29th February 2016 - Stratford's 1st Parkrun, Dursley Dozen, Ilmington race 5, Men's cross country, Lytchett 10 mile road race, Agnes wins again. . .

Were you one of the 53 SAC club members who ran in Stratford's 1st Parkrun?

Last Saturday was a busy old time in Stratford with the first town Parkrun taking place. A totally free 5k race, open to everybody to run or walk with dogs and children invited too, all races are timed so it makes for an interesting Saturday morning option to put into your training schedule, if you have nothing else to do! Now I know we at SAC all love racing and clearly we'll look forward to the rest of the town finding out just how joyous the experience is too. 450 people took to the recreation ground for the first event, I was marshaling at last weeks run and was delighted to see so many SAC members running - in fact I don't know of any other race where both juniors and seniors can race together - it was awesome to see young Alex Adams chasing down Waleed Agabani coming in just 1 second behind him. Also fantastic to see Hannah Spriggs enjoying a run with daughter Maisey-Joy, not to mention the incredible Georgie Campbell holding the female course record - pretty good for a junior, I'd say. We don't intend reporting on the Parkrun each week but we might mention some highlights from time to time, and on that note, senior club member Roger Wilson also holds the age graded course record. Huge thank you to the Observer for use of the photo above, we couldn't quite gather everyone together on the day but its a great pic regardless. 

There's lots more racing taking place this weekend so Parkrun will be much quieter, I'm sure. Hopefully lots of you will be out taking part in the National Cross Country Championships tomorrow or alternatively I know some of you are doing Belvoir Challenge, Bourton 10k or even a half marathon, there's several going on this Sunday. This Sunday also sees the start of the Triathlon season with the first race in the Grand Prix calendar at Peopleton. Huge good luck to everyone racing this weekend and we'll look forward to hearing how you all get on, whatever you do. Enjoy the race reports below, kindly written by Tony Jackson, David Jones and Phil Brennan. Cheers Victoria

Dursley Dozen 2016 14 Feb 2016 

Report - David Jones 

The Dursley Dozen is established as one of the toughest off road races around. A multi -terrain race of twelve miles, over hills, roads, woodland, open country, mud, more mud, and solid rock. The course sets off steeply for 200 metres and then ascends a woodland track to the top of Stinchcombe Hill. After a short run around the golf course, the route re-enters the woods via a steep descent, before climbing steeply back to the golf course. A short run on the road and then it's onto a muddy track through the woods, an undulating path then leads to a steep descent, followed by a steep ascent back to the hilltop. Through the quarry, then three miles of track through the beech woods. For the final climb, or “ THE PRECIPICE “, ropes are provided! 

On Valentines Day, 8 SAC members took on this gruelling challenge. Strange as it may seem, Sarah Bland, making a welcome return to racing after a 6 month lay-off, reported that it was good fun all round. I’m not convinced. As if to prove a point, Sarah ran a wonderful race, to finish 166th and 19th lady as well as 1st in her age group in a time of 1:54:09. The Stratford runners were led home by Rob Ford (1:36:23), who finished in a magnificent 27th place. Rob was followed by Ivan Sarti (1:39:58). Ivan is another Stratford runner who has not been fully fit for a number of months, so his 45th place finish was a credit to him. Ivan loved his debut in this race. First Stratford lady to finish and both 11th overall female and 6th in her age group, was Hannah Spriggs (1:49:53). She felt the race went well for her but found the combination of 4 steep climbs, off- road running and the mud really tough. Hannah had also run a challenging cross country race less than 24 hours earlier. Impressive stuff. Rob Minton decided to run round the course with Hannah, as he has been poorly recently. Tim Owrid (2:11:59) is ramping up the miles as he prepares for the Manchester marathon in April. He professed himself unhappy with his performance but bearing in mind he fell over twice, I think he’s being a bit hard on himself. They were certainly very useful training miles, if nothing else. Helen Taylor (2:23:42 - 362nd) had never run this distance before, so she can be mightily pleased with herself. She’s maybe thinking she could have found a less challenging 12 miles though. In view of the fact she had not attempted this type of run before, husband Patrick (2:23:43 - 364th) accompanied her around the course. The race was won by Garry Hughes, in a time of 1:22:34. The first female finisher was Annabel Grainger in a time of 1:30:20. Annabel finished 11th overall. 446 runners completed the race. 

