In the Bleak Midwinter.

A wintery Warley Woods last Sunday
In the bleak midwinter indeed. Another photo from Warley Woods
Indeed it was the bleak midwinter but despite the wet and wintery conditions some 90 club runners, juniors and seniors alike competed in three XC fixtures at the weekend, all of them doing the club proud.

Many thanks to Rachel Stevens, Vicky Sharpe, Malcolm Bowyer and Paul Hawkins for their timely reports.

Goodness me, who knew but it appears we that have a budding author in the Charles Dickens style in the redoubtable Mr Burdus-Cook of this parish. His wonderful report had me reaching for the tissues until, spoiler alert, it all ended happily, as indeed should all good stories. Thank you Matt.

While our 90 XC runners were experiencing the far from ideal conditions mentioned above, Susan Hunt, serial marathon runner extraordinaire, settled for the considerably more balmy climate of Valencia, where she ran her 40th, yes 40th marathon. Susan also discovered that in Spain, McDonalds sells beer. Who knew number 2.

Ultra runner supreme Seth Turner opted for what must have seemed not much more than a sprint when he competed in a 10k in Northampton picking a trophy for his efforts.

Finally the deadly duo of Kate Sergent and Sarah Odell went on a tour of the Midlands on Saturday morning in search of a parkrun the wasn’t cancelled, eventually turning up at Babbs Mill in Birmingham, where they seemed to enjoy themselves immensely.

Finally finally there are a couple of photos of some of our juniors’ who competed in the English School’s Cup in Suffolk on Saturday, thus ensuring that some parents certainly clocked up the miles, with trips to Suffolk and Warley on successive days.

Stay warm, try and keep dry and take care.

David Jones.
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Stratford’s finest. Our ladies’ XC team at Aldersley Stadium Wolverhampton last Saturday.
Stratford’s finest part two – Our men’s XC team closer to home on the Welcombe Hills on Saturday

Senior Cross Country

Midland Women’s League

Reports – Vicky Sharpe, Malcolm Bowyer and Paul Hawkins.

Our 12 strong ladies XC team took on a frozen course at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton with temperatures reaching highs of -2 during the race!

The frosty conditions made the ground firm to start with but it soon got churned into slippery mud, making for more traditional XC conditions and for tough running on tired legs.

Overall we finished 13th out of 18 teams so will need two strong final races to stay in in Division 1 next season. 

162 ladies competed in Division 1 and first home for Stratford, in 21st place was Charly Marshall (26:55), she was also the 4th junior and coincidentally ran exactly the same time as in the previous fixture.

Competing in only her second race at the full ladies distance was Olivia Robinson (27:39) who was the 9th Junior to finish. Olivia followed this up with a fine third place in a Gloucestershire schools race at Newent the day after to complete the weekend.

Next was Emma Bexson (28:53) who was  20th master’s runner followed by some familiar faces to the cross country circuit this season: Suzie Ross (32:07), Bronwen Mansel (33:17), Sarah Gillard (33:29) and Emma Vickers (33:50). Followed closely by the dynamic, duo racing together, Emma Davis (35:51) and Pip Bell (35:56). We have it on good authority Emma still hasn’t stopped smiling and can’t wait for the rest of the XC season! With Pip through the line, she quickly started the patent pending ‘Stratford Wave’ to cheer fellow Stratford athletes Emily Adams (36:32), Sam Swanepoel (40:40) and Kath Pester (40:53) through the line. Kath surpassed her own expectations, overtaking multiple other runners in the final lap. 

For the full results follow this link:

Birmingham Men’s League

Meanwhile it was all hands on the deck as the club hosted the men’s and women’s second division fixtures at  Clopton Park and the Welcombe Hills in freezing foggy conditions where the runners were often completely out of sight. 

The course is a challenging three laps over wet and soggy hills, There were over two hundred men competing and the winner was Ben Holmes of Solihull in a time of 33.51. 

Stratford had 25 runners competing.

Ned Campbell did a marvellous job of leading Stratford home over the three lap course finishing in 17th place with a time of 36.19. Ned was also 3rd junior.  A brilliant performance from Rich Shephard who fought his way back to overtake some of his team mates to finish second for the Stratford team in 36th place in 37.57. Hot on his heels was Robin Hughes in 37th place in 37.58 pipped by Rich in a race for the line. 

Next was up and coming junior Tom Cox 43rd and 7th junior, who was making his senior debut in 38.20. He was followed by Sam Wilks who was 45th in 38.27 who in turn was followed by the the ever reliable Matt Burdus-Cook in 54th in 38.49.These were the first six Stratford runners who made up the A team. 

