Exe-rated runners!

Exe-rated runners!
The successful Harriers team, en masse, at the Erme Valley Relays, July 2013

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"Barcelona! Such a beautiful sight, Barcelona!"

On the weekend of 25th/26th February, 4 Harriers chose to escape the winter chills of the UK and to fly south to run a half marathon in the warmer climes of Barcelona, northern Spain. Mike and Nic Musgrove were joined by newcomer Harriers Martin and Diana Richards, as they decided to combine a winter weekend break with a race.

Their targhet was the Barcelona half, which attracted an entry of c. 12000 participants. A lovely cool morning with blue skys and no wind greeted the runners and so the conditions were perfect for running. It is also a flat course that winds its way around the city, taking in many of the beautifull sights of Barcelona. Fast times were therefore up for grabs and the race attracted a very strong international field.

This was Nic and Martin's first outing running the 13.1 mile distance. Nic had in fact elected to run in the 10k because her longest training run was 9 miles, which she had only done once in her build up to this race. Diana has experience of the distance and was hoping to run in under the 2hr mark. As for Mike, the brief was the same as usual: run hard and see what happens!

Unfortunately Martin was suffering from a bout of suspected food poisoning but he bravely toed the start line and managed to get round in a highly respectable time of 2.06.21secs, for 9361st place overall: a brilliant effort considering the circumstances.

Diana ran in to stop the clock at 1.55.55 and in so doing she smashed her 6 year old pb by 5 whole minutes and claimed 7531st place overall. What a fantastic achievement and great holiday souvenir!

Nic reached the 10k point and decided to carry on and just see how far she could go. After 2h03m12s she crossed the finish line and had completed her first ever half marathon, in 8918th place overall. What determination! Not highly recommended as an approach to building up to running a longer distance, but if she can do just over the 2hrs with very few training miles behind her, imagine what she'll be capable of with a more structured half-marathon programme!

Mike cantered in just over the 1h20 mark at 1.20.33, for a very well placed 255th overall, about a minute outside his personal best. However, Mike measured the coure at 400m too long at 13.35m, so with his average speed of 6m/m pace, he would have dipped in under the magic 1h20 mark over an accurate 13.1 distance.

An altogether fantastic effort from the 4 Harriers and they would highly recommend this event as a great city-half.

The winner was Abel Kirui in a time of 1h00m28s. Most impressive!
Mike and Nic Musgrove enjoying the Spanish sunshine after the race.

Monday, 27 February 2012

3 Harriers do Dalwood!

Off-roadster husband and wife pairing John and Lorraine Croome followed up successful runs at the Sidmouth 4 Trigs challenge with another tough off road race on Sunday. Also running for the Harriers was Nicholas Brown. The Dalwood 3 Hills challenge, which sets off from the pretty village of Dalwood in the Blackdown Hills, is about as tough as races over the 10 mile distance come. 3 river crossings, 3 monster hills (and a 4th semi-monstrous hill) and plenty of mud are guaranteed to any brave enough to tackle it. This year both competitor numbers and finishing times were significantly down on last, even though the course was drier and therefore faster. Nonetheless, there was still some tough competition on the day and our 3 Harriers held their own.

John finished in 18th place overall in a time of 1.22.48. This gave him 4th place in the MV45 category.

Nicolas Brown finished in 40th position overall and 7th MV40 in a time of 1.32.52.

Lorraine Croome was less than 3 minutes adrift of Nicholas in 1.35.26, taking 47th spot overall, 7th female and 4th in what was a very strong FV45 field.

There were 122 finishers. The race was won by Michael Robinson of Tamar Trotters in a spritely 1.07.55. Well done to all 3 Harriers!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Marathon madness!

Marathon fever has hit the Harriers this spring, with a heap of them training for spring / early summer marathons.

London always attracts a smattering of Harriers each year and this year is no exception.
Both Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan and Mark Thompson were lucky enough to bag an entry in the Harrier's club ballot. It will be Scott's marathon debut and Mark's road marathon debut. Mark is usually to be found running trail races and off-road ultras, so how will he cope with 26 miles of tarmac under his feet? Scott meanwhile has made huge improvements over the past year. He has radically upped his weekly mileage and knocked minutes off his 10k PB. As long as the dynamo keeps turning his legs over at an even pace, he could easily be on for a comfortable sub-4h time.

