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Welcome to the latest and greatest Gade Valley Harriers has to offer. We have a few different types of update that get posted on this page.

Here you can find the latest news, Member of The Month, latest club results, club awards and social updates.

New Updates

Bandits at 7 O’Clock

Bandits at 7 O’Clock

There was a time (a long time ago) when “Bandits at 7 O’Clock!” was a warning to look over your left shoulder for enemy aircraft. Those times have long passed. Now “Bandits at 7 O’Clock!” is the cry that goes up at Gade Valley Harriers on the last Thursday in April as...

A Very Hilly Bit of Fun

A Very Hilly Bit of Fun

It was a quiet weekend for the Harriers on April 23rd and 24th as only 4 athletes took part in organised events outside of Parkruns and only a handful of runners got up early on Saturday to run a Parkrun. The largest concentration of GVH runners gathered at Gadebridge...

Easter Treats for Harriers

Easter Treats for Harriers

Easter weekend is not a busy one for races in general as most races take place on Sundays and most people are too busy visiting relatives, rolling hard-boiled eggs down hills or recovering from a two day hangover while eating chocolate eggs to bother with racing on...

Member of The Month

Existing and past member of the month awards. Congratulations to all those nominated.

Mar 2020: Gareth Tucker

Marathon training can be tough, Ok it’s always tough. And Marathon training can make you or break you and for our boys Member of the Month for March I think the former applies. Gareth’s recent performances have confirmed this, not only has he performed...

Latest Results

Bandits at 7 O’Clock

There was a time (a long time ago) when “Bandits at 7 O’Clock!” was a warning to look over your left shoulder for enemy aircraft. Those times have long passed. Now “Bandits at 7 O’Clock!” is the cry that goes up at Gade Valley Harriers on the last Thursday in April as we prepare for the first handicap race of the season. Some people respond to the request for a recent 5k time with honesty. Some, however, choose to interpret “recent 5k time” as “how long would it take you to run 5k backwards through a sea of treacle while having one of those dreams where you try to move fast but your legs just can’t move?” The result is always some “interesting” results in the April handicap.

The rules, in theory, should ensure something close to a blanket finish as the incremental handicaps, based on the submitted 5k times, determine how long after the start of the race each runner can start running. Thus the handicap offers the only real chance for all the runners of all the varying abilities to compete on an equal footing with each other. Or sometimes not.

The complaints and raised eyebrows were many as the start times were discussed. Ranging from accusations of sandbagging by the club’s quickest runner (“did you declare your 5k time from the Wendover Parkrun Matt?”) to various allegations of selective memory over recent performances. It remains plausible (though unlikely) that some people were genuinely surprised by the enormous uplift in their (self) predicted performance. What is certain is that handicap organiser, Helen Terry, will be imposing heavy cuts to those that outperformed their handicap significantly. As she shared the results she said “There will be some changes to next month’s start times!!!”

Once all the complaints had finished, the earliest starters started at 7:00PM and the latest starters set off 19 minutes later. Kitty Cole had started 3rd, 5:30 behind the first starters Kim Rodwell and Tracey Scollin. She passed Tracey just after the halfway mark and overtook Kim with about a mile to go. She then ran the remaining distance on her own to finish in first place, picking up maximum points in the handicap and achieving a rating of 5 bandit masks. Her running time was 33:28, compared to a predicted time of 37:15. Not far behind Kitty was Skip Phillips. He also achieved the maximum 5 masks with his time of 28:44.

Kitty, Skip and an unknown accomplice stealing Andy Cook’s horses

Just under 30 seconds behind Skip, Paul Allen led home a group of 10 Harriers who all finished within a minute of each other on the road. Paul’s time of 27:12 was matched exactly by new member Louis Saville, 9 places behind, but the relative size of the handicaps was reflected in Paul gathering 4 masks to Louis’s 3.

Paul Allen’s passport photo

Isabel Wilson led a group of 5 Harriers who finished with 6 seconds of each other. Tom Perry, Naomi Carey, Gareth Tucker and Rachel Haffenden made up the quintet. Finishing in 16th position in a time of 24:37 and outperforming his handicap by 1:38, Gareth was the last finisher to achieve a 4 mask rating.

Gareth’s instructions on “parking his car”

Club captain Angeline Cottrill finished in 18th position, the first finisher to achieve the relatively honest rank of 2 masks. She was the first to finish in a group of 7 runners who finished within 30 seconds of each other. This group included Ed Price and James Birnie, who were the last of the finishers to achieve 3 bandit masks. They started together with a handicap of 14:45 and stayed close together for the whole race before Ed comfortably outsprinted James in the final 200 metres.

James Birnie sprinting for the line

Ciara Barry finished in 25th position and was the first of the 13 runners who only achieved the lowest rating of a single bandit mask. Andy Cook, perhaps suffering the effects of having his horses stolen, was next, finishing in 28:40. He managed to hold off Matt Ashby in a close sprint finish even as Matt recorded the fastest time of the day of 23:27. Jon Roberts and Michael Linden joined Matt and Gareth Tucker in completing the course in under 25 minutes.