The next six runners who made up the B team quickly followed led by  first time runner Tom Southall in 65 place in 39.48 followed by Dave Teasdale in 66th in 40.01, then driving his way home was Drew Sambridge in 96th in 41.26. Sam Mercer was 99th in 41.36 and the ever dependable Tim Hutchinson 110th in 42.07 who was followed by Rob Gisbourne in 115th in 42.50, who was the last of the B team runners.

Hue Crosweller 124th in 43.39 and sprinting to the finish line Max Ross in 129th in 44.04. Steve Batsford was 134th 44.28, Nick Campbell was 136th in 44.30, Chris Beck 137th 44.33, Joe Lee 140th in 44.57, Damian Wheeler in 147th in 45.29 all who worked hard.

Never giving up fighting for Stratford we’re the final six runners  – Dave Battersby 158th in 46.28, Chris Spriggs 161st in 46.46, Richard Erasmus 171st in 47.47 also debuting for the team.  Then it was Mike Sheppard 177th in 48.27, Stuart George 191st in 50.30, who was surprised how tough the course was and finally finishing up a great turnout was Paul Baird 204th in 56.53.

Let’s hope now we can build on this great result at our next race on January 13th 2024.

For the full results please follow this link:

Ebenezer Matt Burdus-Cook- Scrooge.
His words not mine

A Christmas Cross-Country Carol

A timeless tale of the Birmingham League Cross Country Race as experienced by Ebenezer Burdus-Cook-Scrooge.


The starting hooter was dead to begin with.

There was no doubt whatever about that.

With a lack of “parp”, a dull “pfffft” carried through the crisp foggy air, and a ghostly figure materialized beside me – The Spirit of Cross Country races past. In its ethereal presence the memories of races gone by flooded  my mind. With a surge of energy, I charged forward, reliving the exhilaration of past Welcombe Hills Races and the feeling of invincibility among the front runners.

The spirit guided me along the course, invoking the essence of former glories and the thrill of the start, igniting a spark of nostalgia that fuelled my steps through the first lap.

As I ventured into the second lap, a new apparition emerged – the Spirit of Cross Country races present. This spectral guide unfolded a disheartening scene. I struggled on the ascents, losing ground, places and momentum. The hills and soft mud, once conquered with determination, now proved insurmountable as my pace faltered. The presence revealed a runner grappling with fatigue and a lack of strength, casting a shadow over the race.

Then, in the midst of my struggles on the third lap, the Spirit of Cross Country Future materialized. I fell further and further back. A revelation that hinted at a future where the thrill of the off-road race had waned, replaced by a strangely comforting premonition of discarding my trail shoes.

As I sulked over the finish line, the Specter’s warning hung heavy in the air, urging me to reclaim my passion for running before it was lost.

The Stratford team ran splendidly, not merely upon the terrestrial track, but upon the very fabric of camaraderie and shared aspiration. The very mettle of these runners, each embodied the indomitable spirit of the club.

I awoke the following morning with newfound determination.

The muddy memories of the past, the slippery struggles of the present, and the ominous glimpse of the future fuelled my resolve. I flung open my chamber window, calling out to a fellow runner passing by, “You Sir, yes you! What training session is it today?” To which the runner cheerfully responded, “Why sir, it is 1 kilometre road efforts times three with 1 kilometre jog recoveries!”

With a renewed sense of purpose, I joyously left my house, ready to tackle the training session with the same vigour and enthusiasm that had once defined my love for running. Each stride echoed with the lessons learned, transforming a haunting cross country experience into a triumphant return to the simple joy of running (on the road).

Robin Gallagher who again finished in a magnificent 2nd place out of 101 runners for the 3rd successive race.
Our 11 girls’ team : Amelie Marshall, Elsie Pippatone, Quinn Lancaster, Saskia Atkins, Lyla Turner, Fflur Jones, Maggie Silvers and Layla Sparrow.
Poppy West is missing but is shown below.
Poppy West in her oversized vest. Seen here making her debut in the Chairman”s top no less!
Brothers’ Zak and Sam Lambert who are both currently place 2nd overall in their respective age categories.
Our U15 girls team: Amelia Peeke, Marijke Tear-Verweij, Harriet Black, Ava Sheppard, Annie Silvers, Bayleigh Stubbins, Lois Ford. You can just spot the top of Brooke Rossney’s head on the far right.

