Harry’s in a hurry!


The photo finish showing Harry Gravelsons crossing the line with a big 6 seconds PB in his 400m heat at The Pringles Stadium in Nuneaton.
This week the big news has been that we’re back at our own track – well the juniors have been anyway and it seems to have been an extremely successful and enjoyable return.

I must admit that from a personal perspective it’s been really enjoyable coaching groups of youngsters in bubble of 5 although it must have been a logistical nightmare for the two Pauls.

On Monday, Rob Minton also resumed his sessions for our senior endurance runners, this time at the Sports Club with a session of 800m intervals.

Talking of being back at the track, Harry Gravelsons’ was the sole club member competing at the second of the Nuneaton Pilot Events, where he knocked 6 seconds off his 400m PB.

There are a couple more of these events coming up on 2nd and 16th August and several club members have been quick enough off the mark to get places. I for one am looking forward to a couple of 800m races.

Finally, Sarah Bland gives us her thoughts on club life under lockdown. I know many of us have been massively grateful to her for her efforts regarding the various virtual Shakespeare Race initiatives.

Take care

Best Wishes

David Jones
Harry Gravelsons.

Nuneaton Pilot Event Take II

Report – Brian Gravelsons

The second pilot event at Nuneaton – an U15/17 open event – gave one particular Stratford AC athlete a chance to see what all the hard work during lockdown would translate to.

In late March, Harry Gravelsons, with no GCSEs to focus on, turned all his energy into athletics training.

With a solid routine during lockdown and then a transition back to the track as things started to open up again, Harry knew he was in good form but unsure as to exactly what that really meant.

The day of the event brought warm sunshine and windless conditions, the ideal recipe for a good 400m. The event was very well organised, safe and secure and actually had a real athletics meeting feel to it, although there was, unusually, only one Stratford AC athlete taking part.

Harry was pleased to be in the third heat of five. This was due to cheekily putting forward his unofficial personal best of 58.0s rather than his 2019 season’s and official personal best of 62.7s. All of his competition were around the 58s mark, so it promised to be a competitive race.

Harry drew lane 6, an ideal position enabling a great start with the athlete in lane 8 in his sights.

Harry powered out of the blocks, using his first energy system well and hit the 100m mark in 13.9s, broadly in line with his target.

The back straight was over before he knew it and he was up with the athlete in lane eight, enabling Harry to focus on the athlete on his inside who overtook as the stagger unwound.

Into the final 100m and Harry felt strong, hunting down the athlete in front but unable to take him on the line.

Nevertheless, the competitive race and strong performance gave rise to a huge personal best of 56.70s.

A few nerves after the event, as the athletes were held on the line as a track judge came to talk but it was to disqualify the winner for stepping on the line on the second bend, meaning that Harry had the pleasure of also winning the race.

A great day indeed.

Our Coaches

Last week we had a few articles form some of our wonderful volunteer coaches and officials. This week Sarah Bland shares her thoughts.

Sarah has been a driving force behind the superb Virtual Shakespeare Races initiative, despite, in her own words “our business grinding to a spectacularly sharp halt pretty much the day after we hosted our duathlon on March 15th “

Thank you Sarah
Sarah Bland.
David has done an amazing job with keeping the newsletter going at a time when we all needed more entertainment than ever. I for one stopped looking at the televised news in early May.

We are so lucky to have him to do this, he keeps us in touch with all aspects of the club, even if we don’t actively participate in them.

He asked me to write a few words from my perspective, so here they are.

As you know, like many others our business ground to a spectacularly sharp halt pretty much the day after we hosted our duathlon on March 15th, which was probably one of the last spring sporting events in the country.

This was a bit of a shock, just as we were ramping up to our biggest race and timing year since we began 10 years ago but thanks to our incredible loyal running customers, government input, bounce back loan, a grant from SDC and some belt tightening, we will get through it.

So as the general organiser of Shakespeare Races I found myself with time I didn’t expect and it seemed logical to give virtual racing a go. I really didn’t expect everyone to jump in with such enthusiasm, its been a remarkable few months in SAC history and I have loved it.

Here are a few of my observations and hindsights

After realising that the first 10k was going to work, the races have been set in such a way that was not entirely random. From a coach perspective it’s a fascinating challenge finding out all the different ways to get a better performance out of people, whatever their level, pace and experience.

Suddenly there was an opportunity to look at this on a much bigger scale.

There is no better way of getting people to run faster than making them see how fast they can run over a short distance.

If you can run a kilometre in 5 minutes then with training you can run 10 of them in close to 50. My regular
coachees have heard me bang this out so many times, but now there was a chance that people could actually race shorter distances rather than doing them in training.

There are not many 5 mile races, even fewer 4 mile races and almost no mile races. So given the 3 months racing these, you should all in theory be more confident to run a faster 10k. Can you?

Each month we have all learnt more about virtual races. How people time themselves, the courses, reporting and feeding information and I couldn’t have done any of this without the help of Matt, and then Ryan, David & John too.

We have over the months honed the art of getting you to give us your results, adjust, consolidate and get them back out, and report too.

At the same time it’s also been important to keep a pastoral eye on you all, as well as a coaches eye! We even have a small race adjudication panel!

