There were stage wins for Anthony Bailey, Dave Roper and Ross Brackley as Cheltenham Harriers broke the 21 year old course record whilst claiming an emphatic win in the Cotswold Way Relay. Ran as ten separate stage races, the event followed the 103 miles of challenging Cotswold terrain from Chipping Campden to Bath. Marc Fallows represented the Harriers on the opening 12 mile stage to Stanway House and placing eighth as Stroud took an early lead through Olympian Dan Robinson. Anthony Bailey then had a nine second victory over Bath’s Dan Jones on the 11.5 mile leg to Cleeve Common as he took 48 seconds off the stage record. This moved the Harriers up into third place as Bath led the overall standings. By the end of the 8.2 miles third stage to Seven Springs though the Cheltenham team were into a lead they would never relinquish after Roger Mullins finished in second place, just 21 seconds behind Gloucester’s Steve Millward. Dave Roper then won the 12.7 mile leg to Cranham by almost three minutes before Corin Hughes placed third on the 11.7 mile stage into Stroud that was won by Stroud’s Jack Turner.
The sixth leg then saw Oli Mott finish third on the 8.8mile route in Dursley that was won by Jack Bancroft of Wells City. Team captain for the day Elliot Prince finished just six second behind stage winner Lewis Carson (Campden) as he took third place on the 7.2 mile stage into Wotton-under-Edge. Veteran Miguel Mundinano then earned fourth spot on the 12 mile trail to Old Sodbury as Owain Jones took the stage for Bristol. New recruit Ross Brackley made an impressive Harriers debut during the thunder storm that engulfed the 9.2 miles to Cold Ashton as he won the stage by over four minutes. With the team’s lead virtually unassailable Dave Aubrey then finished second on the final 9.8 mile leg to Bath Abbey with Luke Prior taking the honours for Wells. The final team standings confirmed the Harriers domination of the event as their time of 11:48:37 saw them finish over 35 minutes ahead of second placed Stroud, with Bristol a further seven minutes behind in third place. More significantly though, the time smashed Stroud’s 1995 course record by over six minutes and the previous best time by a Cheltenham team by over 24 minutes.
The Harriers also fielded two teams in the mixed category that required a team to have at least three women in their line-up. The mixed A team showed the club’s depth to finish fourth mixed behind Cirencester, Avon Valley and Bristol and fifteenth overall thanks to the efforts of Vickie Wilkinson (27th and 3rd lady), James Wilkinson (12th), Richard Birch (17th), Paul Horsfall (10th), Mike Gray (12th), Shona Crombie Hicks (15th and 1st lady), Gareth Edwards (4th), Dave Hemmings (38th), Jo Wilkie (18th and 2nd lady) and Andrew Kaighin (35th). The Mixed B team were 31st in the their category and 52nd overall from the 97 teams with Becky Amor (83rd), Paul Courtney (52nd), Louise McRitchie (37th), Anthony Rossi (14th), Lee Groenewgen (23rd), Susan Mair (86th), Gavin Cotter (62nd), Charlotte Deacon (97th), Ian Giles (11th) and Michael Imeson (80th) representing the club.
The weekend also saw Graham Rush in action at the British Championships and Olympic Trials in Birmingham where he contested the 5000m. After the whole field stayed together through the first 3000m in 8:34, the pack then split as Scotsman Andrew Butchart upped the pace to take the win in 13:44.00 whilst Rush ran well for fifteenth position in 14:16.30. On the roads Marcus England was just six seconds outside his personal best at the Swansea Half Marathon where he recorded a time of 74:54 for fifteenth place. Earlier in the week Dave Roper enjoyed a win by just over half a minute in the Chippenham 10k where he completed the off-road course in 32:49 whilst Jo Wilkie finished as fourth lady in 43:19. Midweek action on the track saw Oli Mott set a new 3000m PB as he finished second in the British Milers Club race in Tipton in 8:39.1. In the same race Alex Chantler-Maine posted a time of 9:10.0 whilst Richard de-Camps finished second in the 800m B race in 1:56.8. The weekend’s parkruns saw Megan Brinley finish as first lady in Cheltenham with 19:32 where Steve Hall took sixth place with 19:06 and Mark James won the Parke event in Devon in 19:22.