West Midland Young Athlete’s Cross Country League

Warley Woods

Report – Rachel Stevens


Before we launch into the report, there are a couple of quick notices: if you find you are on Santa’s good list and are lucky enough to get new spikes this Christmas, please consider donating your old ones to the Club for other juniors to put to good use. We are a bit low on sizes now. Just bring them along to training and give to one of the coaches/volunteers. Thank you! Alternatively, if you need some spikes, do please ask and we’ll have a rummage to see what we can find for you. Also, I’ve managed to wangle a 10% discount on full priced items at Revital Health Store, 16 High Street Stratford, for Stratford Athletics Club Members (next to ‘Fords Café’ – owned by club members, Jaicob and Eli Ford’s parents). Just say your name at the Revital till and mention the Club

And onto the race…

Well what a weekend it was at Warley Woods! But by gum, was it cold up on them thar hills! I’d love to say we were greeted by an idyllic winter scene at our favourite league venue but it was freezing fog and an unsightly mixture of slush, ice and mud that slapped against reddened cheeks and bare legs during the third race of the season. 

The banked opening 200m dash was an early test on the lungs as the air temperature had dropped considerably overnight and many were trying to adjust to the sharpness of the in-breath before ascending the first incline.

Usually our U17 ladies enjoy the best of conditions underfoot as they are always first out but on this occasion the descents were slippery from the off, with one of our ladies unwittingly surfing her way down one of them in an attempt to stay on both feet.

However, said surfer showed she can maintain her season’s best performances as Niamh Hillard finished in 3rd position for the third consecutive race.

In second slot for Stratford and achieving her highest placing of the season by an impressive five places was MJ Spriggs in overall 9th. Thereafter was another reliable run by Abbi Cooper in 17th, and Martha Peters ran a blinder, improving by ten spots on her season’s best of 28th. A special nod must go to these four ladies for racing on two consecutive days, having represented their school in the English Schools’ Cup in Suffolk the previous day.

Next it was great to see the return of Emma Francioni after a long period of injury and only just back to training, finishing in overall 39th. Then it was a determined Tilly Campbell who improved by six places to finish in a season’s best of 40th. Overall the Ladies move up to second place. Well done, Ladies!

In the U11 Boys’ race, it was Robin Gallagher who powered home in fine form once again to take overall 2nd place for the third meet in a row. Second boy in for Stratford was young Toby Ledgard in overall 48thwho also returned after injury. Welcome back, Toby!

But one second after was Dexter Sharpe who made the hills look easy as he improved by a whopping thirty-six places to finish in his season’s best of 50th position. Then making his club debut with zeal and focus was young Reuben Joyce in overall 55th. Within the blink of an eye, it was Oliver Hollis in 58th, improving by an impressive thirteen places; and rounding up our youngest boys was Reuben Wheeler, up an amazing twenty places on his previous race. Wonderful efforts all round, boys! Currently, our U11 Boys lie in 7th place.

Next up, the U17 Men charged across the opening straight with a laser-focussed Zak Lambert settling early into 3rd place and holding onto that position until safely over the line. This was his highest place this season. Will Mayes also worked tirelessly to finish for the second time this season within the top ten. In a very pleasing personal best this season, James Day took overall 24th, up six positions.  And not to be outdone on progress, Henry Wheeler also improved with a cracking run – up eight places on his previous best, as did James Mayes who knocked off six places to finish in a season’s high of 32nd. Fantastic progress all round sees the U17 Men in overall third place.

Next were our U11 Girls. Looking superbly strong and, in arguably the performance of her young career to date was Maggie Silvers, finishing in overall 6th position and leaping up four places in the top ten. Then it was the focussed run of young Amelie Marshall finishing in overall 14th. Lyla Turner also made huge progress moving up to 16th position – a fabulous improvement of 14 places on her previous race. Fflur Jones had a cracking debut run finishing in overall 26th, whilst Saskia Atkins leapt up a fantastic seventeen places to finish in overall 45th. Elsie Pippitone ran resolutely to finish in 36th. Joining Fflur in her debut run were Poppy West in 89th and Quinn Lancaster in 97th – what an introduction to Cross Country for these young debutantes! Rounding up our youngest girls was Layla Sparrow also demonstrating very pleasing progress by finishing up nine places on her previous race. As it stands, the U11 Girls are in third place.

