Locks, Fells and 1 Bumble Bimble !

Rosie Slocombe, Jill Wilson and Kate Sergent.
It’s a real mixed bag this week with several senior members taking part in some different and quirky events.

Jill Wilson, Kate Sergent and Rosie Slocombe embarked on the Stourbridge Nine Locks 10k Challenge, Kevin Zwolinski was up in Cumbria at the Sale Fell Race, Paul Hawkins, Gemma Smith and Jan McLure were competing in the latest Midland Race Walk Winter League fixture while Sarah Odell was making her comeback in something called the Winter Bumble Bimble. You’re all nothing if not adventurous. Many thanks for you fabulous reports.

Finally there is some excellent news regarding our Midland League T&F team and we have details of the last few remaining tickets for the Christmas Party that Emily Adams has organised, There’s a very interesting slide from Paul Bearman’s opening remarks at our recent Awards, also an image from the back page of last week’s Observer acknowledging the Outstanding Achievement Award made to Paula Williams at those awards and finally finally a group photo of some of our hardy juniors at the Welcombe Hills last Sunday in pretty awful conditions

This weekend is another big XC weekend. Good luck to all of our juniors and seniors who are competing. It promises to be chilly!

Take care.

David Jones.

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Kate Sergent and Rosie Slocombe
Jill Wilson

Stourbridge Nine Locks 10k Challenge

Report – Jill Wilson.

Rosie Slocombe, Kate Sergent and I flew the flag for SAC at this event last Sunday morning.

The clue’s in the name – it was a challenge – 138m climb –  nine locks (that’s a lot for someone like me who doesn’t do hills).

It was a canal towpath point to point 10k on the Dudley Canal from the Bonded Warehouse at Stourbridge Navigation Trust up Delph Locks to the Brierley Hop House (next to Merryhill), with a bit of undulating woodland thrown in (part of Dudley parkrun route) to complete the distance. 

We decided to give it a go (who doesn’t love a 10k on a mizzly November Sunday morning?) – as something different from your usual tarmac road circuit  and we weren’t disappointed. A gorgeous route – picturesque, varied terrain and immensely enjoyable.
Despite there being 331 other participants it wasn’t busy as runners started every 15 seconds or so – so it felt like we had the route ourselves. 

We weren’t there to get a PB – having read the instructions about what to do if you fell in the canal – (stand up, it’s only waist-deep – and don’t panic) and how to fish someone out if they fell in…. ???????? we concluded that time wasn’t important – we just enjoyed the scenery, took some pics along the way and had a lovely chatty time! 

The organisation and logistics were faultless – free parking was available at the finish and we were bussed from there to the start.

However we did realise that we are all way too polite as our elbows weren’t sharp enough to make it onto the first three busses and so we were grateful for our much-needed ‘charity supposedly-disposable’ old hoodies etc to keep us warm. If truth be told – we didn’t dispose of them – it’s the first race I’ve done where I started out in an anorak! 

We got underway along the towpath at half past ten (just a few minutes before the first guys finished), plunging down into the woods at about 4km before re-emerging onto the towpath to tackle those locks. We loved it! Great scenery, varied terrain – I even got to run through some serious (to me anyway) mud in my pristine new trail shoes!

Rosie finished in 1:25:18 while Kate and I crossed the line together at 1:25:28 and were immensely happy to collect our fab-u-lous goody bags (everything consumable or wearable), designer medal ????, and cups full of jelly beans ????. 

A well-run and enjoyable 10k. Next year it is on 24 November – I think we’ll be back.
Kevin Zwolinski – It was a frosty start!
Job done – He really does look as though he enjoyed himself.
Wow, with views like that Kevin I’m almost tempted. Almost.

The Sale Fell Race

What goes up, usually comes down…

Kevin Zwolinski on a step into the danger zone…

Report – Kevin Zwolinski

I’m referring to a rare form of exercise and self-inflicted torture call Fell Running.  Only undertaken in places like Wales, Peak District, and of course the Big Daddy of them all Cumbria, also famous for circular sausages which are rather good with mashed spuds.  Ooops distracted already.

