Truly Inspirational.

Adam Farrow in the middle of the medal winning Warwickshire team.
Charlotte sets the pace in her 800m race.
Charly Marshall navigates a hairpin bend.
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There is so much more to our club than being a home for those of us who just want to run around a track or compete in a local road race, as worthwhile as those pursuits are.

There can be no better illustration of this fact than the truly inspirational exploits of 3 of the younger members of the club, a decathlete, a heptathlete and an Enduro triathlete, which for the uninitiated is a triathlon with swim, bike, run and then dive straight back in and do it again! Go figure.

This week’s newsletter features the heroics of these 3 talented athletes – Adam Farrow, Charlotte Gravelsons and Charly Marshall.

There’s lots of other stuff for you to read and hopefully enjoy.

Blimey I know I had a week off but you guys have been pretty busy doing lots of really varied stuff. Well done and keep it coming.

Many thanks to those of you who opened last week’s photo special on the Club Championships. The newsletter had close to 900 openings, an unprecedented amount. Mind you the championships were just a little bit special weren’t they?

For those of you who haven’t seen it, there’s a nice piece in this week’s Herald on those Championships. Well done to Chris Cooper for getting it placed and thanks as ever to The Herald for their continued support.

There are still a few road race reports to come. Unfortunately for Stu George, life has somewhat got in the way of athletics this week but he assures me that normal service will be resumed next week. That’s what happens when you have a big new job and babies I guess.

In the rest of this week’s edition we have Philippa Paddock’s Great North Run report, run in aid of the Twins Trust. Please read about this worthwhile charity in the link at the end of Philippa’s piece. We have Simon Taylor’s entertaining and informative round up of all things triathlon, with individual triathlon reports from Richard Eden and Becky Loftus. Seth Turner reports on his Richmond Half as he closes in on the Manchester Marathon. Ian Greaves tells us about his Brighton Marathon experience.

I sometimes think we should have a separate newsletter for the exploits of the ageless Phil Brennan. This week there’s just the 3 of his races! Races from as far apart as Richmond and Jarrow. more medals, more superlative performances. Words fail.

There’s a reminder of the dates for the forthcoming and much anticipated West Midlands Young Athletes Cross Country League and boy are our youngsters fit and raring to go. Look out the rest of the teams in the league, Stratford are coming after you.

At the other end of the age spectrum we have Peter Coote’s summary of this season’s individual vets T&F performances and lastly a few more photos of the magnificent trio mentioned at the start of this piece.

Finally I’d like to leave you with some words of wisdom from a couple of our young endurance group, overheard during last Sunday’s Welcombe Hills training session :

Henry Sims on being complimented about the improvement in his running over the summer months. “I’ve been practicing, I thought to myself I’m not going to get any better if I don’t practice”
Henry is 10.

And this from 11 year old Arthur Mansbridge “How will we get on in life if we don’t challenge ourselves “

Youngers and betters maybe?

Take care.

Best wishes

David Jones.

Charlotte Gravelsons proudly displayed her well earned certificate.
Adam Farrow competes in the pole vault, the most technical of events.

English Schools’ Combined Events Final at Bedford.

Report – Brian Gravelsons and Steve Farrow.

There were two representatives from Stratford AC, representing two different counties at the 33rd English Schools’ Athletics Association Combined Events Final held at the Bedford International Athletics Stadium on the 18th / 19th September.

Charlotte Gravelsons competed in the Senior Girls Heptathlon for Gloucestershire having finished 6th in the South West Regional Final and along with Cameron Williams-Stein (Leamington C&AC) and Stephen Bates (Nuneaton), Adam Farrow competed in the Senior Boys Decathlon for Warwickshire after finishing 3rd in the Midlands Regional Final earlier in the year. That’s a combined total of 17 events over two days – a real athletics bonanza at Bedford.

Many of the past winners have gone on to further athletics success: Kelly Sotherton, Jazmin Sawyers, Katerina Johnson-Thompson, Dean Macey, Meghan Beasley to name a few and this year just happened to be the tenth anniversary of when our very own Imogen Green won the Senior Girls’ title.