Bringing up the rear on the road, but leading the club in the honesty stakes (unfortunately there is no prize for honesty) were Sam Raffety, Charlie Cadogan and Phil Mercer. Despite her lowly finish in the race, Sam can be proud that she achieved the second fastest time (31:51) of the Harrier women, behind only Naomi Carey (31:36) and just ahead of Jenny Stubberfield (32:01).

Another race where the handicap doesn’t even things up much

As always, the handicap is a great event enjoyed by everybody who takes part and all those that help with the organisation. We look forward to the remaining 4 races with interest as we wait to see if Helen will apply the swinging penalties on the most brazen of the horse rustlers.

On Friday evening GVH’s Chris Dowling took part in the Seven-Ten track 5k race at Jarman Park in Hemel Hempstead. He was able to run an extremely quick PB of 17:31. In much the same way that “if it isn’t on Strava it didn’t happen”, this PB can’t be verified because, as Chris said after the race, “it was hand timed so not registered with the Power of 10 website.” That one will have to get passed on to the dubious PBs committee.

Scroobius PBs committee. “Just a PB, Just a PB, Just a PB…”

The weekend proper got underway on Saturday morning as several Harriers took on Parkruns. The run of the day belonged to Rachel Haffenden as she finished 2nd overall female at Gadebridge Parkrun with a time of 25:54, finishing ahead of all 5 male members of the club who took part. Elsewhere, the pick of the Harriers men on the day, Anthony Willcox, continued his return to fitness and form by finishing 7th overall in 18:53 at Cassiobury Park. Helen Heathcote was the week’s Parkrun tourist of the week as she took in the beautiful surroundings of the Eden Project down in Cornwall. She said afterwards “Parkrun tourist today. Lovely course and free entry to the Eden project afterwards.”

Helen at the Eden Project

Later on Saturday morning, at 10:30, Mary McCluskey and Ines Trent took on the somewhat verbosely named “Mid Sussex East Grinstead 10 Mile” race. This race is a 10 mile trail race that takes place in East Grinstead, which is situated in Mid Sussex (I had to Google where East Grinstead is). This race is part of the 3 race series known as the Mid Sussex Marathon that takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend. The series consists of a 10 mile race on Saturday, another 10 miles on Sunday and a 10k race on Monday which adds up to almost exactly the same distance as a marathon.

Mary yet again proves incapable of walking past a cute dog without petting it

Mary and Ines chose to do only the first leg of the marathon as family commitments, and common sense, prevented them from making 3 trips to Mid Sussex in one weekend. The weather was lovely and the views were spectacular as the GVH ladies took on the undulating trails. Neither was too concerned about recording a fast time as they were more interested in making friends with the marshals and enjoying the day. Running together and despite stopping to chat at each water stop, they still recorded a very respectable time of 2:09:39 for the 10 miles.

They came to enjoy the view, running was a side-effect

After a strangely quiet Sunday, the bank holiday weekend was rounded off with the Pednor 5. This is a 5 mile road race of a single lap course in the countryside in between Chesham and Chartridge. At least 7 Harriers were taking on the challenge which started at 7:00PM. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there is no news of any performances, so we’ll have to wait until next week to hear about Matt Ashby’s latest, shoe assisted, PB.

Full Handicap Results

Handicap Finish Time Running Time Bandit Rating
1 Kitty Cole 00:05:30 00:38:58 00:33:28
2 Skip Phillips 00:10:45 00:39:29 00:28:44
3 Paul Allen 00:12:45 00:39:57 00:27:12
4 Andrew Watt 00:09:30 00:40:03 00:30:33
5 Gary Kingsley 00:07:45 00:40:23 00:32:38
6 Kim Rodwell 00:00:00 00:40:26 00:40:26
7 Paul Williams 00:09:30 00:40:28 00:30:58
8 Nicki McDermott 00:05:30 00:40:31 00:35:01
9 Roland Kendall 00:06:45 00:40:45 00:34:00
10 Deon Percival 00:10:45 00:40:50 00:30:05
11 Molly Rice 00:05:30 00:40:52 00:35:22
12 Louis Saville 00:13:45 00:40:57 00:27:12
13 Isabel Wilson 00:06:45 00:41:03 00:34:18
14 Tom Perry 00:10:45 00:41:04 00:30:19
15 Naomi Carey 00:09:30 00:41:06 00:31:36
16 Gareth Tucker 00:16:30 00:41:07 00:24:37
17 Rachel Haffenden 00:06:45 00:41:09 00:34:24
18 Angeline Cottrill 00:02:45 00:41:23 00:38:38
19 Jenny Stubberfield 00:09:30 00:41:31 00:32:01
20 Ed Price 00:14:45 00:41:33 00:26:48
21 James Birnie 00:14:45 00:41:37 00:26:52
22 Christine Mooney 00:04:00 00:41:46 00:37:46
23 Martin Pike 00:15:30 00:41:54 00:26:24
24 Lewis Trent 00:14:45 00:41:55 00:27:10
25 Ciara Barry 00:04:00 00:42:07 00:38:07
26 Andy Cook 00:13:45 00:42:25 00:28:40
27 Matt Ashby 00:19:00 00:42:27 00:23:27
28 Billy Hawes 00:13:30 00:42:47 00:29:17
29 Vince Ellerby 00:14:45 00:42:52 00:28:07
30 Jon Roberts 00:18:15 00:42:54 00:24:39
31 Andy Bishop 00:13:30 00:42:57 00:29:27
32 Michael Linden 00:18:15 00:43:06 00:24:51
33 Tracy Scollin 00:00:00 00:43:16 00:43:16
34 Andy Wells 00:18:00 00:43:16 00:25:16
35 Samantha Rafferty 00:12:00 00:43:51 00:31:51
36 Charlie Cadogan 00:13:30 00:44:04 00:30:34
37 Phil Mercer 00:16:00 00:44:56 00:28:56

