Distance Running News, 10-11 March

Cheltenham Harrier Beth Hawling celebrated England selection after an excellent performance to finish fourth at the UK inter-counties cross country championship in Loughborough. Having returned from studying at Virginia University just before Christmas, the 23 year old had been in fine form back on the domestic cross country scene, with a win in the Midland League and a fine twelfth place at the English National Championship. However, her performance in the grounds of Prestwold Hall was yet another step forward for the athlete who trains in Dave Newport’s successful group of distance runners. Putting herself in around tenth place on the opening lap of the quagmire of a course, Hawling then started to progress through the class field on the second circuit. With around a kilometre remaining of the 8km race the Cheltenham athlete was up into seventh and gaining on the pack of three athletes just in front. Passing them with 500m to go Hawling managed to stay clear in the frantic dash for the line to produce her finest ever race on UK soil. Just 24 hours after the race the former GB under 23 international was rewarded with selection for the England team for the Home Countries International in Nottingham later this month. Despite Hawling’s performance the Gloucestershire team could only manage to finish 24th of the 30 complete teams, with club teammate Rachel See the county’s fourth scorer home in 200th place. However, her performance in the grounds of Prestwold Hall was yet another step forward for the athlete who trains in Dave Newport’s successful group of distance runners. Putting herself in around tenth place on the opening lap of the quagmire of a course, Hawling then started to progress through the class field on the second circuit. With around a kilometre remaining of the 8km race the Cheltenham athlete was up into seventh and gaining on the pack of three athletes just in front. Passing them with 500m to go Hawling managed to stay clear in the frantic dash for the line to produce her finest ever race on UK soil. Just 24 hours after the race the former GB under 23 international was rewarded with selection for the England team for the Home Countries International in Nottingham later this month. Despite Hawling’s performance the Gloucestershire team could only manage to finish 24th of the 30 complete teams, with club teammate Rachel See the county’s fourth scorer home in 200th place.

In the men’s race the heavy conditions weren’t to Graham Rush’s liking, but he posted a solid performance to finish in 26th position to lead his Yorkshire team to fifth place. Running for the county of his birth, Alex Bampton was the leading Buckinghamshire athlete home as he completed his successful cross country season with a fine 62nd place. Marc Fallows ensured that all three Harriers in the 12km race led their counties home as he finished as the leading member of the Gloucestershire team in 176th place as the team placed 29th from 31 teams. In the under 20 men’s race George Watson ran well for a pleasing 43rd place whilst Tasmin Carpenter finished 157th in the under 20 ladies race.

On the roads Fee Maycock continued her build up to next month’s Manchester Marathon with the Surrey Half Marathon in Woking. The LV50 runner again won her age category as she beat all her LV40 and LV45 rivals to finish eighth lady home in an impressive time of 85:58. Further afield Andrew van Kints was part of the high quality City Pier City Half Marathon in The Hague where his 74:05 clocking saw him finish in 96th place. Andy Gardiner meanwhile used the Berkeley 20 mile road race as part of his London Marathon preparations and gained a useful workout with 2:10:01 for eighth place. Also on the roads Gareth Edwards finished fifth in the Minchinhampton 10k where he completed the testing course in a time of 38:32 Weekend parkruns saw Alex Lee (16:19) and Marcus England (16:45) finish first and second at the Cheltenham event in Pittville Park where Georgia (20:23) was the first lady home. Dave Tomlin (16:55) took second place in Exmouth whilst Andy Prophett (18:34) took sixth place at the Worcester Pitchcroft event.

Masters Indoor Championships, 10-11 March

In the British Masters Indoor Championships Mike Gardiner won gold in the V45 400m in 54.88 seconds. Jane Horder claimed yet another national title in the 60m hurdles with a time of 9.87 seconds as well as claiming the 60m bronze for her LV60 age category with a 9.03 clocking. Competing in the V70 category John Steel placed fifth in the 60m with 9.73 seconds and 4th in the 200m with a time of 32.73.