In a normal Shakespeare Race, I can see everyone start, and then where they finish and in what sort of shape and position and of course that’s brilliant.

This time, it felt like visiting every table in the pub after the race, we got to hear about your race, how you felt, how hard it was, what you did wrong, how you got a pb, or loved it – all sort of things we would never have known in normal times and that was so lovely!!

So come the month of June, we put in a mile race. I think it’s something we have wanted to do for years but not had the push. I was fascinated to see just how many people ran this distance way faster than their “normal” race pace and I think many of you surprised yourselves too.

In addition the mile saw not only our track runners making a rare appearance but also enabled our junior runners to get involved, so we then had entire families submitting times.

I retain the vision of parents frantically running their socks off to keep in touch with their very speedy teenagers.

In addition we teamed you up and you pedalled like pros too!

Then along came the Virtual Warwickshire Road Race League and guided and cajoled by John Raby you
submitted times in droves and wiped the board for the prizes.

I longed to be a fly on the wall in other club conversations, and we were so proud of you all!

Like it, tolerate it or hate it, no one can deny that without social media this all would have been of a lesser success.

Seeing you all post your experiences, thoughts and pictures up, (and not just racing ones) has been
amazing. I have been able to pass these on to David, so those who don’t do strava or facebook get a feel for it too. Long may it last.

As we head towards August we still don’t know what the future holds but things are gradually changing and I hope that we will see at least a time trial race before the season ends.

For the foreseeable future we will keep on with the Magic Mile races to keep you on your toes and your Shakespeare Races may always have a virtual heat or wave – some people have found themselves being able to compete far more easily like this. You will have to
wait a few days for your August race details….

Our club is an amazing community which has undoubtedly blossomed in this strange year. All its parts make a great sum and diverse as we all are, our common generosity of spirit is so strong.

In a time of unprecedented constraint we have all opened different doors to each other and somehow enabled better things to unfold. I constantly feel lucky to be part of it.

Run on SAC!
Back on Track
Junior members enjoying socially distanced training at our own track.
For those of you who are wondering what the reddish surface is they are all running on, it’s called a running track – just in case you’d forgotten.
We’re back!

Paul Bearman

After all the toing and froing over the last few weeks the juniors finally got back to our home track on Tuesday.

The Age Group Leaders (AGLs) agreed beforehand that we would ease our way back and so we would limit numbers of athletes in the first wave of bubbles and if things went well we could consider increasing the numbers in the forthcoming weeks.

The AGLs sent separate communications out to athletes including who is training and when together with the revised training times.

Seniors training on Mondays will be in coached groups like all of the sessions and subject to further details from Rob and Sarah.
As the juniors Covid-19 coordinator, I stressed to everyone in the communications that were sent out that we would be under scrutiny and so it was essential that we got off to a good start with everything in place to meet our obligations.

The consensus afterwards from the AGLs, athletes and coaches was a resounding “it’s good and exciting to be back” and everything generally went well.

After a discussion with the school representatives about a few “do’s and don’ts” the Under 11’s welcomed the 10 athletes back who had competed in the Pentathlon that Carolyne and Michelle had organised in recent weeks.

Limiting the numbers also allowed Carolyne and I to assess the protocols with parents, coaches and athletes and it was good to see everyone was well briefed regarding what they were expected to do and they followed the instructions to the letter.

Whilst the vast majority also followed the instructions to the letter, what was a bit disappointing was that after observing the next groups coming in over the evening, it was easy to see who had read the “very clear and precise” communications that were sent out and who hadn’t. As an example we had athletes from the wrong groups turning up far too early which unnecessarily complicated the registering and social distancing.

Regarding social distancing, we’ve said 2 metres and we will continue to reiterate that message because it’s obvious many have no idea what 2 metres means and looks like particularly when we are trying our best to protect everyone in the club and the wider community.

After a successful and busy Under 13 session, Paivi McMillan, one of our AGLs observed…..

“It was so good to be back at the track! Once we got the final go-ahead to start training at the track we only had few days to find out who would be joining the first wave of athletes to start training.

WhatsApp’s, texts and email replies were flooding the inbox. We were thrilled to hear all U13s athletes wanted to start training either this week or after the own holidays.

We had some experience of running training using the Covid protocols and the training format with social distancing and smaller groups was a bit different compared to the life before Covid.

With no throws, the middle of the track and the back field was in good use for warm ups, drills and circuits. What was impressive is that the training was full of great commitment, enthusiasm, concentration and dedication….not just the athletes but the coaches too.

The welcoming group of Julie, Martin and Nikki, were busy meeting and greeting, registering and sanitising the hands of the athletes and guiding them to the “bubble” meeting and warm up area to be met by the coaches.

Although we were planning to limit the number of athletes to just 20, with all 34 athletes keen to return to training and 8 coaches, Cait, Elaine, Emma, John, Lucy, Maddy, Mandy and Sandy available we were able to accommodate all the athletes in separate bubbles.

A big thank you for the athletes and the team running this week’s training!”

It truly is great to be back and thankyou to the AGLs for their expertise in planning their return to training and to the coaches and helpers for sticking to the protocols and making it all work safely and also for making it enjoyable for everyone.