A dirty weekend in Devon!

Sometimes words fail me. Susan Hunt being hosed down after The Grizzly.
Three of our indomitable ladies, Kate Sergent, Sarah Odell and Susan Hunt competed in the extremely challenging Grizzly (the name’s enough to put me off) in Devon last weekend. Kate and Sarah also took part in the Teddy Hall Relays in Oxford on Wednesday with Sarah also running the Prestwold Hall Half the previous weekend. Stuart George has also been busy, running the Cambridge Half last weekend and then the Teddy Halls on Wednesday.

A big thank you to Sarah Odell for her reports, especially the one on the Teddy Hall Relays in time for this week’s newsletter, despite her dodgy internet collection.

Paula Williams has been doing what Paula Williams does and that was topping the podium a couple of times at the BMAF Winter Throws Championships in Sussex.

Finally we remember club stalwart Christine Cooper, who passed away 12 months ago this week.

Take care

Best wishes

David Jones
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Kate Sergent, Susan Hunt and Sarah Odell.
The Grizzly 2023

Report  – Susan Hunt

The Grizzly is a multi-terrain race across the glorious East Devon coastline and countryside and the major event in the calendar of Axe Valley Runners.  Through organising the Grizzly, the club has been able to raise thousands of pounds for local, national and international charities with donations since 1988 of more £425k.  The event attracts runners from throughout the UK and across the world.

Last year, Kate Sergent and I tackled the world-famous Grizzly (gruelling 20 mile multi-terrain race in Devon) for the first time.  We loved it and vowed to return in 2023 for its 35th edition, along with long-term Grizzly veteran Sarah Odell.
In October we all failed to secure a place in the mad scramble of the online entry process (which doesn’t include a waiting list); but we kept our cool.  People less hardcore than us were bound to drop out and when they did we’d be waiting…
Come January, I started watching the Grizzly Facebook page like a hawk.  It wasn’t long before my determination and phone-gazing paid off and I swooped in to grab 3 places within 48 hours (my PB was bagging a place just 3 minutes after it was offered).  
So this weekend, we excitedly headed off for another dirty weekend in Devon.
It is no exaggeration to say that the race is so extreme that it feels like you’re participating in an SAS selection event.  The terrain is predominantly beach, streams, bogs, lumpy grass, steep flights of stairs and razor-sharp flint stones, with around 3,500ft of elevation. 

It’s fair to say our training runs along the Greenway and canal were inadequate preparation.  My only race-specific training had been to do the new trail “Wolford Woods’ parkrun once instead of Stratford and a single hilly trail 14 miler with Sarah.  So we decided not to go for the race win this year.
Armed with prior experience of the event, we made our race plans and executed them perfectly. This year we even managed to time our arrival so that when Jo Pavey started the event, we were waiting on the start line and not on the portaloo.
Kate wisely elected to run the 9 mile “cub” event, having recently recovered from injury.  Her plan was to find someone to talk to and to finish injury-free and happily she succeeded with both,  finishing a magnificent 3rd on her age group podium in 2:02:59.
Sarah’s plan was to run at a comfortable and enjoyable pace – which she accomplished by hanging back to run with me for the first 15 miles, before she started to get cold so decided to power off for a strong and triumphant finish in 4:28:38.
My plan was just to keep moving – I’m proud to say that the only time I stopped dead was while my leg was being swallowed by a bog – and I was excited to finish 40 minutes quicker than last year in 4:37:08 (albeit almost 2 hours after the first female finisher).
As I charged triumphantly down the hill and over the finish line, I was greeted by a near-hypothermic Kate, who had been waiting in the bitter cold for 2 hours so that she could cheer Sarah and I in.  She kindly pointed out that I had cake icing stuck to my face and hair (did I mention that the aid stations are stocked like a children’s tea party?) and, despite the fact that she was shaking like a leaf, managed to take the mandatory photo of me being hosed down by a fireman.
Once we’d all wriggled out of our freezing wet clothes and into our lovely dry ones, we headed off for the best ever fish and chips and began to make plans for the 2024 Grizzly.
Prestwold Hall Half Marathon
Report – Sarah Odell.

