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We are always looking for news, results and race stories for our weekly Echo report. Please tell us about your experiences, results, personal best times achieved, worst nightmare races etc by emailing almostathletes@hotmail.com - if you don't tell us about it, we can't report it!. We can't guarantee that all information supplied will go in as the Echo have full editorial control, but we will do our best.

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This week’s big event was the rescheduled Linda Franks 5, a flat and fast two lap course around the streets of Hatherley, which ordinarily results in multiple PBs. This year, however, runners had to contend with temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s and oppressive airless conditions, very different from the cold and rainy conditions which often accompany the January race. Nevertheless, there were some stand out performances, most notably from Patricia Dendy, who was second lady overall (33:54) and Pauline Bargus, who was first in her age category (46:43). Patricia, Chloe Farrar (37:21) and new member Issy Ravenhill (38:48), running her first race in club colours, scooped the ladies’ team prize. For the men Josh Hand delivered another reliably speedy performance, finishing in 30:19 (6th overall and 3rd in category), followed by new member Rupert Denny, who was just two seconds behind Josh (7th overall in 30:21). Next in for the club and bagging himself a top ten finish was Matthew Hickman (31:14) then a cluster comprising Ben Stone (32:13); Nathan Newton (32:19); Steve Axford (32:51) and Peter Morris (33:35) (2nd in category). Next up was the tightly packed group of Robert Foord (34:36); Mike Bryce (35:07); Duncan Mounsor (35:10) (3rd in category); Mike Kennedy (35:18); Ross Greening (36:19); Mark Wreford-Bush (36:52) and, breathing down Mark’s neck, training partner Richard Knightley (37:05). Steve Phelps (37:28) led home new member Olivia Wiles (38:26) (3rd in category); Ed Munro (40:25); Steve Wallbridge (40:27); Nick Goddard (40:41); Jim Trowbridge (41:12); Debbie Lacey (42:19); Chris McMahon (42:35); new member Craig Jackson (42:46) and Ela Antosiewicz (42:51)(PB). Marty Ward brought in the next surge of runners in 43:15, followed by Cos Pearson (44:10) (3rd in category); Dan Magovern (44:15); Mike Line (44:42); Jason Hulance (44:55); Felicity Read (45:34) (2nd in category); Russell Jones (46:25) and Wan Hartley (47:52). Ivana Wilson completed in 50:16, with Sally McKinlay (50:35) not far behind her. Kim and Darren Lewington crossed the line together in 52:55 and 52:56 respectively, Kim also recording a 3rd in category finish. Ollie Nolan came home in 56:01. In her first race for several months June Franks’ time of 1:00:07 was good enough for 2nd in category. Iris Mayo ran with Josh Rimell, both crossing the line in 1:01:50

At the weekend Mark Newton took on the two-day Yorkshire Challenge 100k ultra in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The first day involved 50km and 930m of elevation gain taking in the Southern loop of the route towards Ripley Castle in 30-degree heat, the second day a further 50km and 900m of elevation gain in similarly brutal temperatures, starting from base camp at Nidderdale and passing Gouthwaite Reservoir and Fountains Abbey before arriving back at base camp to a champagne reception. Mark recorded a finishing time of 12:33:39 for a laudable fifth place overall.

Meanwhile Suzy Rodger took on the first 50km of the Yorkshire Challenge with her sister Louise and friend Emily, together raising over £4,000 for Lymphoma Action. The Southern loop followed the Nidderdale Way, taking in some wonderfully scenic views. Suzy completed the challenge in 13:24:42. Continuing the charity fundraising theme, several Almosts took on the LINC Three Counties bike ride. Wendy Haskins pedalled 32k with work colleagues and Mark Stojanov achieved his aim of being first rider home in his first event since 2020 Bourton 10k, completing the 32k route for the seventh time in 1:34 (PB). John Bailey, John Galpin, Jeanette Gullick, Dom Lyes, Kate Nicol, Ali Shaikh and Graeme Stopp took on the 64k challenge in two pods from Tewkesbury rugby club, some going a little ‘off piste’ and pedalling rather more than 64k.

Christopher Benjamin notched up his 92nd half marathon at the Richmond Super 6 Checkpoint Challenge through leafy south west London suburbia around Richmond upon Thames, collecting a colourful interconnecting medal for his efforts. Just one week after Race to the Stones, Karla Cleverley entered the Phoenix Running Explorer event, a very hot and hilly event where runners had seven hours to complete as many laps as they wished. Karla completed a half marathon over four laps in 4:00:09, earning the biggest finishers’ medal on the planet for her efforts.

