Distance Running News, 6-7 January

James Denne produced an excellent performance to win the Gloucestershire Cross Country Championship as he led Cheltenham Harriers successfully defended their team title at Old Down Country Park. Pre=race favourite Dave Bell (Cirencester) opened up a small lead during the first half of the opening lap before Denne passed him towards the end of the lap as he enjoyed the challenge of the hilly and testing course. From then on Denne’s lead kept growing as he went on to claim the win and the Dave McNamee trophy by 28 seconds as Bell had to settle for second. The battle for third place was a more interesting affair with John Parker in the bronze medal position after the opening lap. The veteran was caught by the next pack though on the second circuit as the Cirencester pair of Luke Campbell and Isaac McAdam closed the gap with Harrier George Watson tucked in just behind them. A lap later and Watson made his move to pull clear of the Cirencester duo as Parker drifted backwards and his position as leading veteran came under threat from his teammate and defending champion Marc Fallows. A strong final lap saw Watson finish nineteen seconds clear of Campbell as he took third place and the under 20 county title. Parker rallied on the final circuit to take fifth overall and the veteran title in his first race for five months. Fallows followed 28 seconds later to take the veteran silver in eighth.

Cirencester continued to pack well with their fourth and fifth athletes in ninth and eleventh respectively, but the Harriers closed their team with Andy Gore taking the V45 title in sixteenth and Alex Lindfield finishing in nineteenth place for a team score of 53. With the final Cirencester scorer back in a distant 79th place they finished second with 110 before the Harriers B team of Elliot Prince (22nd), Gwenael Blanck (25th), Alister Brown (26th), James Wilkinson (30th), Dan Minors (32nd) and Steve Bradley (37th) took the team bronze with a score of 172. The Cheltenham veteran team of Parker, Fallows and Gore also took the team gold medals. Mike Gray (39th) made a welcome return to action before Ian Giles (44th) and Matt Evans (47th) completed the Harriers contingent. In the ladies race Tamsin Carpenter finished in 29th position. Competing in the county of his birth, Alex Bampton took silver in the Buckinghamshire Cross Country Championships, a position matched by Graham Rush at the Yorkshire Champs.

An eighteen strong Harriers squad had a series of excellent results at the Telford 10k where Ben Price, Alex Lee and Richard de-Camps were amongst the eight Cheltenham runners setting personal best times in the Midland’s highest quality 10k race. Phil Beastall led the club home in 30:18 for 14th place as he finished one place clear of Phil Wylie who posted a pleasing 30:29. Price then trimmed his PB by four seconds as a time of 31:24 earned the Cheltenham Half Marathon winner 27th place. Dan Owen had been the next Harrier throughout the halfway stage but he was passed by both de-Camps and Lee in the second half as both athletes made breakthroughs to go sub 32 for the first time. A strong finish from Bourton 10k winner Lee saw him clock 31:44 for 38th position as de-Camps finished both two places and two seconds adrift of his teammate. Owen crossed the line two further places behind in 32:01. A new born baby and a lack of sleep certainly didn’t hinder Marcus England as he broke the 33 minute barrier for the first time with a 20 second PB of 32:50. Eliot Taylor returned to form as he matched England’s time before Charlie Jones and Dan King ran well for 33:03 and 33:06 respectively. Dave Aubrey then produced an excellent performance to knock 50 seconds off his PB from 2014 with 33:32 whilst Edd Charlton-Weedy posted 33:33. Mark James also put in a big performance to set a pleasing 29 second PB of 33:57 before Alex Doherty also knocked a sizeable chunk off his PB with an impressive 34:18. Gareth Edwards then posted 37:00 before Dave Francis lowered his PB to 37:37. Two Harriers ladies also contested the race, with Alice Taylor the 13th lady home in 37:38 as she represented the Midlands team and Jo Wilkie recording 40:26 to finish 19th. Weekend parkruns saw Andy Gardiner (17:20) enjoy a win in Swindon and Hannah D’Ambrosio (20:56) finish as second lady in Cheltenham where Matt Lambourne (19:21) took fifth spot. Amber Watson (20:48) meanwhile finished as second lady at the Albert Park parkrun in Melbourne.