Bandit Rating Key

5 Bandit Masks

These runners are the proper bandits. They are Che Guevara, Dick Turpin, Billy the Kid and Al Capone’s henchmen all rolled into one proper bandit package. Not only were they seen tying up their horses behind the pavilion before the start, but they were observed stealing those horses from Andy Cook’s paddock on Thursday afternoon.

4 Bandit Masks

Not in the uber bandit class but would probably still be in the first wave up against the wall during the Mexican revolution. Some respectable horse stealing antics and some expert mask tying on show but grand larceny might be slightly out of reach.

3 Bandit Masks

These bandits are the ones that appear in the background while Eastwood chews on his stogie and tosses his poncho over the shoulder. They won’t be the first to get gunned off their horse when the shooting starts but they’re unlikely to make it to the end of the film. On a decent day they might merit a close up shot of their anguished face and a Wilhelm scream as they meet their maker.

2 Bandit Masks

These runners aren’t really bandits at all. Their outperformance of their expected time can be attributed to an acceptable margin of error. So at most they are accidental thiefs. Probably happy to pocket a £20 note that they see lying on the floor, but only if they genuinely didn’t see who dropped it.

1 Bandit Mask

These are the saints of the handicap competitors. Think Elliot Ness and Mother Teresa in a sleek, well toned, athletic body. Nobody will begrudge these non-bandits finishing higher up the order next time and Helen will always look favourably on their future handicap claims. Or maybe Phil was just sandbagging for next month.

Bandit Rating Methodology

Helen worked out our “expected” finish times by multiplying the 5k times we submitted by 4/3. This is a decent enough estimate as 5k is about 3 miles, and the handicap is about 4 miles. At least, if everybody submitted honest times it would be decent enough. The handicaps always seem a little more generous to the slower runners, but I always thought this was the right way to do it since the faster runners don’t need to have their egos stroked any more than they already do every time they run a race.

Obviously, many of us outperformed the handicap that Helen assigned so my methodology for assigning the bandit rating was to calculate the percentage of outperformance of the handicap and then I assigned arbitrary bandings to get to the all important bandit mask rating. So a 10% or higher outperformance got you 5 masks, 4 masks were awarded for anything between 6% and 10%, 3 masks for 4% – 6%, 2 masks for any outperformance at all and 1 mask was awarded to anybody that didn’t beat their expected time. So I guess that anybody who got one mask only will benefit from a more generous handicap next time while everybody else will suffer a cut to their handicap which will be more severe the more masks you earned.


A Very Hilly Bit of Fun

It was a quiet weekend for the Harriers on April 23rd and 24th as only 4 athletes took part in organised events outside of Parkruns and only a handful of runners got up early on Saturday to run a Parkrun.

The largest concentration of GVH runners gathered at Gadebridge Park on Saturday morning in the warm early sunshine to take on the hilly two lap 5k. Matt Ashby excelled again, finishing 3rd overall in a new Gadebridge PB for him of 18:18. Anthony James also put in a superb time, finishing 6th overall in 19:12. Slightly further back, Robert Bowler warmed up for his next battle with Merlin by recording 22:42 to finish first in his age category.

For the Harrier women, Rachel Haffended was first to finish, recording a new personal best for Gadebridge of 26:10. Not far behind Rachel, Mary McCluskey continued her recent improvement as she recorded her best time at Gadebridge since returning from maternity duty, finishing second in her age category.

Elsewhere on Saturday Peter and Nicole Tucker continued their parkrun tour of Northern Ireland, this time running at Buncrana while Vince and Lewis Ellerby continued to enjoy their weekly run around Black Park near Slough. Andy Cook and Sue Crowther looked lonely as the only GVH runners at Rickmansworth, but Sue managed to bag first in her age category, Paula Cook and Helen Heathcote enjoyed a run around Aylesbury and Tom Langdown ran around Dunstable Downs (allegedly) not wearing fancy dress.

