Andy Gardiner had a productive weekend as he won the Newent 9.5km road race just 24 hours after finishing first in a course personal best at the Kingsway parkrun. In Sunday’s race Gardiner and unattached runner Steve Kenyon moved clear of the field from the start and matched each other stride for stride over the opening three kilometres. As the hills approached before the halfway mark Gardiner pulled clear of his rival and remained unchallenged at the head of the field for the rest of the race. Stopping the clock in 33:26 to take the win, the Cheltenham athlete crossed the line 48 seconds clear of Kenyon. The previous day at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester Gardiner lowered his fastest time on the course to 17:06 as he claimed his seventh win at the event by finishing sixteen seconds clear of Severn AC’s Chris Brown. The parkrun addict has now contested a mammoth 293 events and enjoyed 28 wins at 21 different parkrun venues.
Dave Francis continued his fine run of form with yet another personal best to finish eighteenth at the Windsor Autumn Half Marathon at Eton Dorney. Having joined the club in the late Spring with personal bests of over 20 minutes for 5km and 92 minutes for the half marathon, Francis has consistently kept lowering his best times and has clearly benefited from the sessions in Dave Newport’s highly competitive training group. After breaking 19 minutes for 5km in the summer, Francis then proved himself over the longer distances with Autumn half marathon PB times of 86:04 and 85:33 at Bristol and Stroud respectively. Two weeks ago the determined Francis made another breakthrough with a time of 30:17 for eleventh place at the Tewkesbury Guy Fawkes 5 mile race, so lined up at Eton full of confidence as he sought to break the 85 minute barrier. Gaining places after the opening five miles the Cheltenham athlete yet again hit new heights to lower his personal best to an impressive 1:23:45 as he came home in eighteenth place. The Cheltenham parkrun saw Marcus England and Dave Aubrey finish in first and second as they incorporated the event into their training by posting times of 17:21 and 17:37 respectively. James Bingham followed in sixth as he stopped the clock at 18:09 after four laps of the Pittville Park lake. On the grass course at Plock Court Steve Bradley was fourth across the line in the Gloucester North parkrun with a time of 19:45.
Phil Beastall produced his best ever cross country performance to finish in an excellent second place as he led the Cheltenham Harriers team home in the Birmingham Cross Country League Division One fixture in Pittville Park. Having ran a 10k personal best of 30:03 in Leeds the previous weekend, Beastall approached the race with confidence and put himself in the lead group from the start as Stoke’s Alex Brecker set the pace. In the second half of the first of three laps the pack started to split with Brecker taking himself and Beastall clear, with Loughbrough’s Will Fuller leading the chase in third. The Gloucestershire champion looked comfortable and was content to sit in the shoulder of the England international, but the pack behind narrowed the gap towards the half way point of the 10km race. Brecker then started to increase the pace after the stream crossing on the second lap, but he could not shake off Beastall as the pair again extended their lead to ensure it was a two horse race as they started the third and final circuit. The two protagonists stayed locked together as they entered the final mile, with Brecker still forcing the pace and eventually opening a gap over the Cheltenham athlete with about half a mile remaining. Whilst the Stoke athlete took the win in 32:03, a jubilant Beastall finished just seven seconds later to easily surpass his previous best league position of ninth as he finished fourteen seconds clear of third placed Fuller. Having won the previous weekend’s Gloucestershire League fixture, Ben Price was also hopeful of beating his previous best finish of nineteenth and put himself just outside the top twenty on the opening lap. Running a measured race the Cheltenham Half Marathon winner then moved through the field for an excellent thirteenth placed finish. New Harriers recruit Luke Pollard had started off ahead of Price, but still took encouragement from a fine 27th place on his league debut. Dan Owen was the fourth Cheltenham athlete home in 42nd place as the Harriers then looked to close their six man scoring team. With several athletes unavailable for the fixture both Richard de-Camps and Jon Barnes again produced good performances when they were needed, as they both ran well to finish in 46th and 47th positions respectively. This gave last year’s league silver medalists a team score of 177 which earned them fifth place in the sixteen strong division as they trailed Loughborough Students (50), Birchfield (98), Birmingham University (119) and Tipton (145).
The Harriers then showed the depth that exists in the club with some fine packing by the B team who were separated by just fourteen seconds. Dan Thomas led the way in 55th to finish three seconds and three places clear of Jacob Pickering. A further five seconds then elapsed before Tom Lowe, Dan King and Eliot Taylor crossed the line with identical times in 62nd, 63rd and 64th positions. Just six later Richard Dare completed the team in 67th to ensure the Harriers took second in the B competition behind Loughborough. Such was the quality within the team that they beat the score of Leamington’s A team that placed seventh in the A team competition. The Cheltenham vests continued to cross the line thick and fast with a C team of Marcus England (74th), Alex Lee (78th), Doug Wight (81st), Dave Aubrey (82nd), George Watson (83rd) and Charlie Jones (88th) again packing well, with all but Jones still pushing back the final runner of Stoke’s A team that finished sixth on the day. Jamie Harper (98th) and Marc Fallows (99th) ensured there were twenty Cheltenham runners in the top one hundred before Alex Lindfield (119th), Roger Mullins (128th), Joe Willgoss (130th) and James Bingham (139th) closed the D team. With a thirty strong squad out in force the Harriers also fielded an E team of Mark James (141st), Nick Brown (149th), Alister Brown (168th), Elliot Prince (188th), Steve Bradley (205th) and Matt Evans (242nd).
