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As the social distancing measures continue, members of Almost Athletes continue to find enjoyable and interesting ways to keep running and motivated.

Many of you are still working your way through the Bingo challenge, with the ‘sunrise run’ and ‘finding your name run’ proving particularly popular during the past week. Sue Monaghan, Claire Hawes and Forrest Wheeler all completed the sunrise challenge and posted some beautiful photographs, whilst Mary Welsh found a creative way of combining a photo from the 2019 Linda Franks with a street sign from Bellshill in Scotland to complete her personal Name Sign challenge.

Ian Coggin felt it would be difficult for him to complete many of the Bingo squares due to where he lives, so has turned to the countryside for a different kind of inspiration. So far, he has provided us with a ‘moo-ving’ image of cows and his latest offering of himself with a flock of ewes and wearing a ‘sheepish grin’!

The 80s music challenge continued to attract several of you, particularly Pete Mitchener and Steve Taylor who provided some very witty postings, whilst Bob Spawton contributed with a tribute to his personal 80s idol Prince.

Claire Hawes’ suggestion of finding flowers in club colours has proved popular with lots of you sending in photographs, including Felicity Broom, Cottia Howard, Peter Allsopp, Lisa King, Vikki, Waring, Alice Harmon and Jane Russell.

The next major challenge as suggested by Glenda Gill will be the Treasure Hunt. Members can be as literal or creative as they like in interpreting each of the clues and then posting a photograph accordingly. The five things to look out for until the 31st of May are as follows:

1. Nine
2. A music connection
3. Sunlight
4. A reflection in water
5. Silver

Apart from the club challenges, several members have found other ways to keep themselves inspired. Adrian Courteney successfully completed the Hadrian’s Wall challenge of running 90 miles, and Mark Stojanov finished a half marathon in Tewkesbury with a time of 2hrs 39mins. Meanwhile Rob Rennell has clocked up more than 192km on his treadmill over the past five weeks.

Wednesday 20th April was Jane Wood Rackham’s birthday and she decided to mark the occasion by running the first of five ultra-marathons in five days on the dates that we would have been hosting The Forces March – an event that she completed back in 2015 with her friend Anne-Marie Willicott.

Away from running, it was also our Chair’s birthday during the past week, so happy birthday once again Claire, and thanks for helping to keep us all inspired.

Jo Johnson took on the 10 Day Life is Good challenge and has been posting a new photograph each day and nominating somebody else to take on the challenge. Her final photograph appeared this morning.

Melvyn Harris undertook a skinny dip to raise money for MIND, whilst Hannah Brown enjoyed her first day back in Lake 86 for some open water swimming – but presumably in a wetsuit!

Meanwhile, Dave Chittock has been extolling the virtues of Orwell’s Animal Farm as a top read during the lockdown and rashly announced plans to tackle 1984 next, and Jason Hulance submitted a question to the Great Big Parkrun Quiz.

Finally, another round of best wishes is due to Prash Sripathi and his wife Kavya who welcomed their beautiful baby daughter into the world on 16th May.

Once again, members of Almost Athletes have continued to find inspirational and imaginative ways to keep running and to keep both themselves, and others, motivated in these difficult times
Keep safe and keep running everyone.

Almost Athletes are continuing to find ways of staying connected and making solo running fun. The launch of AA Bingo has seen members tick off challenges in search of a full house. With lots of members nailing several squares in one run, the bingo cards are eagerly awaited. Who, if anyone, will be first to finish?

Piotr ‘Kenneth’ Michalski appears to be the current ‘most squares in one run’ champion, ticking off seven in one ten-mile run: ‘Thank you keyworkers✔, A view with a view ✔, sundown ✔, postbox ✔, phonebox ✔, landmark ✔, name sign run ✔ (although the last one could possibly be called into question if it comes to a draw!)

