Summer at Last! (Except for the Weather)

Summer seemed to arrive last week but then decided to go away at the weekend. That was good news for anybody taking part in any kind of racing but bad news for pretty much anybody else.

Martin Pike was in the group of people that were happy to see the weather deteriorate. After making his ultra-marathon debut in the Chiltern Ultra back in May, he decided to take it to the next level by entering the Race to the King on the weekend of 19th / 20th June. This is a 53 mile trail race that can be taken on as a two day affair or as a straightforward non-stop race. Martin chose to take on the non-stop race and completed the course in 9:45:04, placing him 64th out of 896 finishers. Given that Martin has never raced a marathon it is a superb achievement to have completed just over 2 full marathon distances in under 5 hours per marathon.

After the race Martin shared the following thoughts: “…was a sharp learning curve but enjoyed it by the end – suffered some serious cramp in the second half but got through. Somewhat degrading finding that my 18 month old is faster up the stairs than me at the moment though.” Martin is now looking forward to a much more relaxed challenge as he plans to take on the Brighton Marathon in October.

Another Harrier grateful for the colder weather was David Wood as he took on the Box End triathlon on Sunday 20th June. David chose to do the standard distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) for the first time and was hoping to complete the course in under 3 hours. David completed the swim, the hardest discipline for many, in a respectable 33:17 to leave the water in 88th position overall. He picked up 7 places in the cycling leg, completing the 40k ride in 1:19:26. Finally, he made up a further 14 places in the 10k run to finish in a total time (including transitions) of 2:46:31, well inside his target time and in 67th position overall.

One of the fixtures of the summer, sadly absent in 2020 along with so many other “fixtures”, is the Summer Solstice 10k, starting and finishing in Highfield Park, St Albans. This race takes place on the evening of the Summer Solstice, starting at 8:00PM. The race returned with Covid safety measures in place meaning that the start was staggered, the competitors were not allowed to shelter from the rain in the marquees and the usual post race barbecue and refreshments were cancelled. 12 Harriers took on the challenge in the driving rain on Monday evening. 

Harriers’ women after the race

The first and last 600m of the course were over very wet fields and James Birnie made a passable impression of Bambi on ice in those sections. Having managed to stay on his feet at the start he found his rhythm in the main part of the race where the footing was solid before sliding and skating over the line to be first finisher from the Harriers, posting 39:23 and finishing in 24th place overall. This was his best time for nearly 4 years which is more of a testament to the power of modern running shoes than his current level of fitness.

James Birnie crosses the line while being shot in the back

Phil Mercer, with his strong recent form over a variety of distances, was expected to be the first Harrier to finish. This didn’t happen though as Phil maintained a steady pace to be the second Harrier home in a still quick 42:08 in 40th position.

Robert Bowler has been in excellent recent form as he trains hard to make his assault on the Harriers’ V60 records after his next birthday in the Autumn. He was the next finisher in 50th place, clocking 43:22. Trevor Normoyle was the last of the Harriers men to finish, clocking an excellent time of 44:53.

Checking his finish time against the club V60 record

The strong contingent of Gade Valley women was led home by Mel Hardy who has been steadily migrating towards the front of the field since she joined the club. She finished in 98th overall place in 46:50. Vicky Crawley-Wise was just 8 seconds and 2 places behind with Isabel Wilson a further two places back.

Mel Hardy looks strong at the finish

Tracey Cotton finished ahead of Kitty Cole who posted a new PB of 52:38, beating her old mark by over 4 minutes. She said “I can’t remember when I ran that race, I don’t do many 10k races. I know my old PB was 57 something though.” We commend the razor sharp punditry on display from Kitty.

Kitty Cole and Nicki McDermott early in the race

Angeline Cottrill was next home for the Harriers with 2 more PBs rounding out the excellent showing from the Gade Valley women. Both Nicki McDermott and Ines Trent defied the tough conditions to post new personal bests. Nicki posted a new mark of 53:54 whilst Ines recorded 1:06:03. The last word goes to Ines, who showed a sharper grasp of her own history than others that could be mentioned by commenting: “Yes, PB it is. From 1:08:36 to today’s 1:06:03 on the same course, the former being the Easter run.”

Ines Trent celebrates the weather