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We are always looking for news, results and race stories for our weekly Echo report. Please tell us about your experiences, results, personal best times achieved, worst nightmare races etc by emailing almostathletes@hotmail.com - if you don't tell us about it, we can't report it!. We can't guarantee that all information supplied will go in as the Echo have full editorial control, but we will do our best.

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As lockdown continues, so does Almost Athletes’ determination to run responsibly and support each other’s adventures. There has been much excitement with the launch of the inaugural Almost Athletes Virtual 5k Relay: 138 runners, six Almost teams and twenty-one solo 5km legs around Cheltenham and beyond. Organiser Michelle Balchin’s spreadsheet skills have triumphed, and a variety of legs have been planned. From the fast and flat Hatherley… to the multi-terrain Gotherington2Bishops Cleeve… to a Pitbull in Brockworth. A different challenge awaits every team member.

Almost Ran Out of Loo Paper have made a fine start with Matt Polson (17:57, Manchester), Matthew Hickman (Fairview, 19:21), Patricia Dendy (Hatherley, 21:57), Chris McMahon (Churchdown, 22:24 PB), Malc Allen (BC Central, 23:06), and Rachel O’Bryan and Julie Scourfield finished Lecky in 23:05 and 24:35 respectively. Kev Fairs (WymanPitVillage, 26:00), Jane Russell (Prestbury, 27:43), Nat Stow (CharltonKings2Lecky, 28:21), Glenda Gill (Brockworth, 28:44) and Rachael Nolan (Tewkesbury&more, 36:39).

Almost Ate Everything have also started enthusiastically, with thirteen runners so far: Ben Stone (Arle2Waitrose, 19:44), Kevin Dryburgh (Hatherley, 21:39), Peter Mitchener (Fairview, 22:06), Craig Bullingham (Brockworth, 22:23), Mark Wreford-Bush (Gotherington2BC, 23:26), Cat Daly (BC Central, 24:23), Rich Smith (Bishops Cleeve West, 24:26), Dawn Carroll (Charlton Kings, 25:05), Jason Hulance (WymanPitVillage, 25:44), Ben Kirby (Hatherley Extra, 27:17), Dave Nelson (Somewhere in Scotland, 31:09), Sarah Carr (CK2Lecky, 32:59) and Mark Stojanov (Tewkesbury&more, 34:46).

Thirteen members of Almost Locked Up have completed their legs: Miranda Foster (Benhall, 22:24), Ingrid Harris (Hatherley, 24:12), Ivana Wilson (BC Central, 24:51), Sharmila Door (Churchdown, 25:24 PB), Jeanette Gullick (Woodmancote, 25:49), Hannah Brown (CK2Lecky, 26:21), Carole Doherty (CK, 26:37), Mark Conway (Hatherley Extra, 26:43). Kim Lewington (Brockworth) and Steve Yarnold (Prestbury) both finished in 27:55. Catherine Mason (Lecky, 28:36), Alice Harmon (Prestbury, 28:59), and Iris Mayo (BC West, 32:39).

Almost Free so far have Amy Sheer (CK2LECKY, 21:23) Dave McGrath (Fairview, 21:27), Duncan Mounsor ran (Hatherley Extra, 21:28), Shaun Carr (CK, 22:01), Richard Knightley (BC2Gotherington, 22:50) Emma Yates (Portugal, 23:33), Louise Bryan (The Park, 23:25), Mark Lyes (Prestbury, 24:23), Liza Habgood (BC Central, 24:48), Suzanne Hills (Springbank, 26:42) and Claire Hawes (Lecky, 32:30).

Almost On My Own have seen solo performances from Paul Warren (Brockworth, 20:49), Peter Morris (CK, 22:14), Dave Chittock (Hatherley, 22:46), Steve Taylor (Fairview, 22:56), Michelle Balchin (Gotherington2BC, 24:00), Ceri Schofield (Hatherley Extra, 24:06), Clare Hearing (Lecky, 24:38), Sarah Wallbridge (Tewkesbury&more, 25:04), Deb Cartridge (Naunton, 26:01), Kevin Balchin (BC Central, 26:39 PB), Sue Monaghan (Arle2Waitrose, 28:38), and Wan Hartley (WymanPitVillage, 29:49).

