Saturday 8th May saw the Chiltern Ridge Ultra 50k race taking place in the woods and hills around Wendover. The 50k course takes in nearly 1000m of climb along the route and is a qualifying race for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, considered by many to be the pinnacle of ultra trail running. One hardy Harrier, Martin Pike, took on the challenge and finished the 50k in 4:52:17 in a superb 12th overall position.
The Reunion 5k took place on the morning of Saturday 15th May at Kempton Park racecourse in Surrey. This race was a designated test event for the roadmap out of lockdown and as such was both a celebratory occasion and a slightly nervous one for those taking part. For the first time in over a year some of the Harriers experienced the authentic flavour of a mass start as opposed to the socially distanced, starting in waves structure that has become all too familiar. Whilst it was generally agreed that the more traditional feel was making a welcome return, some couldn’t help but feel a little bit uncomfortable crammed into the starting pens.
Three Harriers raced at Kempton. Phil Mercer finished first in a very quick 18:53, missing his PB by a mere 4 seconds. Simon Wallis, feeling his way back to full fitness finished in a highly respectable 20:53 and Dave Goodman, celebrating the occasion dressed in a fancy dress costume that resembled a banana at a Bob Marley concert completed the course in 28:07.
As if the Kempton Park event was not enough Phil Mercer also competed at the Kew 10k event on Sunday 16th. This race takes in the beautiful surroundings of Kew Gardens in West London. Mercer wasn’t able to raise his pace as much as he would have liked, “I was feeling it in my legs when I ran past the big greenhouse”, he said, but still finished strongly in 40:42.
Shires and Spires is a 35 mile circular Ultra Marathon with a mixture of trails and roads. It starts and finishes at Naseby Village Hall. The route takes in the beautiful Northamptonshire countryside and country houses, Holdenby, Althorp (home of the Spencer family and final resting place of Princess Diana), and Cottesbrooke. The event is run in a clockwise direction on even years and anti-clockwise on odd years so this year, on May 16th the race was contested in the anti-clockwise direction.
Al Flowers was the sole Harriers’ representative at Shires and Spires, his assessment of the course was “Lovely scenery – fields, horses, calves, lambs, Rapeseed, plenty of Spires and some woodland along with the odd country manor.” The weather was said to be “Sunny enough to pick up a bit of sunburn and hot enough to force me into walking most of the last 10 miles when my stomach went into rebellion!” Al was hoping to finish the course in under 5 hours but the conditions got the better of him, as can happen in ultra marathons, and he struggled through to finish in 5 hours 45 minutes, still managing a highly creditable 35th overall position.