Distance Running News, 14-15 October

Cheltenham Harriers ladies started their season with an emphatic team victory as Hilary Mott enjoyed a race win in the Gloucestershire Cross Country League fixture. The opening small lap of the Gloucester course saw a group of five women pull clear of the field. Bath athlete Katrine Svane was happy to lead with Mott and her Harriers team-mate Naomi Eaton content to sit in the pack. The three athletes then pulled clear on the second small lap, before Eaton took up the pace to lead the runners out on the first of two larger laps. With recent 82 minute half marathon runner Svane falling slightly adrift, Mott and Eaton worked together to push on the pace to open up a decisive gap. The pair remained together for the rest of the lap with Eaton working on the front and Mott sitting just behind. However, Mott was leading as the pair approached some lapped runners going into the small narrow wooded section half way round the final lap. Managing to squeeze past the impending obstacle whilst Eaton was impeded by the backmarkers, the Gloucestershire 10,000m champion realised she had opened a few yards and took the chance to make her bid for victory as she picked up the pace and extended her lead. Taking her first league win Mott finished ten seconds clear of Eaton who was in turn eight seconds ahead of Svane. With three to score in the team event the battle to complete the Cheltenham team was a close affair with Amber Watson and Fee Maycock and running together in sixth and seventh for the entire race before the younger athlete pulled five seconds clear on the final lap. In seventh Maycock not only won the LV50 category but was also the first veteran lady home as she held off the challenge of the younger veterans. With a paltry team score of just nine points the Harriers enjoyed an eleven point victory over reigning champions Bath as they looked to regain the title they won in the 2015-16 season. The battle to be third team was a close affair, but with Sarah Sheppard thirteenth and Jo Wilkie in 18th the Cheltenham B team finished clear of the A teams of the Forest of Dean and Gloucester. The veteran team of Maycock, Sheppard and Wilkie also won their team competition by 23 points. In 19th place the Olivia Davis ran well to finish as the second under 17 runner home. With third u17 athlete Emma Quekett in 26th and Rachel See in 34th the Harriers ladies showed great depth as their C team placed sixth overall. Emma Silversides enjoyed her cross country debut in 39th before Katerina Horrocks (53rd), Agata Giles (123rd) and Christina See (171st) completed the thirteen strong squad.

The Cheltenham men’s team started their bid for a ninth consecutive league title without their ten fastest runners from the recent road relays, so it was always going to be a case of good squad packing rather than relying on potential race winners if their seven year unbeaten run was going to continue. Edd Charlton-Weedy and Dan King were the only Harriers to put themselves in the eight man lead group, but a swarm of white vests lay in the next pack as the team made its mark. Whilst Will Ferguson (CLC) took the race win, last year’s runners up Bath started well with athletes finishing in second, fourth and fifth places. Dan Thomas ran a well-paced race to move through the field to lead the Harriers home in a very pleasing sixth place before Doug Wight claimed seventh some twenty seconds adrift. Four seconds later Charlton-Weedy crossed the line in eighth to finish three seconds and one place clear of a rejuvenated Jacob Pickering who finished as the leading under 20 runner. With King in eleventh and Dave Aubrey in twelfth the six Harriers scorers ensured a thirtieth consecutive league win as they finished 27 points clear of Bath. The club B team were also looking to claim league medals for a fourth consecutive seasons and ran well with Charlie Jones (14th), Liam Roarty (21st), Roger Mullins (29th), Alex Lindfield (37th), Dave Rantell (55th) and Dan Minors (63rd). This ensured third on the day as they finished 90 points clear of fourth placed Stroud A team. The The Harriers C team of Gareth Edwards (68th), Steve Bradley (82nd), Alister Brown (83rd), Miguel Mundinano (84th), Matt Evans (88th) and Ian Giles (109th) finished as twelfth team whist the veteran team of Mullins, Rantell, Minors and Bradley finished second in their category as Bath took the win. Kieran Hill (116th) made a return to race action before Claude Bernard (140th) finished as third V60 runner and Dave Hemming (160th) completed the Harriers contingent.

The same afternoon saw the British Athletics Cross Challenge series get underway in Cardiff with three Harriers making the trip in search of higher competition. Building on his success of third fastest leg at the recent national road relays , Graham Rush ran well for a pleasing fourth place as Sam Stabler (Wreake & Soare Valley), Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton) and Jonny Hay (Aldershot) took the top three spots. Phil Beastall produced another strong performance to earn ninth place whilst Dan Owen ran well for 22nd place. On the roads Marcus England lowered his half marathon personal best to 73:28 as he finished 34th in the Manchester Half Marathon whilst at the Birmingham Half Marathon James Wilkinson ran 86:27 and Charlotte Deacon lowered her PB to 1:53.16.