Making a return to London after some unfinished business with the course is Mike Musgrove. Mike came a bit unstuck last year after having done intensive heat training at work a few days before, then suffering in the heat on what was the hottest London marathon on record. He started to struggle very early on in the race and although he went on to complete it in 3h07 - a time most people would be thrilled with for a debut marathon - Mike was disappointed as he had expected - and knew he was capable of - more. Hopefully this year will not see a repeat of him keeling over on the finish line and will bring him the sub 3h clocking he has trained long and hard for and deserves.

Adam Miller has been doing a lot of his training with Mike and will also be looking to improve on his already impressive marathon PB of 2h49m50s, set on the London course in 2010. Injury prevented him from cashing in on his 'good for age' elite start place last year, so he will be back this year with added determination. Since then he has managed to shave over 2 minutes off his half marathon time, so a new PB at London is surely within his capabilities. The fact that his partner, Carly, will also be running her first marathon and chasing him down will no doubt further spur him on!

Also making a return to London is Harriers' top marathon man, Dave Stone. Last year Dave set a new Guiness World record with his 2h42 clocking as the fastest super-hero, dressed as superman. Had Dave known how hot it was going to be on the day last year, he may have rethought this costume, but rumour has it that he has something even more creative up his sleeve for this year... and no doubt another Guiness World Record will be set in the process! Dave will also be using London in his build-up to the Dartmoor Discovery 32.3 mile ultra marathon in June. After having won it in 2010, he had to settle for 2nd place last year as a back injury at work a couple of weeks before the race came back to haunt him in the closing stages. So this year you can bet he'll be fired up to reclaim his crown!

Andrew Johnson has decided to go continental with his marathon quest this year and to tackle the Paris marathon. Billed as one of the most pitturesque city marathon courses available, the sights and atmosphere of this amazing city will hopefully distract Andrew from the pain of the aching legs and inspire him to run a good time.

As far as the off-roadie contingent are concerned, Terry Oldham, Lorraine Gilson and Katie Comer are all in the early stages of their build up for the inaugural Welsh Trail Marathon, which takes place in Betws-Y-Coed, North Wales, in June. They are out every Sunday at the moment, squeezing in the long runs and they will be using the Grizzly in 2 weeks time as a good training run and measure of their fitness.
These 3, along with Dave Backway and Bob Keast, will then be tackling the 2 day Saunders mountain marathon in the Lakes come July - gluttons for punishment!!

Meanwhile I, Ellie Sutcliffe, have decided to use the more local Taunton marathon on April 1st as my Spring marathon. If all goes to plan with training I will also be looking to try and clock my first sub-3h here... whether that will happen remains to be seen. If not, it will still be a useful build up race for the Dartmoor Discovery, which I am also running again this year. Also like Dave, I too came 2nd last year, so will be looking to go one better and make it a Harrier's double victory this time round.

Dave S and I will be joined by Dave Wright who will be making a debut appearance at the Dartmoor Discovery. With many sub 3h30 marathons under his belt, a good run at the DD in June looks promising for Dave.

Have I missed anyone? Any other Harriers out there running a spring marathon or training for an early summer ultra? Get in touch and let us know how it's all going!!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Let's do the Hoe down!

Sunday 19th February saw 2 Harriers - Roger Rowe and myself, Ellie Sutcliffe - travel south down the A38 to Plymouth for the annual Plymouth Hoe 10 mile race, which also incorporates the Peninsula Challenge (Devon v Cornwall) and the Devon county 10 mile championships.

Conditions for racing were perfect, cold, crisp, sunny and with little wind. Add this to the fact that the organisers had altered the course this year to make it faster and less complicated, PBs and course records were all up for grabs. The organisers had also promised that there would not be a repeat of the marshalling fiasco that befell the race last year when many of the lead runners were sent off course... unfortunately, however, there was a minor repeat, which I'll explain later.

Roger set off hard and had tucked himself in behind the leading runner in his Vet 65 category. He was just waiting for the moment to strike and reel him in when, 4 miles in, Rogers' hamstring tightened on the climb up to the Hoe and he took the sensible decision to retire and not risk a full on pull. Fair play to him for that, and hard lines.