Closer to home a trio of Almost ladies conquered the Cheltenham Triathlon Club Tri in the Park in 29- degree heat. Hannah Brown was second lady and 17th overall, her time of 48:43 less than a minute behind the winning lady. Nicole Hope, competing in her first triathlon since giving birth to twin boys in March, finished in 59:37 for second in age category. Despite initial feelings of trepidation Penny Lewis was ultimately exhilarated to complete the challenge in 1:01:11, recording the fastest swim in her age category en route. Elsewhere, at the Cotswolds Evening Lake 62 sprint triathlon, Jamie Courtenay finished in 29th position in 1:03:28 with father Adrian completing in 1:29:55.

It was another very busy week for the Almosts, some of whom took on ultramarathons as far afield as Worcestershire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight. This week’s long-distance champs are Steve Clark, Karla Cleverley, Cat Daly, Nick Lewis, Cos Pearson and Thom Stephens. Thom and Cat took on Race to the Stones (continuous option), running 100k along The Ridgeway, finishing at Avebury Stone Circle, in 10:58:09 for 43rd position overall and 13:06:44 respectively. Cos Pearson put her recent targeted training to good effect in the Race to the Stones Weekender edition, running 50k on consecutive days in 15:16:46. Karla Cleverley also cashed in her long-term investment in training, crossing the line in her first ultra in 19:24:02.

Steve Clark took part in the two-day Isle of Wight Full Island Challenge, which follows the coastal path 106km around the island and takes in almost 2,000m of height gain past The Needles and Cowes, completing the tough route in 19:30:23. Closer to home Nick Lewis proved a more than worthy match for the Upton 50km ultra, a new addition to the ultrarunning calendar on a mixture of established national trails, bridleways, footpaths, riverbanks and connecting tarmac roads. Nick finished 10th overall in 6:38:17. Meanwhile, an Almost team comprising Jane Rackham-Wood, Shaun Carr and Phil Jeyes took part in the Upton triathlon relay event, swimming 1,500m, cycling 40km and running 10k. At the Cotswold Classic triathlon Jayne Cheslin completed the course in 5:02:44.

Christopher Benjamin edged 13.1 miles closer to his target of 100 half marathons, completing his 91st, a Forestry Commission event in Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire. Mark Wreford-Bush took part in the Leamington Spa half marathon, finishing in a creditable 1:41:44. Elsewhere Kathy and Paul Haig took on the novel White Star Running Wedding Run, a half marathon which turned into a 15.64-mile event, recording 3:50:27 and 3:50:31 before attending a wedding as part of the event!

Mike Johnstone was in blistering midweek form at the scorching hot Brighton Phoenix 10k. Securing a top 10 finish in his age category, he also broke the MV40 club record of 37:06 which had stood since 2014 by eleven seconds, stopping the clock at 36:55.

Elzbieta Antosiewicz’s rich vein of good form continued at the Chepstow Racecourse 10k, where she and club mascot Archie recorded Ela’s second fastest time (54:58) for 6th in age category.

A select band of Almost gents took on the fast and furious Bourton 1 mile, the first event in the 2021 Gloucestershire AAAs road race series and a county championships event. Josh Hand came home first for the club in a speedy 5:39 closely followed by Peter Morris in 5:46 (4th in category), Neil Tring in 6:15, Chris McMahon in 6:37 and Dan Magovern in 6:43.

Taking part in the second race in the Gloucestershire AAA road race series, the 7.2 mile Stroud Beer Race run over an undulating three lap course starting at the Old Lodge Inn, Minchinhampton was a large contingent of Almosts. First home in 20th position and 3rd in age category was coach Dave McGrath in 51:35. Next across the line in 52:20 and 2nd in age category was Peter Morris closely followed by his nemesis Duncan Mounsor in 53:29 and Mark Wreford-Bush in 53:49. Other finishers were Richard Knightley (56:03); Ross Greening (56:44); Neil Tring (59:03); Olly Bell (1:00:21); Kevin Dryburgh (1:05:27) and Jim Trowbridge (1:07:25). Lorraine Taylor, the club’s sole lady representative, completed the challenging course in 1:12:30 for second in age category. Just behind Lorraine was Kevin Fairs (1:13:51); Kevin Richards (1:15:07) and, continuing his solid comeback from leg surgery, Phil Jeyes (1:16:56).

The big event this weekend was the Cotswold Way Relay, back in the race calendar after a year’s hiatus. As well as running Leg 9, team captain Dave Chittock’s famed organisational and spreadsheet skills were put to good use again this year. The club fielded four teams for this 105 miles-in-one-day challenge:

Mixed Team 1 comprised Matt Proome, Ela Antosiewicz, Jo Foster, Amy Sheer, Shaun Carr, Richard Knightley, Richard Birch, Dave McGrath, Ian Coggin and Ivana Wilson. They finished in 23rd position (out of 50 mixed teams) in 16:44:05.