Tom running a different race

Also on Sunday club legend Paul Mosley and Hannah Rogers took on the RunThrough Regents Park 10k. The race is a two lap affair around the paths of Regents Park including a portion through the World Famous ZSL London Zoo. After the race Paul said “Well, not fast but a thoroughly enjoyable trott with Hannah this morning at Regents park.” Paul and Hannah crossed the line together in 1:16:We 53. Hannah wasn’t available to comment on how much faster she would have completed the course had she not had to wait for Paul.

She was being held back, all the way!

On Sunday Maria Lawler travelled to Southampton to take on the Southampton Marathon. She had not told anybody that she was running a marathon as she wanted to run the race “on the downlow” to avoid putting any pressure on herself after having suffered from persistent injury problems, most recently with her knee, for the last couple of years.

A library picture illustrating knee pain

After completing the race Maria said “Southampton Marathon done. First time I have been back in 14 years to the place I lived for almost a decade so a mega trip down memory Lane. Chilly at the start line but the sunshine arrived soon after and there was a nice sea breeze at the docks. Struggled with knee pain from about 14 which I half expected but was hoping to avoid. Seeing my wonderful husband 4 times on the course got me to the end just inside the 4 hour mark! I rather fancy a bucket of Prosecco now.”

No knee pain now!

It isn’t clear whether Maria took on a bucket of Prosecco on Sunday after but it can be reported that she completed the 26.2 miles in 3:58:48, finishing as 28th overall female and 15th in her age category.

The actual bucket of Prosecco, at the Steam Coach

Sunday also saw the Hemel Hillbuster, a 100km cycle sportive starting in Gadebridge Park The route takes in Studham, Whipsnade, Aldbury, Wendover, Princes Risborough and Great Missenden before returning to Gadebridge via Chesham and Bovingdon. Ashleigh Taylor was the sole representative for Gade Valley, completing the route in just over 4 hours. There are no official results published for the event, as Ashleigh confirmed on Monday: “No, there are no results”, she said, “I wouldn’t include it in the weekly write up, it’s only a wee sportive and it’s not running related. Just a bit of fun really. Those hills were a killer though.”. Apologies Ashleigh, with so few things going on, we have to use what material we have.

I could ride 100k if my bike looked this good!

Easter Treats for Harriers

Easter weekend is not a busy one for races in general as most races take place on Sundays and most people are too busy visiting relatives, rolling hard-boiled eggs down hills or recovering from a two day hangover while eating chocolate eggs to bother with racing on Easter Sunday.

Standard post race meal

Parkrun is oblivious to such concerns however and thus the Saturday of Easter weekend (Easter Saturday?) still sees thousands of people taking on Parkruns all over the country. Gade Valley was represented at all of the usual local runs with Michael Linden posting the fastest time of the day, 19:10 at Cassiobury Park, Anthony Willcox not far behind with 19:20 at St Albans. Sue Crowther posted the fastest time for GVH ladies, posting 25:10 at Cassiobury Park.

Branching out from the usual locations were Susie Ivin, Leona Flaherty, Paula Cook and Helen Heathcote who decided to visit Church Mead Parkrun. This is an almost brand new event, the first running having taken place on 9th April. After the 4 completed the 5k course, Susie posted on the club pages, “GVH ladies testing out the new Church Mead parkrun this morning in Amersham. Lovely undulating course. This will be good practice for cross country in the winter.”

Good Parkrun tourism

Before the Parkruns, Good Friday saw two races with Gade Valley participation. The St Albans Easter 10k is a firm favourite and saw 18 Harriers take part while further afield Sam Sparks was the sole representative at the Manchester to Liverpool ultramarathon, a 50 mile race, somewhat unsurprisingly, from Manchester to Liverpool.

It wasn’t too hot at this point!

The St Albans Easter 10k starts and finishes in Highfield Park in St Albans is a mostly flat out and back route following the Alban Way, a cycleway built on the route of the old Hatfield to St Albans railway line. The surface of the Alban Way is a good one and that, combined with the flat profile and the cool April weather, usually provide ideal conditions for fast racing. Unfortunately, nobody told Carol Kirkwood that as she smilingly predicted unseasonably hot temperatures for Friday morning on BBC Breakfast. Harrier Nicki McDermott summed it up when she asked afterwards “did anybody actually enjoy that race? It felt too hot for me to enjoy running…”

Not enjoyable. Looking forward to the pub.

Some people, though not many, did manage to enjoy the conditions enough to post some notable times, however. Robert Bowler continued his duel with Merlin Allen over the club’s V60 records. The V60 10k record was held by club stalwart Martin Storrie who set a mark of 56:49 at the St Albans summer 10k last year. Robert takes up the story: “Robert took advantage of Merlin Allen not running at St Albans to claim another GVH M60 record. Having Merlin and I competing has been exciting and motivating. We’ve only got a couple of years to make some decent V60 marks before the next generation rewrite the record books. I expect some big improvements in the next 12 months” This certainly was a big improvement as Robert lowered Martin’s mark by over 12 minutes, the new target being 44:21.

