A (not member of the) Month in the Life of Tom Langdown

Early on the morning of Saturday 11th May, club legends, married couple and the best source of a cheap pun any bargain basement hack could hope for, Teresa and Chris ventured out again to (this time literally) climb the heights of ultra marathon running. If I don’t type their surname, I won’t find this inescapable urge to include it in a pun.

This week the event was the UTS, the Ultra Trail Snowdonia in Wales. According to its website, “[it] covers the highlights of the mountainous areas of Snowdonia, taking in countless stunning trails, technical ridges and epic views over its 103 km”. The course profile looks absolutely terrifying, with 7 major peaks (with unpronounceable names) and at least 3 other peaks that make Little Heath Lane look like our slopey driveway.

I assume this was the start?

Normally there is some decent data in the results page of ultra marathons. There will usually be various split times at various checkpoints and this enables somebody writing a report to construct a plausible narrative about what was going on. Not in this case. A straightforward name, gender, category and finish time was all they gave us. Fortunately, Chris tends to write up his runs (as many of us do). What most of us do is give a brief account of the event which we hope our peers are interested in and will perhaps find amusing. It was therefore very helpful that Chris took it upon himself to combine the length of Tolstoy with the complexity of Kafka in his account of his Snowdon escapades.

Not sure why he put a holiday snap on Strava?

In short, Chris said, “I decided to take Skipton seriously a couple of weeks ago. It all went well until about 13 to go. I slipped, one foot got stuck and well, let’s just say that ever since only dogs can hear me talk. Today I ran up and down a load of hills that only the bloke from the GoCompare adverts can hope to pronounce. I had a few painkillers, and a couple of double whiskeys, to keep me going but by the end I was spent. I’m auditioning next week with Wynne Evans for a new production of the Snowman, they need somebody to sing the Aled Jones parts.”

Chris finished the course in 18:45:53, in 30th overall place, 5th in his category. I am no expert on ultra marathons but it sounds like a great time and a great achievement. Of course, Teresa was also running the UTS. Teresa also provided her own commentary but it required no skillful editing as she said, “Slower than I hoped but pleased to have finished. Another hot day but the views were incredible. Took a few falls so body in bits today. Great to see Adrian Miller Yache. Thanks for the hugs.” Teresa finished in 24:21:16, 214th overall (out of 431 finishers), 24th female. Well done to both and good luck in your new career Chris, have you considered auditioning for the sequel to Farinelli?


A little bit closer to home, a little bit shorter and a little bit less full of puns, was the Gaddesden Gallop. There were several of last year’s Learn to Run cohort taking part in the 10k race (for many of them their first race over such distance), and Tom Langdown continued his state of high dudgeon over never receiving the Member of the Month accolade (other marathons under 3 hours were available this year) by boasting very loudly about his second placed finish in the 5k race.

Tom eyes up the competition before the start

The Gaddesden Gallop is arranged as a charity event to support the local primary school, from what I can tell, starting and finishing in the village green in Gadesden and is a fairly challenging, off-road, hilly affair. As previously mentioned, Tom managed to finish 2nd overall in the 5k race, in a time of about 19:29, which is pretty good going. In a somewhat old-school meets slightly more modern technology setup, only participants receive any kind of results, via email, and I haven’t seen the 5k result, but I’m reliably informed that Tom was “beaten by a 12 year old”, by none other than Tom himself. If I knew the name of the 12 year old, I’d nominate him or her for MOTM.

The 10k included X GVH runners, most of whom were part of the 2023 cohort of Learn to Run. They chose a difficult baptism for 10k races (why not wait until the St Albans Summer Solstice 10k? It is flat as a pancake!) and a great time was had by all as they expanded their running horizons. I’m grateful to Phil Bowers who was kind enough to pass on a print-out of the results for the 10k.

No PB today Phil?

As far as I can tell (reading actual pieces of paper is not something I do often), Kittie Cole decided to take part and just run on ahead on her own, leaving the LTRs to fend for themselves. She finished 62nd overall in 1:02:08. Next over the line for GVH were husband and wife team Clare and Phil Bowers. Clare finished just ahead of Phil and it isn’t clear who was waiting for whom. Phil wasn’t wearing his “PB” vest on the day, perhaps fearful that he wouldn’t achieve a PB in what was his first 10k race (I think). As far as I know it was the first 10k for both, so their time of 1:16:43 is a PB for both.

