20 Mile “Joy!?” and Victory in Paphos

After the mass attendance at the Berko half Gade Valley Harriers resumed more normal looking weekend business with around 20 runners taking on various Parkruns on Saturday morning, 5 taking on the MK 20 (mile) race at the Milton Keynes festival of running on Sunday morning and 7 attending a different running festival in Paphos, Cyprus (OK, that is far from “normal”).

NOT the cold of Milton Keynes

On Saturday, Vince Ellerby made his customary trip to Black Park, finishing 22nd, 4 made the trip to St Albans, 5 made the trip to Rickmansworth, 5 made the short trip to Gadebridge Park, with Jono Marval (8th) and Merlin Allan (11th) the standout performers. 3 Harrier women made the trip to the beautiful Leavesden Country Park where Kitty Cole (5th) was the most impressive of the women on the day, finishing 5th, whilst Nicole and Peter Tucker continued their tour of Irish Parkruns at the wonderfully named Father Collins Parkrun. The results don’t list Ted, Dougal, Jack or Larry Duff unfortunately.

While 5 GVH women were braving the cold of Milton Keynes, 7 Harriers were enjoying the slightly warmer surrounds of Paphos for the Paphos running festival. 4 took on the Half Marathon while 3 opted for the shorter 10k race. The Cypriot performance of the weekend went to Lisa Newing, who completed her second race in the space of 7 days (following the Berkhamsted Half Marathon), and scooped the prize for first female finisher, in 46:32. Lisa’s partner Mike Ferris also ran the 10k race, his first competitive outing for a very long time, and showed his enduring class despite a catalog of injuries, finishing 13th overall in 40:16. Helen Cook also performed well, finishing 29th out of 205 women (category positions were sadly not reported).

You get a trophy for finishing!

4 GVH men took on the challenge of the Paphos Half Marathon at the same time. Antony Beamish, the instigator of the trip, finished first in 24th position (out of 537) in 1:32:56. Stuart Gallagher was close behind, finishing just one place and 15 seconds behind. Club chairman Andy Cook and Phil Mercer also finished in close proximity to one another with Andy finishing 95th in 1:45:50 and Phil finishing 102nd in 1:47:15.

The MK running festival races all started relatively late, at 9:50AM, so the time difference, and the heat in Paphos mandating earlier starts, meant that as the group of GVH women made their way to Milton Keynes, the group in Paphos had all finished. This led Holly to comment in the car, “I’m so jealous, we haven’t even started our 20 miles and they’re already in the pub.”

First time this group has met outside of a pub

As has been previously documented, 20 mile races can be a very tough experience. They are rarely a goal race as they are generally part of marathon preparation, and they often contain multiple laps. The MK race isn’t as bad as some (certainly not as bad as the notorious 4 laps of the Hillingdon 20) as it involves around a 3 mile run to the start of the long lap, just over 2 of the long laps followed by another 2 miles or so to the finish. As is usually the case in Milton Keynes, and belying the city’s general reputation, the course contains pleasant views and surroundings on mainly paths through parks and closed roads.

Lizzy Andrews, who has moved away from the local area but remains a GVH member, finished the 20 miles first, in just over 3 hours. Ashleigh Taylor, Holly Beckett, Mary McCluskey and Ines Trent are all preparing for the Great Welsh Marathon on April 2nd, and had travelled together to the race, and all were pleased with their runs on the day.

She was pleased to see me, honest!

Ashleigh finished first from the group in 3:14:58. She believes that time to be a PB although, as she reported later, “I don’t pay too much attention to the times but I think it is a PB, I only run once a week so maybe I could go quicker if I tried”. Holly Beckett was the next to finish, confirming that she had beaten her previous PB by around 5 minutes, completing the 20 miles in 3:23:38. Mary McCluskey was close to her PB, but after much checking (and complaining that the race was longer than 20 miles, despite the existence of a UKA course measurement certificate), conceded that she missed her PB by a few seconds. Her time of 3:45:44 was still a credit to her and gave her confidence that she can challenge her marathon PB next month.

You’ll never catch me smiling in a 20 miler

The Harriers’ run of the day, however, had to belong to Ines Trent. Ines is preparing for her second marathon, having made her debut last autumn and had started the day worried that she might miss the very tight cutoff time for the completion of the 20 mile course. She needn’t have worried as she comfortably went through the 11 mile checkpoint under the required time and continued to complete the course without a drop in her pace. Her time of 4:03:17 took over 45 minutes from her existing PB in what has to be one of the biggest slices ever taken from a personal mark.

5 hours closer to the pub