Distance Running News, 7 October

Cheltenham Harriers produced an excellent performance as they claimed their highest ever position at the National Six Stage Road Relay Championships with a fine twelfth place as Graham Rush produced the third fastest leg of the day. Having claimed silver in the Midland Championships on the same Sutton Coldfield course two weeks ago, the team’s hopes of bettering their best ever position of fifteenth looked to have been dashed by injuries with only three of the medal winning sextet available for selection. However, the Harriers squad showed its strength in depth with a determined and battling performance. Having set a course PB of 17:53 at the Midlands event, Phil Beastall was looking to beat his time for the hilly 5.88km circuit of Sutton Park on the highly competitive opening leg. Running an excellent race Beastall came home in an impressive twelfth place as he posted a 17:40 time that also moved him up from sixth to second on the Harriers all time rankings for the course. Starting 26 seconds behind the race lead Graham Rush quickly set about moving through the field at a blistering pace, picking off places up the hill before putting the Harriers in the lead half way along the flat section to Jamboree Stone. Continuing to pull away from the field the Dave Newport coached athlete went on to record a time of 17:16, the third fastest leg of the day, to leave the Harriers with a 24 second lead over second placed Stockport. The unenviable task of taking over from Rush fell to Dan Owen, who managed to keep the lead until just after half way round his leg. Doing well to only lose one more place Owen recorded 18:25 to leave the Harriers in third behind Swansea and Highgate as the race reached the halfway point.

The inevitable drift down the field then continued as James Denne clocked 19:03 to finish his stage in tenth place. Alex Bampton then produced an excellent leg as he took twenty-one seconds off the course PB he set at the Midlands event to move the Harriers up a position into ninth place with an impressive 18:36. With just one leg remaining, the club record of fifteenth now seemed within reach as late call up to the team Alex Lee set off. Running eight seconds quicker than he ran two weeks ago, Lee posted 19:25 to bring Andy Prophett’s team home in twelfth place. Finishing one place ahead of Notts, the result confirmed the Harriers standing as second team in the Midlands as rivals Bristol finished fifth whilst Swansea, Tonbridge and Lincoln took home the medals. The Harriers B team were one of only five Midlands teams to have their B team qualify for the event and were looking to beat their best ever position of 59th place. Charlie Jones got the team off to a good start as he beat his course PB by seven seconds with 19:20 for 69th place. Dan Thomas then followed suit with an impressive sixteen second PB of 19:24 to gain three places, before Dave Aubrey knocked four seconds off his Midland time with 19:47 to leave the team in 61st at the halfway point of the race. Richard de-Camps then impressed with a six second PB of 19:16 as he gained eight places before Edd Charlton-Weedy ran 19:39 on his Sutton Park debut to hand over in 54th place. Dan King then posted 20:02 to gain a place on the final leg as the Harriers were the eighth B team home.

The Cheltenham ladies went into their four stage looking to build on their growing reputation, despite having only two of the four runners that won silver medals at the recent Midland Championships available. Shona Crombie-Hicks came into the team on leg one and ran well to come home 41st in the 111 strong field with a time of 15:58. Hilary Mott then ran an excellent 15:29 for the testing 4.33km course to gain fourteen places as she took a second off her course PB from last month. Fee Maycock moved the team up a place with a 16:52 leg before Naomi Eaton brought the team home in 25th place with an impressive fourteen second PB of 15:48. Only a year ago the club was delighted just to have a single team in the championship after a long absence and finished in 46th position. This year the B team were hoping to finish in a similar position and they got off to a great start as Amber Watson impressed with a nine second PB on leg one for 61st place. Team manager Jo Wilkie then improved her Midlands time by eighteen seconds with a pleasing 17:12 to gain eight places before Gemma Collier’s 17:39 took the team up to 51st place. Having never competed in a race before, former cyclist Emma Silversides took the final leg and brought the team home in 47th position with a pleasing debut time of 18:04. Elsewhere Gareth Edwards ran 38:18 for the Bournemouth 10k whilst James Wilkinson (18:12) was first across the line at the Tewkesbury parkrun. Andy Gardiner (17:21) placed second at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester whilst Dave Francis (18:50) lowered his PB at the Cheltenham parkrun.