Having had mixed weather forecasts all week, the first day defied the odds and turned out to be a glorious sunny day. Charlotte had an early start and negotiated the 100m hurdles well in a time of 18.83s, an improvement compared to the Regional Final, but slightly off her best. She then moved to the High Jump and had “one of the most relaxing competitions ever” clearing each selected height up to and including 1.38m at the first time of asking. Unfortunately 1.41m, which would have been a personal best, proved too much to ask.

The later start for Adam gave him plenty of time to warm up, enabling a strong 100m performance in a time of 12.03s. Though later start meant Adam was very busy for the rest of the day, but that didn’t get in the way of improving his long jump personal best by 9cm to 6.17m and throwing over 10m in the shot put in the next two events.

Charlotte enjoyed her shot put but was perhaps a little disappointed not to complete the progression to 8m, falling short of her best at 7.40m.

Adam always makes the high jump look easy and despite the chaos and buzz that four simultaneous pools across different age groups seemed to create, he serenely scaled the height of 1.80m.

It was back to the track for the last event of day one. In the 200m Charlotte had the ideal inside lane draw and became the tiger chasing and capturing her prey, winning her heat in a time of 28.48s.

Adam, despite being messed about with the start time for the 400m, returned a good performance of 56.96s, ending a good, long day’s work for both competitors.

The sun disappeared for day two, but the rain thankfully stayed away for the most part. It was a very early start for Adam which sharpened his mind for the 110 hurdles, perfectly executing three steps and improving his personal best by over 1.5s to 18.07s in the process despite clattering the final hurdle.

Charlotte faced her nemesis event – the long jump – with new found confidence having achieved a personal best of 4.41m earlier in the season. However, even though Charlotte found a consistent rhythm, she only managed 3.94m on the day. At the same time, and in a similar vein, Adam grappled with the discus, but never really got it under control, throwing just over 25m, somewhat off his best and full potential. Adam followed up with the pole vault. This is a tricky event made worse by persistent rain and drizzle during the event for the athletes to contend with. The club does not have any pole vault facilities and so Adam has been regularly training at Nuneaton and this dedication really paid off with Adam comfortably equalling his personal best of 2.90m and was unlucky not to break the 3m barrier.

Charlotte showed improved technique in the javelin, but strangely was not rewarded with a longer throw, managing 16.90m, just short of her personal best. This put her behind schedule and in danger of not breaking the 3,000 point barrier for the entire competition. A further challenge developed when it was announced, at extremely short notice, that the final event – the 800m – was to be brought forward by 45 minutes, leaving precious little time to warm up. Undeterred and with even more determination, Charlotte executed a perfect race: a fast start, leading from the front, completing the first lap in 71s, knowing this was perhaps too fast but showing grit and determination to maintain the pace as best she could despite being over taken by two other athletes, and then using them to chase down in the home straight, catching one, to finish in a huge personal best of 2:31.28. This ensured that the overall heptathlon was a personal best score of 3,055, finishing 33rd overall.

After the race Charlotte said that “it was tough, but strangely an absolutely lovely way to finish what may be my last ever heptathlon”.

In his last two events, Adam put on a master class of javelin throwing reaching a distance of 46.04m which was the fifth best throw in the competition before knocking some 5s off his personal best time in the 1500m, but perhaps annoyingly not breaking the 5 minute threshold, with a time of 5:00.95. His ten events added up to a total score of 5,221 which was enough for 20th place overall and an improvement of 470pts (that’s almost the equivalent of one entire event!) from the Regional Final. Adam really enjoyed the weekend and after 3 years away from competing at this level, was happy with his performance and the trajectory he is on. He left with a smile on his face and a strong desire to come back in 12months time fitter and stronger and ready to compete with the top athletes. The planning has already started!

The Senior Girls’ Heptathlon was won by Ella Rush from Derbyshire and the Senior Boys’ decathlon was won by Stephen Simmons from Bedfordshire and the icing on the cake for Adam was winning the bronze team medal with Cameron and Stephen.

Behind every good athlete is a great coach. Special thanks go out to Paul, Sandy, Imogen Green, Carolyne Johnston and Terry Selway at Nuneaton for the excellent coaching support they provided to Adam and Charlotte.