There was Strava Art ✔ for Claire Hawes, who drew a heart, and Jason Hulance, who drew a virtual mouse in Wuhan. Richard Knightley, Rachael Nolan, Janine Bennett, Michelle Balchin and Claire Gallagher combined theirs with a ‘Thank you key workers run’ by drawing NHS.
Running to ‘a view with a view’✔ were Mark Stojanov, Ivana Wilson, Nat Stow, Claire Gallagher and Claire Hawes. Nat Stow and Rachel Nolan completed a ‘sundown run’ ✔ and Claire Hawes took on the exhausting Sally-up squat challenge ✔

Michelle Balchin found postboxes ✔ got a Ross Barkley 5km PB ✔ of 18.00, but found travelling back uphill between each descent rather tiresome. She also took on Plonker in the Park ✔ Oregan circuits, as did Fiona Barnes, Helen Fursman, Richard Knightley and Matt Proome.

There was a combined Bingo and Run and Talk for Claire Gallagher and Lisa King, who talked on the phone while running in fancy dress ✔
The annual Wings for Life World Run saw competitors racing as far as possible before being caught by the virtual race car. This year saw Michelle Balchin cover 14:8 miles, Ashley Stevens made it to 15 miles, and Prash Sripathi ran 15.8 miles before the car caught up. Mark Stojanov took part in the DB Max Rainbow 5k Run, finishing in 34:52. Jason Hulance ran ‘in’ Manila, completing a ‘Run for Pasig River 10K’ in 57:39.

Other Almosts turned their attention to finding 80s musicians. Peter Mitchener has enthusiastically embraced the challenge, finding several, including ‘Kayte Bush’ on his outings. Phil Jeyes, Steve Taylor, Jo Johnston, Jane Russell and Mark Stojanov also joined in with gems such as ‘AHA’, ‘The Police’ and ‘Voyage’, and Dave Chittock went 90s with ‘All Saints’.

Having found all the postboxes in the Bishops Cleeve area, Mike Line has started searching for churches. He also ran to Cleeve Hill, as did Sheila ‘Zippy’ Chatterley and Geoffrey the dog. Leckhampton Hill beckoned Helen Fursman, Mariel Chretien went on a 10 mile scenic mystery tour, and Ingrid Harris went walking in the woods around Shurdington. Dave McGrath did yoga, and Kevin Dryburgh went on a very long ‘pub crawl’ of pubs he’d visited in Cheltenham. Ju Drop (Julie Averiss) found motivation to run, and Jason Hulance has now completed twelve of the AA relay routes.

Graeme Stopp ran a new 10km PB of 56.13, Dragos Saghin broke 5km per minute on a 10km run, Lisa King was delighted to take a Strava segment cup, and Rob Rennell did his longest treadmill run so far, running 11.2km in 1:31. Matt Polson completed a RED (run every day) April, running his second fastest 5km and a very impressive total of 200 miles in the process.

As April rolls into May, Almost Athletes have continued to make the most of difficult circumstances, and with a spring in their step have taken on some stunning solo running routes.
This week’s report comes after club members embraced the Move and Post week which ran from 22nd-29th April. This initiative promoted a MOVE of whatever distance people fancied – and then an obligatory POST on the club’s Facebook page. It would be impossible to list everyone here, but please scroll through the page because some of the pictures are fantastic.
Focusing on a few though, Peter Allsopp wrote positively about how being part of the club has helped develop his confidence to take on off road routes. His run took in Mill Street, Cleeve Hill and Mill Lane and included spectacular fauna from Bluebells to blooming Wysteria! Kim Lewington also escaped to the hills and shared a great picture taken at Witcombe and Mark Willicott’s “Cotswold Run” included a manor house, a thatched cottage and inspiring woodland.
A constant theme from Move and Post week was members reminding themselves just how lucky we are to have so much scenery on our doorsteps. Jane Russell completed a ten mile run and did laps in Southam to make sure she hit the distance – in the sunshine, the Church looked resplendent. A number of Almosts have found sanctuary in the surroundings of Cleeve Hill with Nat Stow taking in the view as part of a great 10k and Thom Stephens including it on an amazing 16.74 mile effort.
There is no doubt that this initiative was well received by Almosts and the posts were inspiring to read. No more so than one from Matt Barnes, who marked Sunday 26th April (the day he would have been running the London Marathon) by spelling the letters NHS on his Strava map, during his run in Shurdington. A pertinent reminder of the outstanding work being done by our NHS heroes.
Since the last report we’ve also seen plenty of other impressive activity from Almost Athletes with yet more positivity emerging from every Facebook post! Mark Stojanov organised a “Finish for Matt” challenge where runners completed a 3.7 mile run in memory of Matt Campbell, who passed away running the London Marathon in 2018. Ben Stone, Chris McMahon, Marcus Rudge and Kim Lewington were amongst the Almosts who logged times.
A number of club members have of course seen events they were due to run, get cancelled – but undeterred are still getting out there and setting targets! Ashley Stevens donned his London Marathon 40th Anniversary colours to record a 1:38 half marathon. Michelle Balchin completed the Bishop’s Cleeve club run route of 5 miles ad Vicky Earls did a 3k in 14:55 with her aim of a sub 25 minute 5k now very much in her sights! Good work all.
So as lockdown continues, and the sun comes back out, the club is continuing to shine and we are seeing constant reminders of what a great community we are all part of. Keep up the excellent posts and we will do our best to put together a full round-up!

