Half the Club at Berko Half

On Saturday February 25th Gade Valley Harriers continued their monthly Parkrun tour with a visit to Rushmere Parkrun near Leighton Buzzard. Rumours that head coach Ed Price had chosen the location primarily for its proximity to his house were dispelled when those that had previously not visited the beautiful Rushmere Country Park took in their surroundings. Roland Kendall summed up the general mood when he commented, “Thanks for organising Ed, what a beautiful Parkrun to have locally!”

Just down the road for Ed

Nick Crowther was the first of the 9 Harriers to finish at Rushmere, in 20:30, finishing 5th overall. Head coach Ed was the only of the 9 to have run the course at Rushmere previously and he managed to beat his course PB by a second. Sue Crowther was again impressive for the Harriers’ women, finishing first in her age category and scoring the highest age graded score, pipping her husband Nick by 0.32%.

The weekend of 4th and 5th March saw two Harriers taking on Ultra Marathons as the club continues to build its reputation as the go to local club for ultra marathon running. Sam Sparks was taking on the Amersham 50k race as she continues to prepare for the Snowdon Ultra 100 mile race in September. Ultra Marathons are never easy so it was very welcome for Sam that Gareth and Gemma Tucker managed to get out on the course to support her at a couple of points. After 50km and nearly 6 hours of running Sam was joined for the last 50m or so by her two children as she completed the race in 56th overall position (out of 116) and 10th in her age category.

I hope this guy doesn’t follow me for 50k

Also starting on Saturday was Chris Dowling, a veteran of many ultra marathons in the past few years. Chris is so invested in ultra distances that some say he only takes jobs at least 50 miles away from his house so that he can have a decent run home in the evenings. 

The Rasselbock Backyard Ultra started at midday on Saturday 4th March and was the inaugural event. The original Backyard Ultra has been staged in Tennessee since 2012 and involves competitors having to complete a 4.1677 mile lap in under an hour. There is no fixed time or distance but competitors are out of race when they fail to complete a lap under the hour. The distance is chosen so that any competitor still in the race after 24 hours would cover exactly 100 miles in that 24 hour period.

In keeping with the theme that only one person “finishes” the race, the results are listed as “Finish Position 1” for the winner and “DNF [did not finish]” for everybody else. This makes it a little difficult to see where each competitor “placed” in the race. Chris managed to complete 19 laps before he was “timed out on lap 20” which means he completed a distance of 79.17 miles in 15:07:49 (“on the course” time). 32 runners were listed as completing more laps than Chris and 101 runners were listed after Chris. So we can surmise that Chris “finished” 33rd out of 134 competitors. I’m just shocked that he ran more distance in 20 hours than I would normally run in about a week and a half!

Not stopping yet

While Chris Dowling was just finishing his ultra marathon effort around 70 Gade Valley Harriers were gathering at Berkhamsted Cricket Club for the Berkhamsted Half Marathon. The race is a firm favourite with all local runners passing through Berkhamsted Town Centre before heading towards Hemel Hempstead and then through the countryside to Potten End, Nettleden and Little Gaddesden. After passing the Ashridge Manor House the course returns to Berkhamsted through the Ashridge Estate and Berkhamsted Golf Club before the fast downhill finish back at the cricket club.

Most people ever in a photo

Matt Ashby again led the way for GVH, smashing his PB and finishing 12th overall in 1:16:12. Matt finished over 6 minutes ahead of the next Gade Valley runner, Michael Linden, who recorded an excellent 1:22:28, finishing 37th overall and 11th in his age category. Not far behind Michael was Jon Roberts with what was probably the run of the day from the Harriers’ men. His time of 1:22:46 was fast enough to break the club V50 record which had stood for over 27 years.

Floating. As normal.

The previous record holder, Paul Cook, was contacted for comment and said, “Congratulations Jon. Is this the same Job Roberts who was a youngster in my time and introduced the black running tops?” He went on, “I think my record must have stood for about 25 years [more like 27], I can’t remember where it was, probably Berko [it was Burnham Beeches]. The long downhill finish to the cricket club was a welcome sight!” He finished with, “I remember leaving work sharp on a Thursday to run 5 or 6 miles around the town before a beer in the Steamcoach. Wish I could still do it, these days 5k is my limit!” Congratulations to Jon for breaking such a long standing record and to Paul Cook for setting such a challenging mark in the dark days, long before the Super Shoes that we all use now.

Nick Crowther was next home for the Harriers, in 1:24:02, with Gareth Tucker only 18 seconds behind. Gareth scored a new PB in finishing just outside of the top 50 overall finishers. James Birnie was next for GVH, finding his best fitness for some time. In fact, as he commented to his partner, Mary McCluskey later, “it was my fastest time since my PB, 6 years ago.”

5th fastest ever time

Phil Robbins finished next for the club, and was the last of the group to complete the course in under 90 minutes. He finished in 89th position in 1:29:36. 25 seconds further back was Lew Ellerby, he was competing in his first ever half marathon and so his time of 1:30:01 constitutes a PB although he was slightly disappointed to miss out by the narrowest of margins ducking under the 90 minute mark. It will only be a matter of time. Antony Beamish and Gwyn Prirchard were a few seconds further back and also finished inside the first 100 finishers.