Almost Never Came Out have everything left to play for, with only eight outings so far: Josh Hand (BC West, 18:16), Donna Evans (BC Central, 23:26) Steve Wallbridge (Tewkesbury& more, 24:11), Charmaine Brunt (Brockworth, 24:28), Graeme Stopp (WymanPitVillage, 26:24), Julianne Jameson (Gretton, 29:15), Penny Lewis (CK2LECKY, 32:27 PB), and Marika Sieracki (Prestbury, 32:50).

With several athletes yet to run, and time left for performances to be bettered, Almost any team could win!

Away from the relay, club members have been busy searching for their names on road signs. Wan Hartley, Matt and Fi Barnes, and Thomas Wood found their names, while Nick Lewis cycled to Upton upon Severn in search of a suitable sign. Rachael Nolan found her name plus a phonebox and a defibrillator, while Mark Stojanov focused on phoneboxes. There were postboxes for Lisa King, Deb Cartlidge, and Peter Allsopp, and a Penfold for Helen Fursman. Mike Line continued to snap the postboxes of Bishops Cleeve and also found his name on a sign. Mark Wreford-Bush found postboxes, ‘godcakes’ and dilapidated farm vehicles, but Jo and Martin Foster may just have trumped these with their discovery of a burnt out car! Sue Monaghan went for some GPS art and drew her clubmates a heart in Swindon Village.

Cat Daly and Ian Williams explored some new routes on Cleeve Hill. Frances Ferguson found fields, Mariel Chretien found squirrels and Iris Mayo found bridges. Karen Gomm ran with Bradley the dog, Elzbieta Antosiewicz ran 10 miles, Ben Stone ran 9 miles around Arle, and Lynne Macedo’s four runs totalled a marathon. Jason Hulance visited the two Cheltenham parkrun sites on a 10K run, and Becky Heal got active and completed 1.3 miles.

Martyn Fisher created a rainbow of race t-shirts, and Ceri Schofield thrashed Phil Jeyes in the 45 second sock challenge.

There were new lockdown exercises at home for Ollie and Beverley Nolan, who have quickly mastered their exercise bike, racking up 225 miles and 120 miles respectively. Spidey Galpin ran in the garden, Rob Rennell ran on his new treadmill, and Jayne Murphy tackled her tough new training plan. Melvyn Harris recreated the club hill session and ‘notpub2pub run’ on his treadmill, hitting his fastest pace for some time with sub 10 minute miles.

With Easter upon us, Penny Lewis, Michelle Balchin, Catrin Davies Perkins, Kate Houston, Sue Monaghan, Rachael Nolan and Claire Gallagher searched for Easter decorations. There was an Easter Egg Hunt themed video briefing from ‘not run director’ Peter Mitchener for ‘not Cheltenham parkrun’, with ten chocolates hidden inside. Andrew Wilkinson ran every day of Lent, totalling an impressive 157 miles over 44 days.

 

Running safely, solo and in line with Government advice continues to be the important message given to members and the club’s Facebook page is brimming with examples of Almost Athletes doing exactly that.

Combining a run and photos with post boxes has once again been a popular theme this week. We’ve seen Mike Line, Peter Allsopp, Mark Willicott, Hamish Adamson, Michelle Balchin, Mark Stojanov and Sue Monaghan (to name a few!) all provide “first class” pictures over the last seven days – and we are confident members will continue to “deliver” the goods on this front.

Adding to this, intrepid Almost Athletes have been scouring the area for examples of their names – as street signs. These have included: Steve Taylor (Steve Taylors Lane), Kevin Dryburgh (Kevin Close), Peter Morris (Morris Walk), Jane Russell (Russell Street) and Ashley Stevens (Ashley Road). We’ve also seen some brilliant creativity, with some of our favourites being: Claire Hawes (Haweswater Road), Kev Fairs (FAIRview), Helena Youde (Helena Street), Allan Mullen (ALstone Lane) and Dave Chittock (with the brilliant Twittocks Farm!).

In other news this week, we’ve seen Almosts take to the roads and trails, maintaining social distancing and using running as a great way to clear the mind and keep fit. Kev Fairs recorded a 10k PB in 43:04, Dave Nelson completed the DB Max Be Safe 10k in 1:06 and recorded a 1:28 8 miler for the NHS Do What You Want Challenge and Mark Stojanov has been out and about, including a 17 mile bike ride in 1:29 and a number of runs.

A special mention for Rob Rennell on completing 10k in his living room – and sporting a great smile at the end of it – and also for John Galpin who again donned his Spiderman outfit for a duathlon challenge in his garden.