In the U15 Boys, we saw Sam Lambert emulate elder brother, Zak, to run the whole race in third position, making it back-to-back third place finishes. With three out of three races finishing within the top ten, it was Tom Fisher in next (10th), with Will Hovell running strongly to finish in 16th. Joel Ledgard (19th) and Aran Cooper (21st), along with Tom Fisher, should also be congratulated for running so well after a day’s serious competing at the English Schools’ Cup in Suffolk the day before. An exhausting weekend for them and their support crews! If there were ever a lesson in determination, you’d only have to look at Josh Harrison’s clenched face as he picked off countless competitors and simply rocketed his way up that hill to finish in overall 34th. Our U15 Boys remain League leaders!                                           

Our U13 Girls saw Portia Nabney as first girl in for Stratford, finishing in overall 37th place. Thereafter it was Georgia Sharpe, emulating the progress of her younger brother, to finish up nine places overall and move up the team rankings in second spot for Stratford. Jasmine Mothershaw pushed hard to finish 72nd, with resolute Rachel Sparrow giving it her all in 91st despite an unfortunate fall.  Overall, our girls are in 13th position. 

In the U13 Boys, it was a steady performance by Kipp Stevens in 23rd and Reece Yarnold ran a well-paced and strong race in 26th. Then improving on their previous best positions by sixteen and eight places respectively were Alistair Durrance and Eli Ford. Alistair slipped at the start and Eli also fell later and took a nasty knock to the elbow but both raced on regardless. Notably, it was because of this pair of fine young sportsmen that the most wonderfully team-spirited moment of the day occurred: once recovered from that final punishing ascent, their thoughts turned to fellow team-mate Henry Thomas, whom Alistair and Eli cheered on with great comradery and encouragement. Enlivened by his crew, Henry responded fittingly and dug deep to give a most determined charge to the line. He finished in great style and up twenty places on his previous race. Great team-work boys! Overall, our U13 boys are in 5th position.

Finally, in the U15 Girls’ race, it was a quick start by all, with Marijke Tear-Verweij opening her season in a very impressive 11th spot and Annie Silvers in overall 18th also after taking an unfortunate fall. Lois Ford ran consistently well in 25th, with Ava Sheppard showing the most improvement in this age group, up a superb nineteen places to finish in 38th. Clearly progress is very fashionable amongst our U15 Girls as Amelia Peeke also improved by five places to finish in overall 50th, Brooke Rossney was up seven places in 54th, Bayleigh Stubbins finished up eight places in 56th and Harriet Black jumped up eleven places to 61st. A splendid display of progress throughout the group with all the girls sprinting up the hill to the finish. Well done, girls! Currently our U15 girls are in 10th position.

Overall, SAC achieved 4th position on the day and remain in overall 4th position in the league, just 15 points ahead of 5th placed Birchfield Harriers.

It was a very tough ole day up in Smethwick with even our most seasoned runners finding it brutal. Congratulations to our newcomers; if you can cope with an icy Warley Woods for your first race, you can cope with anything!

Next league meet is at Pingles Stadium, Nuneaton on the 14th of January. For those of you not at the County Champs on 16th December (back at Warley Woods, yay!), have a Happy Christmas. And in the meantime, don’t forget those old spikes! Until next time… 

For the full results please follow this link:

Results for the season to date:                                                                     

While the rest of us were struggling with below zero temperatures, Susan Hunt was enjoying the warmth of Valencia.
Which wasn’t the only thing she was enjoying apparently !

Valencia Marathon

Report – Susan Hunt

Even before the UK weather took a nose-dive, my running mate Linda and I were buzzing with excitement at the prospect of 5 days in Valencia.  Friends had promised us that it was stunning, sunny, cheap, easy to get around and (most importantly) flat.  The perfect venue for my 40th marathon.

We landed on Thursday, got our bearings and began loading our bodies with Spanish food items made of pastry and dough.

Friday was the Expo – an opportunity for shopping and much hilarity: this started on the journey there when a lady failed to notice my athletic demeanour and offered me her seat on the train.

On Saturday at 9am, despite there being no parkruns in Spain, we managed to get our 5k fix at the pre-marathon “Bimbo Breakfast Run”.

And then it was Race Day. 

The Valencia Marathon takes itself seriously. There’s a 5hr 30 cut-off, the slowest wave is “4hrs +” and they check your running credentials before confirming your requested wave.

We lined up in our allocated pens and were marched to the line.  As is tradition, we were ordered to  “Sssssshhhhhhh” and the sound of a heartbeat drummed over the hush, followed by the blaring and majestic Spanish song “Libre” (we later met a man in a bar who claimed his Dad had written it).