Paul Bearman commented after the event: “We all know this year has been far from ideal to be able to prepare for a single event let alone 7 or 10, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way that Charlotte and Adam have approached, what in my opinion, is the most daunting event in athletics; Combined Events. Considering only 3 weeks ago Charlotte had finished her rehab from a lengthy lay off with injury it was great to see the pair of them giving it everything they had right through to their gruelling last 800/1500m event.

Combined Events requires a high level of multi skills across sprinting, endurance, throwing and jumping coupled with doggedness, determination and sheer bloody mindedness to compete at any level let alone national level, and in the tradition of SUAACs previous multi eventers, Charlotte and Adam have this in spades. Carolyne and I agreed it was well worth getting up at 6am on a Sunday morning to see the pair of them competing and doing themselves and the club proud.”

First swim and first transition to bike for Charly Marshall.

Enduro Triathlon.

Report – Kate Marshall.

After UK top 10 finishes in the National School Games Final and the Super Series Grand Finale, Charly Marshall (16) did it again last weekend for the last big race of the season.

As part of Great Britain’s youth selection of 18, she completed to claim her third 9th position in a row at her first “Enduro” triathlon.

Racing just after the seniors and inspired by having just watched her Olympic heroes Jess Learmonth and Georgia Taylor-Brown duel it out for the win, she took to the same course and topped off the season with consistency and confidence on the most technically challenging of formats.

The “Enduro” is a triathlon with swim, bike, run and then dive straight back in and do it again! With three more transitions and the added jeopardy of being eliminated if you fall 90 seconds behind the leader over the event, she considered this her toughest challenge yet.

Charly commented on how incredible the experience had been in the sunshine of St Helier, on an elite course racing in front of crowds and grandstands and meeting her heroes. She took the opportunity to meet GB elites, Vicky Holland and Non Stanford during their warm down and managed to get some advice and tips for her race, not to mention some great photos!

Next for Charly is our very own Stratford Triathlon where she will race amongst the seniors, before her off-season of cross country and winter training.

Philippa Paddock, with a smile on her face, having completed the Great North Run for the worthwhile Twins Trust charity.
Great North Run 40th Anniversary.

Report – Philippa Paddock

The iconic Great North Run…slightly different this year due to COVID! In spite of this, it still exceeded my expectations. The warm Geordie hospitality, excellent logistical organisation, the buzz on race day and seeing the Red Arrows fly past whilst I was heading to the start line!

I pretty much ran the race of my life and smashed my previous PB by 5 minutes 🙂 I ran in 1:58:15 and to say I was elated is an understatement.

Not only was this my first half marathon (I’ve run the distance several times but not raced), I was running to fundraise for a fantastic charity very close to my heart and for 2 incredibly special little boys.

So I want to thank all of you lovely members that I have met along my way this past 2 years since joining the club. Be it through running, swimming or cycling! Many of you have given me advice and guidance on how to help me race or generally improve whichever skill I am practising. Your kindness and support has truly been invaluable to me, in a way that I can’t even begin to verbalise. You have brought me a level of normality that has inspired me to keep going and get better- thank you!

Should you wish to learn more about the charity that I am supporting and why, please visit my fundraising page. Absolutely no expectation for people to donate, I just felt it was time to share my story with you. Should you wish to donate of course, I will be gracious and say ‘thank you’ in advance. Philippa 🙂

Richard and Cherry Eden proudly display their well earned medals.
Becky Loftus with and without pink cap!
More Triathlon News.
Report – Simon Taylor.
So when is one never enough? One slice of Hannah Osborne’s amazing post swim run ‘breakfast cake? Certainly not. Just one of Cara Reynolds’ Rocky Roads? Never in a million years is one enough! Or if you’re Sam Wignell or Neil Gardiner, one beer will not satisfy. But Chris Wilkinson – a stalwart of the Saturday morning swim sessions – showed that JUST doing one Blenheim Palace sprint race isn’t enough. Chris, probably after a drunken night with Sam and Neil, pressed the enter button too many times and ended up becoming a Blenheim Palace Triathlon Weekend Warrior. He ended up doing four triathlons on the Saturday and, sustained by ready salted crisps and the support of his children, managed another three on the Sunday. Well done Chris, you earned a lie down after that!

