Sahara Desert anyone?

Matt Sims.

After the midweek newsletter about our latest Couch to 5kers, there’s an emphasis on distance in this edition.

We have an update on Matt Sims competing in the Marathon des Sables. That’s just the 251k (156 miles) in the Sahara Desert !

Then we have Tara Lambert in Ireland, competing in the Dublin 2 Belfast Ultra. A mere 172k (107 miles ). After that, Tara is keen to improve her 100 mile PB. Not an expression you hear very often.

Is there anything our members won’t attempt ?

We also have a Track and Field update, with, amongst others, Lewis Byng taking upon where he left off last year. He currently tops the UK rankings, is 4th best in Europe and 7th on the all-time list in the UK.

There’s also a report on the Regency 10k, Manchester marathon and Solihull half.

Good luck to those of you competing in Brighton at the weekend. Indeed, good luck to any of you competing anywhere !

Best Wishes

David Jones.

The Marathon des Sables.

Marathon des Sables.

Report – Matt Sims and David Jones.

At the time of writing, Matt has completed 4 stages. Yesterday’s stage was the longest at 76k (47 miles)

He seems to be getting stronger as the race goes on. For the first stage he was 130th in his age category, for the 2nd stage he was 94th, 77th for the 3rd stage and yesterday 58th.

Details of the stages completed to date, together with Matt’s times are as follows :

Stage 1 – 32.2k – 4:54.37 – 6.54k/hr
Stage 2 – 32.5k – 5:51.05 – 5.48k/hr
Stage 3 – 37.1k – 5:37.44 – 6.61k/hr
Stage 4 – 76.3k – 12:43.17 – 6.01k/hr

Total 178.1k – 29:06.43 – 6.11k/hr

Matt’s daily blog.

Day 1 :

Travel over here was hell! 17.5 hours before we got to camp including an 8 hour coach trip. We arrived at night to a tent that had collapsed. We have a tent with 9 men and a 1 female, given that that this is an environment where the toilet facilities are, to say the least, basic, I have a lot of sympathy with the lady.

Yesterday was spent mostly waiting around doing kit checks and medicals. It seem to take forever, nerves increasing. Yesterday we were catered for, so today was the first day of eating from a bag.

I started early this morning for the first stage. I have to say it was a bit emotional given the year of training that preceded it.

The temperature seemed to increase today which was ironic. The nights have been freezing, the biggest surprise. Today’s stage was 32km and fairly straightforward. Not too many hills and a few dunes.

I decided to moderate the enthusiasm and let everyone go at the start and manage my own race. It has paid off and I am feeling ok. Now for some food and rest…tomorrow includes 13k of dunes!

Day 2:

I can only describe today as being like being put in an oven at about 100 degrees whilst running up a mountain and being sand blasted…it was damn hot! I survived it with a smile on my face. Good foot management is paying off. Some soreness but no blisters. The hardest part is carrying the pack. Day 1 it was 8.2kg and in theory I should have eaten 1kg of it by now, but it doesn’t feel lighter.

The scenery today was spectacular and involved running through the highest range of dunes in Morocco. Stunning to admire in between traversing them. My running poles paid off and were worth the additional weight.

Tomorrow looks a bit more ‘standard’ but is 5km longer at 37.1km.

If I stay positive we have completed more than 30% already. The way that this whole event runs is incredible. You are woken at 6am with your bivouac being taken down (whilst in it) and it’s then set up and ready for you when you get back. Well there’s a carpet on the floor!

Now for some lovely freeze dried food for dinner

Day 3:

Today was the longest day so far at 37.5km. and guess was hot! Hotter than yesterday.

From a terrain perspective it was diverse..some rocky flats, dunes and some river beds. You quickly learn to read the sand and basically don’t run where others have, if you can help it. Even on the dunes there’s a thin crust that stays intact if you are the first foot print. It does make things ‘easier’.

I think on average we are using around 5000 calories per day and taking on something ike 2500.

You never feel hungry but you know you could eat more. I’m glad to say my hydration is good. I’m also consuming up to 15 salt tablets per day.

Tomorrow is the long day at 76km and will see us run through part of the night.

in a perverse way its the stage i’m looking forward to the most. it does mean that there wont be an email tomorrow though. We’re trying to work out our food plan as we aren’t planning on stopping to cook. It might be cold curry! Extra water today means a wash tonight!

Day 4/5 :

The morning after the night before. Yesterday I managed 12hrs 43mins. A good day to put in max effort.

There are still people coming in now, 27hrs later. Our early finish meant we got a hot meal and some sleep, which was welcome.

Yesterday was a hot day with much dune work, some mountains and night running. Its a new moon and the sky had no cloud. It was stunning. I spent the whole day eating sports supplement food, yuck.

I have the rest of the day to recover now but honestly I could have run the last marathon today and would have preferred to. Sounds a bit crazy I’m sure.