Stu Gallagher, who later commented, “Note to self: Alcohol the night before a race is not a good idea.” finished next for GVH, leading a group of 6 Harriers including himself, Ed Price, Simon Wallis, Charlie Cadogan, Merlin Allan and Roland Kendall who were separated by only 3 and a half minutes on the road. The last of those, Roland, having smashed over 5 minutes from his Half Marathon PB at Watford last month this time settled for taking just a minute off his PB as he finished in 1:38:33.

Like an extra in “Are you being Served”

The first two Harrier women home were next to finish. Lisa Newing was ahead of Maria Lawler for the whole race but, despite closing fast, Maria couldn’t quite catch her at the end. Lisa finished in 1:40:07, 30th overall female, with Maria just 11 seconds back, 33rd overall as the finishers now came in thick and fast. They were ahead of a group of 10 Harriers, led by Skip Phillips, all finishing within 3 minutes of each other. Alice Cook, Daniel Green,Andrew Watt, Robert Bowler, Simon Wheeler, David Wood, Paul Williams, Andrew Bishop and Victoria Crawley-Wise all completed the course in under 1:45:00.

Don’t get in front of Neerg’s elbow!

Patrick Carey, Trevor Normoyle and Phil Mercer all finished in close order ahead of Laura Johnson, whose time of 1:49:43 was quick enough for a new PB. Michelle Wells finished just ahead of Kim Morgan who, in turn, was just a second ahead of Sue Crowther. Sue probably scored the highest age graded score, but this wasn’t recorded in the official results, but she definitely became the second GVH athlete to break a club record on the day, as she took the club’s W55 half marathon record.

Great finish

Naomi Carey was the next finisher for GVH, running her second half marathon and also claiming a new PB, in 1:50:36. Naomi was a few seconds ahead of Sam Raffety, who was followed by Clare McDonnell running her first road race after long term injury. Andrew Terry, Neil Harper, Pippa Martin finished within 30 seconds of each other while Natasha Gibbs and Kitty Cole managed to just duck under the two hour mark.

How do you wear a bike all the way round?

Ashleigh Taylor, Sandra Flynn, Amanda Barker, Rachel Haffenden, Kirstie Hardiman, Susie Ivin, Sarah Shillabeer, Jane Percival, Holly Beckett, Naomi Iles, Helen Cook, Deon Percival were all tightly bunched together, all completing the course just under 2:10:00 with Rachel Haffenden grabbing a new PB. Kim Rodwell also managed a new PB, running the whole course with her partner Tom Perry, they both clocked 2:10:44.

No more photos of me in the reports!

Gemma Tucker was next to finish for GVH being chased all the way to the line by Mary McCluskey. Mary couldn’t quite catch her friend Gemma but was rewarded with the knowledge that she had achieved the faster chip time, 2:10:27 to Gemma’s 2:10:52. Sadly for Mary, as everybody knows, gun time determines finishing positions (except during Covid restrictions), especially in Abingdon. And Berkhamsted.

The medal looked a Jim’ll Fix it reject!

Chris Howe, Angeline Cottrill, Christeena Mooney, Helen Terry all enjoyed their outing in Berkhamsted and were followed home by a group of three GVH runners who had run the 13.1 miles together. Kelly Cox finished 2 seconds ahead of Molly Rice and Ines Trent who both recorded times of 2:26:23. Ines rounded off a great day for GVH by claiming a new PB for herself, breaking 2:30 for the first time.

Run together for 13.09 miles then race to the finish!

The Gade Valley numbers on the day had been boosted by the club sponsoring the race and subsidising the entry fee for members. The turnout of 68 was nonetheless exceptional and believed to be the most runners from the club to take part in a single event. Club grandee and historian, Andy Newing said, “We have nothing officially recorded higher than that so I would say it’s by far and away an attendance record.” Well done everybody who took part and particularly those that ran their first half marathon or otherwise set a new personal best.