Don’t let her beat you!!!

Andrea Beattie was next to finish for GVH, she was being escorted around the course by Rachel Haffendenand them completed the 10k in 1:22:35 which was, of course, a PB for Andrea. Dominic Hook and Emma Reed, another married couple, were the other runners representing the club. They helped each other round the course and helped themselves to 10k PBs, finishing the course in 1:22:59.

The weekend of 18th / 19th May was pretty quiet for the club as I could only find evidence of Parkruns over the weekend. The most notable performances were at Black Park where Lewis Ellerby led a small but strong cohort of GVH runners. Lewis finished 7th overall, in 19:28, whilst Roland Kendall finished 9th in a new PB for any 5k of 19:35. Kim Morgan finished in 22:59, in the process taking nearly 2½ minutes off the existing club age group record for Black Park and Ines Trent scooped yet another PB, finishing the distance in 25:37. For once she didn’t carry her PB bell with her because she was aware, from a previous visit, that there is a permanent PB bell at Black Park. I can’t be sure what Tom Langdown was doing that weekend, but I know he didn’t win Member of the Month.

Why is Roly standing in my PB bell photo?

On Saturday 25th May, the latest round of the GVH Parkrun tour went to Rushmere Parkrun in Leighton Buzzard, which I think has been visited before and is popular with coach Ed since he lives just down the road. A decent turnout saw at least 14 Harriers take part. Lewis Ellerby was the fastest for GVH, finishing the 5k in 19:56, 3rd overall, while Kim Morgan was the fastest female, managing 25:01. Meanwhile Vince Ellerby was the only Harrier to top 70% for age graded as he finished in 22:41 in 20th position.

It isn’t a race, so the red is OK

Sunday 26th May was the Edinburgh Marathon. 4 GVH women took on the 26 miles, which started in the city centre before running south east towards the coast road, south through the beautiful town of Musselburgh, past a couple of venerable golf courses as far as Gosford House before looping back to finish in Musselburgh in a big park near the wonderfully named Pinkie Burn. With 3 of their partners and a son on a supporting brief for the women, what could possibly go wrong?

I guess we should have looked at a map, or perhaps a meteorological history to get the answer. What could go wrong, you say? RAIN. Not just common or garden England (or even Welsh) rain, but proper, Scottish, Biblical Rain. It was raining in the morning when Phil Mercer took part in the half marathon, starting at 9:00AM and acting as an amuse bouche for the precipitation to follow (he finished in a decent 1:36:31) and it was raining more heavily when Phil and the rest of the spectators got together in the city centre, around 11:00AM. By the time we took a walk around the city before finding a decent pub to get lunch (well, a Weatherspoons) the rain was torrential. By the time we got ourselves out to Musselburgh to (fail to) see the four women finish, the rain was Biblical and it remained so for the rest of the day, and the rest of the week for those of us who were stupid enough to plan a half term break up there (what were we thinking???)

The rain wasn’t too hard before the start

We can be generous to the organisers and allow that the weather may have made the flow of people and general stuff harder through the tiny chokepoints into the big park where the finish was or we could point out that designing a finish area with such tiny chokepoints is unlikely to end well when 10,000+ people will finish in that field. We could also question the wisdom of laying on so few buses for athletes and spectators to get them back to the city or just accept that we probably would have gone to the pub before trying to get back to the city anyway. Probably we should just say that such an event with this level of organisation shouldn’t be attempted unless the weather can be guaranteed.

Despite the terrible conditions for the runners, the constant rain making it hard for everybody, Holly Beckett did manage a new PB, finishing first for the Harriers in 4:26:03. Ines Trent also managed yet another PB but thankfully had left her PB bell at home again, this time because it would have exceeded her Easyjet baggage allowance. She completed the race in 4:32:51. Chrissie Moonie also managed a PB, finishing in 5:23:28, while Mary McClusky found the conditions hardest of everybody and was disappointed with her time of 5:30:39.