Once again, members of Almost Athletes have continued to find inspirational and imaginative ways to keep running and to keep both themselves, and others, motivated in these difficult times.

The biggest Club event during the past two weeks has been the 5km Lockdown Virtual Relay, organised and coordinated by Michelle Balchin who deserves a big round of applause from everyone involved for generating such a sense of togetherness.

An amazing 138 runners in 6 virtual teams took part in the event, each completing a solo 5km run around a pre-defined route in Cheltenham which amounted to a total of 690 km of running overall. Each team had a captain who designed the routes and kept everyone taking part informed and motivated.

During the event there were five new PBs recorded from Laura Smith (35 mins 40 secs), Natalie Greening (25:12), Sharmila Door (25:24), Penny Lewis (32:27) and Kevin Balchin (26:39). The fastest leg was recorded on the Gotherington to Bishops Cleeve route, although there was a variety of difficulty in the routes so they were not totally comparable.

Everyone who took part put in 100% effort, but the winning team overall was the 23 members of ‘Almost Ran Out of Loo Paper’ who collectively ran a total of 115km. Their times were as follows:
Matt Polson 17 mins 57 secs; Finlay Willicott 21:31; Alison Hume 25:32; Malc Allen 23:06; Thomas Wood 21:50; Mike Line 30:03; Glenda Gill 28:45; Nat Stow 27:33; Neil Tring 22:10; Chris McMahon 22:24; Matt Hickman 19:21; Martin Foster 19:34; Patricia Dendy 21:57; Stacey Osmond 22:35; Rachel O’Bryan 23:05; Kev Fairs 26:00; Kev Dendy 29:05; Jane Russell 27:43; Rachel Farger 25:32; Ross Greening 22:27; Rachel Nolan 36:39; Julie Schofield 24:35; and Emma Hall 23:59.
Apart from the relay, individual Club members managed to devise numerous other ways to encourage themselves to keep going out and running.

One of the most creative postings was from John Bailey who took part in his own inaugural Tredington to Tewkesbury super sprint duathlon, consisting of a 4 mile run followed by an 11 mile cycle ride and finishing with a further 2 mile run. Not only did he come first overall with a time of 1 hr 40 mins, but he was also the first Almost Athlete to complete the event and first in his age category! He asked for a special mention for the organiser who presented him with an awesome trophy for his efforts!

Several Almosts continued to enjoy the street name challenge during the week whilst others took part in the post box challenge that began a few weeks ago. Hamish Adamson and Cheryl Rodham joined in the event whilst Mike Line eventually found all of the boxes in and around Bishops Cleeve.

The fastest leg was Gotherington to BC although all legs did fantastic and with a variety of difficulty in the each legs it’s not particularly comparable.

The winning team however was the Amazing ALMOST RAN OUT OF LOO PAPER
Matt Polson, Finley Willicott, Alison Hume, Malc Allen, Thomas Wood, Mike Line, Glenda Gill, Nat Stow, Neil Tring, Chris McMahon, Matthew Hickman, Martin Foster, Patricia Dendy, Stacey Amber, Rachael Nolan, Rachel Fargher, Rachel O’Bryan, Kev Fairs, Kev Dendy, Jane Russell, Ross Greening, Julie Scourfield and Emma Hall

With 23 legs, the total distance per team was a whopping 115k. The total difference between 1st and 6th place was a mere 64 minutes which over 115 Kilometres is very minimal.