Not to be outdone, Mark Loosemore again annihilated Ricky ‘the excuse’ Davies in the battle just the Two of the Three Amigos, with Neil sitting this one out with an injured toe nail. To be honest, it’s getting embarrassing for Ricky now and I’m sure that Mark will soon start looking for competition and bragging rights elsewhere!

The battle of the sexes (or battle of the Eden’s) continued at Blenheim. Cherry came out on top again and looks like Rich has a winter of hard work to catch up. Most of us try and run away from their wives, Rich is in hot pursuit of his! See Richard’s report below.

Remarkable as it sounds, but a new member who only started swimming and cycling in May, actually won her age group at the Blenheim Triathlon – and before anyone asks, there wasn’t just one person in that age group! Beating nearly 500 others triathletes in her first ever triathlon, Camilla Cresswell’s performance was simply amazing. Not only did Camilla win, but she also stopped to help someone remove their wetsuit and also took the bike ‘relatively easily’ to save her legs for the run! Personally, I’m taking my portable Lie Detector to the next swim session to find out if she is an elite athlete in disguise! After a winter of hard training, I suspect we might have another GB age group triathlete …but no pressure!

Globe trotting triathlete Paul Nashy Nash became a globe trotting duathlete at the weekend. Paul competed for GB in the World Aquabike championships in Almere. Another great swim, Nashy lost ground as his usual pre race evening curry and beers came back to haunt him. Paul had a great race overall and should be proud of his performance.

Competing in just her second standard distance triathlon, Vicky Sharpe (newly appointed Triathlon Social Secretary – we all need one!) showed just what a fantastically strong ladies Triathlon section SAC has, by having another great performance at the Dambuster Triathlon. 6th in her age group and 20th overall, Vicky will be working hard in the pool over the winter to make sure that she is equally strong in all disciplines next season in her pursuit for GB Age Group selection.

Competing the same day, over the same course but a 70.3 event, Becky Loftus again completed another half iron distance race. Most of us would be happy to do one over the season, but Becky is a glutton for punishment! No doubt about it, Becky has a magnificent attitude when competing in triathlons. Always competes with a smile and delighted to be competing. Becky’s race report is below.

Finally, but certainly not last, but three SAC triathletes competed in the Ironman Weymouth 70.3 last weekend. Emma Bexson had another storming race in preparation for Ironman Majorca in mid October. Emma came 2nd in her age group and 9th female overall in 5.08.28. Emma is showing brilliant form and will no doubt be looking for the top step of the podium in Majorca. Emma will have her support crew of the Crazy Ladies cheering her on – Victoria Jeffs, Hannah Osborne, Emily Adams and Emily’s mum – so watch out Majorca, be afraid! They will no doubt make themselves heard and I expect that the local British Consulate will have already been warned of their imminent arrival.

Rich Shephard and Karl Harris also competed. Rich returned to competition after some time building a house and being a bit undercooked as far as training is concerned. But, as we’ve all come to expect, produced another stunning performance for 4th in his age group in a time of 4.41.52. The London Marathon awaits in two weeks! Karl never lets us down. Despite worried looks (I’m assured it wasn’t the distance that worried him but the prospect of a good luck hug from Emily Adams – enough to frighten the hardiest triathlete), Karl once again donned his cargo pants, filling each pocket with everything but the kitchen sink, with no concern for anything aero on the bike, and stormed around in just over 7 hours in his first ever 70.3 distance triathlon. Karl then jetted off for a sunshine holiday and sitting by the pool – in his cargo shorts – soaking up the sun and drinking as many Pina Coladas as possible. His only request, whatever the drink, it must have an umbrella.

Just a couple of races left this year, the Stratford Triathlon will soon be upon us to signal the end of a brilliant season and fantastic to see so many brilliant results. The Triathlon awards this year will be tough!
The Vitruvian Middle Distance Triathlon at Rutland Water.
Report – Becky Loftus
I’ve completed triathlons for the past decade and class as a “completer” rather than competitor, especially returning to racing after a few difficult years.

Races like the Vitruvian don’t help me when they have fixed cut‐off times yet incomprehensibly start the females in one mixed ability wave later than the males, rather than asking for an estimated swim time regardless of gender. I also get hugely irritated by females being put in pink swim caps.