Not having completed a half marathon distance race since March 2018, I decided to quietly enter one.  

On the morning of the race I left home nice and early to give me plenty of time for faffing, I got to about half a mile from Prestwold Hall to then spend the next 50 minutes in a queue to get into the car park, finally I got parked at 9.05am, the race started at 9.30am and the instructions said it was a 20 minute walk to the start.  

A quick disposal of layers, run to the toilet queue which was massive so nearest hedge found, I managed to get to the start at 9.25am, definitely no faffing time today.  

So the race started on a gravel track in front of the hall for about 400 meters, then onto the driveway and out onto the road, then turning onto an airfield, with the next couple of miles being around the airfield, then it was onto a farm track out to the Loughborough countryside.  The next 6 miles was on closed roads round the villages of Wymeswold, Horton then back to Prestwold.  Then at around 9 miles turning back on to the airfield which is now used for HGV & bus training for the final 4 miles. 

The final 4 miles were very uneven underfoot, lots of potholes, gravel and I spent a lot of time watching my footing.  Then at around 12 miles it was  back out on to the road, back up towards Prestwold Hall driveway and back the way we started, onto the gravel track to the finish. 
Finish time was 1.51.20, some way off my half PB but a benchmark for my next one. I was happy to finish on a bright sunny but cold & windy morning.  .
Kate, Lisa, Jan, Stuart, Miranda, Lindsey and Sarah
John Butler
Kate Sergent and Lindsey Anderson
Miranda Maloney and Jan Turner
Lisa Lambourn and Sarah Odell
Stuart George

Teddy Hall Relays

Report – Sarah Odell

These races start and finish at the iconic Iffley Road Track, the site of Roger Bannister’s famous sub-4 minute mile and the format remains unchanged from previous years, comprising a relay of 4 x 4.35 mile (7km) scenic legs around the centre of Oxford. 

 2 teams of Stratford AC athletes took to the stage. 

I have done this race a number of times over the years and I can say the weather was filthy on arrival at the track it was freezing cold rain, which then turned into sleet then snow, but it didn’t dampen the sprite of the runners.  


Stratford was down on teams this year with just 1 mixed and 1 ladies team. 

The course follows 3 bridges – Donngington, Folly and Magdalen, along the Thames tow path, Christchurch meadow and back to the track. 

The mixed team consisted of myself, Stuart George, Kate Sergent and John Butler. 

Not knowing how my legs were going to be after walking like a duck since the Grizzly, I was pleased with my run, as I was about 50 secs quicker than last year. The second half of the course was littered with puddles which made life interesting, I then handed the baton over to Stuart, after handing the baton over Sarah Bland, who was doing the timing, said that due to the spring like weather legs 3 and 4 could start together. 

Stuart had a strong run especially as he had done a PB at the Cambridge half a few days before. He handed over to Kate and John Butler. Kate who was also feeling the impact of the Devon hills but Kate being Kate had an amazing run as always, and JB did the club proud as always.  Our split times were me 35.05, Stuart 29.03, Kate 41.50, JB 44.42 overall time 2.30.42.

The ladies team consisted of Lindsey Anderson, Lisa Lambourn, Jan Turner and Miranda Maloney, all 4 of these amazing ladies are currently training for Brighton marathon and the training is showing how strong they are. They all had strong runs in awful conditions, even Jan’s fall didn’t stop her.  Split times Lindsey 41.25, Lisa 38.06, Jan 48.48, Miranda 48.48 overall time 2.57.09.

Our mixed team finished just inside the top 50 with our ladies finishing in 21st place.

Stuart George
A man after my own heart. Stuart with his hoped for split times written on his arm.

Cambridge Half Marathon

Report: Stuart George

Last Sunday found me as the sole Stratford Upon Avon representative in the Cambridge Half marathon.  

