Indoor Champions, National XC and more.

Club members who were part of the successful Midlands Masters team.
L to R – Dave Wilson, Elaine Ledden, David Jones, Brian Gravelsons, Paula Williams and Paul Hawkins
Coaching and Officiating.

Please don’t just ignore this and think it’s not relevant to you….if you, your child or family member is involved with Stratford upon Avon AC then it most certainly will be relevant.


As with all clubs in all sports SUAAC totally relies on volunteer support and as the club continues to grow and expand we need a constant flow of new volunteers to support the club’s activities. In the junior part of the club we work to a strict coach : athlete ratio primarily for welfare, safety and quality reasons for the children.


Becoming a volunteer coach or official is a great fun way of becoming involved in the club and the community. Whether you are a parent or family member wanting to get more involved with your children’s sport or an older athlete looking for a new dimension to your role in the sport, or have been inspired by seeing how other people have made a difference to young people’s lives, coaching and officiating has plenty to offer.


There’s a whole host of motivations why people become a coach or officiate in athletics, like giving something back to the community or the sport they and their children enjoy, the camaraderie and making new friends, to experiencing the sport from a different angle rather than just watching from the side lines.


We prefer to recruit our coaches and officials via members’ families or their associates, as the chances are we will already know them. If your child or family member is involved with SUAAC or even if the last time you wore a pair of trainers was in your school PE lesson you could become a valued athletics coach or official for the club.

Incidentally the majority of people who get involved with the club have no particular knowledge or experience of athletics.

All you would be required to do is go on a 1 or 2 day course and obtain a DBS for child protection. The club pays for all of this so there are no out of pocket expenses and coaches get a significantly reduced membership rate for their children.

Why Coach?

As a first step into helping at the club there is the Coaching Assistant qualification:

Who could go on this course? Anyone aged 16 or over, who is interested in taking the first step into a coaching pathway and wants to understand the fundamental technical principles of coaching.

  • How many days will it take? Two days (normally delivered over the course of one weekend) with no assessment.

  • What will I learn? The technical coaching knowledge to underpin running, jumping and throwing activities. You’ll then learn how to apply these principles into a number of fun and exciting practical examples.

  • What will I be able to do? By attending the Coaching Assistant course, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to deliver effective and engaging club sessions initially and be insured to assist working with a more experienced coach using session plans.

    For more information for Coaching Assistant courses go to—west-midlands

After the CA course the world of athletics coaching opens up as much or as little as you want it to. For details of coaching qualifications see

Why I became a coach………

Rob Forman …….”All 3 of my children have been involved in the club and Emily the eldest, started aged 10 and has gone on to win medals in national championships and represented English Schools in an international.

I have a very busy, intense working life but I still find a couple of hours a week to forget the day to day hassles to try to help other children achieve their potential. There’s great camaraderie between the coaches and as a volunteer it’s giving something back to the community. I’d definitely recommend making the time and get involved for yourself and to help others”.

Why Officiate?

There is a range of specialty officials categories i.e. track, field, starter and timekeeping and like all other sports, athletics competition simply wouldn’t exist without qualified officials.

From the club’s point of view we have commitments to the leagues we are involved with and our officials earn points every bit as much as one of our competitive athletes in league matches. We have actually lost matches in the past because of not fully meeting our officiating commitments.

Why I became an official………

Brian & Alison Gravelsons …….”Officiating is fun. Great people enjoying their time together on a summer’s day or evening. We get a lot out of knowing that we are making a huge difference not just for our children but for many others too and every athlete benefits from good officiating. Indeed, junior athletics simply would not be able to function without willing volunteers. Everyone is busy but I think that if we do not make the time and volunteer to help out in some way and for some of the time, then we can’t really expect there ever to be training, leagues and other events that our children can take part in and enjoy”.

Louise Leighton…… “When the club asked me if I would consider being an official, my answer was a definite yes. Mostly because I struggle with the word ‘no’ but when I gave it some further thought, I figured it was a great way to give something back to the club by volunteering a bit of time. Plus it was an opportunity to learn some of the technical jargon that has baffled me for years so I could get involved in conversations about athletics instead of being totally clueless”.