Aside from this, Rutland water was a stunning setting for the swim even with the inevitable situation of the fast men swimming over me and the Aussie exit palaver of getting out and in again for lap 2.

Being the tail‐end Charlie makes it easy to find my bike in transition and, as the Olympic distance Dambusters had set off after us, I got lots of brief moments of company on lap 1 of the ride. The fastest lead riders were the least likely to acknowledge or return my shouts of encouragement and as the field got less serious, they got friendlier. A plea to you speedy people out there: please spare a tiny amount of breath to encourage those of us less blessed with physical prowess!

The run is where being at the back comes into its own as the camaraderie between us tail‐enders is fantastic. It was a lovely flat and pretty run around the water. I settled into a decent pace (for me) and clung on to it as best I could with the mutual encouragement of fellow competitors still out there.

I was delighted to come in at just over 7 hours, given recent form, and it has given me hope that I can work back towards previous speeds for next year where I’m thinking of Outlaw half and full if anyone in the club fancies joining me at the back, or even if you’re a speedy front end person. Just remember to shout encouragement at the rest of us.

37/39 Pink hat wearing females
7/7 F45-49
Blenheim Triathlon.

Report – Richard Eden
Richard and Cherry Eden competed in the Blenheim Palace Triathlon on Sunday 12th September with a 9 am start in calm and warming weather.

The swim was 750 meters in the lake starting from a ramp for 600 meters then round some bouys back to an exit ramp on the far bank. There followed a 400 meter run up the hill to transition located in front of the fabulous Blenheim Palace which was built in early 18th century and was where Winston Churchill was born in 1874.

Richard and Cherry started the swim together but Richard’s completed the swim a few minutes ahead of Cherry. The run up the hill took it’s toll on Richard who only managed to leave T1 a minute or 2 ahead. On the first lap of 3 on the bike, Richard stayed ahead until the hill on the loop when Cherry caught and overtook but down the other side, positions changed again with Richard benefitting from gravity on the downhill.

Just before the end of the first loop, on the long shallow rise, Cherry caught up again and passed finishing the first loop ahead. This was the moment Richard knew he was trounced! With this lead after 1 lap, Cherry stayed ahead and finished the bike section about 5 minutes ahead. With a faster T2 and much faster run, Cherry completed the course in 1 hour 58 minutes giving her 7th place out of 23 in her age group. Richard’s lack of training became apparent on the run and he resolved to get back into practice as he completed the hilly 5k in 50 minutes, being overall time of 2 hours 16 minutes, and to greeted at the finish line by happy and victorious Cherry. Both received medals and both happy.
Seth Turner
Richmond Half Marathon

Report – Seth Turner.

With so many races happening recently and great club performances to celebrate I will try to keep my report brief.

I headed to Kew Gardens on Sunday for the Richmond Half Marathon as a warm up race for the Manchester Marathon in a October.

It’s a beautiful flat mixed terrain course around the formal gardens and parkland, then following the Thames path through Richmond and back to finish in the Old Deer Park.

It’s a very popular event with lots of support along the way and with the British Masters using it as a qualifying race, a very competitive field.

Recent training consistency and a desire to do the club proud as our sole representative, helped me to push to a new PB just over 85 mins and to finish comfortably within the top 100.

I recommend the race highly as a rare opportunity to run within Kew gardens and to explore this lovely part of West London riverside.

Ian Greaves
Brighton Marathon

Report – Ian Greaves

So, after a couple of false starts (pun intended!), the Brighton Marathon finally took place this year.

It was my first time at this event and after only running virtual races for a period, I was really looking forward to a “proper” race.

I felt my training had gone pretty well but that didn’t stop “Maranoia” setting in during the week prior to the event, however despite this, I arrived at the start, fit and ready to go!

The course starts from Preston Park and heads down to the seafront and out past the Marina for several miles to Rottingdean, and then turning back to head out of Brighton along the front towards Shoreham.

There were several points on the course where you see runners three or four miles ahead of you, heading in the opposite direction, which, as the race progresses, can be slightly demoralising!

It was a lovely day for running but I can imagine that course would be tough with strong headwinds!

