With the Spring marathon season concluded most of the Harriers who were racing returned to the more mundane pursuits of the club league at the Pednor 5 (mile) race on the Bank Holiday Monday. Three members took on the half marathon in Milton Keynes and clearly nobody told ultra specialist Chris Dowling that the marathon season was over as he stretched his legs at the Marathon distance at the same event.
Back at the start of the weekend, on Saturday morning, about 25 Harriers took to various parkruns. One runner trying something slightly out of the ordinary was Michael Linden. He chose to run Bushy Parkrun in Teddington, the original Parkrun, which has been going since October 2004 and was on its 928th running. Illustrating the phenomenal growth of the Parkrun movement, the attendance was 1316 runners of all abilities, with times ranging from 16:33 for the first finisher, to just over an hour. Michael’s time of 18:26 would often see a runner finish in the top few places but in such a congested field, he finished 28th overall.
8 GVH runners enjoyed the trip to the ever popular Rickmansworth, with Steve Newing ducking under the 20 minute mark and Sandra Flynn running strongly to be the first Harrier woman home. Anthony Willcox continued to go under the radar as he continued his return to fitness with a strong run of 19:45 at Cassiobury Park in Watford. Meanwhile at Gadebridge, Roly Kendall showed he is recovering well from his recent marathon with a strong run to be first GVH finisher, a few seconds ahead of Merlin Allan, while Mary McCluskey started her weekend strongly with her first sub-30 minute run at Gadebridge in over 4 years.
On Monday morning, 4 Harriers made the trip to Milton Keynes for the MK Marathon Weekend. A Half Marathon and Marathon started and finished in Campbell Park, near the city centre. Most Harriers will know Campbell Park as the venue for one of the fixtures in the Chiltern League Cross Country and will therefore have been there many times. Although it is (according to the map) the same place, it looks very different in early May. There were some colourful things sitting on top of the grass, known as flowers, the trees had some green things on them, called leaves and there were even patches of green (not brown) grass. But the strangest thing was that there was no rain falling, the sky felt that it wasn’t about to fall on your head, and there was a large yellow disc, known as the sun, visible overhead.
As well as the shocking surroundings, Tom Langdown had to contend with running a race dressed in standard running clothing. I say this not because I actually saw him there but because I saw two people in fancy dress. He definitely wasn’t the person dressed as a disco ball (great costume though it was) and I’m pretty certain that, notwithstanding the fact that he once ran the London Marathon dressed as a Rhino (not an elephant, Radzi!), he couldn’t have been the bloke in the rhino costume, his time was too fast. Tom’s finished 25th overall, 6th in his age category in 1:28:38.
My thanks go to the Magic Results Fairy who told Angeline that Tom was at the race and she, in turn, told me. My thanks also go to the Fairy for letting me know that Gwyn Pritchard, apparently so under the radar that Angeline’s fairy didn’t spot him, also ran the race. His finished 14th in his age category in 1:33:51.
Also in the Half Marathon was Mary McCluskey. She continues to return to peak fitness after her recent marathon and was hoping to challenge her PB, set 4 years ago. After running strongly for most of the race she was inside her target time at the final, 12 mile, split but unfortunately the marathon fatigue kicked in on the final hills and she finished just outside her PB in 2:10:55. She did speak to me after the race but her immediate thoughts were unprintable. Then we went to the pub so I don’t know what she said later on the subject.
Also at Milton Keynes was GVH ultra marathon specialist Chris Dowling. Normally people at least tell their friends that they are running a marathon but for the likes of Chris, one assumes that a “mere” 26.2 miles is not worthy of note. Thus I had to rely on secret information from the fabled fairy to alert me to his run. It was certainly worth being alerted about as he finished 56th overall out of nearly 1400 finishers in a superb 2:59:56.
Monday evening saw a larger cohort of Harriers gather in Chesham for the Pednor 5. This is a local favourite, traditionally run on the Mayday Bank Holiday, starting and finishing at Chesham Tennis Club and following a single 5 mile loop in the picturesque countryside between Chesham and Chartridge. Added incentive was provided by the race being included in the club league fixtures for this season.
Matt Ashby continued his recent superb form and again performed the best of the GVH men. He finished 7th overall in a new PB of 28:00. Michael Linden and Job Roberts were next back, finishing in 19th and 20th overall positions, in 30:13 and 30:24 respectively. The race was doubling as the Herts Vets Championships 5 mile race which saw Michael and Jon both pick up the bronze medal in their respective age categories.
Next home for the Harriers was Gareth Tucker, in 32:03. He completed the GVH men’s team for the Pednor 5 (stay with me here), which saw the GVH men claim 2nd behind the home club, Chiltern Harriers. Anthony Willcox was 6 places and 33 seconds behind Gareth at the finish and, as he is over 40 (and Matt Ashby isn’t), Anthony completed the GVH men’s team for the Herts Vets Championship race. In those standings the GVH team finished 2nd overall, behind St Albans Striders, with Chiltern nowhere to be seen. It should be noted that Chiltern Harriers took the unusual step of arriving at the race with lots of good runners under the age of 40, including (according to Jon Roberts) “a kid who can’t have been older than 12 or 13 who disappeared into the distance at the start” who finished in 4th overall position.
Steve Newing was next for GVH, just ahead of Merlin Allan. Merlin’s time of 35:35 was good enough to take third place in the Herts V60 race, bag a new 5 mile PB and claim one of only two V60 club records that was still in Robert Bowler’s possession. Robert could be forgiven for feeling slightly hard done by as Merlin had said after the St Albans Easter 10k that he had raced his last for GVH before his planned return to Australia in the Autumn. With the score now standing at 8 – 1 in Merlin’s favour, rumours that Robert is keeping a vigil on “all marathon entries” and “will break his legs if I see him trying to run one” are entirely without foundation and indeed were started by this writer earlier in this paragraph.
Maria Lawler was 4 seconds behind Merlin, finishing in 35:39, a time good enough to take second place in the Herts Women’s Vets race. Unfortunately Maria was unaware that when entering such races that you have to tick the box to self declare as eligible (you have to have been born in the county or currently live in the county) and failed to enter the championships, gifting her gong to a woman from Watford.
Naomi Iles also didn’t tick the box, she finished 113th in 39:07, just ahead of the other Naomi, Naomi Carey (also no tick), who finished in 40:04, as this was her first race over 5 miles, she claims a PB. Sue Crowther (40:53, no tick) was next, ahead of Helen Cook (42:42) who therefore became the club’s highest placed finisher in the Hertfordshire Women’s vet’s 5 mile race. Susie Ivin was just 6 seconds behind Helen with Rachel Haffenden finishing a further 30 seconds later.
Angeline Cottril, who spent the evening in conference with her fairy and was kind enough to pass some of the information on, was next in 45:19, also claiming a PB by virtue of it being her debut at the distance. Gemma Tucker was in close attendance only 8 seconds and 1 place behind. Jackie Eskdale finished in 47:03 and Martin Storrie continued his recent spate of appearances for the club, completing the course in 49:17. Rounding out the Harriers’ team on the day were Ines Trent, Jenny Stubberfield and Kim Morgan, who enjoyed their outing together, finishing in consecutive places, separated by 2 seconds, with Ines scoring a new PB and saying the “…company of Kim and Jenny definitely helped.”