Distance Running News, 1 October

Cheltenham Harrier Ben Price enjoyed the biggest win of his running career with a superb victory in the Cheltenham Half Marathon. In what was the most closely contested and intriguing race of the event’s five year history, a four man pack soon established themselves at the front of the field with all four runners having a genuine chance of victory. Alongside Price, who had set a personal best of 70:45 when finishing second at last month’s Swindon Half Marathon, were his more high profile Harriers teammates Dave Roper and Oli Mott whilst Wells City’s Phillip Bridge completed the quartet as they ran into the town centre together within the first 5km. Just before the five mile mark, however, the group was down to three as 2015 race winner Roper was forced to retire with injury. Bridge, who had a 70:49 clocking to his name earlier this year, was happy to force the pace. Mott and Price were happy to sit on his shoulder as the race passed Dean Close school where Price teaches at around 5.5 miles. The trio remained locked together until just before nine miles when Bridge answered a call of nature and Mott fell just off the pace to give the geography teacher a small lead as the race reached Pittville Lawns. Bridge, however, pulled himself back onto Price’s shoulder whilst Mott lost ground on the drag up to Pittville Pump Rooms. Going into the racecourse with just under three miles to go, Price pushed on again and by eleven miles he had established a decisive gap over Bridge. Mott meanwhile rallied again as Bridge experienced another Paula Radcliffe moment that finally ended his race hopes. Still wary of Mott behind him, Price held his form over the closing mile to ecstatically cross the line in a new personal best of 70:33 for a well-earned victory. Mott followed just nineteen seconds later with Bridge just a further seven seconds adrift to complete the top three.

In fourth place Alex Lee ran the loneliest of races. After pulling clear of teammate Edd Charlton-Weedy in the third mile, Lee ran totally isolated until the finish where he stopped the clock at 74:36. In his race since joining the Harriers, Charlton-Weedy ran a solid race to cross the line in sixth place in 75:19. Richard Dare was the next Harrier home; however, he was not wearing his club vest. Instead the owner of James of Montpellier menswear was bidding to set a new world record for a half marathon ran in a suit. Whilst he may have fallen short of his target time, Dare still finished nineteenth in 79:58 and also raised valuable funds for cancer support charity Maggies. Just one place later Joe Willgoss took was agonisingly just six seconds over the eighty minute barrier, but surely must have been content having knocked over two minutes off his personal best. Andy Gore followed in 81:16 before James Wilkinson broke his personal best with 81:16 and Dave Rantell recorded 83:05.

Meanwhile in the ladies race Harriers teammates Hilary Mott and Shona-Crombie-Hicks battled it out for a place on the podium. Within the first few miles Shaftsbury Barnet’s Rachel Felton (78:54) and Tiverton’s Serane Stone (82:22) had occupied the top two spots that remained unchanged for the rest of the race. Mott was lying in third place after a third of the race, with Crombie-Hicks around fifteen seconds adrift. However, the veteran marathon runner went past the in- form Mott at around the half way point and then opened up a gap as she took third in 83:38 before Mott claimed fourth in 84:37. After Matt Evans had crossed the line in 89:28, Adam Lloyd recorded a PB of 91:42 and Jo Wilkie finished as eleventh lady in 92:30. New club member Claude Bernard was the first over 60 runner home in 93:25 before Debbie Smith (1:49:47), Issy Ovens (2:00:24) and wheelchair athlete Les Hampton (2:02:11) completed the Harriers contingent.

Further success over the half marathon distance came at the Cricklade Half Marathon where there were wins for both Marcus England and Fee Maycock. England moved into the lead just after the opening mile and remained unchallenged at the front of the field on his way to a comfortable victory in 74:51 as he finished over two minutes clear of Daniel Cahill of Wells. Maycock meanwhile won the ladies race by over eight minutes as she posted a time of 86:31.