Distance Running News, 3-4 March

Marcus England produced his best ever race as he smashed his half marathon personal best at the Big Half in London. Whilst Mo Farah claimed the win in 61:39, England was looking to break his PB of 73:32 set in Manchester last October. After a 16:35 opening 5km split and then going through 10km in 33:04, England continued to gain places in the second half. Running alongside the leading women, which meant an appearance on the BBC TV coverage, England passed 15km in 49:47 with a big PB clearly in his sights. Although leading lady and GB international Charlotte Purdue pulled clear in the twelfth mile the Cheltenham athlete was ecstatic to record a time of 70:35 as he took almost three minutes off his previous best to earn a fine 36th place in the British Championship race. This continued a remarkable run of form for England whose previous five road races in 2018 had all resulted in personal best, as added a half marathon PB to those he had set over 5 miles (26:45), 10km (32:42) and 10 miles (53:51).

Cheltenham Harriers men’s and ladies team celebrated winning Gloucestershire Cross Country League titles as the final league fixture of the season was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Both teams had already established sizeable leads at the top of their respective tables and just needed to turn up at the final match in order to confirm their medals. However, with the league organisers declaring that the Wotton-under-Edge fixture would not be rescheduled for a second time following its postponement for snow in December, the two teams were officially crowned champions based on the current league standings. This meant a ninth consecutive league title for Andy Prophett’s men’s squad who have now remained undefeated in the league for the eight consecutive seasons. Their score of 128 from the three fixture series saw them finish 170 points clear of Bath who totalled 198. The Cheltenham B team also claimed medals for a fifth consecutive season as their score of 538 left them 358 points clear of fourth placed Cirencester. In the men’s master’s competition, however, the Harriers team had to settle for silver medals as their score of 474 saw them trail behind winners Bath (356) whilst Bromsgrove (828) took third place. Whilst the team standings were not affected by the cancellation, the individual standings were suddenly only open to athletes that had done all 3 fixtures. Jacob Pickering clearly benefitted from the decision as he took league silver with 34 points as Bath’s Aaron Pritchard won the individual title with an aggregate of 12.

Jo Wilkie’s ladies squad meanwhile regained the title they had won in the 2015-16 season to collect their second league title of the season, having already claimed the Midland League Division Two crown last month. Their impressive score of 58 saw the team finish 82 points clear of the Forest of Dean (140), whilst Bath (191) gained the bronze medals. The Harriers B team were also the leading B team in the competition as they finished fifth overall. Further success came in the master’s standings with the Cheltenham team taking the title on 172 points from nearest challengers the Forest of Dean (226) and CLC Striders (314). Key to the success of both winning teams was the consistent form of the impressive Fee Maycock who finished 6th, 5th and 3rd to claim the overall league silver medal whilst finishing as a clear winner of the LV50 category as she again beat all her younger veteran rivals.

Distance Running News, 24-25 February

Beth Hawling produced an excellent performance to finish twelfth in the English National Cross Country Championships. The event was held over a distance of 8km over the iconic Parliament Hill Fields course on Hampstead Heath and saw Hawling put herself in around thirtieth place at the top of the famous opening 400m uphill start. The former GB under 23 international then gradually picked her way through the field to move up into nineteenth place by the end of the challenging opening lap. Her momentum through the field then continued on the final circuit as she gained a further seven places to cross the line in twelfth place on her debut in the championship. Teammate Alice Taylor also ran well to finish in 111th place.