Full Results from Berko Half

Pos Gun Time Chip Time Cat Cat Pos Gender Pos Pace per mile
12 Matt Ashby 01:16:14 01:16:12 MSEN 9 12 05:49 PB
37 Michael Linden 01:22:30 01:22:28 M40 11 36 06:18
39 Jonathan Roberts 01:22:48 01:22:46 M50 5 38 06:19
V50 Club Record
49 Nicholas Crowther 01:24:15 01:24:02 M40 16 48 06:25
52 Gareth Tucker 01:24:23 01:24:20 M40 17 51 06:26 PB
62 James Birnie 01:26:47 01:26:43 M40 21 61 06:37
89 Philip Robbins 01:29:49 01:29:36 M40 26 84 06:50
93 Lewis Ellerby 01:30:06 01:30:01 MSEN 45 87 06:52 PB (first timer)
98 Antony Beamish 01:30:34 01:30:21 M40 28 90 06:54
100 Gwyn Pritchard 01:30:36 01:30:32 M40 29 92 06:55
158 Stuart Gallagher 01:35:06 01:35:02 M40 50 140 07:15
170 Edward Price 01:36:30 01:36:13 M40 57 149 07:21
175 Simon Wallis 01:36:54 01:36:41 M40 59 154 07:23
185 Charlie Cadogan 01:38:06 01:37:48 M40 61 163 07:28
191 Merlin Allan 01:38:40 01:38:20 M60 5 169 07:30
192 Roland Kendall 01:38:44 01:38:33 M40 62 170 07:31 PB
215 Lisa Newing 01:40:20 01:40:07 FSEN 12 30 07:39
221 Maria Lawler 01:40:48 01:40:18 F40 14 33 07:39
235 Richard Phillips 01:41:50 01:41:34 MSEN 83 199 07:45
236 Alice Cook 01:41:56 01:41:15 FSEN 15 37 07:44
247 Daniel Green 01:42:23 01:42:03 MSEN 90 209 07:47
252 Andrew Watt 01:42:59 01:42:47 M50 36 213 07:51
257 Robert Bowler 01:43:09 01:42:59 M60 9 217 07:52
258 Simon Wheeler 01:43:13 01:42:57 M40 80 218 07:52
295 David Wood 01:44:22 01:43:52 MSEN 101 246 07:56
298 Paul Williams 01:44:34 01:44:15 M50 47 247 07:57
301 Andrew Bishop 01:44:42 01:44:25 M40 88 250 07:58
311 Victoria Crawley-wise 01:45:04 01:44:47 F40 22 53 08:00
320 Patrick Carey 01:45:41 01:45:18 M40 92 265 08:02
324 Trevor Normoyle 01:46:13 01:45:49 M40 93 268 08:05
337 Phil Mercer 01:46:49 01:46:36 M40 97 277 08:08
389 Laura Johnson 01:50:08 01:49:43 FSEN 33 76 08:23 PB
390 Michelle Wells 01:50:12 01:49:46 F40 32 77 08:23
400 Kim Morgan 01:50:39 01:50:21 F40 33 81 08:25
403 Susannah Crowther 01:50:49 01:50:22 F50 11 82 08:26
Club W55 record
407 Naomi Carey 01:51:02 01:50:36 F40 35 84 08:27 PB
414 Samantha Raffety 01:51:25 01:50:54 FSEN 36 85 08:28
437 Claire Mcdonnell 01:52:43 01:52:26 F50 12 92 08:35
442 Andrew Terry 01:53:01 01:52:40 M40 117 349 08:36
443 Neil Harper 01:53:05 01:52:31 M40 118 350 08:35
449 Pippa Martin 01:53:26 01:53:06 F40 39 96 08:38
543 Natasha Gibbs 01:59:37 01:59:12 FSEN 49 129 09:06
552 Kitty Cole 01:59:57 01:59:40 FSEN 50 134 09:08
579 Ashleigh Taylor 02:01:07 02:00:49 FSEN 56 144 09:13
592 Sandra Flynn 02:02:07 02:01:30 F50 25 151 09:16
596 Amanda Barker 02:02:15 02:01:37 F40 64 154 09:17
600 Rachel Haffenden 02:02:27 02:01:51 F40 67 157 09:18 PB
611 Kirstie Hardiman 02:03:28 02:03:03 FSEN 63 161 09:24
613 Susie Ivin 02:03:34 02:02:54 F40 69 163 09:23
634 Sarah Shillabeer 02:05:22 02:04:43 F40 71 170 09:31
651 Jane Percival 02:06:06 02:05:23 F50 30 176 09:34
652 Holly Beckett 02:06:06 02:05:26 FSEN 68 177 09:35
653 Naomi Iles 02:06:10 02:05:06 FSEN 69 178 09:33
654 Helen Cook 02:06:11 02:05:30 F50 31 179 09:35
673 Deon Percival 02:08:21 02:07:32 M40 154 485 09:44
705 Kim Rodwell 02:11:31 02:10:44 FSEN 78 202 09:59 PB
706 Tom Perry 02:11:31 02:10:44 MSEN 180 504 09:59
707 Gemma Tucker 02:11:34 02:10:52 FSEN 79 203 09:59
709 Mary Mccluskey 02:11:36 02:10:27 FSEN 80 204 09:57
732 Chris Howe 02:15:29 02:14:50 M40 165 519 10:18
737 Angeline Cottrill 02:16:06 02:15:25 F40 86 215 10:20
742 Christeena Mooney 02:16:56 02:16:14 F40 89 220 10:24
761 Helen Terry 02:19:09 02:18:27 F40 93 229 10:34
765 Karis Thomas 02:19:55 02:19:14 FSEN 86 231 10:38
768 Jessica Green 02:20:21 02:19:44 FSEN 87 233 10:40
790 Kelly Cox 02:27:08 02:26:21 FSEN 94 247 11:10
791 Molly Rice 02:27:10 02:26:23 FSEN 95 248 11:10
792 Ines Trent 02:27:10 02:26:23 FSEN 96 249 11:10 PB