Gemma Tucks in at Eton Dorney

The bank holiday weekend saw plenty of action for Gade Valley Harriers.

Before the weekend even began, Thursday 26th August saw the final round of the GVH summer handicap. The summer series, where each runner is assigned a time handicap based on their predicted finish time, is extremely popular with the Harriers because it is designed to create a close finish between all the runners, irrespective of their speed. The final race of the series certainly delivered a close result as 25 of the 28 starters were covered by only 2 minutes and 6 seconds.

First to finish was Tracy Scollin who has improved her times steadily through the summer. She was one of seven Harriers to take part in all 5 handicap races and was one of only two to improve each time, from 42:52 in April to 39:35 in the last race. Nobody knows the exact formula that handicap organiser Helen Terry uses as it is steeped in secrecy, arcane magic and a strange calculation involving the number of jokes made about Paul Moseley’s shorts and the length of Martin Storrie’s mullet on the day of the club AGM, but when the final results are announced, it is believed that Tracy’s consistent improvement throughout the summer will give her a good chance of taking the overall winner’s spoils.

The other runner to improve his times in each race of the series was club chairman Andy Cook. He clocked 28:22 in April and improved to 26:44 in August to finish 4th, despite a punishing handicap of 16:15. New club member Lewis Trent ran strongly to finish second, just over a minute behind Tracy with Vicky Crawley Wise just failing to catch him, finishing just 4 seconds further back.

Further down the field on the day, Gareth Tucker completed probably the most impressive, and certainly the most consistent, series of the summer. He took part in all 5 races and saved his fastest time for the last race clocking 24:58, a personal best over the course. His “slowest” time was only 19 seconds slower at 25:17. Helen Cook, James Birnie, Kitty Cole and Steve Newing were the other runners to take part in all 5 races.

As ever the club is grateful to Helen Terry for her organisation, Paul Mosely for his encouragement and marshalling and various others with their timing and photography throughout the summer. 65 different Harriers took part at some point in the summer and the last race also marked the return to use of the clubhouse by the club in another sign of returning normality.

The Harriers enjoy the post handicap celebration

Saturday 28th August was much quieter than usual for Parkruns as many Harriers were on holiday, concentrating on marathon training or staying in bed with a hangover. Three Harriers, led by Stu Gallagher, all completed Rickmansworth Parkrun in under 20 minutes, four ran at Gadebridge with Jono Marval leading them home with a new personal best time for the Hemel Hempstead course and a handful of Harriers competed at other local runs. A few Harriers took in parkruns on their family holidays with Skip Phillips competing at Clacton Seafront and Anthony Willcox running the exotically named Bedgebury Pinetum Parkrun which is apparently in Kent.

On Sunday, 7 Harriers took place in two different races at Dorney Lake in Berkshire, the venue for the rowing events in the London Olympics. The flat terrain around the lake allows for some fast, but very boring, races and the easy access to the lake makes it a perfect venue for triathlons as well as running and cycling events. Early in the morning Nicki McDermott took part in the sprint triathlon. She braved the icy cold lake water for a 750m swim before getting on her bike for 20km and then running for 5km to finish. She completed the course in a total time of 1:33:54, finishing 13th in her category. Nicki said after the race, “Up bright and early this morning to do the Eton Dorney triathlon. Very happy with my time of 1:34 (on my watch anyway). Good luck to everyone now doing the half marathon.”

Micki McDermott at the Dorney Lake Triathlon

There were 6 Gade Valley Harriers accepting Nicki’s good luck message. They were led by Lewis Trent, running his first race as a Harrier and only his second half marathon. He put in a strong performance to finish 29th senior male in 1:37:17. Susannah Crowther also put in a strong performance, completing the 13.1 miles in 1:49:44, finishing first in her category. 

6 Harriers ran up and down a flat piece of land about 37 times on Sunday

Sam Sparks ran the race with Gemma Tucker, helping Gemma to target a new PB. Gemma managed to take 8 minutes off her previous PB, finishing in 2:08:22. “Just completed Dorney Lake half marathon. Helping Gemma smash her PB by 8 mins!”, commented Sam after the finish. Unfortunately, Gemma’s husband Gareth couldn’t be reached for comment but he was said to be “aware of Gemma’s time”.

Sam and Gemma relieve the boredom with a game of charades

Molly Rice was competing in her first ever half marathon and put in a superb debut performance, completing the course in 2:09:52 to finish 24th in her category. Ines Trent was the last Harrier to finish but for the second consecutive week she smashed her own PB, this time taking another 5 minutes off the time she set in London last week.