Distance Running News, 23-28 February

Cheltenham Harrier James Brewer claimed a fine 1500m silver medal at the British Indoor Championships in Sheffield. After two years of relatively little competitive athletics, the GB international once again showed his competitiveness amongst the country’s best athletes as he challenged for the national title in Sunday’s final. Brewer was prominent towards the front of the race as Bristol’s Steve Mitchell led the field through the opening 800m in a relatively slow 2:07. Charlie Grice then picked up the pace in the next 400m to pull himself and Brewer clear of the field. Coming round the final bend it looked as though Brewer might pull level with Grice, but the Brighton Phoenix runner held on in the short straight to take the gold in 3:46.50, with Brewer just two tenths of a second behind as he finished 1.81 seconds clear of Gateshead’s Lewis Moses.

Cheltenham Harriers produced their best ever team finish of twelfth place with a series of good performances at the National Cross Country Championships at Donington Park. A field of over 1700 runners took on a testing three lap 12km course. Graham Rush and Phil Wylie again spearheaded the Harriers team with Rush working his way up into the early teens and Wylie into the mid-twenties on the first lap. The gap between the two in the tightly packed field gradually reduced throughout the race, with Wylie closing the gap to just two seconds on the final run in as the duo finished 22nd and 24th respectively. Oli Mott showed good form as he moved up the field throughout the race to take a pleasing 123rd position. The fourth, fifth and sixth Harriers were neck and neck throughout the whole race and ended up within three places of each other as they went into the final circuit. Andrew van Kints finished the strongest with an impressive 213th position before Richard de-Camps came home seventeen seconds and seventeen places later despite a worrying achilles problem. Marc Fallows then completed the scoring six man team in 255th position as the club bettered their previous highest team finish of thirteenth by one position. Andy Gore and Matt Evans provided vital backup as they came home in 493rd and 742nd respectively. Earlier in the day Harry Bishop and Jacob Pickering represented the club in the under 20 men’s race with Bishop placing 63rd and Pickering having one of his best performances to date as he finished just two seconds and two places behind his teammate.

There was further success for the Harriers the following day as they took a team victory at the Bourton 10k road race. Alex Lee and Anthony Bailey led the large group of Harriers, but both opted to stay off the fast opening pack as a group of four runners pulled clear in the opening 2km. By halfway Lee was in fifth place, with the gap to the front pack of Luke Evans (Bristol), Richard Simkiss (McCarkiss), Dave Bell (Cirenceter) and Alex Jones (Enfied) staying relatively unchanged. Lee then gradually worked his way up to the pack and passed the group before the 9km mark. Evans then responded and pulled clear with Lee in second place, with a small gap over the other athletes, as they went round the village for the final time. Whilst Evans went on to take the victory in 32:18, Simkiss and Bell came back past Lee to take second and third in 32:30 with Lee’s good performance earning him a 32:35 clocking in fourth place. Bailey finished as first veteran in seventh place in 33:14 with Marcus England the third Harrier home in 34:22 for fifteenth. Running his fastest 10k since March 2012, Andy Prophett completed the winning four man team in eighteenth position in 35:01.

Gavin McCaugherty then impressively took a minute off his PB as he completed the top twenty in 35:13 to finish one pace and eight seconds clear of Roger Mullins. Making a welcome return to the local road racing scene Andrew Hussey was the first V45 runner home in 35:51 with Mark James (36:39), Elliot Prince (37:03) and Gareth Edwards (37:05) following him home. Lee Groenewegen and Richard Birch lowered their PBs to 38:06 and 38:17 respectively before Matt Crew (38:27), Ian Giles (39:22) and Simon Crew (39:35) crossed the line. Vet 70 runner Martin Ford then finished as second V65 runner home in 41:02. Shona Crombie-Hicks led the Harriers ladies home in a fine fourth place to finish as first LV40 runner home in 37:00. Rachel See lowered her PB to 42:36 before Jo Wilkie recorded 43:21. Debbie Smith ran well for 44:27 before Sue Townsend was the third LV50 runner with 45:06. Agata Giles (46:37), Jess White (47:43), Sam Pickering (47:44) and Sophie Lane (50:51) completed the Harriers contingent.

Midweek action saw four Harrier travel to Bristol for the Aztec West 5k with Oli Mott running well to finish second in 15:11, six seconds behind Ethiopian Berihu Hadera of Exeter. Gavin McCaugherty caught Andy Prophett in the closing 200m to claim a personal best of 16:47, with Prophett following him over the line just two seconds later to finish as first veteran on the night and in the overall series. Lee Groenewegen completed a successful evening for the club with a 17 second PB of 18:26. At the Pontypool 10k Dave Aubrey made a welcome return to race action with second place in 36:13.