I meanwhile was running with the added incentive of proving my credentials to the Devon team manager who had not picked me for the Devon ladies team! I tucked in behind the 4th lady from the team for the first 3 miles and then made my move on one of the hills. I increased my gap to about 300m at one stage but then.... disaster. At mile 7 I, along with a fair few runners in front of me, were sent the wrong way at a roundabout. Instead of making a sharp hairpin turn to the right, we ran straight on and under an archway near the docks. By the time the marshall caught up to us and shouted and we all turned around, this Devon team athlete who I had pulled away from had reached the roundabout and so caught me up. I worked hard over the last 3 miles to regain a lead and ended up beating her into 8th place - the 7 women above me being all Cornwall and Devon team runners - by 12 seconds.

I reckon that this marshalling mishap cost me about 30 seconds and meant the difference between a sub-64 minute clocking. As it was, I knocked exactly a minute off my PB to finish in 64.18. 58th over all (out of 483 finishers), 8th female and 3rd Devon senior female, so not all bad I guess!
Running up the hill at about mile 3.5 towards the Hoe.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The moonlight, madness and Mark!

The recent cold spell does not seem to have affected the enthusiasm of Exmouth Harriers members for getting out there and running and Mark Thompson's exploits in Kent on 4 February were among the more impressive recent achievements by local runners.

The "Challenge Hub" organise a series of events in Kent. Not officially promoted as races, the aim is to give runners the facility to challenge themselves over long distances. This particular race took place over a 6.55 miles lap on rural tracks which athletes completed up to five times and the event title - "Moonlight Challenge" - is explained by a 6.00 p.m. start time.

We are all familiar with the reported links between the moon and madness, and setting out on a 5 lap ultra race in a temperature of -5C with an inch of snow on the ground would certainly seem to be verging on lunacy, even by runners' standards. By 11.07 p.m., while the temperature had now climbed to -3C, there was 8 inches of the white stuff to plough through! For those who have not done the calculations the maximum distance was 32.75 miles which Mark covered in 5 hours and 7 minutes. For the record, 64 started out and Mark was 2nd over all of the 32 hardy individuals who completed 5 laps. An amazing achievement: well done!

Going round in circles: The Exeter Half Marathon!

Are you familiar with the Exeter quay side 'First Chance 10k' course? Do you find it a tad boring? If so, then don't for gawd's sake sign up for the Exeter Half Marathon, which has runners completing 3 complete loops, starting and ending each time at the Piazza and going out to the Countess Weir road.

Tedious, yes, mentally taxing, yes, but flat and fast, most definitely, which is why 5 PB hungry Harriers, along with the 270 other runners, decided to give it a bash.

The weather on the day was cold but dry and there was just a slight headwind in the homeward direction on the course, meaning that many of us started out with gusto and paid for it later! (Or maybe I'm just speaking for myself here?....)

I, Ellie Sutcliffe, had hoped to use this race to run my first sub-1.25 half. The conditions were great but after the shocking winter season I had, I was not sure whether I was capable of this time with only 4 weeks of decent training to fall back on. This didn't stop me from giving it a bash though and I set off hard - far too hard - and just hoped to be able to hang on. Lucky for me I did and bagged my sub-1.25, finishing in 1.24.29 and knocking 2 mins 21s off my PB. This gained me 18th place over all and first in the female race, beating my nearest female rival by over 7 minutes. :-)

Also having a very good day at the office was Chris Dupain. Each time we went around the loop at the start I could see that Chris was hot on my heels and running very comfortably. He had a great race and finished in 33rd place in a time of 1.28.26 which saw him knock a whole second off his PB: but 1 second or 1 minute, who cares, it's still a new PB!!!

Chris' sister Emma was the next Harrier home. The half-marathon is Emma's preferred distance and she always performs with consistency, churning out solid times between the 1.33 and 1.36 region. Today was no exception and saw her produce another fine performance, covering the 3 laps in 1.36.26 for 69th place over all and 8th female.

Emma's partner, Ben White, will have been frustrated to have been beaten by Emma but he will have also been pleased with his sub-1.40 time. He finished in 1.39.01, very unfortunate not to have dipped in before the minute hand ticked to 39, but this gave him 96th spot, putting him within the top 60% of finishers.

Rounding off the proceedings was Trevor Cope. Not content with having run a hilly half marathon just one week previously at Blackmore Vale in Dorset, Trevor came back for more punishment but this time on a much flatter and forgiving course. Trevor dug in, lap after lap, produced another solid performance, with a time of 2.34.40 for 264th place.