Updated Harriers all time men’s rankings on the 6 stage course

Distance Running News, 1 October

Cheltenham Harrier Ben Price enjoyed the biggest win of his running career with a superb victory in the Cheltenham Half Marathon. In what was the most closely contested and intriguing race of the event’s five year history, a four man pack soon established themselves at the front of the field with all four runners having a genuine chance of victory. Alongside Price, who had set a personal best of 70:45 when finishing second at last month’s Swindon Half Marathon, were his more high profile Harriers teammates Dave Roper and Oli Mott whilst Wells City’s Phillip Bridge completed the quartet as they ran into the town centre together within the first 5km. Just before the five mile mark, however, the group was down to three as 2015 race winner Roper was forced to retire with injury. Bridge, who had a 70:49 clocking to his name earlier this year, was happy to force the pace. Mott and Price were happy to sit on his shoulder as the race passed Dean Close school where Price teaches at around 5.5 miles. The trio remained locked together until just before nine miles when Bridge answered a call of nature and Mott fell just off the pace to give the geography teacher a small lead as the race reached Pittville Lawns. Bridge, however, pulled himself back onto Price’s shoulder whilst Mott lost ground on the drag up to Pittville Pump Rooms. Going into the racecourse with just under three miles to go, Price pushed on again and by eleven miles he had established a decisive gap over Bridge. Mott meanwhile rallied again as Bridge experienced another Paula Radcliffe moment that finally ended his race hopes. Still wary of Mott behind him, Price held his form over the closing mile to ecstatically cross the line in a new personal best of 70:33 for a well-earned victory. Mott followed just nineteen seconds later with Bridge just a further seven seconds adrift to complete the top three.

In fourth place Alex Lee ran the loneliest of races. After pulling clear of teammate Edd Charlton-Weedy in the third mile, Lee ran totally isolated until the finish where he stopped the clock at 74:36. In his race since joining the Harriers, Charlton-Weedy ran a solid race to cross the line in sixth place in 75:19. Richard Dare was the next Harrier home; however, he was not wearing his club vest. Instead the owner of James of Montpellier menswear was bidding to set a new world record for a half marathon ran in a suit. Whilst he may have fallen short of his target time, Dare still finished nineteenth in 79:58 and also raised valuable funds for cancer support charity Maggies. Just one place later Joe Willgoss took was agonisingly just six seconds over the eighty minute barrier, but surely must have been content having knocked over two minutes off his personal best. Andy Gore followed in 81:16 before James Wilkinson broke his personal best with 81:16 and Dave Rantell recorded 83:05.

Meanwhile in the ladies race Harriers teammates Hilary Mott and Shona-Crombie-Hicks battled it out for a place on the podium. Within the first few miles Shaftsbury Barnet’s Rachel Felton (78:54) and Tiverton’s Serane Stone (82:22) had occupied the top two spots that remained unchanged for the rest of the race. Mott was lying in third place after a third of the race, with Crombie-Hicks around fifteen seconds adrift. However, the veteran marathon runner went past the in- form Mott at around the half way point and then opened up a gap as she took third in 83:38 before Mott claimed fourth in 84:37. After Matt Evans had crossed the line in 89:28, Adam Lloyd recorded a PB of 91:42 and Jo Wilkie finished as eleventh lady in 92:30. New club member Claude Bernard was the first over 60 runner home in 93:25 before Debbie Smith (1:49:47), Issy Ovens (2:00:24) and wheelchair athlete Les Hampton (2:02:11) completed the Harriers contingent.

Further success over the half marathon distance came at the Cricklade Half Marathon where there were wins for both Marcus England and Fee Maycock. England moved into the lead just after the opening mile and remained unchallenged at the front of the field on his way to a comfortable victory in 74:51 as he finished over two minutes clear of Daniel Cahill of Wells. Maycock meanwhile won the ladies race by over eight minutes as she posted a time of 86:31.

Distance Running News, 23 September

Cheltenham Harriers enjoyed one of the most successful days in the club’s history as both their ladies and men’s teams claimed silver medals at the Midland Road Relay Championships in Sutton Coldfield. Whilst the men’s team has regularly gained regional medals in recent years and has established a reputation as one of the Midlands top clubs, not many people outside Cheltenham would have predicted that the Harriers would be competing for the medals in the ladies race. Last year the club were delighted to finish in fifteenth place having not had a team in the championship for many years, but under the guidance of coach Dave Newport and team manager Jo Wilkie the club has developed a competitive squad and they approached the race full of confidence. Alice Taylor took the highly competitive opening stage and produced a fine run to complete the hilly 4.33km course in an impressive 15:41 to finish in eighth place in the 117 strong field. Leg two then saw Gillian Palmer make her debut for the club. The former Scottish Commonwealth Games international quickly moved through the field as she produced the fastest time of her leg and fourth quickest time of the day, with her 15:00 moving the team up into second place. With the race at the halfway point Birchfield retained their leg one lead and were 49 seconds clear of the Harriers, who in turn were 44 seconds ahead of third placed Birmingham Running and Triathlon Club. Hilary Mott then produced the fastest time on leg three with an impressive 15:26,that was also the ninth fastest leg of the day, to close the gap on Birchfield by six seconds. More significantly, the gap to third had grown with Bristol now occupying the final medal position 1:44 behind. This left Naomi Eaton with the task of ensuring the Harriers could claim their first ever ladies Midland team medal. The Gloucestershire Cross Country champion did not disappoint as she produced a very pleasing 16:02 leg that claimed the silver medals as Birchfield finished 1:30 ahead for gold and Bristol trailed 2:10 behind in third. The Harriers ladies also fielded a B team for the first time in many years, with team manager Jo Wilkie taking the opening leg of 17:26 for 26th place before Amber Watson impressed with 16:48 to gain twelve places. After Agata Giles’ 21:08 the team were intriguingly lying in 32nd position, just one place and one second behind the A team of local rivals CLC striders. This saw Gemma Collier go head to head with CLC’s Patricia Sturgess with both athletes moving through the field before Collier ensured the team finished the race in 23rd place, one position and sixteen seconds clear of the Striders.

