Festival Fun for Harriers

As the long summer holidays came to a close (at least for my children and my partner, my “summer holidays” lasted exactly 6 working days and ended a month ago) Gade Valley celebrated with the final race of the year long Club League at the Bedford Festival of Running on Saturday 2nd September, a couple of Harriers waited until Sunday to take on the 20 mile race at the same festival.

But before all that, the last Saturday in August saw coach Ed Price organise the latest stop off on the GVH Parkrun tour. Much like the “farewell” tours of ageing rock stars, the Parkrun tour has been going on for several years now and it seems that it is now visiting places that have already been visited. Of course, the tour continues to be popular with members, attracting around 15 Harriers to Wendover Woods on August 26th.

A random rainbow that looked nice

Wendover is famously, some would say notoriously, hilly. Unsuspecting runners can be lulled into a false sense of security as the start goes downhill and then again when the uphill return flattens out temporarily before the final climb to the finish. Head coach Ed Price admitted to being caught out as he had been on his only previous visit back in April 2022 (when the club last toured Wendover), but still managed a more than respectable 23:28 for the tough 5k route.

Who put those hills there?

Vince Ellerby was the first finisher for the club on the day, just ahead of Steve Newing, both men finishing inside the top 20. Vince also recorded the highest age graded score of the Harriers, just ahead of Merlin Allan. Sandra Flynn was the first of the GVH women across the line, just 11 seconds and one place ahead of Amanda Barker. Susie Ivin and Helen Cook weren’t far behind, with Helen recording the highest age grading amongst the GVH women.

Being chased by an angry pram is never nice

On Sunday 3rd September, Stu Gallagher and James Birnie took part in the Bedford 20 mile race at Bedford. Stu is preparing for the Berlin Marathon (on September 24th) but has had his training disrupted by a back problem. He had said beforehand that this race would tell him whether he would be likely to enjoy the Berlin Marathon or “plod round in a world of pain”.

I was confused because my watch was on the wrong display…

Sunday morning was very warm bordering on hot, but fortunately the 20 mile route is largely on paths through woodland that offered a lot of shade and a pleasant breeze. The surroundings made the two laps seem bearable, at least much more so than the truly awful 4 laps of the Hillingdon 20 (one day I’ll write about a 20 miler without moaning about HIllingdon). Stu managed to complete the course without any serious back pain in 2:29:13, setting him up nicely for Berlin. James had finished just a few places ahead of Stu in 30th position, clocking 2:24:17.

What are you doing with that bottle Stu?

The real drama had taken place on Saturday afternoon, however, as a small contingent of Harriers took part in the 5k race at the festival. This was the last race in the annual club league and, whilst Matt Ashby was well clear at the top of the men’s standings, the women’s award was still very much up for grabs (no spoilers though, the results will be announced at the AGM in a few weeks’ time).

Look, I can screw my eyes up tight and smile at the same time!

Gemma Tucker was the first GVH female to finish the race, in 27:26. She finished in 100th overall place out of a field of 338 finishers. For the men, Michael Linden finished 7th overall, 2nd in his age category, in 18:21. He also recorded the highest age graded score for GVH on the day. Gareth Tucker and Steve Newing weren’t far behind, finishing in 10th and 15th overall, in 18:48 and 19:55 respectively, 3rd and 5th in the same V40 age category as Michael.

Matt Ahsby has had by any measure a superb season. He has set PBs at every distance and has crept ever closer to his first race victory (excluding Parkruns). On Saturday Matt finally managed to break through and win a race for the first time. He set a new 5k PB of 16:50 finishing a massive 39 seconds ahead of the silver medal winner (a bloke from Olney Runners that I’ve never heard of) and over a minute ahead of the other podium finisher, from Bedford & County AC.

Matt Ashby with two randoms

Massive congratulations to Matt Ashby on his best result so far and hopefully we can all look forward to seeing Matt win many more races as he continues to get stronger and faster. Sometimes things happen after these articles get written, sometimes I make stuff up. On this occasion, I accidentally made some stuff up (about Matt that is, I deliberately made up the comment about Stu plodding around in a World of pain). Matt said later, “Thanks James, very kind write up! (But it wasn’t quite a PB this time- I’ve let myself down)”. Oh dear, never mind.