We get treated to a can of coke later tonight which everyone is looking forward to. It’s been cathartic to be remote with no luxuries or communications but I am looking forward to a shower in 2 days time and perhaps a beer as well.

An early start tomorrow as there is a mountain climb 7km in. After that its medal presentations. Can someone email me the Villa score please ?

Tara Lambert.

Dublin 2 Belfast Ultra.

Report – Tara Lambert.

We set off at noon on Friday from the Guinness Brewery in Dublin on a lovely sunny day,

I borrowed a t-shirt from a friendly competitor, as I only had winter running kit with me.

As I looked around, I was a bit dismayed by how small people’s backpacks were, whereas mine was bulging with 2 litres of water and all my kit.

Most people in the race were supported by crews, so they didn’t have to carry as much.

It took a good 20 miles to be clear of the city and the outer suburbs. There wasn’t much in the way of feed stations early on but a kindly petrol station near the airport was handing out free water – much needed as the sun was strong.

We got out onto A – roads and from then on most of the running was on the hard shoulder/cycle tracks or on the road with traffic zooming past. We got a few friendly beeps and shouts of support from friendly Irish motorists.

The checkpoints/water stations were mobile and because of the spread of runners, I didn’t see them often and relied on petrol stations to get water and sandwiches etc.

It was definitely a ‘no-frills’ event and I probably should have researched this a bit better – although they did say they would get to us every 10-13 miles, which really didn’t happen.

There were two main feed fixed stations and access to big bags of stuff at miles 40 and 70.

My head torch and hi-vis came on at mile 38, ready for 12 hours of darkness.

The feed stations had pot noodles which didn’t cook brilliantly as the water wasn’t boiling!

We crossed the border somewhere before Newry at mile 70 and then began a long and lonely stretch along a canal towpath.

I was mostly on my own, although I could see people’s lights ahead and behind. Shortly before dawn my hamstrings and glutes were seizing up so I attempted some yoga positions for relief.

At one point I was kneeling on the cold ground outside someone’s house in a child’s pose, questioning my life choices!

A hilly country section followed, along with the sunrise and an unofficial feed station in a beauty salon in Banbridge at mile 81. Soup and bread revived me and off I set.

The next bit was pretty awful as we came onto the A1 outside of Lisburn. Six lanes of traffic – doing speeds they probably shouldn’t but there was a fairly wide hard shoulder.

There was about 20 miles of this and I realised I was looking like getting close to managing 100 miles in 24 hours.

I had a little look at Facebook and was cheered up by messages of support and pushed it through to the 100.

A Polish crew took pity on my solo efforts and gave me coke and a Polish sausage, which went down well.

I hit 100 in Lisburn after 23h 57 minutes and stopped for a moment to take a picture of my watch with the evidence and put it on Facebook.


I then realised that I could barely move and had another 7 miles to cover (8 in the end). I had to stop for food at a petrol station as I had no energy, then I got cold so had to put all my layers on. Then I started listing to the side as I was falling asleep on my feet so I had to stop for coffee.

All in all it took me 3 hours to hobble 8 miles which is a new (slowest) record for me!

I was so glad to finish but there was nowhere indoors to sit, so I had to go and warm up and refuel in Café Nero.

Later, I found out I was 3rd lady and I’m getting a trophy which was unexpected.

Overall I’m pleased with my efforts and plan to do more 100 mile events to work on my 100 mile pb!

L to r : Tom Weaver with Seb and Niamh Hillard.

Track and Field update.

Report – Paul Bearman.

The Track & Field season has started, with April being filled with opportunities for athletes to stretch their legs, blow the winter cobwebs away and find out how the winter training has gone.

The Rugby and Northampton AC Open got 5 Stratford upon Avon AC junior athletes season underway, with U13 Tom Weaver throwing a PB in the Javelin of 31.53m and throwing 6.60m in the Shot.

Seb Hillard has moved up to the U13s and jumped a PB in the Long Jump of 4.19m and then ran a promising debut in the 800m of 2.48.0.

Seb’s sister Niamh ran a PB in the U13 1500m in a time of 05:31.1 and she was joined by two of the club’s Triathletes, U15 Charlotte Marshall who ran 5.25.2 and Molly Bullock 5.48.1.

Another welcome debutant on the track was another triathlete Martha Bullock who ran 2.15.8 in the U11 600m.

Despite limited training due to preparing and going on to win titles in the UK Skipping championships, U17 Evie Lowe competed in the high jump finishing with 1.45m.

Four U20 athletes travelled to Loughborough and in his first year as an U17 Lewis Byng has started where he left off outdoors last year, by going straight to the top of the UK rankings with a mighty heave of 18.35 a new PB.

Byng said afterwards “training is going well and I know there’s more to come”.

With the U20 European Championships as his main objective this year, that distance also puts Byng 4th in Europe currently and 7th on the all-time UK rankings.

