As the world seems slowly to be returning to something like normal it was great to see another local race on Sunday. The Hatfield 5 mile race is a traditional favourite but, in a lingering sign of the recent times, it was held at Bovingdon Airfield due to safety concerns around holding the race in the narrow lanes of Hatfield.
Many Harriers had run the 5 lap 10k at Bovingdon in December, the ‘Hatfield 5’ was a 4 lap repeat. This time the weather was mercifully warmer but the strong winds on the open course made for a challenging event. With a now standard covid safe start, the race kicked off with the fastest runners first. Harriers observed that if the mighty Matt Watt is not in the top 10 starters you know you have a quality field.
Gliding over the course with ease, and first home for GVH was indeed Matt Watt (21st overall and 4th in his age category) in a very impressive 28:32. He was closely followed by Al Flowers, normally known as an ultra marathon specialist, but turning in an impressive 29:20. Guy Woollett, a long time resident of Bovingdon, was by general consent the athlete of the day. He broke the 26 year club record for V50 at the 5 mile distance, with 32:06 and finished 7th in his age category.
Head coach Ed Price returned to racing by bagging an outstanding 33:29, a strong performance for his first race in over a year. Robert Bowler managed to avoid embarrassment by beating the 36 minute entry time (35:17) just ahead of Trevor Normoyle (35:39). Dave Goodman continued his strong recent form, and his unmatched ability to sniff out any and every race, easing home in 34:49.
Chris Howe and Ines Trent completed a good day for GVH by turning in times of 45:33 and 53:28 respectively, Ines had the added bonus of running a massive PB.
The Thames Path 100, in its 10th year, starts on Saturday morning in Richmond, West London, and finishes on Sunday morning in Oxford after 100 miles alongside the River Thames. Whilst 100 miles would be considered too far for most people to cycle, the Thames Path 100 is a running race with a 28 hour limit. Amongst the Harriers’ cohort of hard core ultra marathon runners are Chris Dowling and David Thompson, and it was they who wearily made their way to the finish line in Oxford in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Running alongside the Thames the race passed through 13 checkpoints in riverside towns. The first checkpoint was at Walton on Thames and the official results record Chris as being in 54th position at that point. Most athletes slow down throughout ultra marathon races as fatigue sets in but Dowling fought the fatigue better than most and went through the 9th checkpoint, at Pangbourne, just after 10:00PM in 37th overall position. He lost 3 places on the next section to Clifton Hampden but then maintained his pace, and position, through the final 3 checkpoints. He finished exhausted but happy, in a time of 20:48:55 in 40th place overall, 24th in his age category.
David Thompson also took on the 100 mile ultra marathon. He started very steadily and picked up places throughout the race. After the first checkpoint Thompson was 242nd overall, passing through Walton on Thames after just over two hours. By the 7th checkpoint, at Reading, he was inside the top 200. When he reached the 10th checkpoint, at Wallingford, he was inside the top 150 and by the end of the race he had climbed further up the field to finish 128th overall in 25:25:03. A superb effort of sustained endurance.
The Harriers were left to reflect on the slow return to normality. More and more races are appearing on the horizon and the atmosphere seems to be getting ever more relaxed. We are all looking forward to a much happier summer in 2021 with the club now allowed to gather in larger groups for training and hopefully soon a return to social events. Watch this space, it may even be possible for the club’s annual charity pub run to go ahead in July.