Mixed Team 4 fielded Jackie Slaughter, Mark Wreford-Bush, Ben Brewin, Lorraine Brinton, Liza Habgood, new member Issy Ravenhill, Sam Alexander, Kevin Dryburgh, Felicity Read and Dave Davey, one of the club’s four Kings of the Cotswolds. They finished in 33rd position in 17:56:07.

Mixed Team 2 was made up of Hester Coggin, Matt Hampton, Duncan Mounsor, Peter Morris, Michelle Balchin, Des Beer (the club’s only Queen of the Cotswolds), Ed Munro, Richard Bennett, Catherine Mason and Mike Kennedy. Their cumulative time in 37th position was 18:25:17.

Mixed Team 3 featured Thom Stephens, Danny Carroll, Hannah Brown, Andrew Wilkinson, Kirstie Hallam, Peter Mitchener, Vicky Kennedy, Steve Taylor, Dave Chittock and Laura Tring. They completed less than three minutes behind Team 2, finishing in 38th position in 18:28:02.

A big shout out to the numerous Almosts who generously volunteered their time as crossing marshals and tail runners and also kicked up a storm on the legendary Leg 3 water station.

Elsewhere Christopher Benjamin clocked up his 90th half marathon at the Birmingham Black Country half marathon on Saturday, leaving just ten to complete before his significant birthday in August. This event is a point-to-point race along the canal towpaths between Wolverhampton city centre and Brindley Place in Birmingham. Largely flat with locks and bridges the only inclines, the route features the 360-metre long Coseley Tunnel and floating drink stations. Christopher crossed the finish line in 2:05:32.

Putting the finishing touches to their Race to the Stones ultramarathon preparation were Cos Pearson and Karla Cleverley, who ran four laps of Bute Park at the Fix Events Conquer Cardiff half marathon. Cos finished in 2:02:31 and Karla in 3:08:17.

Further east, Martyn Fisher had an enjoyable morning out at the Outlaw Holkham half marathon, a lovely route in the grounds of Holkham Hall in Norfolk, on a mixture of tarmac paths and trail, with some long straights and a few undulations thrown in for good measure.

Jack Helliar took on the Welsh 3000s in Snowdonia, an event he has been training for over the past few months. The weather on Saturday was too bad for participants to do the first section of the event but nevertheless Jack conquered five peaks, covering a distance of 16.25km.

Supported by Lesley Cottle and her husband Alan, Claire Hawes - club chair - ran the virtual Exe Estuary half marathon along the South West Coast Path. Closer to home Mark Stojanov opted for The Great British Cake Off Virtual Challenge, running 7.5 miles – the furthest he has run this year – alongside the river around the villages of Apperley and Deerhurst.

At the Gloucester 10k and racing again just one day after completing Leg 2 of the Cotswold Way Relay, Ela Antosiewicz took advantage of the cool conditions to smash her PB by well over three minutes, finishing in 54:01. First Almost home was new member Thomas Yiend in 44:22, followed by Paul Warren in 46:36. Pete Blakeman took third in his age category for a 48:24 finish. Melissa Jonga completed in 56:01; Charmaine Brunt in 57:13 and newlywed Russell Jones in 57:43. Several club members gave up their Sunday morning to volunteer, handing out finish line goodies.

At the Greystones Farm Nature Reserve Swan Lake 10k, a new event near Bourton on the Water, a number of Almosts turned out to show their support for North Cotswolds Rotary and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, some running in torrential rain at the finish. Neil Tring was 13th overall and third in age category in a time of 57:06. Lorraine Taylor also bagged herself a top 20 spot, coming home in 19th position overall and second in age category in 1:01:39. Claire Hawes was next in 1:08:15, earning first place in her age category. Other finishers were Ceinwen Davies (1:14:04); Olly Nolan (1:19:02); Iris Mayo (1:19:03); Rachael Nolan (1:22:49) and Sarah Fennell (1:22:58).

 

Long-standing club member Glenda Gill didn’t so much dip a toe in the world of ultramarathons as dive right in, as she took on the Cotswold Way 100k Challenge, running 34 miles from Cirencester to Wotton under Edge via Painswick on Saturday and then a further 30 miles via Tetbury and Cirencester on Sunday. The 100k loop run double ultra included pretty villages, rolling hills and tough climbs. Running with her sister Nicola, Glen finished in a magnificent 7th place out of 81 lady finishers, completing the first stage in 8:59:09 and the second in 8:49:41.