You only got the record because Merlin wasn’t running!

Matt Ashby has also been taking big chunks out of his personal bests recently. Matt recently joined the increasing number of amateur athletes who have invested in modern “super shoes” which further improved his already superb times. During the warm up on Friday he told me he had bought his Nike shoes “in a January sale or something” for less than the usual price (and a lot less than what I’d paid for them), but Matt’s mum later told me that “he didn’t dare tell [his girlfriend] what they cost until after he broke his half marathon PB at Berko”. Maybe he’ll be allowed to invest in more new shoes now as he smashed his 10k PB, setting a new best of 36:33, finishing 12th overall.

Shoes look great. They make you fly!

Molly Rice was the next Harrier to set a new PB. She ran strongly through the heat to finish in 53:31, 15th in her age category. Ciara Barry was running in her first ever 10k race so was guaranteed a PB. She suffered with everybody else in the heat but was extremely happy to record her time of 1:01:19. She said she had been hoping to get under an hour and is confident of doing that when the weather is kinder. 

YES! Your first race at the distance is ALWAYS a PB!

One person who was extremely happy to finish under 60 minutes was Mary McCluskey. She is returning to fitness after her break from running for maternity duty and wasn’t expecting to beat the hour. She said “I never expected that, especially in that heat. How come I can’t run that fast in training?” Hard work, race adrenaline and new shoes all contribute to exceeding expectations.

Nice medal.

There were some close finishes between the Harriers at St Albans. James Birnie finished in 66th place, 15th in his age category, 11 seconds ahead of Jono Marval (68th and 16th in the same age category), but they recorded exactly the same chip time of 41:43, which was a new PB for Jono, “Mainly as I haven’t done a 10k race in a few years!” As James has been known to comment in the past “For finishing positions, gun time is king” (except when it wasn’t, during Covid, when chip time was king).

Jono not in the picture.

Sam Raffetty was the first female Harrier to finish, in 219th overall position, 49th female, only one place ahead of Jenny Stubberfield. Sam had clearly also read the memo about gun time as she finished 2 seconds ahead of Jenny at the finish but 4 seconds behind Jenny on chip time. Sam recorded 48:51 while Jenny recorded 48:47.

Think I prefer the new black vests…

Tracey Cotton, Ashleigh Taylor and Sarah Shillabeer finished within 4 places of each other in 72nd, 73rd and 74th gender positions. Tracey crossed the line 12 seconds ahead of Ashleigh and 13 seconds ahead of Sarah. Although she crossed the line last of the three, Sarah had the “best” time, 52:18, ahead of (although behind) Tracey (52:20) and Ashleigh (52:30).

She’s flying!

Isabel Wilson (2nd in her age category), Karis Thomas, Martin Storrie and Ines Trent made up the Harriers group at St Albans. As well as battling the heat, Ines had to contend with a fall during the race. As the course left the Alban Way and made some twists and turns toward the A414, in so doing moving from one of the most pleasant places to run a race to one of the least pleasant imaginable, Ines was taken by surprise by one of the changes of direction. “As we came out of that field, I didn’t notice that there was a kerb and before I could do anything about it, I tripped over the kerb and I was on the floor”, was her description of the unfortunate incident after the race.

Smiling at the end despite the fall!

While the Harriers were lining up at 9:30 at the start of the St Albans race, Sam Sparks was already over 3 hours into her race, having started a little after 6:10AM in Manchester on Friday morning. She said “After 2.5hrs sleep I was not expecting great things out of this race and was shattered even before I started. It was hot which I was not expecting, even though I have been all Michael Fish about it this week! The pain really hit me at around the 30 mile mark and I found myself running pretty much on my own for most of the race.”

Sam running alone, nobody near her.

The race awards gold medals for the top 100 finishers (across all categories), silver medals to those finishing 101st to 200th and bronze medals to the rest of the finishers. Commenting on the result Sam said “In my head I secretly wanted to finish in anything under 11 hours and to try and bag that silver medal. I knew I was on track half way and tried to overtake as many people as I could and just keep plodding along!”

Well done on the Silver medal!

One of the biggest challenges with ultra running is pacing. Most people, even experienced and elite ultra runners, experience a sometimes sharp drop off in pace in the later stages of ultra marathons. Sam managed to pace herself extremely well through the 50 miles however, saying: “I am so pleased to have run it all (apart from the pit stops) and have pretty consistent pacing! My finishing time was 10hrs 13 and I got that Silver medal!” A superb effort by Sam and many of the Harriers are looking forward to the celebrations scheduled for next weekend.