The race was won by visiting runner, Martyn Bean, of Brighton and Hove AC, in a time of 1.15.09.

The finisher's goodie bags were the most, er, unusual assortment of items I have received to date. They contained: a bag of Malteesers, a box of Sun Maid rasins, a miniture deoderant, a miniture Andrex toilet role, a Spa Tone Iron supplement - apple flavored - a voicher for IBR, and a book! Every bag seemed to have a different book and, amazingly, they seem to have got my literary preferences spot on... I hope everyone else had the same luck!!

The 4 Trigs (for those who could do the math....)

On the same day that Exmouth was holding our Fulford 5 race, the off-roadie contingent in the Harriers decided to head up the coast to the neighbouring town of Sidmouth to participate in Sidmouth Running Club's '4 Trigs Challenge'.

This is a 17 mile self-nav event that requires runners to find their way to, then summit, the 4 local trig points that surround the town. Due to the self-nav element and the scale of the climbs involved, this is actually categorised as a fell race and suits those with either local knowledge or an aptitude with an OS Map and a compass!

The 4 Trig points, to be visited in order, are High Peak, Fire Beacon, Bucton Hill and Weston. Competitors must stay off road at all times, making use of public footpaths, by-ways and the South West Coastal path to travel between the 4 points.

First runner home was Exeter based fell runner Tim Lenton, in a very impressive time of 2h20. First lady home was local runner Jessica Kayner (nee Watkins) of Sidmouth RC, proving that local knowledge is a definite advantage, she finished in 3h08.

There were 4 off-road loving mudsters taking part for the Harriers and top of the pile was Richard Bishop who had a fine run, completing the event in 2.31.41 for 8th place over all.

Not far behind him was Jon Croome who took 11th place in a time of 2.44.57.

Jim Pyne, no doubt competing with his trusty dogs in tow, took 2.53.17 to navigate the 4 points for a 15th placing.

Finally Jon's wife, Lorraine, cantered home in 3.17.45, giving her 33rd spot over all and a highly commendable 4th place in the ladies race.

Meanwhile, Scott Jordan needs to be sent back to school. It would appear that he lost count of how many trigs he had bagged somewhere along the way and cruised home to victory in a highly selective race of just 2 competitors who chose to tackle the scaled down '2 Trigs Challenge'...!
Scott won this by 6 minutes over rival (singular!) competitor Robin Carter. I shouldn't give Scott too much stick though as he is in hard training for the London marathon and was no doubt running this event as a training run, but for future reference, Scott, 2 + 2 = 4!!! ;-)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

News from the South!

I have had contact from Hugh to say that he's a) still alive (phew) and b) still running (double phew) and c) still competing (yay!) whilst down in the southern hemisphere. He's recently taken part in the South Georgia half marathon, through some incredibly stunning but punishing scenery on the island.

The following report comes to you direct from the Falkland Island's top rag, 'The Penguin News':

SOUTH Georgia Government’s Martin Collins took first place in the South Georgia half marathon on Monday January 30, with former Falklands SCB Marathon winner Hugh Marsden in second place.
This year’s run was reported to be a particular success with excellent weather and a large number of runners and walkers, nineteen turning out to take part. Winner
Martin Collins completed the course in 1hr 47 minutes, closely followed by Hugh Marsden in 1hour 52 minutes. Young Falkland Islander Julian Pole Evans completed his first ever half marathon in 2hrs 25 minutes and Kalinka Rexer-Huber as the first female finisher in 2 hours and 18 minutes.
The course is certainly one of the toughest half marathons in the world, with a 1,000feet climb up Brown Mountain before runners must face four miles and an equally steep descent on the other side. The route also takes in the old whaling station at Grytviken and the remains of an Argentine helicopter from 1982. Participants
Martin and Hugh fight it out in South Georgia half marathon then head back up the Bore Valley, over Deadmen’s Cairn (600 feet) to Maiviken Hut before finally running back to King Edward Point and the start/finish line at the jail.
With no roads and only a small part of the route over tracks - the rough stony terrain, tussac and boggy mossland is a real challenge for even the hardiest fell
runner. This year runners participated from the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, UK, Norway, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Massive respect to Hugh for completing this, completing it in a good time, and in 2nd place! Ever the perfectionist, we all know he'd have loved to have won it, but when you see the conditions he had to contend with, you'll appreciate what a good time 1h52 is on this course!