Another long-distance fan, Mark Newton, completed the Black Mountains Ultra as part of his training for the Upton Ultra in July. Another 35 miles and 7,500 feet of elevation gain in the bag for Mark.

Forrest Wheeler continued his remarkable four-year journey from heart bypass surgery, via cake and dubious jokes, to his first official marathon, completing the Milton Keynes marathon in 5:30:43 with Archie the club mascot on board.

Christopher Benjamin, the man who must surely get the most value for money out of his EA affiliation fee, continued his quest to complete 100 half marathons by notching up a further three this week. From the legendary stadium finish of the Milton Keynes half on Saturday via his 88th in 2:01:53 at the National Trust Lacock half on Sunday to his 89th at the Greenway half in Stratford upon Avon on Wednesday. Keep going Christopher, your target is coming into view!

Sue Monaghan put her recent targeted off-road training to excellent use in the Round Sheffield 20k Run, a trail run completed in eleven stages in the hills and parks around Sheffield.

The club was well represented at Frampton 10k on Monday, where the cool evening conditions led to some impressive times and a handful of personal bests. Josh Hand was first home in 38:22 for a top 20 finish. Pushing each other all the way, Duncan Mounsor (42:27) came in just three seconds ahead of Peter Morris, who recorded 42:30 for fourth in category. Next in were Mark Wreford-Bush (43:47) and Richard Knightley (44:53), whose recent concentrated long-distance training resulted in new PBs for both. Steve Phelps (46:55) was followed by first Almost lady home, Michelle Balchin, who clocked 47:26 for fourth in category. Other finishers, many of whom are in heavy training for various long-distance challenges, were: Steve Taylor (47:50); Chris McMahon (48:46); Alan Mullen (49:23); Allan Green (50:45); David Chittock (50:57); Ali Shaikh (51:29); Cos Pearson (52:16) (PB); Catherine Mason (57:46); Charmaine Brunt (59:32); Kim Lewington (1:01:32); Darren Lewington (1:01:33); Jayne Murphy (1:02:11) and Karla Cleverley (1:11:15) (PB).

A group of Almosts, some of whom had been disappointed by the late cancellation of the Pendock Spring Chicken 10k, enjoyed the Malvern 10k trail race around the foothills of the Malvern Hills, another undulating course with some challenging sections. First home for the club was Mike Kennedy in 48:56. Ed Munro followed in 53:48 and David Garnett in 57:47. Scoring a memorable husband/wife double, first Almost lady home was Vicky Kennedy in 1:01:33. Hot on Vicky’s heels was the ever-improving Cos Pearson in 1:02:15. Other finishers were Pauline Bargus (1:08:37) (3rd in category); Wan Hartley (1:08:49); new member Kerry White (1:21:48); Karla Cleverley (1:25:38) and Julie Averiss (1:26:29).

A select group took on the Cotswold Women’s Only triathlon, an event which comes highly recommended. Helen Yarnold crushed the Sprint event in 1:55: 38. Setting herself a much shorter challenge than usual, Hannah Brown scored an impressive first in category and second overall in the Super Sprint, finishing in 54:47. Nat Stow completed the Novice edition in 1:00:21.

Further afield Ian Williams and Mike Daly competed in the traffic-free Bowood House triathlon in Calne, Wiltshire. Williams recorded 1:23:56 in the Sprint while Daly recorded 1:43:02.

The big draw for Almost Athletes this week was the annual Cheltenham Three Peaks Challenge, organised in aid of St Vincent’s and St George’s Association. The event drew a number of running and walking Almosts to complete the challenging 22-mile route through Gloucestershire’s most picturesque landscapes, tackling the three highest peaks in the county and around 3,000 feet of ascent up Cleeve, Crickley and Leckhampton hills enroute. First home overall, powering home in a very impressive time of 3:52, was Shaun Carr. Graeme Stopp and Forrest Wheeler completed a rare 1-2-3 for the club. Other members participating included Desiree Beer, Deb Cartlidge, David Chittock, Rob Cleaver, Cat Daly, Matt Hampton, Catherine Mason, Eddie Munro, new member Bill Schindler, Julie Scourfield and Bob Spawton. 

Further south club mascot Archie’s choice of companions for Race to the King, a 53-mile ultra starting at Goodwood racecourse and following the South Downs Way to Winchester Cathedral, were Francis Bull and Claire ‘Bear’ Gallagher. After a Herculean effort both Francis and Claire (and Archie!) successfully completed their weekend ultra challenge in 30:14:45 and 30:29:03 respectively (N.B. unadjusted times).