So if you’re interested or want to know more please help our club and contact me or 07767 343925 or any Committee member and don’t forget the club pays for the course so you’re not out of pocket.

Thanks for reading this and hopefully you’re inspired to get involved with us and support our athletes and the future of our club.

Paul Bearman


This week’s newsletter starts with a really important request from Paul Bearman concerning the club’s continuing need for additional volunteer coaches and officials.

We are a massively successful club that consistently punches way above our weight in all major competitions and none of this would happen without the voluntary support of our coaches and officials but the bigger and more successful we get, the more volunteers we need to not only maintain our current level but to help us improve.

As someone who has helped out with our junior endurance group, I can’t put in to words the pleasure it has given me and how rewarding it has been. I often tell people that the time I spend at the track on Thursday evenings with our juniors is the highlight of my week.

The newsletter also has reports on 6 of our Masters athletes who helped Midland Masters achieve their first ever grand slam of titles in the England Masters Inter Area match in London, with the team picking up trophies for winning the ladies, mens and overall titles.

There’s a report and some fabulous photos from the National Cross Country Championships, together with reports on the Warwick half, London Vitality half and Wendover Woods trail half marathon and Dave Parkin tackled the extremely demanding 15.6 mile Belvoir Challenge. Rather you than me Dave.

And finally there’s a further selection of photos.

Best Wishes

David Jones
Paula Williams with the trophy for the winning ladies team.

England Masters Inter Area Match

Report – Brian Gravelsons

An unprecedented six Stratford upon Avon AC senior athletes were selected to represent the Midlands in the annual England Masters Inter Area Match held at the Lee Valley Indoor Track and Field Centre.

The Midlands competed against five other teams: Southern Counties, Eastern Vets, South West Vets, and Veterans AC, who are based in London, as well as the Welsh Masters.

This enabled all six athletes to test their early season form against the Nation’s best Masters’ athletes. Points are earned in each race, and the team with the most points across all events takes the trophy and honour of claiming to be the best regional Master athletics team at indoor athletics for the year.

First to compete was seasoned professional and club legend Paula Williams who competed in the W35 age group for the day, a full age group lower than normal. This was not a problem at all for Paula who initially had to balance competing in the 60mH and the shot put simultaneously, before later taking on the challenge of the high jump. Paula, finished 2nd in the hurdles in a time of 9.72s and then followed this with a huge personal best of 11.33m to win the shot put with compelling ease. Paula later competed in the high jump, deftly scaling 1.30 to finish in 3rd place.

David Jones, with one eye on the European Indoor Championships later in the month, stretched his legs in the M70 1,500m. A well composed, even paced race enabled David to finish in 4th place in a time of 5.49.9, his fastest time for almost 3 years. David really pushed himself in the closing stages, digging in and almost took 3rd place, but was eased out on the last bend, his time was also only 0.4s outside the age group club record, giving him a great platform to make further progress over the year.

David also competed in an exhilarating M70 800m race. He tracked the early leader and was not flustered when the Southern Counties runner passed by to take the lead. Having kept something back to kick at the final bend, David took first place with aplomb in a time of 3.00.15, with barely half a second separating the first 3 finishers.

Representing the Midland Masters for the first time were Elaine Ledden, David Wilson, Paul Hawkins and Brian Gravelsons. Elaine took on the tough challenge of the W60 400m, two laps of the tight track. While other athletes pushed the fast pace in the early stages, Elaine kept calm and steady and caught up as the race unwound, managing to take 3rd place in an excellent time of 77.30s. Elaine went on to finish 3rd in the long jump with a massive personal best jump of 3.38m.

David Wilson has been relatively injury free for the first time in a while during winter training, and this has set him up for an exciting summer season. This was underlined in the M50 200m where David ran a superb lap in 27.08 to finish 6th.

Paul Hawkins was due to compete in the M50 2km walk, a younger age group than his actual years. In a last minute decision to enable a full team to be fielded, and hence potential for a few extra points, the Midland Masters team manager asked if Paul would be prepared to drop a few more age groups and compete in the M35 age category. Paul was more than happy to oblige and competently finished 1st in a time of 12.30.47. This was Paul’s first indoor walk and he was delighted with his time and being able to cope with the tight bends, ensuring disqualification was not a risk.

