Gade Valley Harriers ran the second of their summer handicap series races on Thursday The handicap is designed to give everybody, irrespective of their speed, an even chance of winning. Each runner is assigned a head start based on their expected finish time so that, in theory, there should be a close blanket finish.
Anybody that took part in the first race of the series at the end of April had their start time based on that result so there was much less scope for “interesting” or “generous” start times. The handicap committee did, however, cause eyebrows to be raised as one of the Harriers’ coaching group, George Einchcomb, set off with what looked like a very generous head start. George duly ran to his (true) form and finished almost four minutes ahead of the second placed finisher, Nicky Moore. She was in turn nearly four minutes ahead of Paul Williams in third place. In the post race debrief George was heard to say “oh, I was supposed to give my expected 5k time? I told her my 5 mile time!”
After the top three, the handicap delivered the kind of close finishing that it is designed to do with the next 45 finishers crossing the line in just over 3 minutes. Michelle Wells, Kim Rodwell, Kitty Neale and Isabel Wilson all ran very strongly to ensure that their were 5 woman in the top 10.
Roland Kendall continued his excellent recent form which saw him win the Member of the Month for April by breaking 30 minutes for the first time over the 4 mile course in 11th position. He managed to stay just ahead of Anthony Willcox, who was making a welcome return from long term injury, and James Birnie, who shaved 30 seconds off his previous best for the course.
Steve Newing, Andy Wells, Gareth Tucker, Mel Hardy, Robert Bowler and April’s winner Michael Linden all put in strong performances but finished down the field as a result of harsher handicaps based on April’s results.
Lizzie Andrews showed determination, and a strong left elbow, to overtake Ines Trent on the line to finish just ahead of Matt Watt and Matt Ahsby who were finishing very fast having started well down the field. The race photographer, Chris Dowling, captured the spectacular finish beautifully and later commented that “I know the handicap is important but I didn’t think it was worth risking an arrest for GBH!”
2019 handicap series winner, Mary McCluskey, finished in a creditable time of 51 minutes and immediately declared that she was not going to take part in any more races this year as being 5 months pregnant makes running “too hard in this kind of weather”. Anthony Fogden completed the field and immediately caused speculation that his and George Einchcomb’s start times had been mixed up. The handicap committee was not available for comment.
The Hertfordshire Half Marathon takes place on the beautiful country roads around Knebworh House, starting and finishing in the grounds of the house. The race normally takes place in November but was cancelled in 2020 and therefore carried over into June. Those that love the course, including the rather masochistic steep uphill finish, will be pleased to note that the next Herts Half is planned for November.
Robert Bowler managed to force his way to the front of the field for the start to ensure a photo opportunity before settling down into a comfortable pace to finish in 1:39:40 to be 150th overall finisher and 4th in his category. Robert is looking forward to his next birthday in the autumn which will see him move up an age category which will, he hopes, enable him to challenge for age category wins and club records.
Men’s club captain Ross Deacon led the way for the Harriers, finishing the course in 98th overall position, 11th in his age category, in a time of 1:35:46. Ross is another who has been battling a long term injury so he was pleased to complete the tough course in such a quick time.
Sam Raffety, who had set a PB over this course the last time the race was held in 2019, ran steadily to come in next for the Harriers in 1:54:16. Kim Morgan was doing pacing duties for Laura Johnson and they finished in 1:58:17 and 1:58:20 respectively. Jane Percival was the not far behind, completing the course in 2:05:23.
Susie Ivin was in solo action on Sunday 6th June, taking on the Boxend Bedford Swimrun event. This was an unusual race with three different distance variations. The longest distance was two laps of a 10.5k course including 15 running sections of up to 2k and 14 swimming sections from 50 metre river crossings up to a gruelling 400m upstream swim. Describing the format Susie said “You swim in your trainers! You have to do the whole thing in one set of kit, no transitions!” Susie chose to take on the 5k distance and finished a brilliant 9th overall, 5th female and 2nd in her age category.