There were three other Stratford competitors (Pete & Ben passed me and offered encouragement to another black & yellow vest!) which was great to see.

They say a Marathon doesn’t start until mile 20, and that felt particularly true for me in this race, as you can see right along the front for the final few miles, so you know how far you have to go!
However, I was delighted to pass the 26.2 mile mark at 3 hours 59 minutes, with my target being under 4 hours, so it felt like a big achievement and a PB, for me.

The fact that the course was measured wrongly, and we all ended up running an extra 500 yards didn’t dent my satisfaction in completing the event.
Phil Brennan – Age shall not weary him!
Out and About with Brennan

Kew Gardens 10k/England Masters
With just under 3000 starters, this was the biggest race I’d done for some time.

It was host to the England Masters 10k. Entry to the England team was via qualifying races nearly two years ago. It was originally billed as a home international but with no equivalent national bodies apparently interested, it had morphed into an unofficial England Masters championship and an excuse to award England vests.

I arrived late and stressed. No amount of shouting would persuade my Satnav that many miles of the M4 were shut.

The mood evaporated as I met so many old friends I hadn’t seen for two years.

The race itself was very well organised, all within the paths of Kew Gardens itself. The organisers’ proud boast that it was “beautifully, totally flat” omitted to mention the 38 sharp bends which for an oldie like me means decelerating to zero and very slow acceleration.

I came second in my Age Group. Annoyingly, the winner stalked me and overtook in the later stages when I was losing the plot. More annoyingly, if the entry list had been published and I was able to do my research, I would have realised our racing profiles were nearly identical and I would have used the same tactics on him instead of charging ahead at the start.

The plus side was an SB of 49:37 which bumped me up the rankings and means I have crept under 50min for another year.

Nuneaton 10k/Midland Masters champs.
This was a call of duty to take part in MMAC 50th anniversary day. Apologies, SAC, but I didn’t have anything left in the tank to come across to the club champs afterwards.

Sunny morning, less than 300 starters, traffic free, survival mode, no complaints. Agreeably surprised to be only two minutes down on yesterday. I won an undisputed Age Group Gold and an opportunity to model the MMAC anniversary track top, while waiting for the much delayed presentations.
British Masters 10000m Championships.
Next it was off to Jarrow in the heart of the Northeast, National Breeding Centre for hard men, (or so they would have us believe), for the BMAF champs.

The race was within the North East County and Masters pentathlon championships and everything about the day was enjoyable. It was well organised, the weather was sunny and windless despite a dire forecast and there were greetings from a few more people I hadn’t seen in a while.

I was apprehensive for a couple of reasons. First, it was my fourth 10k race in fifteen days and I am beginning to feel in need of a rest.
Secondly, I didn’t know the only other competitor in my age category but from his runbritain profile he looked as if he might be a problem, and I didn’t want to get stalked and overtaken for the second time in two weeks. On the other hand, I hadn’t gone all that way to come second.

Plan A was therefore to forget about pace, lurk closely behind the opposition and look for opportunity.

The pace fell a bit too comfortable: they say 10k on the track is monotonous but not if you spend the whole time debating with yourself whether to make a move or not.

Eventually, after 24 and 1/4 laps, I thought I’d better do something, pressed “boost”, wasn’t challenged, and won by 20 seconds in the last 300m.

Afterwards, I felt I should have tried a bit harder but gold is gold…
Time for a few weeks rest.
Paul Hawkins’ has asked me to include the above dates for the forthcoming West Midlands Young Athletes Cross Country League.
Other dates for the diary are:

County Championships – 9th January – venue tba
Midland Championships – 30th January – venue tba
National Championships – 6th March at Parliament Hill, London
Midlands Veterans Track and Field League Results Summary

Many thanks to Peter Coote for supplying the following summary of this year’s individual Vets T&F performances and many thanks to the 34 members who contributing in making it such a memorable season.
And Finally

More photos of our intrepid Enduro Triathlete, Heptathlete and Decathlete. I think I’ll stick to 800m!
Diving start off the pontoon for Charly and her fellow competitors.
Charlotte in the 100m hurdles.
It’s been a tough couple of days. Adam takes a seat on the podium.