Harriers Threaten to Cross into Mid-Table Mediocrity

Last weekend kicked off as always for Gade Valley Harriers, with Saturday Morning Parkruns on 12th November. As is usually the case on a Cross Country League weekend, the numbers of club runners attending parkruns was much reduced. Vince Ellerby didn’t change his routine as he made the trip to Black Park for his 507th overall Parkrun and his 427th at Black Park. He finished the 5k run in 19th position in 21:10.

Elsewhere, Guy Wollett continued to build his fitness with a quick outing at Rickmansworth Parkrun, where he finished 19th out of over 400 runners. Meanwhile, Bill Hawes, also feeling his way back from injuries, finished in the top 10 at the local Gadebridge Parkrun, leading home a group of 4 GVH runners which included Men’s captain Andy Wells, who was unable to compete in the Cross Country event because of family commitments. Andy Watt was celebrating his birthday with a weekend on the coast and enjoyed the two lap course at Whitstable Parkrun, along the seafront and up on the promenade.

Happy birthday Andy

There is no doubt that the main business of the weekend was the second round of the Chiltern Cross Country League at Teardrop Lakes in Milton Keynes. The race meeting also multi-tasked itself as the British Cross Challenge, the Home Countries (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) Cross Country and the Oxford v Cambridge Cross Country race. The high class fields in both the men’s and women’s races and the unusually clement weather (many Harriers claimed never to have seen the sun in all previous visits to Teardrop lakes) added to the sense of the occasion on Saturday afternoon.

Poor thing, she’ll think it is always sunny at Teardrop Lakes 🙁

The women’s race set off first and there were 13 GVH women in the field for the 2 lap race, approximately 7km in total. The unusually high quality of the field was amply demonstrated by the winning time of England athlete Alexandra Millard. She completed the course in 24:13, nearly 7 minutes ahead of the first GVH athlete home, Teresa Reason, who finished in 98th overall position (27th in Division 1) in a time of 31:05.

“She seemed offended when I asked her if she wanted to borrow the bike!”

Robyn Lower was running her first cross country race for GVH and she was the second Harrier home in 34:22 and picked up 98 points for the club. Following Robyn home were three club legends, Vicky Crawley-Wise, Clare McDonnel and Tracey Cotton, who picked up 89, 79 and 72 league points, respectively. The last Gade Valley scorer for the women was Kitty Cole, who finished in 38:16, just inside the top 100 runners in division 1, in 99th place.

Legend, Leader, Gurner

Lizzy Andrews was hot on Kitty’s heels, finishing only 2 places and 4 seconds further back while Katie Ellis also finished the course in under 40 minutes. Jackie Eskdale and Helen Cook finished in close attendance, in 123rd and 130th place, respectively. Club coach Angeline Cottrill and Ines Trent were the other finishers for GVH women while Lisa Newing, who was expected to score well for the Harriers, unfortunately picked up an injury on the hilly course and was unable to complete the distance.

I can get her! Imagine she’s a medal…

The men’s race was over 3 laps for a total distance of around 9.3km. The high quality of the field, the hilly nature of the course, and the fact that it was over 3 laps, led many of the club’s men to speculate before the race that they were in danger of being lapped. In the event, most of the Harriers escaped the indignity of being lapped but the class of the overall winner, England athlete Mahamed Mahamed, was underlined by his winning time of 27:49, almost 10 minutes ahead of Gade Valley’s first finisher, Matt Ashby, who finished 87th in division 1, in 37:24.

Hoping not to get lapped…

Michael Linden was the second finisher in the men’s race for GVH but expressed disappointment with his time afterwards. He said, “I felt OK when I was running but when I looked at the time it was slower than last year but the conditions felt easier.” Running can be a mysterious business, indeed. Jon Roberts didn’t express disappointment as he finished next in 39:11, followed by Nick Crowther and Martin Pike (only two seconds and 1 place apart from each other).

I hate it… I hate it, I HATE IT!!!

Gareth Tucker, also complaining about “not feeling great”, and James Birnie were next, picking up 102 and 94 points, respectively before a bit of a gap to coach Ed Price (who reported at the end that he hadn’t quite been lapped, although he could feel the Mohamad brothers were close behind at the end). Steve Newing and Phil Mercer completed the list of scoring runners for GVH.

On the other hand, I LOVE IT!!!

Merlin Allan finished just outside the points for Gade Valley but was very happy to finish in 8th position in the V60 category, following his 9th place finish in the first race 4 weeks ago, leaving him handily placed for personal honours at the end of the season. Club chairman Andy Cook retired from Cross Country some time ago because, he says, “I hate it”. He temporarily came out of retirement on Saturday because he will be forced to rest from all running for at least a month following an operation this week. He said that he, “…sort of enjoyed the race, at least it wasn’t throwing it down with rain like it normally is here”.

Easier than those motorway barriers!

After the chaos of the abandoned fixture at the end of the 2021/22 season and GVH’s unexpected promotion to division 1 for this term, many have wondered how many teams will be relegated at the end of 2022/23. There is no clear answer available on the league website but club captain Andy Wells when approached for comment said, “we know they want to increase numbers in D1 so suspect it will be 2 up 2 down”. If this is indeed the case, then GVH are well placed to avoid relegation, even approaching mid-table, on 3049 points, over 1200 points clear of Bearbrook RC who sit second from bottom of division 1. If the club can maintain a position clear of relegation trouble this will indeed be considered an excellent Cross Country season.

Full GVH Women’s Results

Position in Div 1 Time Cat Pos Pts
27 Teresa Reason 31:05 F45 4 136
65 Robyn Lower 34:22 F35 16 98
74 Victoria Crawley-Wise 35:16 F35 18 89
84 Claire McDonnell 36:40 F45 16 79
91 Tracey Cotton 37:22 F45 18 72
99 Kitty Cole 38:16 F35 26 64
101 Lizzy Andrews 38:20 FS 48 62
107 Katie Ellis 39:07 F35 28 56
123 Jacki Eskdale 41:06 F55 13 40
130 Helen Cook 41:36 F55 16 33
140 Angeline Cottrill 44:03 F45 32 23
160 Ines Trent 50:49 F35 41 3

Full GVH Men’s Results

Position in Div 1 Time Cat Pos Pts
87 Matthew Ashby 37:24 MS 59 171
114 Michael Linden 38:36 M40 26 144
127 Jon Roberts 39:11 M50 10 131
145 Nick Crowther 40:07 M40 42 113
146 Martin Pike 40:09 MS 82 112
156 Gareth Tucker 40:44 M40 47 102
164 James Birnie 41:10 M40 51 94
202 Edward Price 43:41 M40 63 56
210 Stephen Newing 44:33 M40 66 48
214 Phil Mercer 45:22 M40 68 44
220 Merlin Allan 46:02 M60 8 38
223 Andy Cook 47:00 M50 35 35

League Table After 2 Fixtures

1 Chiltern Harriers 7331
2 Marshall Milton Keynes AC 7017
3 Bedford and County AC 6402
4 Wycombe Phoenix 5966
5 Dacorum AC 5277
6 Headington Road Runners 4854
7 Leighton Buzzard AC 4676
8 St Albans Striders 4537
9 Tring Running Club 4411
10 Vale of Aylesbury AC 4134
11 Northampton AC 3856
12 Watford Harriers 3297
13 Gade Valley Harriers 3049
14 Redway Runners 2841
15 Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers 2546
16 Bearbrook Running Club 1833
17 MK Distance Project 1392