We have also seen real reminders of how lucky we are to live in a picturesque area and it has been good to see Almosts posting their pictures online. Pete Hooper completed a great 5k out to Uckington, Andrew Wilkinson took in stuning views of the River Severn, Chris McMahon has been hitting the streets of Churchdown on a regular basis and Virginia Pawlyn’s running this week has taken in a section of the River Chelt, Crickley Country Park and the Park Campus.

From the Almost Athlete run report team - Catrin Davies Perkins took in Cleeve Hill as she ran some of her favourite routes; Alstone Lane, Brooklyn Gardens and the nearby vicinity have been staples for Ben Stone; and Lynne Macedo also ran three times over the last seven days seeing fellow Almosts (at a social distance of course) Sue Monaghan and Rita Crane on her travels.

Finally, Club Chair Claire Hawes spoke to the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Breakfast Show on 7th April and reiterated the message about ensuring all our runners stick to the Government guidance when they’re out running. Taking responsibility for social distancing whilst we run, controlling our own behavior and keeping the community spirit of the club going were the themes of her really positive interview.

It is especially motivational to see the pictures and hear about stories from Almosts’ at this challenging time, so keep them coming on the Facebook page. Stay safe and well and we will keep up the run reports in the weeks ahead.

Throughout the week members of Almost Athletes continued to pack in the runs and to undertake various challenges to help keep themselves motivated.

Although it began last week the post box challenge started by Kev Fairs remained a firm favourite. Many members participated including Dave Nelson, Michelle Balchin, Lisa King, Alan Mullen, Jane Russell, Felicity Broom, Claire Hawes, Matt Proome, Alison and Rob Hume, Nat Stow, Mark Stojanov and Mike Line. Ceri Schofield took on the challenge on Sunday and managed to bag at massive total of twelve post boxes in one run!

Alongside the main post box challenge, a number of Almosts were inspired to seek out the seven Penfolds which are scattered throughout Cheltenham. Dating back to 1866, these are Grade 2 listed and were designed by the surveyor and architect John Wornham Penfold. Their hexagonal shape with a cast iron top is decorated with acanthus leaves and buds which make them strikingly different from later post boxes. There are believed to be less than twenty remaining in the country but Cheltenham still has the largest collection of them. Amongst those seeking out the Penfolds were Helen Fursman Reid, Lisa King, Sue Monaghan, Kevin Dryburgh, and Jason Hulance.

The new challenge for the week of 30th March is to take selfies with different road signs, again suggested by Kev Fairs. Those already taking part include Steve Taylor, Lisa King, and Forrest Wheeler whose encounter with a 30 mile speed sign suggested he was running a lot faster than his Garmin suggested.

James Clay would have been Race Director at Saturday’s Pittville Park parkrun so invited club members to complete at 5km run wearing their milestone teeshirts. Several Almosts took on this challenge, including Ross Greening who wore his 100 parkrun top and completed the distance in 22 mins 37 secs, whilst Club Chair Claire Hawes ran her 5km at home. Alison and Rob Hume did theirs as part of a multi-tasking run taking in a post box and delivering some much needed toilet paper to another club member!

Also on Saturday Ian Coggin completed a half marathon before breakfast, while Ivana Wilson ran 5.5 miles up to Nottingham Hill and along the bottom of a deserted Cleeve Hill.

Some Almosts were self-isolating during the week but kept running whilst staying at home. Sarah Carr managed 92 laps of her garden which amounted to a 5km run, and both Richard Knightley and Mark Wreford-Bush also ran 5km round their respective gardens. John Galpin added a new twist to his home run by completing a 5km dressed as Spider-Man.

Other club members created their own challenges to help focus whilst running alone. Penny Lewis should have been competing in the Cardiff Bay 10km at the weekend, but ran the same distance in Cheltenham in 1hr 12mins. Natalie Jayne was thrilled to complete 3.5 miles with no walk breaks whilst recovering from tendonitis in one of her deep hip flexors. Louise Inchley ran 10 miles around Leckhampton and was pleased to see other Almosts out on solo runs. Matt Proome and Michael Grant undertook several runs during the week, as did Ashley Stevens who completed a 5 miler on Saturday in 35mins 40secs.

Possibly the most creative run this week was completed by Robert Dalton-Morris who spent 13 minutes of hill work in one of his runs to spell out the club name in Pittville Park.

The Almost Athletes run reporters were also out and about during the past seven days. Stevie Hawkins (Lynne) clocked up a total of 20 miles over her three runs during the week. Ben Stone managed to run six days out of seven and his seven mile run on Saturday was finished in 50 mins 13 secs. Catrin Davies Perkins undertook a ‘not the Junior parkrun’ with her two daughters and bagged a post box as well.