Whilst the ladies were a surprise package, the Harriers men were hoping to follow up their recent success of bronze in 2015 and silver in 2016 with at least another medal and maybe even a shot at a first ever Midlands team gold. Dan Owen got the team off to a good start as he completed the testing 5.88km loop in 18:17 to finish in third place from the 119 teams. This left the Harriers seventeen seconds adrift of Tipton and seven seconds behind Heanor, but crucially Owen opened up 21 and 23 seconds respectively over rivals Birchfield (10th) and Bristol (11th), whilst Notts (14th) were even further adrift. Dave Roper then caught the two athletes in front and had a close battle with Heanor’s Matthew Bickerstaff before pulling clear to hand over in the lead. This gave the Cheltenham team a four second lead over both Heanor and Bristol who had moved through the field with Tom Merson’s 17:59. With Graham Rush on leg three it was hopefully just going to be a question of how much the lead extended, but on the first half of the leg the gains were relatively small. However, Rush’s class showed in the second half as he produced the fastest leg of the day with a 17:35 clocking that gave the team a 55 second lead over Bristol whilst Birchfield were a further nine seconds adrift as the race reached the half way point. Leg four was always going to be crucial with Bristol’s Dan Studley chasing down Phil Beastall. Studley reduced the Harriers lead by sixteen seconds despite Beastall clocking his fastest ever time on the course with a very pleasing 17:53. Ben Price headed off knowing that he had to realistically hold the 39 second margin to give Oli Mott any chance of glory. Despite Price running well for a course PB of 18:23 Bristol closed the gap to sixteen seconds with Jarlath McKenna’s 18:00. So just like at the 2016 event, Andy Prophett’s team held a narrow lead over Bristol with one stage remaining with Steve Mitchell poised to close down the gap. Mott held on until around half way but Mitchell’s 17:51 gave Bristol the gold by 32 seconds with Mott’s 18:39 claiming silver as the Harriers finished 64 seconds clear of Birchfield. The Harriers time of 1:49:05 was their fastest on the course that has been used at the Midland and National Championships since 2001 and was also quicker than the time Bristol posted when winning the Midland title last year.

The Harriers B team was looking to break the club’s highest ever B team finish of ninth place and they did not disappoint as Richard de-Camps (19:22) and Charlie Jones (19:34) gave them a good start before James Denne (18:54) took them into eighth at halfway. Alex Lee (19:33) and Dave Aubrey (19:51) ran well before Alex Bampton (18:57) ran a course PB to take the team up into seventh place overall and second B team behind Tipton. The C team also posted a club record for a C team as they finished fourteenth and leading C team thanks to Mark James (19:57), Dan Thomas(19:40), Doug Wight (20:00), Jon Barnes (20:25), Marc Fallows (20:20) and Dan King (19:56). The Harriers D, E and F teams were also first in their categories with the D team 36th through Andy Gore (21:08), Mike Gray (20:23), Jacob Pickering (20:39), Alex Lindfield (20:56), Iain Devlin (22:04) and Roger Mullins (20:43). Dave Rantell (21:47), Andrew Kaighin (22:26), James Wilkinson (21:24), Elliot Prince (22:04), Dan Minors (22:31) and Russell Forsbrook (21:22) then gave the E team 48th position. The Harriers also had an F team for the first time with Steve Bradley (21:47), Dave Francis (22:25), Matt Evans (22:11), Adam Lloyd (22:58), Ben Haywood (24:23) and Ian Giles (24:18) taking sixty-first place to complete a magnificent day for the club.

Updated Harriers all time men’s rankings on the 6 stage course