Brian Gravelsons competed in the M50 4x200m relay, taking the 3rd leg, assuredly helping the team finish 2nd in a time of 1.53.24. David Wilson helped the M35 relay team finish in 2nd in a time of 1.46.96, and David Jones took the anchor leg to bring the M70 team home in 1st place in a time of 2.12.83. Paula helped the W35 relay time finish 1st in a time of 1.55.35, and Elaine capped a fantastic day helping the W60 4 x 200m relay team finish in 1st place in a time of 2.21.24.

Overall Midland Masters earned 167 pts in the Women’s match to finish in 1st place, and earned 207 pts in the Men’s match to also finish in 1st place, which then translated into an overall position of 1st place in the England Inter Area Indoor Athletics Competition. That is the first ever time the Midlands have won the grand slam of all 3 trophies in this indoor athletics competition.

Georgie Campbell, Taylor Stubbins, Ellen Taylor and Alex Adams.
The U13 girls – Niamh Hillard, Tilly Campbell, Maddie Linfoot, Caitlin Boyle, Charlotte Skinner
Joe Lewis and Seb Hillard
Cadie Hibberd, Rebecca Pridham, Vicky Sharpe, Sarah Vernon.
John Raby, Seth Turner, Tim Hutchinson, Malcolm Bowyer.

National Cross Country Championships 2020
Wollaton Park, Nottingham

Report – Paul Hawkins

The 2020 National Cross Country Championships took place at Wollaton Park in Nottingham and, surprisingly, the weather was almost reasonable without any of the recent storms, although there was certainly plenty of mud from the recent rains which made the course a good challenge for all the runners who had travelled from across the country.

The Stratford team, although fewer in numbers than in some years, had a fine day with the highlight a fourth place from Alex Adams in the under 15 boy’s race, despite being amongst the youngest in the race.

The first event was the U17 women’s race of 5.5k over two laps. Stratford’s Georgie Campbell has enjoyed a successful first season in this age group and started strongly in the leading group but unfortunately faded a little in the second half to finish in 27th position with a time of 23.19.

Ellen Taylor (160, 27.01) was unfortunate to fall early in the race in the treacherous conditions but recovered well to continue her improvement this season finishing just outside the top half.

The next race was the U15 boys over a 4.8k course where there were just two Stratford runners but both were deservedly pleased with their races. Last year’s under 13 boys’ bronze medallist, Alex Adams moved into his new age group with confidence following a good season so far and he continued in a similar manner running well from the start in a lead group of five.

Lewis Sullivan from St Edmunds has been unbeaten this season and proved too strong for the rest of the field and pulled Ben Peck with him. Chris Perkins tried to go with them while Adams hung back off the pace to save himself for the finish, which proved a good decision as he finished strongly in 16:55 in 4thplace just 3 seconds outside of the medals and comfortably clear of the 5th place finisher.

Taylor Stubbins (199, 20:00) is in his first season with the club and had another fine run showing his potential for the future both in cross country and on the track.

The U13 girls’ race was over a 3.7k course, and Stratford’s girls made real progress from last season to finish 24th team up from 39th last season.

County Champion Niamh Hillard was first home for the team in 17:36 incredibly improving from 356 last year to 101st. Maddie Linfoot (164th, 18:21) was not at her best and was disappointed with her run but still ran well and battled through to the finish. Caitlin Boyle (258, 19:43) had a strong run enjoying the mud and was followed by Charlotte Skinner (306, 20:46) who has only recently joined the cross country team. Tilly Campbell (324, 21:18) improved by 100 places since last to demonstrate her improvement while Harriet Black (348, 22:33) completed the team in her first Nationals.

The under 17 men’s team ran over a long 6.7k course and were delighted to claim a top 20 team position.

Josh Dobedoe (211, 28:15) ran his usual well paced race and just held off Ned Campbell (214, 28:20) who had earlier fallen in the worst of the mud. Meanwhile Cameron Black (262, 31:12) and Fin Hutchinson (270, 31:36) had their own personal battle spurring each other on and completing the team.

