Distance Running News, 4-8 April 2020

10 April 2020

With the national road relays cancelled last weekend, Cheltenham Harriers athletes still made use of their recent training to enjoy team camaraderie and a men’s veteran team win at the Virtual National Road Relays. All athletes were required to run a solo 5km time trial within a five day window, warming up from home and obeying the government’s advice on social distancing, Records from Garmin or Strava were then submitted, with the fastest times from each team added together to form the club’s cumulative relay time. Such was the feeling of togetherness, at a time of separation, that 59 Harriers put on their club vests and joined over 3700 runners from the country’s top clubs in the battle for glory.

Whilst the main events were the men’s national 12 stage and ladies national 6 stage events designed to replace the annual Sutton Park event, the addition of the veteran 6 stage events provided particular interest to the Cheltenham squad. Despite the five day window, the club’s fastest six veterans all chose to race on Tuesday to replace their normal club training session. Mike Hughes (17:27)  got the ball rolling in the morning with a “PB” around the streets of Hatherley, whilst Kevin Sheppard (17:57) ran from Ashchurch and Andy Jones (17:33) made use of the fields at Pate’s School after spending the day supervising the children of key workers.

It was in the evening though that the charge up the standings took place, with Exeter based Phil Wylie (15:06) posting the fourth fastest veteran time of the event. James Bingham (16:02) then impressed on a course that included the popular Chargrove Lane stretch before “handing over” to Mark James (16:35) who anchored the team to victory in Hatherley. With a cumulative time of 1:40:18, the Harriers took the national honours ahead of Colchester (1:41:24), North Herts (1:41:37), Thames Hare and Hounds (1:41:48) and Brighton and Hove (1:42:45) in an event that comprised 82 complete teams.

The men’s virtual 12 stage event saw the Harriers wondering if they could surpass the club record of 15th place that they achieved in the actual national event of 2015. Saturday saw Joe Turner (15:10) get the team off to a good start as he looped the road around The Park campus, with Alex Lee (15:22) then racing around Leckhampton before Dave Aubrey (15:56) ran well in Ledbury. Sunday then saw Dom James (14:54) run the team’s fastest leg around Swindon Village, before Doug Wight (15:42) sped through Elmstone Hardwick and Eliot Taylor (15:49) showed good form in Hereford.

Tuesday was again the key day with Wylie (15:06) and Bingham (16:02) contributing whilst Ben Price (15:24) pushed the pace in Charlton Kings and Dan Owen (15:46) returned form injury with a swift run along the Honeybourne Line and around Pittville Park. With the relay being virtual, it meant a rare opportunity for US based Rhys Park (15:42) to represent the club, although having just moved to altitude at Flagstaff his time was slower than it could have been.

Completing the team on Wednesday was Marcus England (15:46) who replicated Wight’s route bring the Harriers home in an impressive twelfth from the 118 A teams and second Midland club behind rivals Bristol who finished ninth. Leeds, Cambridge and Tonbridge filled the medal positions, which certainly could have been replicated if the actual event had take place.

A growing ladies section of the club has been a pleasing feature of the past year or so and sixteen Harriers toed the line for their virtual 5ks. Kaitlyn Sheppard (17:57) made a rare road appearance after her excellent cross country season to post the fastest time by a Cheltenham lady, but as an under 17 runner she was ineligible for the team competition. It was Amber Watson (19:18) who took the undulating opening leg on Saturday morning from Dymock before handing over to Marie Brush (20:11) who ran well on the road out towards Dumbleton. Tuesday morning then saw Sarah Sheppard (20:36) run from Ashchurch before Amber Bullingham (19:04) recorded the team’s fastest leg in Hatherley.

Naomi Eaton (19:17) then ran well in Stonehouse before Rachel Underhill (19:51) brought the team home on Wednesday evening with a loop around Long Levens. This saw the Cheltenham team finish as 23rd A team in 25th place overall as Herne Hill, Leeds and Norwich claimed the medal positions in an event with 136 complete teams.

To mirror the men’s 12 stage event, the standings for a ladies 12 stage team were also calculated, with the runs of Jo Wilkie (20:40), Petra Vymetalova (20:57), Ella Burfitt (21:09), Vickie Wilkinson (21:11), Kayla Garland (21:21) and Lindsey Lewis-Painter (21:22) combined with the previously mentioned six in order to earn the team an impressive eighth position. They also finished as the eighth ladies B team. In the ladies masters event the team the Harriers team of Brush, Sheppard, Wilkie, Vymetalova, Wilkinson and Lewis-Painter earned another eighth place from the 52 teams.

The men’s B team of Chris Booth (16:14), Jacob Pickering (16:17), George Hawthorne (16:34), Richard Dare (16:34), Mark James (16:35), Alex Doherty (16:39), Henry James (16:49), Tom Radley (16:56), Will New (17:10), Joe Willgoss (17:13), Mike Hughes (17:27) and Andy Jones (17:33) finished an excellent fourth placed B team behind Bedford, Tonbridge and Leeds.

Also enjoying the excellent team spirit as club members shared their results and enjoyed following the live standings online were Dave Johnson (17:43), Dan Schofield (17:59), Clark Lawson (18:05), Russell Forsbrook (18:08), Simon Critchley (18:14), Jonathan Floyd (18:26), Matt Wood (18:37), Ed Bingham (18:43), Elliot Prince (18:44), Andy Gore (19:03), Matt Evans (19:09), Andrew Kaighin (19:14), Chris Cleary (19:19), Nick Holliday (19:28), Andy Prophett (19:47), Steve Bradley (19:57), Ben Lees (20:52), Hannah D’Ambrosio (22:02), Mell Schofield (22:12), Marianne Day (22:36) and Nicola Whiteman (22:43).

Full results