Distance Running News, 9 December

Graham Rush has been rewarded for a successful 2017 with England selection for upcoming cross country and road races. Having made his debut for the team in January 2016, Rush will earn a fourth cross county vest at the Vaneta de Banos International Cross country event in Spain on 16th December to cap a year that also saw him earn a GB vest alongside Mo Farah in the Edinburgh International last January. The Dave Newport coached athlete has also been named in the England road racing team for the Armagh 5k in February where he will earn a third England road running vest. This summer also saw the Dave Newport coached athlete earn a first GB track vest at the European 10,000m challenge in Belarus after he recorded a time of 29:04 at the British trials in London.

Snow across the region caused havoc with the racing plans of Cheltenham Harriers on what was to be one of the squad’s biggest weekends of the year. Nineteen team members had entered arguably the fastest and highest quality 10k road race in the UK at Telford, but their plans were scuppered when the event was cancelled on Friday. Many then turned attention to join their teammates at Sunday’s Gloucestershire Cross Country League, but this too was called off on the morning of the Wotton-under-Edge event. The only action of the weekend came in local parkrun events where Alex Lee chalked up a record 27th win at the Cheltenham event in Pittville Park with a time of 16:08. Marcus England had tried to keep with his Harriers teammate, but unfortunately took a fall on the icy path as he pushed too hard to maintain contact. However, the resilient England picked himself to stop the clock at 16:53 to take second place in a new parkrun PB. At the same event new recruit Gwenael Blanck recorded 19:41 and Henry James posted a time of 19:52. Hannah D’Ambrosio was the third lady home in 21:32 and V50 athlete Dave Hemmings completed the four laps of the lake in 21:59. At the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester Mark James took second place in 17:33 whilst Dave Tomlin continued his comeback from injury with 18:11 for third place.

Distance Running News, 2 December

Cheltenham Harriers teams enjoyed a weekend of cross country success with the ladies winning their Midland League Division Two fixture and the men taking a fine third place in their Birmingham League Division One match. Having finished second in the opening fixture of the season the Harriers ladies travelled to Stratford for their combined division one and two race held at Clopton Park. Naomi Eaton again led the team home, improving on the last fixture to finish 14th overall and claim second place in division two. Twenty-nine seconds later Alice Taylor crossed the line to finish a pleasing fifth in the division and 21st overall. Fee Maycock then took 13th and 52nd positions before team manager Jo Wilkie completed the scoring team with 17th and 60th. This gave the Harriers a score of 37 points as they comfortably took the team win ahead of Black Pear (67) and CLC Striders (99) at the top of the 23 team division. With league leaders Telford only managing fourth place on the day it meant that Cheltenham team moved to the top of the league with 97 points ahead of Black Pear (155) and Telford (166). Showing a big improvement on the opening match Emma Silversides finished 27th in division two to combine with Maycock and Wilkie to ensure the Harriers also won the divisional masters team race with a score of 32 points. Telford took second just four points behind to remain at the top of the table with the Cheltenham team now just 15 points adrift in second overall.

The men’s team meanwhile answered one of sports toughest questions, could they do it on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon in Stoke? On a challenging new course at Park Hall Country Park the Harriers were missing several of their top athletes, but put in a stellar team performance as they again packed well. After the first of three laps Phil Beastall was lying in third just behind Sutton Coldfield’s Sean Evans as Birmingham University’s Jonathan Davies opened up a race winning lead. A lap later Joe Wilkinson (Loughbrough) had moved up into third as a close tussle with Evans and Beastall followed on the final circuit. By the finish the Sutton Coldfield man took second place by a single second from Wilkinson who in turn finished just four seconds clear of fourth placed Beastall. On his cross country debut last month Luke Pollard had finished 27th and proved himself to be a very useful addition to the Harriers squad. In around 20th position after the opening mile, the international duathlete kept moving through the field and by halfway it was clear that a top ten finish was possible. In ninth with a mile to go Pollard produced the Harriers performance of the day as he gained two more places to cross the line in an excellent seventh place. Dan Owen and Richard de-Camps started together and moved through the field into the low 30s by halfway after being around 50th after the opening mile. Owen then continued to make gains as he went on to claim his highest ever league finish with 23rd place whilst de-Camps held position for a pleasing 30th. Ten seconds later Dan Thomas gained his highest league finish in 33rd as he too mad big gains on the final lap. The battle to be the final scorer in the Harriers A team was again a close affair with Doug Wight producing his best race of the season to claim an impressive 41st position. The Harriers score of 138 earned the club third on the day in the sixteen team league behind Loughborough University (94) and Tipton (130) as they finished just ahead of Birchfield (143) and Birmingham University (161). Whilst this result kept the Cheltenham squad in fifth place overall, they remain in contact with the medal positions on 315 points as the top of table shows Loughborough University (144) leading the way from Birchfield (241), Tipton (275) and Birmingham University (280).

