending in photographs, including Felicity Broom, Cottia Howard, Peter Allsopp, Lisa King, Vikki, Waring, Alice Harmon and Jane Russell.

The next major challenge as suggested by Glenda Gill will be the Treasure Hunt. Members can be as literal or creative as they like in interpreting each of the clues and then posting a photograph accordingly. The five things to look out for until the 31st of May are as follows:

1. Nine
2. A music connection
3. Sunlight
4. A reflection in water
5. Silver

Apart from the club challenges, several members have found other ways to keep themselves inspired. Adrian Courteney successfully completed the Hadrian’s Wall challenge of running 90 miles, and Mark Stojanov finished a half marathon in Tewkesbury with a time of 2hrs 39mins. Meanwhile Rob Rennell has clocked up more than 192km on his treadmill over the past five weeks.

Wednesday 20th April was Jane Wood Rackham’s birthday and she decided to mark the occasion by running the first of five ultra-marathons in five days on the dates that we would have been hosting The Forces March – an event that she completed back in 2015 with her friend Anne-Marie Willicott.

Away from running, it was also our Chair’s birthday during the past week, so happy birthday once again Claire, and thanks for helping to keep us all inspired.

Jo Johnson took on the 10 Day Life is Good challenge and has been posting a new photograph each day and nominating somebody else to take on the challenge. Her final photograph appeared this morning.

Melvyn Harris undertook a skinny dip to raise money for MIND, whilst Hannah Brown enjoyed her first day back in Lake 86 for some open water swimming – but presumably in a wetsuit!

Meanwhile, Dave Chittock has been extolling the virtues of Orwell’s Animal Farm as a top read during the lockdown and rashly announced plans to tackle 1984 next, and Jason Hulance submitted a question to the Great Big Parkrun Quiz.

Finally, another round of best wishes is due to Prash Sripathi and his wife Kavya who welcomed their beautiful baby daughter into the world on 16th May.

Once again, members of Almost Athletes have continued to find inspirational and imaginative ways to keep running and to keep both themselves, and others, motivated in these difficult times
Keep safe and keep running everyone.

Almost Athletes are continuing to find ways of staying connected and making solo running fun. The launch of AA Bingo has seen members tick off challenges in search of a full house. With lots of members nailing several squares in one run, the bingo cards are eagerly awaited. Who, if anyone, will be first to finish?

Piotr ‘Kenneth’ Michalski appears to be the current ‘most squares in one run’ champion, ticking off seven in one ten-mile run: ‘Thank you keyworkers✔, A view with a view ✔, sundown ✔, postbox ✔, phonebox ✔, landmark ✔, name sign run ✔ (although the last one could possibly be called into question if it comes to a draw!)

There was Strava Art ✔ for Claire Hawes, who drew a heart, and Jason Hulance, who drew a virtual mouse in Wuhan. Richard Knightley, Rachael Nolan, Janine Bennett, Michelle Balchin and Claire Gallagher combined theirs with a ‘Thank you key workers run’ by drawing NHS.
Running to ‘a view with a view’✔ were Mark Stojanov, Ivana Wilson, Nat Stow, Claire Gallagher and Claire Hawes. Nat Stow and Rachel Nolan completed a ‘sundown run’ ✔ and Claire Hawes took on the exhausting Sally-up squat challenge ✔

Michelle Balchin found postboxes ✔ got a Ross Barkley 5km PB ✔ of 18.00, but found travelling back uphill between each descent rather tiresome. She also took on Plonker in the Park ✔ Oregan circuits, as did Fiona Barnes, Helen Fursman, Richard Knightley and Matt Proome.

There was a combined Bingo and Run and Talk for Claire Gallagher and Lisa King, who talked on the phone while running in fancy dress ✔
The annual Wings for Life World Run saw competitors racing as far as possible before being caught by the virtual race car. This year saw Michelle Balchin cover 14:8 miles, Ashley Stevens made it to 15 miles, and Prash Sripathi ran 15.8 miles before the car caught up. Mark Stojanov took part in the DB Max Rainbow 5k Run, finishing in 34:52. Jason Hulance ran ‘in’ Manila, completing a ‘Run for Pasig River 10K’ in 57:39.

Other Almosts turned their attention to finding 80s musicians. Peter Mitchener has enthusiastically embraced the challenge, finding several, including ‘Kayte Bush’ on his outings. Phil Jeyes, Steve Taylor, Jo Johnston, Jane Russell and Mark Stojanov also joined in with gems such as ‘AHA’, ‘The Police’ and ‘Voyage’, and Dave Chittock went 90s with ‘All Saints’.

Having found all the postboxes in the Bishops Cleeve area, Mike Line has started searching for churches. He also ran to Cleeve Hill, as did Sheila ‘Zippy’ Chatterley and Geoffrey the dog. Leckhampton Hill beckoned Helen Fursman, Mariel Chretien went on a 10 mile scenic mystery tour, and Ingrid Harris went walking in the woods around Shurdington. Dave McGrath did yoga, and Kevin Dryburgh went on a very long ‘pub crawl’ of pubs he’d visited in Cheltenham. Ju Drop (Julie Averiss) found motivation to run, and Jason Hulance has now completed twelve of the AA relay routes.

Graeme Stopp ran a new 10km PB of 56.13, Dragos Saghin broke 5km per minute on a 10km run, Lisa King was delighted to take a Strava segment cup, and Rob Rennell did his longest treadmill run so far, running 11.2km in 1:31. Matt Polson completed a RED (run every day) April, running his second fastest 5km and a very impressive total of 200 miles in the process.