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The weather was relatively mild for this year's Dursley Dozen, but the lack of sun meant that ground conditions were hard with some very slippery sections, particularly on the downhill sections for the 13 Almost Athletes who took part.
The last cross country race of the season saw wintry weather for competitors. In addition to a strong turnout for the men, Becky Stephens was the sole lady representative from the club and ran well in spite of the challenging conditions finishing in 57th place.
After a chilly but bright start on the athletics track of Tilsley Park, the Abingdon marathon got underway with close to 800 competitors. A good representation of Almost Athletes were in attendance, including 6 members of the same running family putting sibling rivalry to the test.
This week’s big event was the rescheduled Linda Franks 5, a flat and fast two lap course around the streets of Hatherley, which ordinarily results in multiple PBs. This year, however, runners had to contend with temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s and oppressive airless conditions, very different from the cold and rainy conditions which often accompany the January race. Nevertheless, there were some stand out performances, most notably from Patricia Dendy, who was second lady overall (33:54) and Pauline Bargus, who was first in her age category (46:43). Patricia, Chloe Farrar (37:21) and new member Issy Ravenhill (38:48), running her first race in club colours, scooped the ladies’ team prize. For the men Josh Hand delivered another reliably speedy performance, finishing in 30:19 (6th overall and 3rd in category), followed by new member Rupert Denny, who was just two seconds behind Josh (7th overall in 30:21). Next in for the club and bagging himself a top ten finish was Matthew Hickman (31:14) then a cluster comprising Ben Stone (32:13); Nathan Newton (32:19); Steve Axford (32:51) and Peter Morris (33:35) (2nd in category). Next up was the tightly packed group of Robert Foord (34:36); Mike Bryce (35:07); Duncan Mounsor (35:10) (3rd in category); Mike Kennedy (35:18); Ross Greening (36:19); Mark Wreford-Bush (36:52) and, breathing down Mark’s neck, training partner Richard Knightley (37:05). Steve Phelps (37:28) led home new member Olivia Wiles (38:26) (3rd in category); Ed Munro (40:25); Steve Wallbridge (40:27); Nick Goddard (40:41); Jim Trowbridge (41:12); Debbie Lacey (42:19); Chris McMahon (42:35); new member Craig Jackson (42:46) and Ela Antosiewicz (42:51)(PB). Marty Ward brought in the next surge of runners in 43:15, followed by Cos Pearson (44:10) (3rd in category); Dan Magovern (44:15); Mike Line (44:42); Jason Hulance (44:55); Felicity Read (45:34) (2nd in category); Russell Jones (46:25) and Wan Hartley (47:52). Ivana Wilson completed in 50:16, with Sally McKinlay (50:35) not far behind her. Kim and Darren Lewington crossed the line together in 52:55 and 52:56 respectively, Kim also recording a 3rd in category finish. Ollie Nolan came home in 56:01. In her first race for several months June Franks’ time of 1:00:07 was good enough for 2nd in category. Iris Mayo ran with Josh Rimell, both crossing the line in 1:01:50
At the weekend Mark Newton took on the two-day Yorkshire Challenge 100k ultra in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The first day involved 50km and 930m of elevation gain taking in the Southern loop of the route towards Ripley Castle in 30-degree heat, the second day a further 50km and 900m of elevation gain in similarly brutal temperatures, starting from base camp at Nidderdale and passing Gouthwaite Reservoir and Fountains Abbey before arriving back at base camp to a champagne reception. Mark recorded a finishing time of 12:33:39 for a laudable fifth place overall.
Meanwhile Suzy Rodger took on the first 50km of the Yorkshire Challenge with her sister Louise and friend Emily, together raising over £4,000 for Lymphoma Action. The Southern loop followed the Nidderdale Way, taking in some wonderfully scenic views. Suzy completed the challenge in 13:24:42. Continuing the charity fundraising theme, several Almosts took on the LINC Three Counties bike ride. Wendy Haskins pedalled 32k with work colleagues and Mark Stojanov achieved his aim of being first rider home in his first event since 2020 Bourton 10k, completing the 32k route for the seventh time in 1:34 (PB). John Bailey, John Galpin, Jeanette Gullick, Dom Lyes, Kate Nicol, Ali Shaikh and Graeme Stopp took on the 64k challenge in two pods from Tewkesbury rugby club, some going a little ‘off piste’ and pedalling rather more than 64k.
