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!!