Keep safe and keep running everyone.

With races, events and club runs all cancelled in response to the spread of COVID-19, Almost Athletes turned their attention to running ‘together’ alone.

Many club members ran a solo 5K ‘not parkrun’. Dave Nelson ran the inaugural ‘Meteor notparkrun’ from Churchdown to Gloucestershire Airport, finishing first overall while also volunteering as tailwalker! Hamish Adamson went on a reflective run in the rain to site of King George V playing Fields parkrun.

Ashley Stevens ran a 5k PB of 20.23, edging closer to his target of a sub 20 minutes, and also took on the toilet paper keepie uppie challenge.

Club members found some creative ways of giving their running some focus. Lisa King, Claire Hawes, Kev Fairs, Mike Line and Mark Stojanov went in search of postboxes.

Adrian Courtenay reached St James' Park in the Hadrian's Wall 90 mile virtual challenge. Sue Monaghan ran ‘not the pendock spring chicken run’, while others turned to creating GPS art. Helen Fursman created a rabbit with her 13 mile trail run, while Jason Hulance ran 8km in the shape of a leg and also created an impressive 7km angel keeping watch over Battledown.

The weekly Club pub2pub run became a 5 mile virtual 'notpub2pub run'. Sixteen club members ran from various locations, including Sue Monaghan, Hannah Brown and Nat Stow. Jeanette Gullick and Peter Mitchener both did a 'Wednesday night not club run' without groups to lead.

Some took selfies in club kit to motivate each other. Vicky Earls worked out in purple, Karen Gomm did yoga, Penny Lewis ran 5k, Andrew Wilkinson ran in the Forest of Dean and Melvyn Harris hopped on the treadmill.

Other Almosts challenged themselves with running in search of sought after supplies. Helena Youde and Ingrid Harris ran for toilet paper, Rob Cleaver ran for paracetamol, and Kev Fairs ran 5 miles to deliver supplies to a self isolating colleague.

Mariel Chretien went on a 9.5 mile mystery tour to Devil's Chimney and spotted Catherine Mason. Jackie Slaughter ran 11 miles around Bishops Cleeve and Woodmancote, spotting Sheila 'Zippy' Chatterley on her travels. Michelle Balchin ran to Pittville Park and was sad to spot a lot of people still gathering there! Olga Goffin enjoyed a 4.8 mile run in the sunshine and had a 'lucky' encounter with a bird.

Daniel Magovern ran 7 miles, and there were two runs for Mark Stojanov. Jess Hull headed for the countryside as she ran up Bredon Hill. The thought of running solo did not stop Kerry Knowles, who completed her first 5k since giving birth.

Almost Athletes were also pleased to donate £1000 from race proceeds to Maggies Centre, and also made donations to Gloucestershire Young Carers, and to Old Patesians RFC who are fundraising towards a new defibrillator.

 

The weekend saw a number of Almost Athletes take on the challenge of some long distance road running with the Berkeley 20:20 Fission (Saturday) and the Gloucester 20 (Sunday) events happening.

At Berkeley, 19 Almosts took on the two lap 20 mile circuit and Ben Stone was first to finish in a PB time of 2:27:06. He was followed home by Pete Mitchener who took 7 minutes of his previous best with a 2:38:18 and Matt Proome in 2:43:52. Miranda Foster led the way for the women and secured an impressive new PB of 2:44:06. Completing the top 3 were Michelle Balchin in 2:51:43 and Fi Barnes in 2:56:22.

There were plenty of other strong performances over the 20 mile distance with Neil Tring coming 2nd in his category, and at the same time taking 4 minutes of his previous best, with a 2:44:04 finish. Richard Knightley (2:48:10) and Sue Monaghan (3:47:22) also set new PBs, as did Chris McMahon, who completed his longest ever run in 3:20:04.

In the 20k race, Jeanette Gullick was the first Almost over the line in 1:39:13, a result that saw her come second in the FV50 category. Catherine Daly was next in 1:45:57 and Lorraine Taylor third in 1:58:28.

Also celebrating PBs over 20k were Iris Mayo (3 mins quicker in 2:22:55) and Marty Ward in 2:19:17.

At Gloucester, Olga Goffin was the first Almost home in an excellent time of 2:28:42, which was enough to give her a category first place. Ingrid Harris was the second Almost lady in 2:49:06 (also topping her category) and a day after completing the 20k at Berkeley, Catherine Daly was third in 2:53:26.

