Ultra Busy Weekend

September 23rd / 24th was a busy weekend for Gade Valley Harriers with athletes taking part in distances from 5k up to 50k. Before that though, some unfinished business from last weekend as Anita Fenoughty, having graduated from the L2R program only last year, took on her 2nd triathlon at Woking on 17th September. Anita said, “I’m not as fit as I was for the Dorney one in July (which the Magic Fairy forgot to let you know about, sorry) and found the run quite tough. My time was ok but not brilliant. It was a sprint tri and my overall time was 91.56”.

tri Harder!

On Sunday 24th September, coach Robert Bowler, Kitty Cole and club legend Tracey Cotton took on the Vitality 10k in London. Robert picks up the story: “The Vitality 10k is a very fast flat course around the City of London, with a fantastic finish down the Mall. This is usually such a well organised race so it was a shame that there were some gremlins with the sending out of race packs this year.”

Robert enjoyed his run in the sun clocking up a respectable 45.29, proving he is on his way back after his latest injury. Meanwhile Kitty found the run hard work and said she “nearly died” as she “ran into a lot of traffic” with lots of runners having given optimistic or plain lying estimated finish times. Kitty crossed this line in 54.04. Tracey, now resident in deepest Essex, enjoyed her trip to London, finishing in 50.32.

We lost Robert!!

On Thursday 21st September the club held its AGM, where achievements of the previous year are celebrated. The captains nominate the male and female athlete of the year, most improved athlete of the year and best newcomer, while awards for multi sports, the club league, handicap and special awards are also handed out. This year, Matt Ashby was unsurprisingly lauded as he won male athlete of the year as well as winning the male and age graded club leagues. Theresa Reason won the female athlete of the year while Gemma Tucker picked up the female club league prize, having scored no fewer than 8 PBs during the league races.

Extraordinary lengths to go to to say sorry about forgetting the anniversary…

Some say that the most prestigious awards of the evening go to the most improved male and female athletes. For the women, Ines Trent was a hugely popular winner as she continues to smash her PBs almost every time she races. Lewis Ellerby scooped the Most Improved male award. Best newcomer of the year went to Naomi Carey for the women and Nick Joseph for the men. The multi-sport award was won by Guy Wollett for his heroic cycling feats and Tom Langdown won the traditional Best Bandit of the Summer award.

WOW! Who’s the great looking bloke sitting next to Kim???

The committee award, voted on by the committee for services behind the scenes, was given to James Birnie. The final award handed out, the club award, voted on by the membership, was won by coach Robert Bowler, with many others receiving almost identical shares of the vote, proving just how much work so many people put into the club on a weekly basis.

Nobody was offended in the making of this photo

Club chairman Andy Cook had told the assembled company that he and club secretary (and his wife) Helen, were both looking forward to their 200th Parkrun on Saturday at Rickmansworth. As attention seeking goes it was a fairly shameless use of club resources, up there with the “Tory slogan on the lectern” scandal of last week, but nobody seemed to take any offence or feel humiliated. The bulk of the club’s Parkrunners on Saturday thus gathered at Rickmansworth where Gareth Tucker was the first male home and Kim Morgan was the first Harrier female to cross the line.

Extraordinary use of club committee time

Earlier on Saturday morning, around 8:30, two Harriers had expanded their horizons by taking on their first ultra marathons. Ines Trent and Mary McCluskey were the people of interest as they took on the 50km route from Tring to Wendover, back to Tring, up to Ashridge, Ivinghoe Beacon, Pitstone Hill and then back to finish in Tring. Mary had been concerned about the task ahead but found that her mind was put at ease by a conversation with ultra veteran Vicky Crawley Wise who advised, “think of it as an all-day picnic”.

Didn’t realise the farmers on the route were carrying guns!

Ines and Mary stayed together through the first 2 aid stations and on up to the Ashridge Monument before, by prior agreement, they parted ways as Ines forged ahead and Mary took the more relaxed (picnic like) approach to the remaining 10 miles or so. Ines was first through the finish line at Tring Park Cricket Club in 7:49:21 (just before I got there) and Mary wasn’t far behind, in Ultra terms, finishing in 7:57:12, fortunately for me, just after I got there.

PHEW!!! Just in time!

Both women were on a high after their magnificent achievements and Mary said afterwards (and after a few proseccos), “I signed up with one aim (to stay fit over the summer), so I wasn’t worried about how long it would take. It was lovely to stop at the checkpoints and chat to the marshalls and our supporters. I still felt strong at the end, so was even able to speed up and finish in under 8 hours. Thank you to Ines for your company and to all our supporters who spent the afternoon driving around Hertfordshire!” Ines was slightly less Tucker-like in her comments, simply declaring it, “My favourite event I’ve ever done”.

Bold move, taking the kids!

Ultra marathons are always a great achievement, the first one all the more so. For both Ines and Mary they spent almost twice as long on their feet (apart from when they sat down to change socks) as in any other event they have completed. The level of achievement on the day, and dedication in the build up to the event, is superb. This is borne out by the fact that Mary made what many would believe (she certainly does) is the ultimate sacrifice – she stopped drinking for a full four weeks before the race.

On Sunday, Stu Gallagher and Kim Yeates took on the Berlin marathon. The Berlin course is a famously fast marathon, where the last 8 men’s World Records have been set. Kim ran consistently through her race, only slowing slightly in the last 5 miles or so, and completed the course in 5:18:22. Unfortunately, the Magic Fairy didn’t manage to tell me in time if this was a PB or otherwise.

Injuries (and various corporate hospitality sessions at sporting events) had blighted Stu’s preparations through the summer and he went into the race not expecting too much of himself. He still managed a highly respectable time of 3:14:02, which (if I understood the rules correctly, and I did give him this caveat when he asked) is good enough to earn him a place in the 2025 Boston Marathon. He said after the race that “I felt so comfortable for about 21 miles. Fitness told in the last 7k. If we were fit, we’d rip that course to pieces mate!”

Flying horses, nice.

The final race of a busy weekend came at the Leighton 10. This is a 10 mile race near Leighton Buzzard on a famously hilly circuit on the outskirts of the town. 5 Harriers took the challenge on. Steve Newing was the first male Harrier home in 23rd overall place, in a time of 1:10:22. Steve’s sister Lisa wasn’t far behind, finishing 2nd in her category in 1:15:23. Exactly 3 minutes behind Lisa was club captain Kim Morgan, who had been up late celebrating with Ines and Mary the night before (though on alcohol free lager I was told). Male newcomer of the year, Nick Joseph, rounded off the team with a time of 1:22:56, finishing 18th in his category.

Finished the race, missed the photo.

Before all of them though came perhaps the performance of the day (note to Mary: “day”, not “weekend”), from Teresa Reason. Teresa has had yet another stunning year, being as already noted, the recipient of the female athlete of the year award only 3 days earlier. At the Leighton 10 she started the new running year superbly, crossing the finish line ahead of all her teammates in a new PB time of 1:08:45. Even better than a PB, Teresa finished first overall female. You can’t do any better than that.

Wowser, what IS that tape doing there???

As the nights draw in and the hi-vis and head torches come out, we can all look forward to the new year of running with optimism. The club, and the individuals involved, have a lot to be proud of looking back and hopefully a lot more to be proud of looking forward. Let’s all hope it throws it down with rain for the next 2 weeks to make the first cross country race of the year, on October 14th at the Keysoe Equestrian Centre, as much fun as possible. The tiffin will be there, hopefully the mud will be there, make sure YOU are there!