Having equalled his 5km personal best in Armagh last week Graham Rush went into the race hoping to follow up his fifth place in last year’s national with a challenge for the medals. However, having put himself into the lead group in the early stages Rush dropped back as a calf injury restricted his progress. Sadly he was eventually forcing him to jog in during the closing stages as he crossed the line in 62nd place. Having enjoyed a good cross country season Richard de-Camps went into the 12km race full of confidence and produced his best ever performance to squeeze into the top 100 as he finished in an excellent 97th place. Dan Owen ran a good race to move through the field to 183rd position before Dan King took 246th place. Fourteen seconds later Dan Thomas placed 266th as the Cheltenham runners packed well. Marc Fallows had been the sixth and final Cheltenham scorer throughout the final lap, but Eliot Taylor sprinted past him in the finishing straight to claim the last scoring spot. Taylor was just 12 second behind Thomas, but 21 places adrift in 287th, whilst Fallows was a further three seconds adrift in 295th meaning the 30 second gap to King was worth 49 places. Andrew van Kints made a return to the Harriers team in 340th before Steve Bradley and Matt Evans finished 1286th and 1363rd respectively in a race with 2328 finishers. Despite missing a few key athletes the Cheltenham team finished a credible 18th team and were the second highest Midland club. Earlier in the afternoon there were three Cheltenham runners in the under 20 men’s race with George Watson running well for a pleasing 56th position as he led home Jacob Pickering who placed 69th and Alex Lindfield who took 130th.

The weekend also saw the Bourton 10k road race well attended by the club with 2017 race winner Alex Lee and teammate Marcus England leading the charge. The duo chose to ignore the fast start of Cirencester’s Dave Bell and instead ran alongside CLC’s Will Ferguson. The trio then caught Bell at around 5km before Ferguson and Lee went clear. Lee eventually dropped off the pace at around 8km as he went on to finish 13 seconds behind Ferguson in 32:31. England meanwhile lost out to Bell by 2 seconds, but was delighted to lower his personal best to 32:42 as he took fourth place. Andy Gore was the leading V45 runner home in 35:59 before Simon Crew was the first junior home in 37:03. Veterans Dave Rantell (37:47) and Ian Giles (38:24) then followed before Fee Maycock ran well to finish as tenth lady and the first LV45+ runner home in 39:02. Jo Wilkie (41:10), Rachel See (42:25), Ella Burfitt (43:15), Debbie Smith (47:22) and Michael Imeson (51:08) also contested the race in the picturesque Cotswold village. Weekend parkruns saw Andy Gardiner (17:03) take second place in the inaugural Gloucester City event, a position which was matched by James Wilkinson (19:24) in Tewkesbury. Oliver Doherty (19:29) finished third at the Cheltenham event where Tamsin Carpenter (22:07) set a PB to finish as fifth lady and Katerina Horrocks (22:22) was the sixth lady to complete the Pittville Park course.

Distance Running News, 15-17 February

There was a fine individual win for Oli Mott as Cheltenham Harriers teams won both the men’s and ladies team races at the Gloucestershire Cross Country League fixture in Pittville Park. Having made a cautious return to action following a four month injury lay off at the previous weekend’s Birmingham League fixture, Mott was content to sit in the large lead group as the field made a relatively steady to start to the race. After the first of the three full laps had been completed, a nine man front group had pulled clear with Mott joined by his Harriers teammates John Parker, Alex Lee, Jacob Pickering and Marc Fallows. Pickering soon fell off the pace on the second circuit, but he was replaced in the front group by 800m specialist Sam Harding who had confidently moved through the field. Whilst different runners took their turn on the front, very little happened until the final lap despite the pack starting to fragment. With about a mile and a half to go it was Lee who upped the pace, taking Mott, Harding and Clevedon’s Alex Crossland clear of their rivals. Mott then made his decisive move after the final stream crossing, as he opened up a gap over Lee and Harding, who in turn pulled clear of Crossland. Whilst Mott’s win never looked in doubt he crossed the line just four seconds clear of Harding who took second after pulling clear of Lee. Crossland then denied the Harriers a 1-2-3 as he caught Lee who had to be content with fourth place. In sixth place John Parker was the first veteran home in a competitive masters field that saw Marc Fallows as fourth over 40 runner home in ninth place overall. As always the battle to make the Cheltenham scoring team was a close battle, with Dave Aubrey making it six Harriers in the top ten as the club scored a paltry 32 points. This gave the Harriers a 64 point winning margin over nearest challengers Bath, as they extended their unbeaten run to 32 consecutive league wins.