How every Good Friday should end (and some bad ones)

Full results from St Albans

Finish Position Finish Time Category Pos Gender Pos Age Grading %
12 Matthew ASHBY 00:36:33 5 12 72.09 3:39 min/km PB
66 James BIRNIE 00:41:43 14 57 69.78 4:11 min/km
68 Jono MARVAL 00:41:43 15 58 70.06 4:12 min/km PB
99 Lewis TRENT 00:43:18 11 84 60.49 4:21 min/km
117 Robert BOWLER 00:44:21 5 98 72.58 4:28 min/km
219 Samantha RAFFETY 00:48:51 13 49 61.26 4:59 min/km
220 Jenny STUBBERFIELD 00:48:47 10 50 59.56 4:59 min/km
291 Tracey COTTON 00:52:20 25 72 59.53 5:20 min/km
293 Ashleigh TAYLOR 00:52:30 23 73 55.94 5:21 min/km
294 Sarah SHILLABEER 00:52:18 26 74 58.00 5:21 min/km
313 Isabel WILSON 00:53:22 2 81 76.54 5:26 min/km
326 Molly RICE 00:53:31 15 85 54.27 5:28 min/km PB
389 Nicki MCDERMOTT 00:56:19 35 114 54.74 5:45 min/km
414 Karis THOMAS 00:57:32 36 128 50.52 5:54 min/km
457 Martin STORRIE 00:59:43 23 306 53.40 6:07 min/km
479 Mary MCCLUSKEY 00:59:49 47 165 47.97 6:15 min/km
493 Ciara BARRY 01:01:19 27 172 46.39 6:24 min/km PB
589 Ines TRENT 01:11:16 57 240 41.23 7:24 min/km

Merlin Magic as Harriers Visit Wendover Woods

Saturday 9th April saw Gade Valley Harriers make the first stop on their summer Parkrun tours. Organised by head coach Ed Price, the club tries to get as many people together at the same park run, away from the local favourites such as Gadebridge and Rickmansworth, to enjoy a run that wouldn’t necessarily be on the usual agenda.

This time the venue was Wendover Woods. Anybody who knows Wendover Woods will not be surprised to learn that the 5km course is picturesque and very hilly. As Mary McCluskey said afterwards, “I thought I was running really well as I got to halfway so quickly, but then I realised that in order to get to the end I had to run all the way back up the massive hill that I’d been running down!” 19 Harriers in total took on the hills, 9 of them running at Wendover for the first time.

A fine group of runners in the woods

Matt Ashby continued his impressive recent form to lead the way for the Harriers (and the rest of the field), finishing first overall in 18:56. Anthony James also broke the 20 minute barrier, finishing 4th overall in 19:45. Chris Dowling, Anthony Willcox, Nick Crowther and Gareth Tucker all finished within a minute of each other, inside the top 20, closely followed by Jono Marval, Ed Price, Vince Ellerby (taking a week away from his usual Black Park outing) and Andy Cook. 

Matt leading early. Actually, he wasn’t but “Matt second early” sounds rubbish.

Sam Raffety (4th overall female) was the first lady home for the Harriers, followed by Sue Crowther and Helen Cook, respectively 1st and 2nd in their age category. Martin Storrie, Paula Cook, Gemma Tucker, Mary McCluskey, Ines Trent and Helen Heathcote made up the Harriers’ party on the day. After the run, coach Ed Price commented on social media: “Brilliant to see so many people at Wendover this morning for the parkrun tour. A beautiful morning for a run made even better by having such fantastic company to enjoy it with. Looking forward to the next one!”

Keep that form going up the hill, coach!

On Sunday the Brighton Marathon returned to its usual Spring berth in the schedule. Only seasoned marathon veteran Dave Goodman made it to the South Coast from GVH for the event. After the race Dave said, “Greetings from sunny Brighton, today I took on my 59th marathon. The day started off nicely and I decided to push myself. Had a few niggles here and there but managed to cross the line in 03:48:57.” Referring to a mix up over the measurements of the course in 2021, he added, “A much better experience than last time and we covered the correct distance this time. I’m back in Brighton again in June this time taking on the first Brighton trail marathon.”

Would anybody notice if I started recycling photos of Dave?

Andy Newing is one of the founder members of GVH. In the 30 years since the club was formed he has spent more time on the club committee than off it during stints as Men’s Captain and Club Chairman. More recently, however, he has taken up the near full time occupation of updating the club website V60 records section after every race that Robert Bowler and Merlin Allan complete.

Artist’s impression of Newing updating the website

This week sees more work for Andy as Merlin continues to remove Robert (“temporarily”, as Robert has been heard to mutter) from the club records. Having taken two Parkrun V60 club records last week, Merlin took on the Kew Half Marathon on Sunday with only half an eye on the club record that had stood at 1:37:19 since Robert had set it 3 weeks ago. In fact, he had been targeting a different mark altogether as he said after the race: “Made it under my target of 1:40. 1:37:08 official chip time.” Robert showed he isn’t bitter about losing the record as he posted, “Nice one Merlin!” later that day. The whole club is looking forward to seeing the two silver foxes race head to head more, hopefully exchanging more records, in the coming months.

Trying to pretend he wasn’t aiming for the record

Michael Smashes Manchester

On the weekend of 2nd and 3rd April the Spring Marathon season got underway as there were more age group records broken and half marathon action for a handful of GVH runners.