As soon as the starting pistol fired, the party began: with drumming bands, DJs, themed cheering stations, trumpets and crowds yelling our names (along with other things in Spanish that we couldn’t understand). The route took us out to the coast and back and then all around the historic city sights.  

The contrast between this run and my long slow solo training slogs (along the Greenway in wind and freezing rain) could not have been greater.

As the miles went by, the noise continued to grow to a deafening crescendo.  I was stunned when my watch buzzed with my 26th mile split and I saw that it was my fastest.  

The spectacular and iconic finish line sits at the end of a 300m blue matted pontoon, flanked by sparkling water on both sides.  I managed a sprint (of sorts) to cross it in 4:09:16.  

I was excited to realise that I’d run my 40th marathon quicker than my 1st (the Shakespeare Marathon 11 years previously) and even managed a rare negative split, completing the 2nd half of the race 18 seconds quicker than the first.

Linda and I agreed that Valencia Marathon had definitely delivered on its promise as we toddled off to discover that, in Spain, McDonalds also sells beer.

Seth Turner with his trophy. His report states that he was super happy to receive it. He doesn’t look exactly super happy though does he ?
MCC Promotions Northampton 10k
Report – Seth Turner

My current training plan called for a 10k race last week so a bit of internet browsing a week before found this little one in the Racecourse Park in Northampton handily close to my workplace.

This was one of those small grassroots races with no chip timing, a chalk line on a pathway, a folding table with some cups of orange squash and 3 and a half laps using the pathways around the edge of the park.

About 200 assorted runners turned up in cold but dry conditions and after a quick parkrun-style briefing, mainly warning us to avoid the local dog walkers we were off.

The route was fairly flat and not too busy and the 3 or so marshalls around the course gave decent encouragement as we lapped.

Having spent the summer running trail ultras rather than racing fast 10k’s and therefore not really knowing where my speed was at I was pleased to maintain a fairly consistent pace throughout and was somewhat surprised to find myself finishing 3rd overall in just over 39 minutes.

I was about a minute and a half behind the winner (Sean Jordan from Crawley Run Crew) and only 7 seconds behind the 2nd placed runner.

I feel this position more reflects the low key nature of the event rather than my own abilities but I was nonetheless super happy to get a trophy, was pleased with my performance and wore my club vest with pride.

I shall keep working on shorter distance race speed for a few weeks more now prior to starting my training for the London marathon in the new year.
Kate Sergent and Sarah Odell
Babbs Mill Parkrun

 Report – Kate Sergent

I don’t usually send reports on parkrun but I had such an unexpected lovely morning I feel the need to share the experience with you

Sarah Odell, Susan Hunt and myself often take ourselves off to a different venue. With our lovely running friend Susan off rolling around in lemons in the sunshine at the Valencia expo before her Valencia marathon, we were so jealous that we planned a trip to Edgbaston Resevoir parkrun!!

No not as exciting but hey!
After a night at my second claim club Alcester Run Christmas party I did wonder at my decision as I set my alarm for 6.45am.

Picking up Sarah we discovered Edgbaston was cancelled. Ok Cannon Hill…. cancelled…. We can’t go home now we are up and out and it’s minus 2 degrees.

Ok let’s go to Babbs Mill. Being from Birmingham it was not my area and all I knew was that there was a shocking tragedy there last year when 4 boys died falling through the ice on the lake, so we were feeling all emotions.
On arrival we were met by a lovely marshal telling us that they never cancel so just be careful.

I flipping love parkrun!

Loads of friendly marshals all standing in sub zero temperatures including Wendy who is always there manning the bridge in her mobility scooter.


A two lap course round a nature reserve. 90 frozen runners all raring to go!

We both had good runs Sarah being 3rd female ( she would have been 2nd if she didn’t have to stop to tie her lace with frozen hands) 

Afterwards we were told we had to go to the church cafe for compulsory waffles where we were given the warmest of welcomes, which made us warm inside.

Such friendly happy people.
Just sometimes it’s good to step out of the comfort zone.

We laughed all the way home.
A couple of photos of some of our juniors’ who competed in the English Schools’ Cup in Suffolk on Saturday
At the English Schools’ Cup in Suffolk on Saturday.
Niamh Hillard (169) and Maisie-Joy Spriggs (170) at the English Schools’ Cup in Suffolk. Just 24 hours later they were to finish in 3rd and 9th place respectively at Warley Woods.
What it is to be young, fit and committed to the cause.