For the men, Duncan Monsour led the way and continued his excellent form securing a 20 mile PB in 2:38:39. Michael Daly was next, claiming second in his category with a 2:49:58 run and distance specialist Allan Green followed in 3:10:10.

As ever, the club was well represented at Parkruns far and wide with Matt Polson leading the way locally, finishing first at the King George V Playing fields event in 19:10. Nick Lewis also achieved a similar feat, albeit some 234 miles away – he came first at the Land’s End Parkrun in a rapid 18:59. Even further away, Kara Cleverley completed the Pegasus Parkrun in Canterbury, New Zealand in 40:45, and thoroughly enjoyed the scenic two-lap course. Kara then followed it up with a Sunday 10k, running Christchurch’s Spencer Park event in 1.35.

Back to Parkruns in the UK and flying the purple flag were Steven Adams (Bournemouth 23:36), Helen McGuire (Wythenshawe 29:47), Rita Crane (Dinton Pastures 35:23) and Danny Carroll (Seven Fields 26:13). Almost Athletes were also well represented at the Cheltenham, Kingsway, Gloucester North, Gloucester City, Stratford Park, Mallards Pike and Chipping Norton School events.

The weekend also saw Almost Athlete representation in the Aspire 5 mile winter series in Bristol where Debs Lacey came 1st in the VF50 category for the Out and Back race and Russell Jones finished the 50:50 course in 49 minutes.

Away from the roads, Malc Allen completed the Wolverhampton Trail Half and celebrated first in his category with an outstanding 2:08 to make it a busy weekend for Almost Athletes, worldwide!

At the King George V parkrun on Saturday 7th March, Matt Polson finished in first position with his time of 19:27, followed by Nick Lewis in 3rd with 21:15, and Duncan Mounsor in 6th place with 21:56. Mounsor was also first in his age category, whilst Rich Smith achieved a new PB of 27:02. Steve Adams joined the elite 250th parkrun group by completing today’s event, in which there were 79 runners overall.

The Pittville Park parkrun saw Ben Taylor achieve a new PB and finish 7th overall with a time of 19:23. A total of 589 runners took part in the event with several members of Almost Athletes acting as pacers.

In the Gloucester City parkrun, Virginia Pawlyn was first in her age category and in Brockenhurst Kimberley Mansell was 5th lady with a time of 24:03.

Club members also took part in the following parkruns: Berkeley Green, Cannon Hill Birmingham, Exmouth, Gloucester Kingsway, Heaton, Lydiard, Northampton, Ross-on-Wye, Seaton, Seven Fields, Warwick Racecourse and Winchester.

Further afield, Steve Wallbridge took part in the 20km multi-terrain and hilly ‘Trail des Collines’ at Conde sur Noireau in Normandy, France. Not only was he introduced to the mayor as the only British runner in the event, but was rewarded with a free beer when he finished in a very respectable 2:14. A true Norman conquest!

Both Allan Green and Karla Cleverley took part in marathons on Saturday 7th, albeit at opposite ends of the world. Green ran the Groundhog marathon which consisted of 106 laps of Telford Athletics running track in 4:37, whilst Cleverley participated in the Kirikiriroa Marathon in Hamilton, New Zealand. Unfortunately she was unable to complete what would have been her second marathon due to illness.

On Sunday 8th March Glenda and Ian Gill hosted club members to another of their ‘Forest Frolic’ events in the Forest of Dean. The run consisted of either one nine mile lap of the family cycle route or two laps of eighteen miles, followed by bacon butties, soup, cake and refreshments. More than £250 was raised in aid of Winston’s Wish charity.

Four members of Almost Athletes took part in Sunday’s Cambridge Half Marathon with Rosemary Hubbard and Francis Bull both crossing the line in 1:49, followed by Jayne Cheslin in 1:53 and Andrew Wilkinson in 1:56.

Congratulations are due to Ingrid Harris who took part in the tough and muddy Larmer Tree Marathon near Salisbury on Sunday, and once again came first in her age category and 5th lady overall with a time of 4:36.

Miranda Foster tackled the daunting Grizzly at Seaton which consists of 3,000 feet of ascent over its 20m length. She completed what she described as ‘the hardest event I have ever done’ in 3:36.

Alan Mullen ran the Draycote Water 20 mile race and despite injury in the second half of the race managed to finish in 3:11.