Graham Rush and Phil Beastall both enjoyed success at British Milers Club events as Rush set a Cheltenham Harriers club record over 3000m and Beastall smashed his personal best with a 5000m victory. In preparation for the forthcoming British Championship over 5000m, Rush stepped down a distance for a rare outing over seven and a half laps at the Grand Prix event in Watford. The early stages of the race saw a three man pack break clear at the front of the field, with Rush moving through to fourth place as he passed the 1000m mark in 2:40. Whilst Rush made little inroads into the gap ahead, his work on the front of the chasing group shook off all other challengers apart from Petros Sudafel (Enfield) by the time he had reached 2k in 5:24. A strong last lap from the Dave Newport coached athlete saw him drop Sudafel and reduce the gap to third place. In a race won by Sweden’s Suldan Hassan (8:03.09) from Blackheath’s Philip Sesemann (8:03.84) and Notts’ Doug Musson (8:08.62), Rush’s time of 8:09.30 took just over a second off Andy Reid’s 31 year old club record of 8:10.6. In the 3000m B race Dan Owen put in a solid performance to record a time of 8:30.29 for eighth place.
Earlier in the week Beastall was one of four Harriers contesting the 5000m at the BMC regional meeting in Tipton. In a race pacemaked by former Gloucester athlete Alex George, Beastall was happy to sit in second place in the early stages as Shaun Evans (Sutton Coldfield) led the way as they passed the opening kilometre in 2:59. George then got the pace back on track with a 2:54 split for the next kilometre as Evans, Beastall and Stuart Spencer (Notts) pulled away from the field. Evans then started to tire and was overtaken by Beastall just before the halfway point which was reached in 7:20. George continued to do an excellent job on the front and took Beastall and Spencer through 3000m in 8:47 before Spencer fell off the pace. With the pacemaker stepping aside at 4000m in 11:44 Beastall was alone and it was all about the race against the clock. The Gloucestershire cross country champion then ran his fastest kilometre split of the race to stop the clock at 14:35.9, knocking over twelve seconds off his previous PB as enjoyed a seventeen second victory over Spencer. Further down the field fellow Harriers Alex Bampton and James Chantler-Mayne were running well together in a group that went through the 3000m mark in 9:07. The duo remained together until the bell when Bampton pulled clear to finish sixth in 15:18. Chantler-Mayne’s excellent 15:24.3 personal best earned him ninth place in the race and fifteenth place in the national under 20 rankings for the distance. Dan Thomas came home nineteenth in 16:28.3 whilst Jacob Pickering trimmed his personal best to 4:12.9 with fifth place in the 1500m B race. Over in Ireland Liam Roarty had an excellent week as he took thirteen seconds off his 3000m PB with 9:00.13 at the Dublin open meeting before following that up with a nine second PB of 15:55.15 over 5000m in the national league at the same venue four days later.
Away the track the a Harriers team contested the Cotswold Way Relay, a 103 mile unmarshalled event from Chipping Campden to Bath that was contested as ten separate stage races. Stage one saw Richard Dare finish second on the 19.2km to Stanway House as Bristol took the opening stage by 1:15 through Peter Radford. With Stroud and Bath in third and fourth the four pre-race favourites quickly established themselves at the top of the leader board. James Denne then produced an excellent victory on the 11.5 miles to Cleeve Common as he set a new course record with a 2:56 win over Bath’s Jim Webb that put the Harriers into the overall lead. Mike Gray’s fourth place on the route to Severn Springs then maintained the lead as Bristol claimed another win through Pete Bains. Stage five was always going to be a crucial one with Oli Mott giving the Cheltenham team a win with a 31 second victory over Bath’s Dan Jones, but most significantly gaining over six minutes on Bristol’s Owain Jones as the race reached Cranham. Stroud then gained big time on leg five with a second place through Lee Stopford whilst Harriers team captain for the day Elliot Prince lost ground on Bath and Bristol as he finished twelfth. Despite this, after half the stages the Cheltenham team were 4:25 ahead of Bath, with Stroud 4:39 behind and Bristol 7:16 in arrears. Leg six to Dursley then saw Bath as the highest placed of the leading teams with third placed George Frost gaining 1:45 on Roger Mullins in fifth whilst Stroud had heavy losses and fell out of contention. Stage seven to Wotton-under-Edge, however, saw the Harriers lose the lead as Maciej Bialogonski took the win for Bristol almost nine minutes ahead of fifth placed Russell Forsbrook as Bath also gained almost seven minutes on the Harriers. Bath now led by 3:52 from Cheltenham with Bristol third a further minute back. A navigational error on the route to Old Sodbury cost Andy Gardiner around four minutes that saw him finish twelfth , losing 1:22 to Bristol as the Harriers slipped to third whilst Bath extended their lead with a fifth place finish. On the penultimate stage to Cold Ashton, however, the Harriers fought back as George Watson took an impressive stage win to gain 3:18 over fifth placed Bristol and regain second spot. Despite the best efforts of James Wilkinson with a solid seventh place on the final run to Bath Abbey, Bristol stormed back with a stage win that saw them reduce the gap to winners Bath to just ten seconds as they finished 4:51 ahead of the bronze medal winning Harriers team. There were also impressive performances by the Harriers ladies competing in mixed teams with Hilary Mott finishing as first lady and ninth overall on stage nine. Jo Wilkie and Gemma Collier were the third ladies on legs two and six respectively. The weekend’s Cheltenham parkrun saw Harriers fill the top five places as they incorporated the event into a training session that saw Phil Beastall (16:38), Will New (16:58), Dave Roper, John Parker (17:14) and Alex Lee (17:55) head the field whilst Phil Wylie (15:27) enjoyed a similar exercise with his first placed finish at the Exeter Riverside event.