Following a very painful effort back in the summer on the ‘Not-the-Latrigg’ fell race, one deemed most suitable for road runners, I was determined to improve my skills in this dark art.  So having unwisely announced this to my hosts, my mailbox was full of ‘here’s the next one for you’.  I chose Saturday 25 Nov The Sale Fell race, that’ll do nicely.

Well supported with around 180 competitors, we gathered for the start at noon last Saturday about 100m up a track from a very narrow road, or about 50m as the crow flies. 

Blimey, that was steep – important lesson number 1.  The extensive facilities amounted to one multi-tasking trestle table for signing on, kit checking, and a warm welcome in the sub-zero shade of the fell.  Fast forward to the end of the race and that same table was straining under the weight of ‘loads of cake’. 

The previous night got down to minus 4°C, and in the shade it hadn’t changed much, but – there’s always a but – we had the most beautiful clear blue sky, frost covered ground, and the scenery was simply stunning.  Everybody was smiling, remember this was before the start. 

Cheerful lot the Cumbrians, one commented on my yellow/ black shirt.  Q1   Where’s Stratford upon Avon?   A1   In Warwickshire.    Q2   Is that near Derby?      A2   No, about 70 miles south of there.   Oh, I don’t go south of Sheffield…   Have a good run mate!    Off he goes to get ready for the start and join the rest of the cross breeds, those fell runners seem to me to be half mountain goat, and half stick insect.   

So what faced us was only 3.7 or so miles, including a 900ft climb: muddy; slippery; rocky; sun in your face (not complaining); beautiful distracting scenery (one runner stopped near the top of the steepest climb section to take some photos…); narrow tracks to get up the fell; glorious sunshine on top with grassy wide paths; then back down to earth on the same tracks.

It was so narrow at the start that mid-pack onwards had to walk (albeit nearly vertically) the first 300m or so, with a few gateways to negotiate. 

Once we spread out a bit it didn’t take long to ‘find your feet’ and realise just how slippery it really was.  Actually, this was OK for me because my first objective was to stay on my feet, which amazingly I did. Fellow trail runners will know my track record in such matters.  

We had walked the course on Friday afternoon, so I sort of knew where I was going, except that walking it and running (mostly) are a bit different.  In the run you look for every single next step and on the really steep climbs, you are looking at your feet pushing off from your knees, so no orientation of the surroundings whatsoever.  Timewise it was about 70% climbing, 10% flat-ish on top and 20% downhill.  It’s the last bit that’s truly scary.  

I had been running more-or-less in the same group up to the summit, but then as planned I tried to kick out on the flat, the grass was wet but not icy so that was OK.  Picked off the few in front then chased two ladies down the fell onto the narrow track which was still a mile or so from the finish.  Now please don’t get the wrong idea, that’s not what I am usually doing on Saturday lunchtime…

The spectators were shouting warnings about how slippery it was there, apparently a few had gone over just there I was to find out later and suddenly I was sliding all over the place. 

I had noticed that I was one of the very few not wearing chunky Innov8 shoes….  Just about held that and manged to get past one of the ladies, but we were going fast (for me anyway).  Strava tells me that was my 3rd fastest mile at 7.07 downhill wet, slippery and so on.  I had to concentrate so hard because if I had gone over I would still be rolling down the fell now!

Over the line and congratulated those in front and behind, a really friendly lot and a very different set of faces at the finish compared to the start.  Rather worryingly there was a lot of blood on display and the poor chap from St Johns Ambulance was a very busy indeed.  Mostly cuts and grazes on shoulders, arms and knees but they are a hardy lot.  Not seen that many injuries at the end of a run before, and apparently most of it due to that sharp turn.

So there we have it.  I was absolutely chuffed to finish safely and to beat my target time by a good margin.  I finished just inside the 3rd quartile which I was told was respectable, and I really enjoyed it, euphoric for the rest of the day. 

Beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery and jolly good bunch of folk.  Mention must be made of ‘Barry’ who finished last, but not by that much.  He received a huge round of applause as he descended to the finish, aged 83…

Strava must have still been doing a Black Friday offer because many noticed a difference between the official results and their Strava time.  I’ll take the lower one thanks, and I will be running the Cumbrian fells again in 2024 for sure. 

Paul Hawkins

Midland Winter Racewalk League


Report – Paul Hawkins

Sunday 19th November brought the second match in the Midland Winter League at the Cycle Circuit at Leicester. All the currently active Stratford walkers made the journey, including newcomer Jan McLure making her race debut having recently taken up the discipline. 

Conditions on the flat, exposed course were very demanding with strong winds slowing the walkers in the multi lap races.

The first event was a mixed 5k over just over 5 laps where the experienced Gemma Smith and Jan were racing. Jan started very quickly and was pleased to maintain her pace to finish in 7th place in a time of 33.26 improving the club record by 90 seconds, an amazing debut. Gemma came in 12th place finishing strongly in 37.54 well clear of several slower walkers. 

The 10k consisted of a 400m start straight followed by 10 full laps of the course, so plenty of chances to get to know the route. I soon found myself isolated in 5th place but pulled up to 4th place getting past Richard Emsley of Corby near the finish to complete in a time of 76.07, a disappointing time but understandable in the conditions. 

The next and final league match is coming up in January at Warwick University. 

Sarah Odell

Winter Bumble Bimble

Report – Sarah Odell

In the last race I entered back in May, the Bredon bash, I managed to injury myself by developing high hamstring tendinopathy so my summer of running disappeared. 

Having started again, I decided to quietly entry a race.  So on a very cold, damp Sunday morning off I popped to Bromsgrove.  

During the pre race briefing the organiser said “about half mile in there is a downhill, under no circumstances is anyone to run down it not even the fast runners, also the route will take twenty percent longer than normal due to conditions”. 

So starting at the Park Gate Inn, the route takes you across the Dodford countryside into a valley and through Nutnells Wood.  Then looping back round up the valley back to the pub. 

When you reach the downhill section you understand exactly what the organiser was talking about, you reach some broken wooden steps, tree roots and ankle deep muddy sections.  It was hard enough walking down let alone running.  Along with loads of kissing gates, stiles and wooden bridges I lost count of how many we went through, ankle deep mud slip sliding around, it was a lovely route,

I’m sure the summer race would be a lot faster.

The finish was in sight and no hamstring pain, bonus.  First and last Stratford runner ????.
Midland League Track and Field.

Having thought we had narrowly missed out on promotion to the heady heights of Division 2 by the tiniest of margins for the 2nd successive season, it has now been decided that, following a restructure of the league, we have been rewarded for our efforts and will indeed compete next season in Division 2, in what is an incredibly competitive league.

Great news.
Senior Christmas Party

(actually anyone is welcome!)

Emily Adams’ tells me that there are 4 places left for this year’s Christmas Party. 


15th December at 7pm
DoubleTree by Hilton
£42 per head to include arrival drink, 3 course meal and DJ

Midnight finish.

If you would like a ticket please contact Emily direct   you really wouldn’t want to miss out.


07956 500076

I found this slide, shown as part of Paul Bearman’s opening address at the recent Awards Presentation Night, particularly interesting. Firstly it shows the incredible strength of our club, with just over 600 members but it also shows the difficulty we have in attracting members in the 19-30 age bracket. Any suggestions ?

Paul also reminded us that although we may have 600 members, without the army of volunteers….circa 90….. we wouldn’t be as good as we are and. There is always room for more.
The Stratford Observer reported on Paula Williams’ Outstanding Achievement Award presented at our recent Awards Night.
Despite the pretty appalling weather conditions last Sunday we still had a large group of junior endurance runners turn up for their weekly training session on the Welcombe Hills, in readiness for this weekend’s challenging fixture at Warley Woods. Shown here are some members of the youngest group.