The Harriers B team were again the third team and remain in the bronze medal positions in the overall league standings thanks to the efforts of Eliot Taylor (11th), Jacob Pickering (15th), Charlie Jones (20th), Andy Gardiner (23rd), Nick Brown (25th) and Andy Gore (27th). The depth in the club was further highlighted as the C team took fifth overall through Alex Lindfield (28th), Dave Tomlin (31st), Russell Forsbrook (37th), Mike Gray (42nd), Ian Giles (57th) and cross country debutant Martin Soakell (62nd). Matt Lambourne (63rd) and Dave Rantell (65th) soon followed before Mike Ede (109th) finished as the second over 60 runner home and Dave Hemmings (127th) completed the 22 man Cheltenham squad. The veteran team of Parker, Fallows, Gore and Tomlin also claimed the master’s team win, although they remain second behind Bath in the overall standings with one fixture remaining.

The Harriers ladies went into the fixture lying second in the league, but hopeful of putting themselves back into contention for the league title. Bromsgrove’s Sally Hogan set the early pace with leading Cheltenham runner Hilary Mott content to tuck in behind her as the duo pulled clear of the field and remained unchallenged. The race continued in that manner until around a quarter of a mile to go when the Bromsgrove athlete picked up the pace to move clear and take the win by eight seconds. Fee Maycock had put herself in third place by half way, but had a pack of athletes just behind her chasing down. However, the 50 year old marathon runner maintained her form to hold position and claim her highest league finish as well as winning the veteran race. Vickie Wilkinson made a welcome return to race action after a long injury lay off and completed the scoring team as she moved through the field throughout the race to finish in a pleasing eleventh place. This gave the team a score of just 16 points for a 15 point victory over the Forest of Dean. More significantly though, it gave the Harriers an 82 point lead at the top of the table as Bath struggled on the day and dropped back to third overall. The club B team of Jo Fletcher (12th), Rachel See (16th) and Sarah Sheppard (25th) finished as fourth team and moved up into fifth place overall. Ella Burfitt (28th), Adele Potts (40th), Tamsin Carpenter (52nd), Katerina Horrocks (53rd), Christina See (157th) and Ruth Bird (158th) also enjoyed a run out over the testing course.

Earlier in the week Graham Rush was in fine form as he represented England in the Armagh International 5k road race. In the lead group through Rush lost out in the dash for the line to finish sixth in 14:05. Such was the depth in the UK’s highest quality 5k race that Alex Bampton had to be content with 133rd place with 15:15, as like Rush he equalled his track personal best as he set a new road PB. Dan Owen completed the race in 15:46 for 185th place. Jo Wilkie meanwhile finished as third lady at the Windsor Winter Half Marathon at Eton Dorney in a time of 91:45. Beth Hawling finished third overall and as first lady at the Cheltenham parkrun, where her time of 18:17 moved her up to third on the all-time ladies ranking list for the event. Mark James (17:22) and Dave Tomlin (17:25) took the first two places at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester whilst Alice Earle (20:39) was the third lady home at the Newcastle parkrun.

