Hilary Mott produced an excellent performance to break the Cheltenham Harriers club record as she finished as the first lady home at the Abingdon Marathon. During the build up to the race Mott had been in excellent form over the shorter distances, with the ninth fastest leg of the day at the Midland Road Relays and a win in the Gloucestershire Cross Country League. However, despite her recent half marathon performances being short of her potential with 84 minute times at the Chippenham and Cheltenham events, she still went into the race confident that she could go under the three hour barrier for the first time and potentially break Fee Maycock’s club record of 2:56:21. An opening mile of 6:22 with the wind behind her meant that Mott quickly established a significant lead over the other ladies that was never threatened for the remainder of the race. Through five miles in 31:52 and nine in 57:58 the Gloucestershire 10,000m champion then broke her half marathon personal best as she reached halfway in 84:26. Reaching the 20 mile point in 2:09:34 Mott was still feeling good and able to push for a time as she went on to claim the win and club record in 2:49:50. As well as finishing 6:51 clear of the second lady and 29th in the race overall, Mott’s time also earned her 42nd place on the 2017 UK ladies marathon rankings.
The Harriers sent a team to contest the Midland Cross Country Relay Championship in Wolverhampton, with each of the four man team running a 6km leg consisting of two laps of the twisty course. Eliot Taylor took the opening leg in a 79 man field and was lying in sixth place after his opening lap. Despite fading to ninth on his second circuit Taylor recorded a time of 21:39 as Tipton, BRAT and Stoke occupied the medal positions. Jon Barnes took the next leg and soon started picking up places moving up to seventh after his opening lap. It looked like sixth place handover was on the cards, but an injury forced second placed Notts out of the race and Barnes’ 21:48 saw the Harriers in fifth as Tipton A, Cannock and Tipton B held the top three places. Charlie Jones gradually pulled back the 25 second deficit to Stoke, taking the Cheltenham team into fourth position around halfway through his leg. On his second circuit he then narrowed the gap to third placed Cannock as his 21:49 clocking made a medal shot became a distinct possibility. With just one leg remaining Tipton A and Tipton B looked destined for the medals, but Cannock’s lead over the Cheltenham team was just 34 seconds, with fifth placed Stoke now 22 seconds further adrift. Dan King quickly ate in the deficit to Cannock as he caught Sam Bagley just before the end of the opening circuit. At this point many would have assumed that the bronze medals were in the bag and that King would just open up a lead over the Cannock runner. However, the determined and dogged Bagley had other ideas and clung onto King for all he was worth. King kept forcing the pace and frequently opened a yard or two gap, but the persistent Bagley just would not be dropped. Still sitting on King’s shoulder as they entered the final straight the inevitable sprint finish was on. King accelerated, but Bagley matched him before then came alongside the Harrier. The two athletes were then neck and neck in the final twenty metres before King opened up the narrowest of gaps to ensure the Dave Newport coached team took third place and added another medal to their collection. The consistency within the team was underlined with King’s time of 21:45 ensuring the four runners were all within ten seconds of each other.
At the Stroud Half Marathon Shona Crombie-Hicks ran her fastest half marathon for three years to take victory in the ladies race with an impressive time of 83:07 as she finished 2:10 clear of second placed Robyn Jackson of Dursley. Up ahead it was also a good day for the Harriers men too with Doug Wight setting a PB of 75:45 for fifth place. With a mile to go Mark James was lying as third veteran and thirteenth overall, but a strong finish saw the 5km specialist move up to tenth to finish as the leading veteran in a PB of 77:17. Despite being passed by James, Andy Gardiner was still able to post a PB of 77:49. The PB fest continued as Joe Willgoss went sub 80 for the first time with 78:19 and Alex Lindfield recorded as best ever time of 78:54. Dave Rantell’s 81:36 was significant as he finished ahead of rival John Mansfield (Tewkesbury) to ensure he clinched the V45 county road race series. Dave Francis set yet another PB with 85:33 before Paul Barnes (93:10), Dave Hemmings (94:33) and Leah Hopton (1:50:57) completed the Harriers contingent.Weekend parkruns saw a good showing of Harriers at the Cheltenham event where Dan Owen (16:55) and Amber Watson (19:26) were first man and lady home. Marcus England (17:29) placed third before George Hawthorne (17:48) and Oli Powell (18:02) finished fifth and sixth respectively. There were also wins for Phil Beastall (16:02) at Tewkesbury and James Denne (17:34) at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester. Fee Maycock (20:05) was the first lady at the Gloucester North event where Steve Bradley (20:04) also had a run out whilst James Wilkinson (18:51) competed at the Worcester parkrun and Alister Brown (19:25) contested the Worcester Pitchcroft event.