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.
Almost Athletes took on the early summer sun and scorching temperatures over a variety of distances, locations and terrains across the country this weekend. At the Runthrough Festival of Running at Cheltenham Racecourse, Mike Johnstone continued his rich vein of form, completing the half marathon in 1:25:15 for second in MV40 category. Not far behind was Josh Hand, who recorded a fine 1:26:24 for third MV35. Julian Brand and Ellie Haile completed the club’s quartet of half marathon representatives, finishing the challenge in 1:56:40 and 2:14:17 respectively.
In the 10k event, first home for the club in 57:29 was David Woolnough, followed just three seconds later by Ela Antosiewicz and club mascot Archie. In her first race of 2021 and coming back from an extended period of injury, Hayley Woolnough completed the exposed course in 1:01:05. The club was also well represented by Iris Mayo (1:21:03); Helen Yarnold (1:29:10) and Steve Yarnold (1:29:11).
Further north, Julie Averiss was the club’s sole representative in the Burton Leonard 10k, coming home in 1:27:17. This old school, not-for-profit event over an undulating rural course in the Harrogate area of North Yorkshire raises essential funds for the local community.
In Somerset, Cos Pearson completed the brutally beautiful Cheddar Gorge marathon in 6:44:25. The double lap course, which includes two ascents of the infamous Hell Steps, is considered so challenging that organisers recommend that runners add 20% onto their flat marathon time. Christopher Benjamin notched up his 85th half marathon over one lap of the marathon course in 2:59:55.
In Dorchester Kathy Haig and Karla Cleverley took on the Crafty Fox half marathon, another very challenging off-road event along the Wessex Ridgeway and Dorsetshire Gap, which rewards participants with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The tough course includes steep climbs and sharp descents together with a bonus mile, topped off at the finish with one of White Star Running’s legendary medals.
Going furthest of all this week Martyn Fisher seized another opportunity to wear the purple vest with pride as he competed in the inaugural 50k Greensand Country Ultra, which started and finished at Shuttleworth House in Bedfordshire, just two miles from Martyn’s doorstep. He was pleased to swap searing temperatures and cloudless skies for an ice-cold lager to kick start his recovery, having completed the long-distance event in a very creditable 6:21:39.
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!