Next up were the under 13 boys and following late withdrawals there were just the two Stratford runners racing on the 3.7k course and both performed well with Joe Lewis (265, 18:04) just ahead of Seb Hillard (291, 18:39).

Many of the races were further than advertised and the under 15 girls was no exception as the athletes were expecting a 4k distance but ran 4.8k.

Olivia Robinson (173, 22.47) has had a tremendous season in her first season in the age group and ran consistently throughout the race. Abigail Skinner (331, 26.12) and Holly Newton (370, 28:25) both had good runs and all three girls will still be in this age group next season when they will be looking forward to progressing.

Daisy Musk (113, 34:56) was the sole Stratford runner in the 6.7k under 20 women’s race and continued her good progress in her first season in the age group even though the longer, heavier courses are not her favourite.

Straight after the junior women it was the turn of the seniors who ran over 9k, despite expecting an 8k race! Cadie Hibberd (101, 39:06) revels in the longer races and was delighted with her performance, improving massively on last year when she was 314th although she was aiming for the top 100!

Vicky Sharpe (398, 46:47) has recently joined the club and has proved to be a critical member of the team and so it proved in this race as she ran strongly.

Sarah Vernon (651, 53:12) and Rebecca Pridham (696, 54:49) were close together for most of the race although Sarah pulled away in the final 2k. Both had tremendous finishes on the final muddy straight, with Rebecca surprising herself by overtaking three other runners with her sprint finish. The team finished in a fine 57th place, another big improvement on last year.

The final race was the senior men who competed over a 12.9k course of four different distance laps. With over 1500 men racing the course was congested at the start but coped well with it, although the men probably had the worst of the mud.

As is often the case, first for Stratford was Tim Hutchinson (677, 57.23) who improved by over 150 places on 2019. John Raby (796, 59:20) is in his first cross country season and this was a big step up from his previous races, so he should be pleased with the race.

For Seth Turner (1074, 63:40) this was amazingly his first ever cross country race and he certainly started with a good one. Only 5 seconds behind was Malcolm Bowyer (1080, 63:45) who had enjoyed the competition with Seth if not the final outcome.

Next was Mike Sheppard (1506, 74.10) who found the going very tough. Despite this he improved his position by 170 places on 2019 which itself was an improvement of 230 places on the previous years – he must be a contender for most improved!

The final runner of the day for Stratford was James Deacon (1711, 96:08) to complete the men’s team who came in 104th place to finish the day off.

All in all, an excellent day for the Club with wonderful team spirit shown by the support all round the course for each race.

Stratford’s Got Talent.

Warwick Half Marathon

Report – Phil Brennan

The annual Warwick Half Marathon played host to the start of Stratford AC’s road running Grand Prix challenge, with over twenty members taking part.

The Grand Prix competition is a handicap race-within-a-race at sixteen of the major local events throughout the year, with cumulative score deciding the winner. The Warwick Half itself attracted 1500 competitors.

It started and finished at the racecourse and follows a single lap through the local countryside.

The traffic-free route, short but testing climbs and dips and rural views make for an enjoyable race.

The biting cold wind would have been more of a handicap but for the uninterrupted sun. The only slight disadvantage was the narrow start gate, which meant that some competitors had a big difference between their official finishing time and the electronically recorded time (“chip time”). Chip times are shown in the report below.

SAC’s contingent was led home by Rich Shephard in 2nd place. Although giving away age to the winner, he still managed 1:12:50, a scarily fast 5 minutes 33 seconds per mile.

Next in were the fast and consistent Seth Turner (74 th , 1:27:09), Max Ross (89, 1:28:21) – both with PBs, and James Coy (167, 1:33:39). Nick Campbell (258th – 1:37.17 ) only entered on the day and as father of 3 of the club’s talented junior endurance group he was delighted to still retain the family half marathon record. His tactic of “if I can’t go faster than them, I’ll go longer” seems to be paying dividends.

There was little to choose between Adam Linforth (283, 1:38.18) and Graham Hill (285, 1:38.44).

Ben Phyall (357th – 1:42.08) just edged out Sam Wignell (372nd – 1:42.34) who was comfortably inside his target time of 1:45.

