As the meteorological winter properly kicked in and the football winter took hold for at least another 18 months, a handful of Gade Valley Harriers took on various Parkruns on Saturday morning and a small group of, it has to be said slightly mad, Harriers took on the freezing conditions of the Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon on Sunday.
On the morning of 10th December, Vince Ellerby didn’t let the frost get in the way of his weekly trip to Black Park, this time being joined by his son Lewis. Lewis continued his recent improvement and bagged a new PB for the Black Park 5k, completing the course in 19:43 to finish 10th overall. Helen Cook also joined the Ellerby’s at Black Park, running strongly to finish 2nd in her age category just outside her PB for the route.
Closer to home, Merlin Allan continued his recent record of leading home GVH athletes at Gadebridge Park. He finished in 23:38, 13th overall and first in his age category. Jono Marval wasn’t far behind Merlin, whilst Anthony Fogden and Susie Ivin also enjoyed a frosty morning in the park.
The real cold weather, however, was to be found on Sunday morning. The Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon has to be considered an extremely aptly named race. It takes place in Milton Keynes, in the winter, and it is a Half Marathon. Despite always taking place in the winter, it has never been so cold that reasonable runners have considered running the race with a full tracksuit on.
For the record, the organisers sent round an email after the event confirming what most people suspected, saying: “THANK YOU for racing with us at the coldest MK Winter Half Marathon to date! We hope you have thawed out and all enjoyed your weekend as much as we did!” The actual temperature wasn’t mentioned, but James Birnie said, “I can confirm that when I got in the car at 7:00AM, my car claimed an outside temperature of -4C whilst when I got back in the car (never have I been more grateful for a heated seat and steering wheel) shortly after the race, the car claimed -3C.” So it is reasonable to assume the temperature never got above -3 for the duration of the race.
Before the race a few GVH athletes were spotted in the athletes area huddling for warmth in the toilet queue. James stopped by to chat to Sue Crowther, Sam Raffety, Ines Trent and Mel Hardy. It was clear that Sue, Sam and Ines were racing but Mel, being fully dressed in standard outdoor, heavy and warm, winter clothing less than 5 minutes before the scheduled start of the race, was only there to support the others.
The course itself was in places very icy, although in the main the roughness of the Milton Keynes Redway paths ensured that the ice was inconvenient, definitely an encumbrance as grip was hard to achieve, but never felt dangerous. None of the GVH runners were aware of anybody having any accident so the organisers’ decision to go ahead with the race didn’t seem to backfire.
Once the shivering stopped (about 3 miles into the race), James Birnie continued his return to fitness by running consistently and strongly for the 13.1 miles to finish in 58th overall place (out of 1321 finishers), 6th in his age category, in a time of 1:27:18. Sam Richards was the next finisher for GVH, in 1:32:15 while James Felstead, who said at the start that, “this could go either way, it could be 1:40 or about 2 hours” must have been pretty pleased with his time of 1:42:27.
Mel Hardy, despite being dressed like the Michelin Man at around 8:57AM, actually was running the race and somehow started, according to the official timings, at 9:07. She obviously ran something like as quickly as she was able to get changed, leading home the 4 GVH women in a time of 1:44:30 to finish as 24th Senior Lady. Sue Crowther was far behind, her time of 1:51:36 placed her second in her age category.
Sam Raffety was a single place and 12 seconds behind Sue while Ines Trent was the last Harrier running, but had the best story of the day. She said afterwards, “For a bit I ran alongside 3 runners from The Running Hub. One of them gave me a loud cheer and he said that GVH is the best club ever and he wished he lived closer so he could join. He was very positive overall about people he’d met in the past who ran for GVH (his words were: all your runners are bloody fast!!) It was lovely to hear, it made me feel great wearing club colours!” Very few things could have warmed the heart yesterday, Ines may just have found something that did!