Saturday morning saw an unusually low number (for no obvious reason) of Gade Valley runners taking on the local Parkruns. Vince and Lewis Ellerby took on Black Park while Andy Cook, Helen Cook and Paul Reilly made up the whole team at Rickmansworth. 6 Harriers took on Cassiobury Park with standout performances by Anthony Willcox and Sue Crowther, and around a dozen athletes took on various of the other 5k runs.

The most outstanding performance of Saturday’s parkruns came closest to home where 5 GVH runners tackled the local Gadebridge Parkrun. They were led home by Jono Marval who set a new PB, finishing in 21:05 in 6th overall position. The real fireworks, however, were from Merlin Allan. Robert Bowler had broken two club records last weekend at Gadebridge Parkrun, scooping the V60 records for Gadebridge Parkrun and Parkrun (any location). Merlin not only bettered Robert’s time but took over a minute off them as he set a new mark of 22:03. 2022 looks set to be a battle between Merlin and Robert to claim the club’s V60 records, 5 of which still remain unclaimed as the category was only recently inaugurated.

Merlin running. Just not this week. And not in a Parkrun.

On Sunday 3 Harriers took part in the Manchester Marathon, 3 took part in the London Landmarks Half Marathon and Dave Goodman ran a race, the Reading Half Marathon. He said, “I took part in the 40th Reading Half Marathon. A challenging course but one of my favourite events. It’s always well organised with a great atmosphere and you finish inside the Madejski stadium. I completed the course in 01:29:40.” As any regular runner will confirm, a time of under 90n minutes for a half marathon is extremely respectable and demonstrates just what is possible if you allow yourself more than 2 weeks to recover from your last marathon.

Please provide medal selfies. It makes writing this stuff easier.

The London Landmarks Half Marathon returned to its normal Spring slot in the calendar after not taking place at all in 2020 and being pushed into August in 2021. This is a hugely popular race that takes in more landmarks than the iconic London Marathon, but without the absurdly difficult entry conditions that restrict most runners’ ability to enter the more famous race.

Christeena Mooney, Molly Rice and Ines Trent all enjoyed their tour of Central London, starting on Pall Mall, near Nelson’s Column, and finishing on Whitehall near Downing Street. The race passed close to the London Eye, Somerset House, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England, Monument, various famous skyscrapers including the Shard, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge while never straying too far from the River Thames.

Honestly, nobody provided photos. I was desperate…

Ines Trent, having never taken on a half marathon before 2020 seems to have taken something of a liking to the distance. She ran strongly again to record a time of 2:44:47, finishing ahead of around 20% of the field. Chrissie Mooney also ran strongly, finishing the race in 2:11:08, in the top 35% of all female finishers. Molly Rice recorded the fastest time of the GVH team, finishing the race just under the two hour mark. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, problems with the timing system were still unresolved so there was no official time for Molly and she could neither confirm nor deny if she recorded a new PB, she said “I think my pb is 1:58 so not quite! Very annoying that it didn’t record!”

Celebrating under a statue of a bloke who has probably been cancelled

Residents of Manchester, and some runners, could be forgiven for thinking that the Manchester Marathon had only just taken place and wondering why the city centre appeared to be closed again for the same reason. This is because the Manchester Marathon has only recently taken place, less than 6 months ago, and this Sunday was returning to its accustomed early April slot in the calendar. While there was something of a crowd of GVH runners in Manchester last October, the race on April 3rd was only graced by Michael Linden, Gwyn Pritchard and Trevor Normoyle.

The official photo had copyright notices so I cropped it to the hat

The day started very cold, prompting Michael Linden to start the race wearing gloves and a woolly hat. He said “At the start, it was cold hence the hat and gloves, which were discarded.”, very quickly though, as the early morning frost was overpowered by warm sunshine, according to Michael, “It turned into a glorious day.  Perfect conditions.”

The hat was gone but not the copyright notice, cropped again

The conditions certainly seemed to Gwyn’s liking as he recorded a new PB of 3:25:33, he reacted with restrained modesty to his achievement, saying “I had a PB 3:25:33”. Trevor Normoyle put in yet another strong marathon performance, finishing the race in a highly respectable 3:38:20. 

A pair of legs from the Manchester Marathon

Michael Linden, voted GVH’s current GVH male athlete of the year, put in the strongest performance of the weekend. Having come close to breaking the 3 hour barrier for the marathon at the Manchester Marathon last autumn he was determined to finish the race the faster side of that mark. His training and recent results suggested he should be strong enough to achieve the ambition but marathons can be a capricious mate. It was therefore with a mixture of great pride and relief that he managed to finish the 26.1 miles in an official time of 2:59:30. Typically he downplayed the achievement, saying, “Pleased that’s done. I can run marathons a bit more carefree now, maybe!”

Michael with his school friend and his sub 3 in his back pocket

200 Up for Tracey

In the past news publications were at the mercy of print deadlines. This could make for some interesting headlines, particularly when sports events took place on the far side of the world. This could lead for some particularly interesting cricket reporting from Australia when the journalists knew they had to file reports long before the day’s play had ended. On the other hand, sometimes communication breakdowns, or just lazy journalism, could lead to events missing the press altogether.