Overall 138 runners took part, that’s 690 Kilometres ran!
And you were all incredible!

For the coming week, Forrest Wheeler has suggested a new challenge of looking for unusual or old lampposts, and began by posting an image of himself with a Dragon and Onion streetlamp from circa 1897.

Saturday 18th April was also the 3rd anniversary of Forrest Wheeler’s first ever parkrun in Pittville Park at which he suffered a cardiac arrest. Thankfully, he has now made a full recovery and was able to run around Pittville Park again on Saturday to reflect upon all the people who have helped him back to fitness. Thanks to all their efforts he has been able to enjoy his family, welcome two new grandchildren to the world, travel extensively and meet individual and collectively inspirational people on a daily basis.

Also on Saturday, Dave Nelson completed a 10 mile run in beautiful sunshine around his home town of Motherwell, Scotland.

On Monday, Katie Coleman should have been in Brighton, running her first ever Marathon to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Although the event was cancelled, she nevertheless donned her Alzheimer’s teeshirt and ran a few miles for her mother and everyone else suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Some Club members have been carrying out their running activities at home. Since receiving his new treadmill, Rob Rennell has run for at least nine consecutive days and clocked up a total of 43km, whilst almost equalling his own PB of sub 35 minutes for a 5km run. Melvyn Harris has been regularly completing 4 mile runs on his treadmill. He has created a new hash tag: #TruelyRewardingExtremelyAthleticallyDemandingMoraleImprovingLockdownLiberating!

Away from actual running events, there have been a number of other challenges that members have been involved in.

Vikki Waring has been returning to fitness by working out in her garden, whilst Dave Chittock has been challenged to nominate ten music albums that influenced him the most. Others have been challenging each other to post on Facebook older photos that boost the positive side of running.

This coming week there are going to be a number of other running challenges for members to participate in.

Mark Stojanov has been encouraging others to take part in the 3.7 mile #finishformatt event. So far he has 33 runners signed up with any donations going to the Captain Tom Moore NHS Justgiving page.

Wednesday 22nd April was planned to be a run and talk night to mark Stress Awareness Month with general chatting and running followed by eating cakes and drinking a beverage.

However, as the coronavirus has put a stop to this, the Club’s mental health champions have hijacked the week commencing Wednesday 22nd April for a MOVE and POST Week. They would like Club members to MOVE as much or as little as they wish, then afterwards to POST a picture that meets any of the following criteria:

5 Ways of Wellbeing: Connect, Give, Keep Learning, Take Notice, or Be Active.

They ask that people post something that has made them smile in their day-to-day life, or whilst they are moving.
Members are invited to share how they have been coping with the new routines and any tips for keeping motivated, whilst ensuring that all Social Distancing Guidelines are adhered to.

Keep safe and keep running everyone.

As lockdown continues, so does Almost Athletes’ determination to run responsibly and support each other’s adventures. There has been much excitement with the launch of the inaugural Almost Athletes Virtual 5k Relay: 138 runners, six Almost teams and twenty-one solo 5km legs around Cheltenham and beyond. Organiser Michelle Balchin’s spreadsheet skills have triumphed, and a variety of legs have been planned. From the fast and flat Hatherley… to the multi-terrain Gotherington2Bishops Cleeve… to a Pitbull in Brockworth. A different challenge awaits every team member.

Almost Ran Out of Loo Paper have made a fine start with Matt Polson (17:57, Manchester), Matthew Hickman (Fairview, 19:21), Patricia Dendy (Hatherley, 21:57), Chris McMahon (Churchdown, 22:24 PB), Malc Allen (BC Central, 23:06), and Rachel O’Bryan and Julie Scourfield finished Lecky in 23:05 and 24:35 respectively. Kev Fairs (WymanPitVillage, 26:00), Jane Russell (Prestbury, 27:43), Nat Stow (CharltonKings2Lecky, 28:21), Glenda Gill (Brockworth, 28:44) and Rachael Nolan (Tewkesbury&more, 36:39).

