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.