At the finish the rain took its toll again with Ines turning blue and visibly shivering in the immediate aftermath. Chrissie also struggled after she stopped and was helped immediately back to the city by her husband, Steve. Holly and Mary also felt a little bit ill immediately afterwards and were only able to drink two full bottles of Champagne in the 30 minute walk to the pub through the rain. Incredibly, during the recovery drinks in another Wetherspoons, it was noted that Ines had somehow managed to acquire sunburn during the run.

Our taxi back to the city

In an interesting postscript to the Edinburgh marathon, as I was querying the official results a couple of weeks after the event (it took me that long to write this report), I noticed that James Felstead had also run the race. For some reason, the query function didn’t work when I checked on the day so I had no idea. Well done James, on your time of 3:43:35. I doubt this is a PB as I think James has run a good few marathons but please accept my heartfelt apologies if I’m wrong. It also would have been far too much effort to rewrite the above 7 paragraphs so I do hope being a PS does not offend.

Also on Sunday 26th May, 4 Harriers took on the Greensands 50k. This, according to its own publicity, is “a stunning single loop 50K ultra marathon around the Greensand Country trails in Bedfordshire.” Sounds lovely, if you fancy a 50k race that is.

Dry and sunny in Greensands

There were 183 finishers in total, and all 4 GVH athletes finished in the top 100. Simon Morris started at the same time as Tom Evans and the two passed through the first two splits with Tom only seconds ahead of Simon. Tom evidently struggled in the second half of the race as Simon forged ahead to finish in 5:05:21, 30th overall. Jono Marval, flying under the radar in the first half of the race (I’ve made this joke before, not doing it again), also got ahead of Tom, finishing in 5:23:41, 46th overall. Tom managed to hold it together to finish in 5:25:39, just inside the top 50. Kirstie Hardiman, meanwhile, was minding her own business and running what looked like even splits (but the results page can only be described as rudimentary, so I’m guessing really), to finish in 6:19:07, 96th overall and 18th female.

May 30th saw the second in the summer series of handicap races. For the first time handicap organiser Helen Terry (thanks Helen) provided data in the results spreadsheet showing how far behind, or ahead, of their estimated finish time everybody actually finished. This is a great innovation and saves me the bother of calculating the data to work out who was the biggest bandit on the day. Andrea Beattie took the accolade on this occasion, finishing ahead of the field by over two minutes. No doubt her starting handicap will be trimmed accordingly by the June race. Defending champion Tom asked, “do I win anything for being the most honest defending champion?” No Tom, you don’t because you still went quicker than your estimated finish time and no, you don’t win the Member of the Month either.

Still no MOTM (for Tom)

On June 2nd a group of 8 Harriers formed an Irish raiding party as they travelled to Cork for the Cork Marathon festival where 7 took on the Half Marathon and one took on the 10k race. Mike Ferris was the GVH runner taking on the 10k and he lined up alongside over 3000 other runners for the shortest distance of the day. He finished in 82nd overall position in a time of 38:55.

Looking forward to a Guiness

Mike Linden was the first to finish in the Half Marathon, his time of 1:25:10 was good enough for 39th overall position a full 6 minutes behind Steve Newing, who finished 133rd in 1:31:16. Stu Gallagher and Antony Beamish prepared for the race in the traditional Gallagher fashion, with several bottles of red wine the night before. Beamo went the extra mile, travelling to Cork immediately on his return from an all-inclusive family holiday which consisted of, I was told, “7 days of solid drinking, never left the hotel pool”. Stu managed 1:37:10 while Beamo struggled to 1:50:27.

And there it is (except for the gluten free refusenik)

Andy Cook managed to avoid drinking too much on Saturday evening and put in a good show, finishing in 1:44:21, not far ahead of Phil Mercer who clocked 1:46:11. Helen Cook was the sole GVH woman on show, she finished the distance in 2:08:31. It is unclear to me why Andy Newing was posting a picture of the group on Facebook (was he there just for the drinking?) but his message was, “Well done on a hot day and undulating course!” Tom Langdown wasn’t in Cork and as far as can be told from the results and various other sources, he didn’t win Member of the Month either.

If you lose to a 10 year old in a Barcelona shirt, you don’t get MOTM

PS – just as I posted the link to the report, this appeared on our Facebook page:

Hint: NO, it doesn’t.