View Photos from Tony Stanton

Distance Running News, 10-11 February

There was an impressive individual race win for Beth Hawling as Cheltenham Harriers claimed the Midland Women’s Cross Country League Division Two title with a fine team performance in Wolverhampton. In a race that combined runners from both division one and two, the 23 year old put herself in the lead group from the start as she looked to make an impact on her debut for the team. After the opening small lap the field began to split and a pack of five runners pulled clear at the front, with Hawling the only division two athlete in the group. At one point the former GB under 23 international fell ten yards adrift of the pack, but worked hard through the sticky mud to regain contact. Sara Treacy (Birchfield) was forcing the pace at the front, with Hawling, Chloe Richardson (Birchfield) and Molly Browne (BRAT) also in contention. Treacy then burst clear to split the group and opened a 50m gap over second place Hawling as they entered the final large lap. However, the Cheltenham athlete maintained her rhythm and kept the Irish Rio Olympian within striking distance before gradually closing the gap in the final mile. After passing the Birchfield runner Hawling went on to take the win with Treacy six seconds behind and third placed Richardson a further 21 seconds adrift. In her first race since her sub 2:50 marathon in October, Hilary Mott started steadily and moved through the field to finish as the second Harrier home in 18th overall and as 5th division two athlete. Sarah Sheppard then showed improved form for 14th and 42nd before Hannah D’Ambrosio battled well to complete the team as she claimed 25th place in the division and 70th place overall in a field of 374 runners. With a team score of 45 the Cheltenham team finished second in the division on the day, as Tipton took the win with a score of 30 and Halesowen placed third place with 82. However, in the overall standings Jo Wilkie’s team finished way clear with 221 points as CLC Striders (429) and Black Pear (457) joined them in gaining promotion to division one.

At the same venue the Harriers men were hoping to move up from fourth position and into the medals as they trailed third placed Birchfield by just 17 points going into their final Birmingham League Division One fixture. Alex Bampton was full of confidence and made an uncharacteristically fast start as he put himself into the top five. After two large laps Phil Wylie was up into fourth place with Bampton just a couple of places adrift. However, both athletes lost two places in the last quarter of mile as Wylie crossed the line in sixth. Just four seconds later Bampton claimed his first ever top ten finish in the league with an impressive seventh place. Ben Price also ran an excellent race as he moved through the field throughout the race to also claim a maiden top ten finish as he closed to within 10 seconds of Bampton for an impressive ninth. Richard de-Camps then continued his good consistent form with a league best position of 26th, but by then thoughts of team medals were eroding as Birchfield already had five runners across the line. With a large squad out, the battle to make the Cheltenham six man A team was always going to be a close and tough affair, but few would have predicted that two nineteen year olds would claim the spots. Having finished 83rd, 71st, 54th in a season of constant improvement, George Watson produced his finest race to date to come home in 33rd position and fifth under 20 runner. Then just five seconds late Jacob Pickering also stepped up with his best ever cross country race for 34th place. This gave the Harriers team a score of 115 for fourth position on the day as Birchfield (88), Loughborough University (103) and Tipton (109) took the top three spots. In the final league standing it was Loughborough (318) who retained their league title whilst Cheltenham (531) remained in fourth position in the sixteen strong league as Tipton (485) and Birchfield (487) completed the medal positions.

Dan Owen (37th) again led the B team home as the Harriers second string looked to close the 160 point to B team league leaders Loughborough. With Edd-Charlton Weedy (40th), Oli Mott (46th), Dan King (54th), Marcus England (57th) and Marc Fallows (64th) all packing well, a team score of 298 took victory on the day. However, the student team took second on 336 meaning they claimed the league by 22 points with the Cheltenham side almost 600 points ahead of third placed Birchfield. The Harriers also had the top C team thanks to Dan Thomas (66th), Alex Lee (67th), Charlie Jones (71st), Jon Barnes (72nd), Dave Aubrey (77th) and a first top 100 finish for Alex Lindfield (94th). The depth within the squad continued with Dave Tomlin (109th), Andy Gore (118th), Doug Wight (121st), Nick Brown (122nd), Mike Gray (157th) and James Wilkinson (167th) forming the D team before Alister Brown (201st) and Russell Forsbrook (206th) completed the 26 strong Harriers contingent. Alice Taylor meanwhile travelled to Llandudno for the Welsh Championships that were held within the Nick Beer 10k where she battled the tough course and conditions to finish as fifth lady in 41:37. Elsewhere there was a Harriers one-two at the Evesham parkrun where Gareth Edwards (18:55) and Matt Lambourne (19:27) led the field home as Mike Ede (21:23) took seventh place.