Why travel so far I hear one or possibly two of you ask?  Don’t get me wrong, flatness was the major pull but the other incredible draw was the in-laws being 30 mins away which meant we didn’t have to drag our two lovely toddlers around.  

I can tell you that carrying one on your shoulders after 13 miles is not a Stratford Athletics Club recommended warm down drill!

It was a lovely dry day but a bit chilly with it being only 3 degrees at the start.  I had some good local info which allowed me to bring a separate pair of trainers for warming up for the start, which was on Midsummer common and it would possibly be cut up by the 12,000 participants all doing strides simultaneously.

I was fortunate to get an early start at 9:34 and I was well rested, well fuelled and well hydrated.  I’d really done everything I could to get the most out of the day.  The last 7 days of drinking concentrated beetroot shots needed to produce results, because if they didn’t what was that pain for?

Cambridge proudly boasted being the first major race where the pacer team was all female so I looked out for the 1hr 30 stalwart and got ready to go.  I had targeted this time for quite a while so was very nervous and thought that I probably wasn’t quite at that level of fitness.   I’m not good at tapering and the mind tends to play tricks on me.

A beautiful flat course awaited and a good crowd at the beginning and for the first 5 miles at least. The only criticism of the whole day was that it did tend to get narrow in certain places, mainly because thy had only closed one side of the road and cars were still driving on the other, or the turns and twists of Jesus college meant it was impossible to make wider.  It meant on a few occasions I virtually came to a standstill when taking corners and the sole u-turn.  This was quite disrupting to the flow of us all.

I had a clear plan and wanted to start off a tad slower.  I’d written my mile times on my left arm and found this strategy very handy when I came to the mile markers for as always, the old Garmin was under or over at each and every marker.  

After mile 5 you head out of the city for the next six.  The miles kept ticking over nicely and at mile 7 I steeled myself with the knowledge it was just a 10k left.  The pacer had been going quicker than the desired 90 minutes but I decided to pull away and turn up the speed a touch.  This proved the right thing to do as my legs still remained strong.  My next goal was to get to mile 10 and here the legs began to ache ever so slightly.

But the crowds began to reappear and although I am never one to remember anything I see on a run, the old historic seats of learning charms were tough to ignore.   I was feeling good so put my foot down a bit and realised with about 200 m to go that I could nip below 89 minutes , which thankfully I did finishing in a new PB of 1:28:52   Mrs L-G being less optimistic was still back at mile twelve looking for me and was quite shocked when I called her to see where she was but she had managed to see me 4 times round the course.  Its always great when you can get to multiple points to cheer on the runners, so this was an added bonus and definitely helped me get those vital early miles under my belt.

I managed to finish 1032nd out of 11381 and 146th out of 939 in my age category which I think is ok but just showed how many great runners were on the road that day. 

A wonderfully organised race, lovely volunteers a great goody bag and flat as you like, I would heartily recommend. However the crowds are sparse in the middle, it did get very narrow at times and not a lot of music or entertainment.  None of this bothered me,  the last 2 miles in Cambridge centre was so electric it was enough to keep me smiling for days after.

Paula Williams on top of the podium.
BMAF Winter Throws Championships.


4-5 Mar 23
It was another weekend of success for Paula Williams in these Championships at Horsham in West Sussex.

She competed in 2 events, winning both. In the shot put her winning throw was 13.03 metres, just a couple of centimetres of her season’s best. The second placed competitor threw 9.82 metres, Paula’s winning margin being over 3 metres.

In the javelin she threw 35.93 metres against the second placed athlete’s throw of 20.72 metres, a huge margin of over 14 metres.

Paula’s UK W50 rankings for 2023 in the events in which she has competed are:

60m – 2nd
60m hurdles – 1st
Shot put – 1st
Javelin – 1st.

Pretty impressive!
In Memoriam

Christine Cooper

Rest in Peace

8th March 2022

“Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.