Pics below are all from Dursley -thank you Sarah Bland for acquiring them!


Senior Mens Cross Country 13th Feb 2016 

Report by Tony Jackson 

What to date had been a promising year for the Stratford upon Avon Athletic Club Mens Cross County Team took an unexpected twist when a huge list of unavailability and absenteeism left the club down to the bare minimum for the final fixture on 13 February. Failing to complete a team would mean automatic relegation and with 6 to count and only 7 scheduled to make the trip to Gloucester there was a real threat of disaster in the air and some anxious moments waiting for everybody to safely arrive. Even then a single DNF could have spelt disaster so the pre race team brief focussed on ‘make sure you finish!’ 

Rich Shepherd 7th (35.29) once again led the team home and no praise is too high for his consistency and excellence over the course of the season. Behind him Tim Hutchinson 51st (38.54) and Kieran Tursner 95th (40.34) have also been regulars in the scoring six and they once again performed to their high standards. Behind them came three seasoned stalwarts who, with respect, would normally not expect to be anywhere near the scoring six. As such the pressure was on, not only to get round safely but also knowing that every place would impact the overall team score. Mike Sheppard 151st (44.31) led home the threesome followed by James Deacon 168th (47.03) and David Jones 179th (49.54). The club owes these 3 runners a huge debt of gratitude for their commitment to the cause in ensuring that the club successfully completed a team and thereby avoided the threat of relegation. 

The team finished 16th on the day meaning that we slipped from 9th to 12th in the final league table and whilst this meant we missed out on our targeted top 10 ambition we do at least maintain our status for next season. On a final note a special mention for the 7th team member Martyn Sergent 190th (66.32) who has stoically completed all four races over the winter. Always near the back, his dedication and cheery disposition has always shone through and his presence at the final fixture provided a welcome comfort blanket should disaster have struck any of his team mates. 

Lytchett 10 Mile road race 14th Feb 2016

By Phil Brennan reporting on his own race. 

The Lytchett 10 mile road race, in Dorset, always receives very high ratings for organisation and support. This year it was hosting the British Masters 10 mile championships, and I was there to contest the M70 category for SAC. There was a bit of a Valentine’s atmosphere about the race on Sunday, with each of the 300+ competitors receiving a pink heart-shaped finisher’s medal and a single red rose. Unfortunately, there is nothing pink and fluffy about the course, which is hilly and brutally undulating, reaching a peak at about 6 miles. I spent the last three miles slugging it out with a fellow competitor for second place, desperately trying to get free of him before inevitably, I was out-sprinted by 15 seconds, and had to be content with bronze, in 1:21:43. Still, the cake at the end made up for it – a bit. 

Swiss Cross Cup at the Cross de Farvagny in Fribourg - Agnes wins again!

Report : David Jones 

Agnes McTighe, recent winner of the Junior Sportsperson of the year at the Stratford District Council’s Sports Award and Young Achiever of the Year, at the pride of Stratford awards, returned to racing on Sunday, in the third round of the Swiss Cross Cup at the Cross de Farvagny in Fribourg. On a warm but windy day, the under 16 girls race was over 3200m on an undulating course. Several of the other leading girls were absent, so Agnes took the lead early on and then went away from the field, keeping up a strong pace, winning in a time of 11 minutes 30 seconds, a full 82 seconds clear of the second place runner. 

Agnes has now won all three races in the series and goes into the final, which is also the Swiss Championships, in two weeks time, full of confidence. 

Tempo Winter Series 2015/6 Race 5 Sunday 21st Feb 2016 - Oscar claims the awards on a windy morning in Ilmington! 

Report : David Jones 

A bright, sunny but very windy morning greeted the competitors in the finale of this seasons Winter Series. This series of races goes go from strength to strength, growing in popularity year on year. It must now be one of the premier race series in the UK, popular not only for it’s efficient organisation and extremely challenging course but also for the overwhelmingly friendly atmosphere of the event. Time and time again, competitors, when asked for for their comments on the race, emphasised these qualities. Comments from this latest race included, “so many people enjoy this series, maybe we need a summer series too" “I fully enjoyed the race as always, support, marshals, cake, coffee and bacon sarnies from Emily and Victoria“ “sausages and great banter amongst like minded friends. A great day indeed“ “The goodwill and spirit was as evident today as it always is“. 