READER WARNING: The following photos will make you highly envious and vulnerable to heading to a travel agents and booking flights south. Prepare to be amazed!

Caption competition as to what those sealions and penguins are thinking, answers in the comment facility below!

HIGH (Fulford) FIVE!

On Sunday 5th February, with the risk of snow and ice threatening to spoil the day, Exmouth luckily escaped the worst of the cold snap that hit other parts of the UK and the club's Fulford Five race could go ahead as scheduled. That's not to say that tropical temperatures greeted the 200 or so runners who lined up outside the Exmouth Leisure Centre, shivering away as they waited to tackle the 2 lap 5 mile course that takes them along the promenade and through the town.

This race is always popular with some quality local club athletes as it offers a rare opportunity in the area to clock a decent time on a fast 5 mile course. This year was no exception, with Wells City Harrier, Jack Bancroft, taking the victory for a 2nd consecutive year. He retained his title in a time of 25mins 54secs, which was 10 seconds quicker than he ran twelve months ago. Bancroft finished 42 seconds clear of Torbay's Lee Turner with veteran Chris Sabine of Tamar Trotters third in 26.39.

Exmouth's own speed freak, Dave Stone, was very unlucky to have just missed out on a podium place, finishing in 4th place in a time of 27.33. Very frustratingly, he also just missed out on the top spot in the V/40 category, that going to 3rd placed Chris Sabine. It was a fine performance nevertheless.

The ladies' race prooved to be a highly competitive affair, with the top three ladies finishing in order, easily within a minute of each other. Ami Yetton of Plymouth Harriers took the spoils in a time of 30.37, with Serane Stone (née Burd) of Tiverton second in 30.51, and Alison McEwing of Erme Valley just 9 seconds adrift in 31.00.

The race was not all about what happened at the front end though, as many Exmouth Harriers were out in force and looking to clock good times. Some were using it as their first race of the 2012 season, some were looking to it as a leg sharpener in their build up towards Spring marathons and half-marathons, and others were using it to build up their racing distances and gain more experience of competitive running. Whatever their motivations though, all gave their very best and some fine performances were recorded.

After Dave, the next Harrier home was the talented Denis Gildea, in 23rd place overall. Despite being a muscly power house, Denis can't half shift and covered this course in a speedy time of 32.15!

Next in was Marc Cox in a time of 33.41, giving him 37th place overall. 10 places behind him was the talented veteran athlete Roger Rowe in a time of 34.16 for 47th spot. Getting his form back after a series of injuries over the course of last year, this time was easily good enough for the win in the V/65 category.

Hot on Roger's heels, chasing him right to the end, was the first Harrier's lady home, Caroline Pleasence. Caroline finished in 34.19, 48th spot and 9th lady home.

Then came another talented super-vet Harrier's star, Ray Elston. Ray ran a fine race for 92nd place in 37.53. Frustratingly he just missed out on the top podium place in his V/70 category, finishing less than a minute behind the winner of that category... who was, incidentally, fellow Exmouth / Sidmouth rival John Perratt. Often to be seen running in Exmouth colours, on this occasion John was sporting his Sidmouth vest.

Then came yet another vet runner, who often makes up a strong team with Roger, Ray and John: Mick Allen finished in 40.34 in 121st place overall.

Some of the beginner's jogger's course graduates - who are now by no means just "joggers" but bona fide runners - were also competing in the race, and some of them placed very high up the pecking order. Alison Wilkinson finished in 149th place in a time of 44.47. She was swiftly followed by club mate Lisa Broad, 153rd in 45.04.

Another new face to the running scene, Sally Atherton finished in 48.53 for 183rd spot. And rounding off a cluster of promising newbie performances, Linda Weston and Sandra Bate finished in 197th and 198th places respectively, in a time of 1.04.10.

A very well done to all the runners, especially to those who are new to the sport and are building up your mileage.

Not forgetting a massive thank you to all those Harriers who sacrificed a run in order to help marshall and really "run" the event. I know that Bob and Terry would want me to pass on their thanks. This race, along with the Blister, generates much needed funds for the club that we are putting to good use by supporting talented but underprivileged young athletes in Ethiopia via the Wukro-Devon running project. More information about this worthy cause can be found here: http://www.ironbridgerunnerevents.co.uk/wukro/

See you all next year!!