Whilst the men had the advantage of a home fixture the Cheltenham ladies team made the trip to Coundon Hall Park in Coventry for their opening Midland Women’s Cross Country League fixture. In a race that combined both divisions one and two of the league, Naomi Eaton led the team home in 21st position overall to place 4th in division two. Fee Maycock put in yet another impressive run to place 10th in the division and 38th overall before team manager Jo Wilkie took 14th and 60th. Emma Silversides then completed the team as she came home 32nd in division two and 107th overall in a field that had 426 finishers. With a team score of 80 the Harriers placed second of the 24 teams in division two as they finished 17 points behind winners Telford and 28 points clear of third placed Black Pear. The master’s team of Maycock, WIlkie and Silversides also placed second in the veteran standings as Telford again took the win. Elsewhere Alex Bampton competed for Oxford University at the British Athletics Cross Challenge event in Milton Keynes where he ran well for 23rd position. Amber Watson meanwhile contested the Glenelg Classic 10k road race in Adelaide where the temperature was 30 degrees despite the 8:00am start time. Overcoming her inexperience over the longer distance Watson ran well to finish as first lady home in a time of 40.24 as she finished twelve seconds clear of her nearest rival. Weekend parkruns saw James Wilkinson (18:30) take the win at Tewkesbury whilst Simon Critchley (19:08) and Miguel Mundinano (19:52) had a run out at the Cheltenham event.
Phil Beastall produced an excellent personal best performance to finish sixteenth in the English 10k Road Running Championship that was held with the Leeds Abbey Dash. Renowned as one of the highest quality races within the UK, the race again attracted some of the country’s top athletes. With Beastall, Graham Rush and Dan Owen all selected for the Midlands it meant the Harriers made up half of the six strong Midlands team for the inter-area match that was also incorporated into the race. Given the standard of the field, the opening mile of just 4:50 was slower than might have been expected with both Rush and Beastall part of a pack of around twenty athletes. The large group stayed together until just before the halfway mark with Beastall going through the halfway mark in 15:12. The slightly downhill fourth mile then saw Rush pull away from Beastall. Beastall then put in fourth and fifth mile splits of 4:44 and 4:49 as he sought to beat his previous road 10k PB of 30:45 and his track 10,000m best time of 30:12. Picking up places in the last mile Beastall caught a slowing Rush with 150m remaining to stop the clock in an outstanding time of 30:03 with his teammate just three seconds and one place behind. Owen meanwhile put in a good performance to run 31:21 for 43rd position as he surpassed his road PB of 32:19 and his track 10,000m best of 31:41. In his first race since joining the Harriers Luke Pollard then impressed with a personal best of 31:33 to prove what a great addition the squad he should be. Breaking the 33 minute barrier for the first time Charlie Jones and Dan King enjoyed setting PBs of 32:51 and 32:55 respectively before training partner Jon Barnes set a road PB of 33:02 and Elliot Taylor posted a time of 33:11. Alice Taylor was the final Harrier home as she finished just three seconds outside her PB with a time of 37:43.
Whilst a few athletes had travelled to compete on the national scene, the main event for the county’s top runners over the weekend was the second fixture of the Gloucestershire Cross Country League on a new course at Malmesbury. In the men’s race Ben Price went on to claim a well-deserved win after he pulled clear of Dave Bell (Cirencester) in the early stages of the second lap. The Cheltenham Half Marathon winner then extended this lead over the final lap of the testing circuit to finish 25 seconds clear of his rival with Aaron Pritchard (Bath) a further eleven seconds adrift in third place. James Denne ran a well-paced race to finish in a pleasing fifth spot before Dan Thomas produced another good run in seventh place. The team then packed well with Alex Chantler-Mayne and Jacob Pickering finishing as the leading under 20 athletes in ninth and tenth place respectively. Marc Fallows then finished as the leading veteran athlete in eleventh place to ensure the Harriers enjoyed a 31st consecutive league win with just 43 points. Bath again finished as second team with a score of 122, before the Harriers B team took third place with 198 thanks to the efforts of Marcus England (14th), Doug Wight (18th), Alex Lindfield (27th), Andy Gore (44th), James Bingham (45th) and James Wilkinson (50th). With Nick Brown (51st), Russell Forsbrook (52nd), Elliot Prince (60th), Dave Rantell (65th), Alister Brown (69th) and Steve Bradley (71st) packing well the Cheltenham C team finished 7th overall and ahead of all other club B teams. Dan Minors (77th) and Ian Giles (86th) provided further depth before Claude Bernard finished as the third V60 runner in 123rd place. The veteran team of Fallows, Gore, Forsbrook and Rantell repeated their second place of the opening fixture as Bath again took the team win.
