Sitting on Top of the World.


Andrew Pozzi – On Top of the World.
This week two of our members are 1st and 2nd in the world rankings.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

Andrew Pozzi stormed to victory in Paris by setting a world leading mark in the 60 metres hurdles and closer to home, at Loughborough, Lewis Byng set a new U20 British indoor record with a throw of 19.18m in the shot put, this moves him into the world number two slot.

Wow. Little old Stratford eh.

We also have reports from a couple of members who favour something a tad longer than 60 metres.

Matt Sims competed over 2 days in the Pilgrim Challenge, where he finished 32nd out of 190 finishers, just 4 minutes off a top 30 finish. He was also 13th in his age category.

Louise Stewart was in Surrey, competing over 30 miles in the North Downs Ultra, her first. She then added an extra 20k on at the end, as you do. Her motto for 2020 is “because I can” and she could.

Finally there is a reminder that’s it’s the final XC fixture of the season for our super talented junior XC team. The fixture is in Wolverhampton and it promises to be very wet and very windy. Ideal XC weather in fact.

Our senior XC teams are also in action at Telford and Newbold Comyn.

Good luck one and all

Enjoy the rest of your week

Best Wishes

David Jones
The Final Countdown
This Sunday sees the final fixture of this season’s West Midlands Young Athletes Cross Country League. This is the strongest XC league in the UK for younger athletes and consists of 21 teams.

Our team of super committed and super talented athletes go in to this final fixture in second place overall but it is incredibly tight.

The top three are:

Wolverhampton & Bilston 18,649 points

Stratford AC 18,631 points

Royal Sutton Coldfield 18,436 points

In the age group teams we are in medal positions in both under 11 teams, the under 13 girls, under 15 boys and under 17 women plus we have great chances of individual medals in a lot of the age groups.

Team Manager Paul Hawkins’ made the following comment.

“We’ve had a fantastic season so far in the league but also in the county championships and the schools races. Let’s make sure we finish the league off in style. Whether we win the league or not everyone has done incredibly well and I am really proud of the whole team. Every runner matters, whatever your position, you’re running for our team, our club.”

It promises to be a memorable day. I for one, can’t wait.

Lewis Byng – Currently world number 2.

Andrew Pozzi & Lewis Byng.

Report – Paul Bearman

Stratford AC’s World Indoor 60m hurdles champion Andrew Pozzi’s 2020 season got off to a great start when he made a strong statement to the athletics world by setting a world leading mark of 7.52s on his way to winning in a great atmosphere in the Paris stadium against a top class field.

Before the race Andrew declared that he thought he was in “reasonable shape after having had some good training sessions recently but I’m also still training very hard”. He added “I’ve got an idea of what I’d like to run but I’m really looking to see how good that shape is”. The answer was an emphatic opening run in his heat of 7.56s effort and then he produced an incredibly strong run in the final in a time of 7.52s that leads the world rankings and is his fastest time since winning the World Indoor title in 2018.

Another of Stratford’s star athletes Lewis Byng warmed up for his 2020 season with a massive throw of 19.18m in the Loughborough Open and set a new U20 British indoor record.

Lewis has been training all winter with a new rotational throw technique, but being a perfectionist he didn’t think it was quite where he wanted it so reverted to his “step back” technique to produce the biggest legal throw of his life after having fouled 20.2m with an earlier throw!

Lewis has now moved into the world number 2 slot currently but he feels “there’s loads more to come” and is hoping for 20 plus metre throws at either the UK champs in Sheffield and the Welsh international before going back into winter training to be ready and primed for the outdoor season.

Job done – Matt Sims and his medal.
The Pilgrim Challenge.

Report – Matt Sims.

The Pilgrim Challenge takes place on the North Downs way, taking you from Farnham to Redhill on day 1 and then back again to Redhill on day 2. The total distance is 66 miles and takes in approx. 3,000m of climbing. It’s a race that I ran last year in the run up to the Marathon des Sables (MDS) but I didn’t have that pressure on my shoulders this year.

In 2019 we started the race with 5 inches of snow on the ground and freezing conditions, this year it was dry, around 10 degrees and very muddy…and I mean very muddy. It was going to make the climbs and descents very interesting.

The scenery on this race is stunning because although it is undulating you start high up and stay on a ridge line for much of the 2 days. It means you can see for miles around you and with the weather being so kind it only added to the event.

My two aims, as with all ultras, is to finish and to enjoy it…the former is about my fitness level and the latter is about the people that you meet on the route.

Thankfully my fitness is pretty good at the moment so there was no issue there and the fact that around 50% of the runners use Pilgrims as a last warm-up race for the MDS there is always a lot of talk and idea sharing about that.

It was good this year to share my MDS experience with people and hopefully it will make their race a little more comfortable.

At the end of day 1 I was in 54th position with a time of 6hrs 12. This was more than an hour quicker than last year.

The overnight stop consists of a night of bedding down in a school hall with the other 300 runners, unless you’re sensible and book into a hotel 300 m down the road!

So after a comfortable night in a comfy bed, day 2 started at 8am with the route taking us back on the same track to the day 1 start.

Some people don’t like the ‘out and back’ style of ultra-races but for me it’s always about the views and terrain and as we quickly learnt the torrential rain overnight created some different terrain issues. Basically the trails had become treacherous in places, particularly the downhills.

The course quickly threw up muddy climbs and technical downhills as we all tried to balance the risk of descending quickly whilst staying upright and injury free. I managed to stay upright for the whole day, unlike some of the people around me.

Thankfully there were no injuries in the group I ran most of the day with.

As with any multi-stage race the key is to make sure that you don’t run your race on day 1 and live day 2 in pain. This means knowing your pace and managing your hydration and food intake carefully. By the end of the day I had made up 22 places and finished 32nd overall with a day 2 time of 6hrs 24.

A fantastic 2 days surrounded by some great people…I’ll go back again in 2021.
Louise Stewart and a couple of her run buddies.
It’s not exactly The Yellow Brick Road but Louise Stewart seems to be enjoying life on the Ultra trail.
North Downs Way Ultra.
Report – Louise Stewart.
As part of my running progression I went down to Surrey to run my first ultra on the North Downs Way.

A gentle introduction to the world of ultra running, this was a small group coming together to run 30 miles.

For most of the group this was to keep up their long runs, others were using it as training for longer challenges and for me it was my first run at this distance.

It was a great opportunity to have a no pressure long run with more experienced runners, picking up tips and hearing about their experiences along the way.

I’m used to doing my long runs alone, so it was quite strange having company but this did help the miles rack up surprisingly quickly.

The trail itself was very scenic, a mix of terrain with a good amount of mud thrown in. The infamous Box Hill was a particular delight to climb up at mile 18, but there was a 15 minute pit stop at the cafe in order to refuel before carrying on for the final 12 miles.

I added in a little extra at the end in order to take it to 50km; my strap line for 2020 is ‘because I can’.

I’d recommend this as an option for those who want to try something a bit different. This was organised by Running Adventures, who offer several options for days or weekends out.