Distance Running News, 3-4 March

Marcus England produced his best ever race as he smashed his half marathon personal best at the Big Half in London. Whilst Mo Farah claimed the win in 61:39, England was looking to break his PB of 73:32 set in Manchester last October. After a 16:35 opening 5km split and then going through 10km in 33:04, England continued to gain places in the second half. Running alongside the leading women, which meant an appearance on the BBC TV coverage, England passed 15km in 49:47 with a big PB clearly in his sights. Although leading lady and GB international Charlotte Purdue pulled clear in the twelfth mile the Cheltenham athlete was ecstatic to record a time of 70:35 as he took almost three minutes off his previous best to earn a fine 36th place in the British Championship race. This continued a remarkable run of form for England whose previous five road races in 2018 had all resulted in personal best, as added a half marathon PB to those he had set over 5 miles (26:45), 10km (32:42) and 10 miles (53:51).

Cheltenham Harriers men’s and ladies team celebrated winning Gloucestershire Cross Country League titles as the final league fixture of the season was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Both teams had already established sizeable leads at the top of their respective tables and just needed to turn up at the final match in order to confirm their medals. However, with the league organisers declaring that the Wotton-under-Edge fixture would not be rescheduled for a second time following its postponement for snow in December, the two teams were officially crowned champions based on the current league standings. This meant a ninth consecutive league title for Andy Prophett’s men’s squad who have now remained undefeated in the league for the eight consecutive seasons. Their score of 128 from the three fixture series saw them finish 170 points clear of Bath who totalled 198. The Cheltenham B team also claimed medals for a fifth consecutive season as their score of 538 left them 358 points clear of fourth placed Cirencester. In the men’s master’s competition, however, the Harriers team had to settle for silver medals as their score of 474 saw them trail behind winners Bath (356) whilst Bromsgrove (828) took third place. Whilst the team standings were not affected by the cancellation, the individual standings were suddenly only open to athletes that had done all 3 fixtures. Jacob Pickering clearly benefitted from the decision as he took league silver with 34 points as Bath’s Aaron Pritchard won the individual title with an aggregate of 12.

Jo Wilkie’s ladies squad meanwhile regained the title they had won in the 2015-16 season to collect their second league title of the season, having already claimed the Midland League Division Two crown last month. Their impressive score of 58 saw the team finish 82 points clear of the Forest of Dean (140), whilst Bath (191) gained the bronze medals. The Harriers B team were also the leading B team in the competition as they finished fifth overall. Further success came in the master’s standings with the Cheltenham team taking the title on 172 points from nearest challengers the Forest of Dean (226) and CLC Striders (314). Key to the success of both winning teams was the consistent form of the impressive Fee Maycock who finished 6th, 5th and 3rd to claim the overall league silver medal whilst finishing as a clear winner of the LV50 category as she again beat all her younger veteran rivals.