In the ladies race Naomi Eaton and Bath’s Katerine Svane moved clear of the field on the opening of their two laps with the Cheltenham athlete happy to lead. However the impressive Svane moved clear on the second lap to claim the win, with Eaton crossing the line twelve seconds later to take a fine second place as she finished seventeen seconds clear of Gloucester’s Niamh Powell. Despite having ran a sub 3 hour marathon just six days earlier, Fee Maycock put on her spikes to help the depleted Cheltenham team and remarkably took seventh place overall. Not only did the 50 year old win the LV50 category, but she was also the first veteran runner home. Rachel See then put in an improved performance to take 24th place which ensured the team took second with a score of 33 points. With Bath putting out a very strong team and scoring a miserly 12 points, it means that the Harriers now lie second in the league overall with a points deficit of 10 points to Bath. With Dana Machakova (33rd), Emma Silversides (38th) and Debbie Smith (66th) packing well the club B team placed tenth. Tamsin Carpenter (108th), Agata Giles (120th) Charlotte Deacon (144th), Christina See (180th) completed the squad. Competing in the same race as ladies the Harriers under 17 girls packed well for a team win thanks to Olivia Davis (25th), Emma Quekett (36th), Katerina Horrocks (43rd) and Ella Burfitt (64th). The Masters team of Maycock, Silversides and Smith took fifth on the day, with their determined performance keeping the Harriers at the top of the overall standings.
At the Tewkesbury Guy Fawkes 5 mile road race veteran Mark James ran well to cross the line in second place in 27:44 as he finished exactly one minute behind Stroud’s Alistair Cambell and ten seconds ahead of Severn’s Chris Brown. Dave Rantell finished as third over 45 runner home as he took tenth overall in 30:13 despite racing the previous day. Just four seconds later Dave Francis posted an impressive PB in eleventh place as he pipped former race winner Andy Prophett by a single second. Shona Crombie-Hicks then repeated her 2016 ladies race win with a time of 30:22 that saw the LV45 athlete defeating all her younger rivals. Sarah Sheppard recorded 32:49 to finish as fifth lady before Paul Barnes (33:45), Dave Hemmings (34:17) and Leah Hopton (38:00) completed the Harriers contingent.
Fee Maycock produced the fourth fastest marathon by an over 50 lady in the UK this year with an excellent performance at the Frankfurt marathon. Since running a time of 2:56:21 at the Manchester Marathon in April, which earned her fifth place in the national over 45 rankings, Maycock has celebrated a birthday that moved her up an age category and she was keen to prove that she could still break the three hour barrier as a 50 year old. Five kilometre splits of 20:41 and 20:43 took the Cheltenham athlete through 10km in 41:24 as she headed off at personal best pace. Splits of 20:19 and 20:41 then followed before Maycock went through the half marathon mark in an impressive 1:26:59. She then kept her rhythm through the 25km and 30km marks with 20:40 and 20:54 before a 21:06 split on the way to 35km showed the first signs that her pace had dropped slightly. However, a determined 21:44 up to 40km meant that Maycock was going to be close to her Manchester time and by digging deep in the final 2km she crossed the line fractionally outside this in a very pleasing 2:56:40. Maycock’s run earned her third place in the LV50 category as she finished just twenty seconds behind the Norwegian winner and a single second behind the German runner up. Her time also places her fourth in the UK over 50 rankings for 2017 that are headed by Les Croupiers’ Angharad Mair with 2:54.49.
With no races on the club fixture list for the weekend several Harriers incorporated parkruns into their training plans ahead of their upcoming road and cross country races. The standout performance of the weekend came from Alex Bampton at the Aldenham event at Elstree. In the previous 123 parkruns at the venue only three runners had ever broken the 17 minute barrier for the demanding route, with the course record standing at 16:33. Bampton’s own best time on the course was previously the 17:01 that he ran in January, but the Oxford University student obliterated both this and the course record with an impressive time of 16:12 as he enjoyed a comprehensive three minute victory. There was also a win for Phil Beastall with a time of 16:11 at the Tewkesbury parkrun where Russell Forsbrook finished third in 18:36 and V60 athlete Mike Ede posted a time of 21:27. Further Harriers wins came at the Kingsway event in Gloucester where Mark James crossed the line in 17:23 and at the Gloucester North parkrun where Marcus England was the first man home in 17:53. At the Cheltenham event in Pittville Park Gareth Edwards led the club contingent home in 19:10 and Dave Francis recorded 19:31. V70 runner Martin Ford then ran 21:09 before Tamsin Carpenter set a personal best of 22:14 as she finished as the fourth lady home. Elsewhere Dave Aubrey earned third place at the York parkrun with 17:11 and Alister Brown‘s 18:26 earned him seventh place at the Worcester Pitchcroft event.