And so it was that some interesting reporting deadlines, mixed with two days spent entirely within 50 metres of a bar, led to some spectacular results going unreported from the Ashridge Boundary Trail on Saturday 19th March. The race is entirely off road, around the boundary of the Ashridge Estate, taking in some very challenging hills, including the fearsome Pitstone Hill near Ivinghoe Beacon.

8 Harriers ran the race. The men were led home by Nick Crowther who finished in 32nd overall place in 2:09:48. Gareth Tucker wasn’t far behind in 2:18:17. Phil Mercer and Tom Perry were the other GVH men to complete the race. The women were led by a magnificent performance from Teresa Reason who finished 2nd in the VW40 category in 2:22:08. Vicky Crawley-Wise finished just ahead of Claire McDonnel with Kim Rodwell completing the women’s team.

Each month the men’s and women’s captains select a member of the month. Sometimes (and not always because of poor journalism or laziness) the awards are not announced until the following month. So it was that last week saw ladies’ captain Angeline Cottril and men’s captain Andy Wells announce the Members of the Month for January and February. 

Anthony Fogden at Gadebridge

For January, Sue Crowther took the women’s award in recognition of, amongst other things, a superb effort in her first ever 10 mile race. Angleline said “She finished a superb 1:23:11, an average pace of 8:19 minutes per mile… Well done Sue on an absolutely fantastic achievement in your first 10 mile race”.

Anthony Fogden and Sue Crowther ran their first 10 mile races at the Fred Hughes 10

Holly Beckett was the winner for February as she ran a Half Marathon PB at the Watford Half Marathon. Angeline said she “…finally achieved her target of a sub 2hrs half marathon… The Watford half marathon is notoriously tricky and therefore no mean feat to achieve a PB.” The accolade capped off a great few days for Holly as she found out earlier in the week that she had secured a coveted place in the 2022 London Marathon through the public ballot.

Holly scores a PB at the Watford Half Marathon in January

Andy Wells nominated Anthony Fogden for the men’s member of the month for January. Anthony, like Sue, also completed his first ever 10 mile race in January at the Fred Hughes 10. February’s winner was Merlin Allan in recognition both of his consistent contributions to the Chiltern League Cross Country efforts, appearing in all 5 fixtures, and his personal achievement in finishing second overall in his age category for the 5 race series.

Merlin at the Berko half (not in February but we’ll pretend)

With no racing taking place on the weekend of 26th and 27th March, attention turned to Parkruns on Saturday morning and in particular to the local Gadebridge Parkrun where Tracey Cotton was taking part in her 200th Parkrun. Unfortunately Tracey’s recent injury problems surfaced again and she was unable to run as fast as she would have liked but she was accompanied around the 5k course in the beautiful spring sunshine by Gemma Tucker and Mary McCluskey, all 3 finishing the course in 38:47.

Several Harriers joined Tracey Cotton for her 100th Parkrun

Gareth Tucker was the first Harrier to finish, in 15th overall place, while Robert Bowler continued his excellent recent form to finish the distance in 23:06, a time good enough to claim the V60 club record for Gadebridge Parkrun as well as the overall quickest parkrun (any location) for the over 60s category. Kirstie Hardiman was the first Harrier woman over the line with Christeena Mooney and Rachel Haffenden also running strongly to finish under half an hour.

Club Awards

Club awards 2017-18

Best male athleteMike Ferris
Most improved male athleteRoss Deacon
Best new male athleteHamish Shaw
Best female athleteMaria Kenny
Most improved female athleteSam Raffety
Best new female athleteNaomi Iles
Multi-sport awardJon Roberts & Guy Woollett
Club league maleRoss Deacon
Club league femaleTracey Cotton
Club league age-gradedRich Coles
Club handicapRich Hutton
Committee awardGemma Bitaraf
Club members awardAndy Newing

Club awards 2016-17

Best male athleteMark Crabtree
Most improved male athleteJames Birnie
Best new male athleteCharlie Costin
Best female athleteMaria Kenny
Most improved female athleteSian Hibbs
Best new female athleteTracey Cotton
Multi-sport awardSian Hibbs
Club league maleRich Coles
Club league femaleTracey Cotton
Club league age-gradedRich Coles
Club handicapRuss Bailey
Committee awardDave Wise
Club members awardDave Wise

Club awards 2015-16

Best male athleteRich Coles
Most improved male athleteJames Thomson
Best new male athletePaul Buxton
Best female athleteClaire McDonnell
Most improved female athleteJacqui Sampson
Best new female athleteHelen Cook
Multi-sport awardSusie Ivin
Club league maleSteve Newing
Club league femaleGemma Bitaraf
Club league age-gradedRob Bowler & Andy Cook
Club handicapPaul Buxton
Committee awardKaris Thomas
Club members awardDave Wise

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