Christopher Benjamin notched up his 92nd half marathon at the Richmond Super 6 Checkpoint Challenge through leafy south west London suburbia around Richmond upon Thames, collecting a colourful interconnecting medal for his efforts. Just one week after Race to the Stones, Karla Cleverley entered the Phoenix Running Explorer event, a very hot and hilly event where runners had seven hours to complete as many laps as they wished. Karla completed a half marathon over four laps in 4:00:09, earning the biggest finishers’ medal on the planet for her efforts.
Closer to home a trio of Almost ladies conquered the Cheltenham Triathlon Club Tri in the Park in 29- degree heat. Hannah Brown was second lady and 17th overall, her time of 48:43 less than a minute behind the winning lady. Nicole Hope, competing in her first triathlon since giving birth to twin boys in March, finished in 59:37 for second in age category. Despite initial feelings of trepidation Penny Lewis was ultimately exhilarated to complete the challenge in 1:01:11, recording the fastest swim in her age category en route. Elsewhere, at the Cotswolds Evening Lake 62 sprint triathlon, Jamie Courtenay finished in 29th position in 1:03:28 with father Adrian completing in 1:29:55.
It was another very busy week for the Almosts, some of whom took on ultramarathons as far afield as Worcestershire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight. This week’s long-distance champs are Steve Clark, Karla Cleverley, Cat Daly, Nick Lewis, Cos Pearson and Thom Stephens. Thom and Cat took on Race to the Stones (continuous option), running 100k along The Ridgeway, finishing at Avebury Stone Circle, in 10:58:09 for 43rd position overall and 13:06:44 respectively. Cos Pearson put her recent targeted training to good effect in the Race to the Stones Weekender edition, running 50k on consecutive days in 15:16:46. Karla Cleverley also cashed in her long-term investment in training, crossing the line in her first ultra in 19:24:02.
Steve Clark took part in the two-day Isle of Wight Full Island Challenge, which follows the coastal path 106km around the island and takes in almost 2,000m of height gain past The Needles and Cowes, completing the tough route in 19:30:23. Closer to home Nick Lewis proved a more than worthy match for the Upton 50km ultra, a new addition to the ultrarunning calendar on a mixture of established national trails, bridleways, footpaths, riverbanks and connecting tarmac roads. Nick finished 10th overall in 6:38:17. Meanwhile, an Almost team comprising Jane Rackham-Wood, Shaun Carr and Phil Jeyes took part in the Upton triathlon relay event, swimming 1,500m, cycling 40km and running 10k. At the Cotswold Classic triathlon Jayne Cheslin completed the course in 5:02:44.
Christopher Benjamin edged 13.1 miles closer to his target of 100 half marathons, completing his 91st, a Forestry Commission event in Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire. Mark Wreford-Bush took part in the Leamington Spa half marathon, finishing in a creditable 1:41:44. Elsewhere Kathy and Paul Haig took on the novel White Star Running Wedding Run, a half marathon which turned into a 15.64-mile event, recording 3:50:27 and 3:50:31 before attending a wedding as part of the event!
Mike Johnstone was in blistering midweek form at the scorching hot Brighton Phoenix 10k. Securing a top 10 finish in his age category, he also broke the MV40 club record of 37:06 which had stood since 2014 by eleven seconds, stopping the clock at 36:55.
Elzbieta Antosiewicz’s rich vein of good form continued at the Chepstow Racecourse 10k, where she and club mascot Archie recorded Ela’s second fastest time (54:58) for 6th in age category.
A select band of Almost gents took on the fast and furious Bourton 1 mile, the first event in the 2021 Gloucestershire AAAs road race series and a county championships event. Josh Hand came home first for the club in a speedy 5:39 closely followed by Peter Morris in 5:46 (4th in category), Neil Tring in 6:15, Chris McMahon in 6:37 and Dan Magovern in 6:43.
Taking part in the second race in the Gloucestershire AAA road race series, the 7.2 mile Stroud Beer Race run over an undulating three lap course starting at the Old Lodge Inn, Minchinhampton was a large contingent of Almosts. First home in 20th position and 3rd in age category was coach Dave McGrath in 51:35. Next across the line in 52:20 and 2nd in age category was Peter Morris closely followed by his nemesis Duncan Mounsor in 53:29 and Mark Wreford-Bush in 53:49. Other finishers were Richard Knightley (56:03); Ross Greening (56:44); Neil Tring (59:03); Olly Bell (1:00:21); Kevin Dryburgh (1:05:27) and Jim Trowbridge (1:07:25). Lorraine Taylor, the club’s sole lady representative, completed the challenging course in 1:12:30 for second in age category. Just behind Lorraine was Kevin Fairs (1:13:51); Kevin Richards (1:15:07) and, continuing his solid comeback from leg surgery, Phil Jeyes (1:16:56).