Close by the ever-busy Karla Cleverley took part in the Maverick Adidas Terrex Original Hampshire, an undulating trail event on the Matterley Estate in the South Downs National Park, which takes in the quaint villages of Tichbourne and Cheriton, winding trails past the River Itchen and passes through woodland on the way back to Cheesefoot Head. Karla completed the middle-distance option in 2:24:22.

Julianne Jameson and Jackie Slaughter took on the 6th Hampshire Hoppit trail marathon, a lumpy race in Kingsclere, Hampshire with a hilly sting in the tail at mile 25, coming home in 5:19:31 and 5:46:36 respectively. They were rewarded for their endeavours with a souvenir glass and bottle of Hoppit ale.

Also flying the AA flag at the Alresford 10k in Hampshire was Felicity Read, who knocked almost a minute off her PB to finish in 56:40, despite the hilly out-and-back course. Felicity enjoyed the run, particularly the edible finishers’ medal.

Christopher Benjamin continued his quest to notch up one hundred half marathons, completing the Green Lantern Trail, his 86th at the distance. This self-navigated event raises funds for FORCE cancer counselling at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital and involves 14.2 miles following the Green Circle clockwise around Exeter on a mix of trails, meadows, playing fields and flatlands running alongside the river Exe through Ludwell Valley, Hoopern Valley, Redhills and Mincing Lake Country Park and linking the city’s industrial heritage with some of Devon’s most inspiring natural surroundings. Clearly inspired by the surroundings, Christopher had quite the adventure, taking three wrong turns in the torrential rain and clocking up an additional four miles for a 3:20:22 finish.

Closer to home, on Monday evening Karla Cleverley, Kev Fairs - with Archie, fresh from his efforts at Race to the King ultra at the weekend - and Cos Pearson welcomed the first day of summer by taking on the May Hill Summer Solstice run, a six-mile trail run through Gloucestershire woodland taking in wide-ranging views from the top of May Hill.

Continuing at pace with preparations for her autumn Ironman, Hannah Brown completed the Outlaw 70.3 triathlon in Nottingham in 6:41:39, winning the award for most exuberant finishers’ photo in the process. Earlier in the week Jamie Courtenay (1:02:56), Steve Yarnold (1:22:35) and Adrian Courtenay (1:29:40) participated in the shorter Lake 62 sprint triathlon at South Cerney, enjoying perfect conditions in the water.

 

Almost Athletes took on the early summer sun and scorching temperatures over a variety of distances, locations and terrains across the country this weekend. At the Runthrough Festival of Running at Cheltenham Racecourse, Mike Johnstone continued his rich vein of form, completing the half marathon in 1:25:15 for second in MV40 category. Not far behind was Josh Hand, who recorded a fine 1:26:24 for third MV35. Julian Brand and Ellie Haile completed the club’s quartet of half marathon representatives, finishing the challenge in 1:56:40 and 2:14:17 respectively.

In the 10k event, first home for the club in 57:29 was David Woolnough, followed just three seconds later by Ela Antosiewicz and club mascot Archie. In her first race of 2021 and coming back from an extended period of injury, Hayley Woolnough completed the exposed course in 1:01:05. The club was also well represented by Iris Mayo (1:21:03); Helen Yarnold (1:29:10) and Steve Yarnold (1:29:11).

Further north, Julie Averiss was the club’s sole representative in the Burton Leonard 10k, coming home in 1:27:17. This old school, not-for-profit event over an undulating rural course in the Harrogate area of North Yorkshire raises essential funds for the local community.

In Somerset, Cos Pearson completed the brutally beautiful Cheddar Gorge marathon in 6:44:25. The double lap course, which includes two ascents of the infamous Hell Steps, is considered so challenging that organisers recommend that runners add 20% onto their flat marathon time. Christopher Benjamin notched up his 85th half marathon over one lap of the marathon course in 2:59:55.

In Dorchester Kathy Haig and Karla Cleverley took on the Crafty Fox half marathon, another very challenging off-road event along the Wessex Ridgeway and Dorsetshire Gap, which rewards participants with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The tough course includes steep climbs and sharp descents together with a bonus mile, topped off at the finish with one of White Star Running’s legendary medals.

Going furthest of all this week Martyn Fisher seized another opportunity to wear the purple vest with pride as he competed in the inaugural 50k Greensand Country Ultra, which started and finished at Shuttleworth House in Bedfordshire, just two miles from Martyn’s doorstep. He was pleased to swap searing temperatures and cloudless skies for an ice-cold lager to kick start his recovery, having completed the long-distance event in a very creditable 6:21:39.


13.06.2021