The popularity of these races was further emphasised by the extra frisson of excitement at the start of this week’s race, when official starter Rob Minton teased the competitors regarding the colour of this year’s hoodie. For those who don’t know, anyone completing all 5 races in this series are justly rewarded with a Winter Series hoodie. Rest assured, anyone who is able to complete all 5 races, fully deserves any goodies or hoodies coming their way. This was the anti-clockwise version of the race, which after a short stretch, leads straight into the very steep Larkstoke hill. From the start line to the top of the hill it is 2 miles exactly and your correspondent can personally vouch for the fact that it is a tough, tough climb on the best of days but the windy conditions for this race made it doubly difficult. Why is it that the wind never seems to be behind you, when you are running? Strange that. 

A contingent of 29 Stratford Athletic Club Members lined up to start this race, proudly donning their club vests and giving the start line a distinctive yellow and black hue. First home for Stratford and 3rd overall was Oscar Barbour (39.29). Oscar also finished 2nd for the whole series. A truly magnificent performance. Oscar’s running in these races has been a revelation and he fully deserves his success. Commenting on his performance, he said he felt it was one of the hardest races of the series and that he really struggled up the hill, more so than usual, mainly because of the wind. At the top of the hill he felt he was down on where he knew he should have been but he then really worked hard on the down hill section and when he got back into the village, he was 3rd and knew he just had to keep his focus and grind it out until the end. Which indeed he did. Second home for Stratford and 5th overall was Neil Wicks (39.55). This was a fabulous performance to break the 40 minutes barrier in a race of this difficulty. Neil’s comments on the race were as follows: “Clearly, race organisers Sarah, Rob and Paddy wanted to make the final hilly 10k in their Winter Series a tougher affair than usual and so placed a well-hidden wind machine at the top of the Larkstoke climb. After a very fast opening kilometre, where I tried to keep contact with the leaders, the struggle up the hill was simply about keeping your head down and finding whatever wind break was available. By the top I was in 4th place and as the stride lengthened on the downhill stretch I began to close on the runner in front. However, as the gradient hit its steepest, a blur of yellow came flying past me in the form of Oscar Barbour, who moved swiftly past us both into 3rd. Encouraged by a number of Stratford runners coming in the opposite direction, I moved to within a few strides of the 4th placed runner but I was unable to catch him as the metres ran out, finishing just 10 seconds behind him. Another cracking race and the tasty sausages helped the recovery". Neil was followed by Tim Tandy (43.25) finishing 15th on the day and 9th overall for the series. Tim commented that the Tempo Winter Series had certainly kept him on his feet over the winter months and as much as his body didn't like it, he'll miss the hill and miss seeing so many of his new SAC friends. Jamie Chorley (44.12 - 20th) was next home for Stratford. Jamie really is back on top form. He stated that “the anti clockwise route is the harder of the two versions with the brutal Larkstoke coming early on in the race, without giving you much of a chance to get into your stride. It was made particularly hard this time due to the strong wind blowing almost directly into the runners, in fact it was a struggle to keep on your feet at the top. The wind was behind us coming down the hill into the village but the killer was coming back into the village, against the wind again, for the last mile. It's at that point that I nearly ground to a walk but the risk of being over taken by James Cusack made me dig in!“ He certainly did need to dig in, as James Cusack (44.23) was just one place and a mere 11 seconds behind him. James thoroughly enjoyed the race and also mentioned that Larkstoke, with the wind, was a real challenge. It's the first time he'd run the course in this series and although he was 21st, his highest placing for this race, in race 5 of the last series, he ran a minute quicker but was placed 31st. I think the wind had a lot to do with the times for this race James! Waleed Agabani (45.00) was the 6th SAC runner to finish, finishing in 27th place, giving Stratford a superb 6 runners in the first 30 finishers. 

