Distance Running News, 27-28 June

Julia Cooke continued her excellent recent form with fifth place in the 1500m at the British Championship in Birmingham. After achieving qualification with a third place in a tactical heat in 4:22.14, Cooke lined up for her first national final as the country’s top athletes battled for places in the British team at the European Championship. After an opening 800m of 2:18 the field remained tightly bunched as they reached the bell with Cooke lying in sixth place. At this point the experienced internationals Laura Weightman, Laura Muir and Hannah England moved clear to battle for the medals with Cooke slipping to eighth before a strong last 100m moved her up into fifth place in a time of 4:17.01.

Tom Lowe made a triumphant return to Cheltenham Harriers as he led the team to victory in the Cotswold Way Relay. Ran as ten separate sequential stage races, the relay covered the 103 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath Abbey and relied on each runner navigating their own way along the Cotswold Way. Dave Roper got the team off to an excellent start as he won the 19.2km stage from to Stanway House, finishing four minutes and sixteen seconds ahead of Stroud’s Dan Robinson. The lead was then maintained by Russell Forsbrook who placed eighth on the 19km stage to Cleeve Common. Miguel Mundinano then won the 13.2km stage to Severn Springs as he finished 43 seconds ahead of Oliver Starkey (Cotswod Allrunners) and extended the Harriers lead to 7:51 over rivals Stroud. However, Stroud hit back on the 20.4km route to Cranham Corner with a stage win for Garry Hughes who cut the gap to 1:57, as the Harriers maintained the lead after Andy Gore placed fifth. The fifth stage saw James Wilkinson take the 18.9km leg to Ebley Mill, but unfortunately he went off course and lost over ten minutes of valuable time. Coming home in 25th place this left the Harriers in fourth place overall, 18:16 behind Stroud, with Bath and Chepstow lying second and third at the half way point of the race.

Roger Mullins led the Harrier fightback on the 14km stage to Dursley as he battled for the lead before finishing second, just 37 seconds behind Jack Bancroft of Wells City. More significantly though, he moved the Cheltenham team ahead of Chepstow and reduced the gap to Stroud by 5:43 and to Bath by 8:47. Stage seven saw Gareth Edwards place ninth on the 11.6km leg to Wotton-under-Edge to gain almost a minute over Stroud, although Bath made gains as they took a stage win through Luke Strurgess-Durden. The 19.4km leg to Old Sodbury saw Tom Lowe make his first appearance for the club since rejoining from Bristol and he quickly set about making inroads into the 11:46 deficit to Stroud. The former Midland Cross Country bronze medallist was a comfortable stage winner, with runner up Scott Campbell (Westbury) 4:48 behind and Stroud’s Martin Humphreys 8:27 adrift in seventh place. With just two legs remaining the Harriers were now just 2:59 behind Stroud who held a three second lead over Bath. Elliot Prince then gained 1:56 on Stroud as he finished fourth on the 14.8km leg to Cold Ashton, whilst Bath fell out of contention as their runner placed twenty-second on the stage. Fell running specialist Jon Barnes then took the glory leg as he won the 15.7km leg to Bath Abbey with Stroud’s Jack Fasham over five minutes adrift to give the Harriers a 4:09 victory as they successfully defended their title. The club also had a mixed men’s and ladies team that finished in 45th place thanks to Mike Gray (8th), Mike Imeson (67th), Nicola Whiteman (32nd), Ian Giles (16th), Teresa Roberts (65th), Gavin Cotter (90th), Trina Hawkins (38th), Vickie Wilkinson (49th), Joan Shaw (42nd) and Mike Ede (41st).