Almost Ate Everything have also started enthusiastically, with thirteen runners so far: Ben Stone (Arle2Waitrose, 19:44), Kevin Dryburgh (Hatherley, 21:39), Peter Mitchener (Fairview, 22:06), Craig Bullingham (Brockworth, 22:23), Mark Wreford-Bush (Gotherington2BC, 23:26), Cat Daly (BC Central, 24:23), Rich Smith (Bishops Cleeve West, 24:26), Dawn Carroll (Charlton Kings, 25:05), Jason Hulance (WymanPitVillage, 25:44), Ben Kirby (Hatherley Extra, 27:17), Dave Nelson (Somewhere in Scotland, 31:09), Sarah Carr (CK2Lecky, 32:59) and Mark Stojanov (Tewkesbury&more, 34:46).

Thirteen members of Almost Locked Up have completed their legs: Miranda Foster (Benhall, 22:24), Ingrid Harris (Hatherley, 24:12), Ivana Wilson (BC Central, 24:51), Sharmila Door (Churchdown, 25:24 PB), Jeanette Gullick (Woodmancote, 25:49), Hannah Brown (CK2Lecky, 26:21), Carole Doherty (CK, 26:37), Mark Conway (Hatherley Extra, 26:43). Kim Lewington (Brockworth) and Steve Yarnold (Prestbury) both finished in 27:55. Catherine Mason (Lecky, 28:36), Alice Harmon (Prestbury, 28:59), and Iris Mayo (BC West, 32:39).

Almost Free so far have Amy Sheer (CK2LECKY, 21:23) Dave McGrath (Fairview, 21:27), Duncan Mounsor ran (Hatherley Extra, 21:28), Shaun Carr (CK, 22:01), Richard Knightley (BC2Gotherington, 22:50) Emma Yates (Portugal, 23:33), Louise Bryan (The Park, 23:25), Mark Lyes (Prestbury, 24:23), Liza Habgood (BC Central, 24:48), Suzanne Hills (Springbank, 26:42) and Claire Hawes (Lecky, 32:30).

Almost On My Own have seen solo performances from Paul Warren (Brockworth, 20:49), Peter Morris (CK, 22:14), Dave Chittock (Hatherley, 22:46), Steve Taylor (Fairview, 22:56), Michelle Balchin (Gotherington2BC, 24:00), Ceri Schofield (Hatherley Extra, 24:06), Clare Hearing (Lecky, 24:38), Sarah Wallbridge (Tewkesbury&more, 25:04), Deb Cartridge (Naunton, 26:01), Kevin Balchin (BC Central, 26:39 PB), Sue Monaghan (Arle2Waitrose, 28:38), and Wan Hartley (WymanPitVillage, 29:49).

Almost Never Came Out have everything left to play for, with only eight outings so far: Josh Hand (BC West, 18:16), Donna Evans (BC Central, 23:26) Steve Wallbridge (Tewkesbury& more, 24:11), Charmaine Brunt (Brockworth, 24:28), Graeme Stopp (WymanPitVillage, 26:24), Julianne Jameson (Gretton, 29:15), Penny Lewis (CK2LECKY, 32:27 PB), and Marika Sieracki (Prestbury, 32:50).

With several athletes yet to run, and time left for performances to be bettered, Almost any team could win!

Away from the relay, club members have been busy searching for their names on road signs. Wan Hartley, Matt and Fi Barnes, and Thomas Wood found their names, while Nick Lewis cycled to Upton upon Severn in search of a suitable sign. Rachael Nolan found her name plus a phonebox and a defibrillator, while Mark Stojanov focused on phoneboxes. There were postboxes for Lisa King, Deb Cartlidge, and Peter Allsopp, and a Penfold for Helen Fursman. Mike Line continued to snap the postboxes of Bishops Cleeve and also found his name on a sign. Mark Wreford-Bush found postboxes, ‘godcakes’ and dilapidated farm vehicles, but Jo and Martin Foster may just have trumped these with their discovery of a burnt out car! Sue Monaghan went for some GPS art and drew her clubmates a heart in Swindon Village.

Cat Daly and Ian Williams explored some new routes on Cleeve Hill. Frances Ferguson found fields, Mariel Chretien found squirrels and Iris Mayo found bridges. Karen Gomm ran with Bradley the dog, Elzbieta Antosiewicz ran 10 miles, Ben Stone ran 9 miles around Arle, and Lynne Macedo’s four runs totalled a marathon. Jason Hulance visited the two Cheltenham parkrun sites on a 10K run, and Becky Heal got active and completed 1.3 miles.