Claiming their first ever top 50 finishes Marcus England (45th), Dan King (47th) led the B team home. Dave Aubrey (67th), George Watson (71st), Jon Barnes (73rd) and Tommaso Migliuolo (91st) then packed well to see them take the win with 394 points. Loughborough took second some 92 points adrift, but the student team still top the standings from the Harriers though by 38 points. The Harriers C team provided vital back up with Alex Lindfield (106th), Alex Doherty (116th), Nick Brown (119th), Elliot Prince (145th), Dave Francis (153rd) and Alister Brown (167th) all enjoying the challenge of the testing course. Weekend parkruns saw Alex Lee (16:39) take the win at the Cheltenham event where James Bingham (17:49) took third and Oliver Doherty (19:06) had a run out. There were also third place finishes for Steve Bradley (19:11) at the Kingsway event in Gloucester and for Ian Giles (20:53) at the Gloucester North event

Distance Running News, 23-26 November

Naomi Eaton produced her best ever road race performance at the Weston Prom 5 mile road race to finish as second lady home, but was denied an official personal best by a misplaced cone. Having secured second place in the last two Gloucestershire Cross Country League races Eaton went into the race full of confidence and opened up with a 6:00 opening mile along the Weston-Super-Mare sea-front. Gaining places by maintaining an even pace, with further splits of 6:03, 6:01 and 6:02, the Dave Newport coached athlete finished strongly to take second in 29:46 behind Bristol’s Fiona Marks (28:41) whilst Clevedon’s Jen Bishop (30:23) took third place. However, it soon became apparent that the course was short due to the cone at the turning point being placed wrongly. Frustratingly Eaton’s time for the 4.94mile course would have been worth around 30:08 for five miles, which itself would have been a significant PB. Graham Rush meanwhile contested the British Trials for the European Cross Country Championship at Liverpool’s Sefton Park and ran a solid race to place 23rd in a high class field.

At the Gloucester 10k road race James Denne led the Harriers home in fifth place in 32:53 as Cardiff’s Carwyn Jones took the win in 31:19. One place later Marcus England was just five seconds outside his PB as he recorded 33:15 on a course that certainly wouldn’t be described as flat. In seventh place Alex Lee clocked 33:29 before Mark James’ 35:33 saw him finish as second veteran home. James Wilkinson then impressed as he lowered his PB by 39 seconds with 36:50 and Gareth Edwards completed the Harriers contingent in 37:27. Having just missed out on a place in the Oxford University team for their cross country varsity match against Cambridge next weekend, Alex Bampton represented the dark blues second team in a match against their rivals. Gaining places in the second half of the race after a pack of four Cambridge runners had pulled clear, the post-graduate moved from fifth into second place to finish just three seconds behind race winner Norman Shreeve. Over in France at the La Rochelle Marathon Shona Crombie-Hicks went through halfway in 1:26:36 before going on to finish as 14th lady home in a time of 2:58:38, becoming the third Cheltenham Harriers lady to break the three hour mark in the last five weeks. The Cheltenham parkrun celebrated its 250th event with Doug Wight (17:35) becoming the 31st Harrier to cross the line first on the Pitville Park course. James Bingham (18:04) placed fourth whilst Miguel Mundinando (19:43), Dave Hemmings (21:58) and Hannah D’Ambrosio (22:01) also enjoyed a run out. Andy Gardiner (18:19) meanwhile claimed his 22nd different parkrun venue win at the Thornbury event and Charlie Jones (17:42) was the first man home in Hereford. Elsewhere Steve Bradley (18:59) placed third at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester whilst Mike Ede (21:12) took sixth position at the Evesham event.

Distance Running News, 18-19 November

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.

Distance Running News, 11-12 November

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.