Next was Pete Wharton (486th – 1:46.58) followed by Cara Reynolds (555, 1:48.27) who was part of a group masterminded by Emily Adams (571,1:51:36), including Michael Parker (567, 1:50.22) Karl Harris (585, 1:50.03) and Sarah Boundy (597, 1:50.37) making a welcome return to distance running. The noisy banter when the group passed Phil Brennan (651,1:54:36) late in the race did nothing to revive him. Phil also finished 1st in his age group.

Mike Barrie (726, 1:54.41) was followed by Anthony Brain (825 th 1:59.41) just dipping under the two hour mark. Dave Maundrell (907, 2:03.45), on the other hand, was pleased to finish his longest distance for some time.

Tom Horbury (979, 2:04.01) took lumps off his PB . Kate Sergent (1180, 2:12.37) was first in her age category despite having run a half marathon just 7 days earlier and was followed by Sue Mothershaw (1228th – 2:14.43) while Pippa Abrams {1301, 2:20.58) and evergreen Allan Coldicott (1396, 2:33.06) showed their usual determination.

The race was won by Ian Allen in a time of 1:09.37 and the first female finisher was Laura Peil in 1:20.58 and 34th place overall despite being in the W50 age category.

Andy Cox and Clare Weatherhead with her niece.

Wendover Woods Festival of Running
Trail half marathon .

Report – Clare Weatherhead


Whilst many members were completing the Warwick half marathon I was in Buckinghamshire running the Wendover Woods trail half marathon with my niece Charlie.

A 10k and half marathon ran through the forest on paths and trails mixed with lots of mud. The morning was sunny and bright, although the cold wind was not appreciated when the start was slightly delayed.

The half marathon was a two loop course with an undulating route through the forest. The views were spectacular in places which helped to take your mind off the steep inclines around every corner.

This was the hardest trail half I’ve done to date but definitely worth the effort, made extra special for me running along side by 24year old niece.

I would definitely recommend visiting Wendover Woods if you love running in the forest.

Vitality Big Half Marathon.

Report – Phil Brennan.

The club’s Andy Cox opted for a major event, with a field of 15,000, in London in his build up to the London Marathon.

The Vitality Big Half starts near Tower Bridge and winds its way through the old docklands boroughs before finishing at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

The weather – “Nice and sunny but a bit windy in places” greeted Andy, who had not raced since the Berlin Marathon last September. His 835th place and 1:25:33 time, was less than a minute off his PB and should put him in good heart for London.

Dave Parkin enjoys a well earned portion of blackberry and apple crumble.

The Belvoir Challenge

Report – Dave Parkin.

I’m reading a book at the moment about Scottish hill running, so I went to bed the night before the Belvoir Challenge dreaming of 24-hour rounds across pristine, snow-covered Scottish mountains. I woke up to the reality of 15.6 miles of pristine Leicestershire mud…

This has to go down as the most ridiculously muddy race I have ever done. Any thoughts of finishing position or pace were gone within the first mile and after that it was simply a question of hanging on in there and maintaining some level of forward movement.

Paths had turned to ditches, tracks to rivers, and fields to lakes; and the ferocious hailstorm half-way round added to the entertainment. The low point had to be at the 10-mile mark when competitors were faced with an utterly pathless, saturated, ploughed field – shoes had increased to at least 5kg each after that particular delight.

But, amidst the madness, a certain camaraderie developed between competitors and it turned into a black-humoured social event as much as an athletic one.

As a local fundraising event, the course was excellently well marshalled and supported. And the finish was on the steps of the village hall, inside which was hot soup, rolls as well as blackberry and apple crumble with custard. Can’t go wrong with that!

More Photos

From the National XC Championships, Warwick half marathon and the England Masters Inter Area Match.
Above and below – Ellen Taylor and Georgie Campbell – Front and back !
Ellen, Alex and Georgie.
Georgie, Taylor, Ellen and Alex.
Taylor Stubbins.
Alex Adams making light work of the muddy conditions.
Ned Campbell – I know I included this in last week’s newsletter but it really is the gift that keeps giving. Sorry Ned.
Tim Hutchinson floating up an incline.
Cara Reynolds, Karl Harris and Emily Adams enjoying a well earned bevvy.
Yours truly in the 800m and below, after the race. Every picture tell a story.