Imogen Sheppard established a new outdoor PB in the 400m of 58.97 and she was followed home by sister Jess in a time of 59.73s, who also ran 26.70s in the 200m.

Harry Allwood is a 400m specialist but to get some speed training in he ran in the shorter 100m (12.66s PB) and the 200m (25.09s).

Above – Rich Shephard.
Below l to r – Matt Burdus-Cook and Malcolm Bowyer.

Regency 10k.

Report – Jon Mulkeen.

International triathlete Richard Shephard was the first member of the club past the finishing line at the Wright Hassall Regency 10k in Leamington on Sunday 7 April.

The route is predominantly on the roads around Leamington town centre but also takes in Newbold Comyn golf course.

The near-perfect conditions were reflected in the results, as the top three men finished inside 33 minutes.

In a high-quality race with almost 2000 runners, Shephard placed fifth in 34:02 – just 11 seconds shy of his best performance on this course, set when finishing second in 2015.

He was one of seven Stratford AC athletes to finish within 40 minutes.

Despite suffering from a cold for a week leading into the event, Matt Burdus-Cook finished 24th overall and fourth M40 in 37:16, his fastest ever clocking for a 10km race of any nature and almost a minute quicker than his time from last year.

Chris Cond also performed better than he did 12 months ago, clocking 38:51 to finish 44th overall and eighth in the M40 category.

He was followed by a flurry of four sub-forty finishers as triathlete Bogdan Ene (39:27), newcomer Richard Liggatt (39:34), Adam Evans (39:45) and Seth Turner (39:50) all cracked the 40-minute mark for the first time.

Malcolm Bowyer, who is preparing for the London Marathon later this month, was the fourth finisher in the M50 category, placing 80th overall in 40:21.

David Smyth (42:29) and Peter Sugden (43:26) finished 20th and 25th respectively in the same category, while Graham Black ran 42:28 to finish 32nd in the M40 age group.

Suzi Graham was Stratford AC’s first woman past the finish line and the 125th woman overall. She recorded 51:02 to achieve a top-30 finish in the W45 category.

Rachael Green, the 34th W45 finisher, was close behind in 52:11, while Sarah Boundy was timed at 53:19.

Stratford AC’s other finishers were Ben Twyman (48:19), Tomos Horbury (57:04), Louise Stewart (57.33), Clare Eynon (1:00:02), Chris Bloomfield (1:01:23), Jane Fradgley (1:01:27), Natasha Watkins (1:09:58), Gemma Smith (1:10:46) and Jennifer Wharton (1:20:04).

Adam Peacock of Bromsgrove and Redditch took the overall victory in 32:20, while Leamington’s Natalie Bhangal was the first woman to finish, clocking 38:51.

Kate Sergent.

Results Round Up.

Report – Jon Mulkeen.

Elsewhere on the roads last weekend, Cadie Hibberd smashed her marathon PB by exactly 24 minutes. Competing at the Greater Manchester Marathon, the 21-year-old clocked 3:29:16 to finish as the 202nd woman out of a field of 13,650 runners.

Closer to home, Kate Sergent ran the Solihull Half Marathon and used it as an opportunity to hone her pacing plan for the Brighton Marathon next week

“It worked a treat,” said Sergent, who clocked 2:16:54 to finish second in the W65 category. “I did a steady 10:35-per-mile pace and felt great at the finish. I’m feeling a little more confident for Brighton now.”

My Regency 10k.

Report – Tomos Horbury

Firstly, I must say that this race was well organised and marshalled. The course was interesting!

Let me start with, well, the start!

We lined up on the footpath waiting for the start, we were again subjected to the usual over enthusiastic warm up artist who had failed to realise that trying to get 2200 people waiving arms and doing kicks was a bad idea as we were well and truly wedged into our starting pens,

I apologise to the guy who was behind me, who ended up with a black eye and to the guy in front who had my foot firmly planted somewhere painful…

Anyway, the time came and unlike a certain parkrun, we were off bang on 9am, with cheering and applause from the onlookers as we headed for Newbold Common. There is a good reason why I don’t do Leamington parkrun, and today reinforced that, it’s all tracks and for 4km! Thankfully there had been no rain, or it would have resembled the Somme…

After running around fields for what seemed like an eternity, we were back on to solid tarmac as we headed into Leamington. The crowds were back and cheering us all along. After the town we headed through the park, under a bridge through another park, I had no idea Leamington had so much green space!

A quick 180 degree turn and we head back to the Jephson Gardens. The smell of freshly ground coffee at the cafe was a welcome smell but I was on for a PB so no time to stop!

Crossing the finish line, which was the best organised finish line I have ever encountered and I have done plenty, including London Landmarks, not sure if I have ever mentioned that before, in time for tea and medals!

I did indeed a get a PB and I’m sure the rest of the Stratford AC who ran, there did seem to be a lot of us, will agree it was a nice course and I will be back to take it on again in 2020!