Martyn Fisher created a rainbow of race t-shirts, and Ceri Schofield thrashed Phil Jeyes in the 45 second sock challenge.

There were new lockdown exercises at home for Ollie and Beverley Nolan, who have quickly mastered their exercise bike, racking up 225 miles and 120 miles respectively. Spidey Galpin ran in the garden, Rob Rennell ran on his new treadmill, and Jayne Murphy tackled her tough new training plan. Melvyn Harris recreated the club hill session and ‘notpub2pub run’ on his treadmill, hitting his fastest pace for some time with sub 10 minute miles.

With Easter upon us, Penny Lewis, Michelle Balchin, Catrin Davies Perkins, Kate Houston, Sue Monaghan, Rachael Nolan and Claire Gallagher searched for Easter decorations. There was an Easter Egg Hunt themed video briefing from ‘not run director’ Peter Mitchener for ‘not Cheltenham parkrun’, with ten chocolates hidden inside. Andrew Wilkinson ran every day of Lent, totalling an impressive 157 miles over 44 days.


Running safely, solo and in line with Government advice continues to be the important message given to members and the club’s Facebook page is brimming with examples of Almost Athletes doing exactly that.

Combining a run and photos with post boxes has once again been a popular theme this week. We’ve seen Mike Line, Peter Allsopp, Mark Willicott, Hamish Adamson, Michelle Balchin, Mark Stojanov and Sue Monaghan (to name a few!) all provide “first class” pictures over the last seven days – and we are confident members will continue to “deliver” the goods on this front.

Adding to this, intrepid Almost Athletes have been scouring the area for examples of their names – as street signs. These have included: Steve Taylor (Steve Taylors Lane), Kevin Dryburgh (Kevin Close), Peter Morris (Morris Walk), Jane Russell (Russell Street) and Ashley Stevens (Ashley Road). We’ve also seen some brilliant creativity, with some of our favourites being: Claire Hawes (Haweswater Road), Kev Fairs (FAIRview), Helena Youde (Helena Street), Allan Mullen (ALstone Lane) and Dave Chittock (with the brilliant Twittocks Farm!).

In other news this week, we’ve seen Almosts take to the roads and trails, maintaining social distancing and using running as a great way to clear the mind and keep fit. Kev Fairs recorded a 10k PB in 43:04, Dave Nelson completed the DB Max Be Safe 10k in 1:06 and recorded a 1:28 8 miler for the NHS Do What You Want Challenge and Mark Stojanov has been out and about, including a 17 mile bike ride in 1:29 and a number of runs.

A special mention for Rob Rennell on completing 10k in his living room – and sporting a great smile at the end of it – and also for John Galpin who again donned his Spiderman outfit for a duathlon challenge in his garden.

We have also seen real reminders of how lucky we are to live in a picturesque area and it has been good to see Almosts posting their pictures online. Pete Hooper completed a great 5k out to Uckington, Andrew Wilkinson took in stuning views of the River Severn, Chris McMahon has been hitting the streets of Churchdown on a regular basis and Virginia Pawlyn’s running this week has taken in a section of the River Chelt, Crickley Country Park and the Park Campus.

From the Almost Athlete run report team - Catrin Davies Perkins took in Cleeve Hill as she ran some of her favourite routes; Alstone Lane, Brooklyn Gardens and the nearby vicinity have been staples for Ben Stone; and Lynne Macedo also ran three times over the last seven days seeing fellow Almosts (at a social distance of course) Sue Monaghan and Rita Crane on her travels.

Finally, Club Chair Claire Hawes spoke to the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Breakfast Show on 7th April and reiterated the message about ensuring all our runners stick to the Government guidance when they’re out running. Taking responsibility for social distancing whilst we run, controlling our own behavior and keeping the community spirit of the club going were the themes of her really positive interview.

It is especially motivational to see the pictures and hear about stories from Almosts’ at this challenging time, so keep them coming on the Facebook page. Stay safe and well and we will keep up the run reports in the weeks ahead.