First lady home for Stratford was Hannah Spriggs (47.16). Hannah was 7th lady to finish on the day and a magnificent 4th female for the series, finishing a mere 4 points off 2nd place for the series. She commented on the tough conditions and felt she really struggled with the first 2 miles, due to the strong wind. However, knowing she was 4th in the series made her determined to push on in the second half and at the end of the race she felt she had given it all she could. It’s the first year Hannah has done this series and she said it had been a great challenge. Sam Nicholson (48.51) continued his fine run of form, finishing 58th on the day and an impressive 14th in the series as a whole. James Deacon (49.27 - 66th) has been doing a lot of racing recently and his current form reflects the hard work he has been putting in. This performance is further evidence of this fine form. David Jones (51.01) finished in 84th place and was 2nd M65. David was initially disappointed to record his slowest time for this event but having seen other runners suffering in the windy conditions, he felt that on reflection, maybe it wasn't too bad a performance after all. Luke Watkins (51.39 - 95th) never fails to put in anything other than a hard working, solid performance and this he did again, despite the arduous conditions, finishing in 30th place overall for the series as a whole. Phil Brennan (52.37) finished in 110th position overall and was 3rd in the M65 age group. Phil lamented the fact that he couldn't find a big bloke to hide behind on the hill, to shelter him from Storm Tempo, but he was pleased that he managed to finish the fifth race in a reasonable time and more importantly, in decent shape. Anna Watson ( 53.38 ) was the 2nd Stratford lady to finish in 120th place and 9th overall for the series. Anna is a far better runner than she gives herself credit for, as her performances in this series of races clearly illustrates. Dave Maundrell (54.20) is another Stratford runner enjoying a fine vein of form. Dave finished 130th and should be justifiably proud of his run. Lesley Kirk (54.28) led home a trio of Stratford ladies in 132nd place, she was also 2nd in the F55 category. Lesley is returning from a long period of injury and it is a joy to see her back and running so well. Just 13 seconds behind Lesley, in 135th place, was Sarah Odell (54.41). Sarah said that she found the race really hard work in extremely tough conditions! She added that she felt like a rag doll being blown about up Larkstoke. Sarah was one of several runners who had also competed in the previous days inaugural Stratford parkrun and her top tip is, don't do a park run the day before this race, because you'll run out of gas!! Maureen Birch (55.06) was 139th finisher and yet again claimed the prize for 1st F65 finisher. Maureen commented that the race completed another great series, which has seen an eclectic bunch of runners displaying that "certain something” that gets them up that hill! She also added that she couldn't have wished for better weather in February, albeit a bit windy! Just over a minute separated the next 4 Stratford runners to finish, Daniel Whittington (55.35 - 148th) Rebecca Pridham (56.15 - 161st) Alan Wright , fresh from his half marathon in Barcelona the week before, recorded the same time as Rebecca, finishing in 162nd place. The last of this quartet was Charlotte Potgeiter (56.51 - 173rd). The ubiquitous Allan Coldicott (57.58 - 187th) finished in fine style. Lisa Whittington was 223rd in a time of 1:00.56. Lisa will probably have been disappointed to finish just over the hour mark but she really has no need to, considering the conditions. Closely followed over the finishing line by Beverly Bridgen (1:04.21 - 261st) Oliver Spicer (1:04.39 - 262nd) and Neil Robertson (1:05.02 - 268th). The omnipresent John Butler (1:14.12 – 332nd) arrived at the start line with lots of time to spare, removing the pressure from the organisers, who would have had to decide if the race could be allowed to go ahead without JB’s presence. Natasha Watkins (1:18.14 - 342nd) found the race hugely challenging but enjoyable. She felt it was really tough going up the hill, fighting against the wind and she made the delightful comment that she thought, on occasions, she would take off Mary Poppins style, never to be seen again. Tash was very happy to hit the down hill section, back towards the village and was pleasantly surprised at how well she did considering her knee injury! She was also very happy with her nice stylish hoodie, she loves the colour, it suits her really well and she feels she will be the envy of all her friends! You have certainly earned it Tash! 

354 runners finished the race, just over 150 of who had completed all 5 races in the series and as such, were able to claim their hoodie. The denouement of this wonderful festival of running became slightly surreal at the end, as those 150 committed runners, who had competed in all five races, collected and donned their truly well-earned and much prized purple hoodies. The area around the finish line began to resemble some bizarre Teletubbies convention, where only the purple clad Tinky Winky’s had bothered to turn up, or a group of Prince fans, gathering for a video shoot following the rerecording of his famous Purple Rain song, possibly entitled Purple Sun in view of the bright conditions, or more likely, Purple Wind, in view of the conditions. It was a truly magnificent sight. You really had to be there. By the way, did I mention it was windy? The race was won by Michael Aldridge in a time of 36.32 and the first lady finisher was Carolyn Wilkinson in a time of 44.40. Bring on the 2016/7 series!


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