Exe-rated runners!

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

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Harriers celebrate the end of a successful year

On Friday 6th December, it was time for the Harriers to swap the lycra for their party gear, their trainers for their high heels (and that was just the men!) and their usual red-flushed, sweat-encrusted look for a rather more beautifully made-up one (again, just the men)!! It was party time at the club's annual dinner and awards presentations.

This year it took place in a new venue - kindly organised by Terry Oldham - the Beacon Vaults pub, in town. Although lacking the dance floor and the karaoke of the Rugby Club, which, let's face it, was only really put to good use by Dave Stone anyway!, the venue certainly provided a cosy charm and a nice relaxed atmosphere in which to chat to fellow club mates about the year gone by and plans for the year to come. One of the hot topics of the night was "who will win the awards". Traditionally, there have just been the 3 awards up for grabs - male athlete of the year, female athlete of the year, and the president's award - but this year, the introduction of the new club championship meant that many more Harriers were in the running - literally - for prizes.

It was hard to gauge this year who the winning recipients of all the prizes would be, as 2013 has been such a successful year for the club with more and more members both actively competing and also getting involved with more social events on offer. In terms of competition for the male and female athlete award, that meant that there were many members all vying for the glory, for many different reasons. In the end though, the votes spoke for themselves and the members voted Dawn Teed as the female athlete and Adam Miller as the male.

In Dawn's case, this was the 4th time she has received the trophy: a record in itself as no other athlete - either male or female - has received it more than 3 times. It was richly deserved though as Dawn has had an amazing year. Since turning 50, she has seemingly defied the ageing process by setting some of her fastest times ever in many of the races that she has been running every year for the past 10 or so years. The highlight of her year had to be her triumphant Falklands Marathon win, back in March, but there have been many other noteworthy performances, including a swift 1h44 half in Bideford, a 1st place category win in the high-standard Torbay Half in June, and a 5k PB of 23:27 at Run Exe in August, this latter showing that she has speed as well as endurance. However, most impressively, she has managed all of this whilst concurrently managing the ladies' team as a whole. Dawn has put a huge amount of effort into motivating us ladies this year and giving people the confidence and support to try out races that they would normally shy away from. We have all awaited with eagerness the arrival of one of her legendary, intricately crafted spreadsheets into our in-boxes, in which Dawn has recognised everyone's individual performances whilst also attempting to coordinate our racing plans so that we have been able to get teams out to many events. In so doing, we have wiped the proverbial Devonshire floor this past year as far as team prizes are concerned. So, in terms of both personal achievement and for her team-playing ethos, she is a worthy winner of this award.

In Adam's case, he became the first Harrier male, in the history of the trophy, to successfully defend it in consecutive years. Although some other men have ran strongly this year and might have put themselves into contention, they have not demonstrated the consistency that Adam has throughout the entire year.... oh, and none of them have run a sub 2h40 marathon this year either! Without a doubt, Adam's 2h38 run at London in April that was the performance of the year by any male athlete in the club, and it came off the back of a string of solid build-up races that saw him set PBs at the First Chance 10k (35 mins), the Bath Half (74 mins) and the Yeovilton 5k (16m40s). It is interesting that our male and female athletes of the year have one key thing in common: like Dawn, Adam has also done a sterling job of captaining the Harriers' men's team over the past 12 months. He has rallied interest in the Westward League cross-country, boosting our participant numbers from his solitary, lonesome self at the first fixture last year, to turning out a fully fledged, firing-on-all-cylinders team, to all the fixtures so far this year. As a result, he has ensured that our men's team in now sat in a solid 3rd spot in the league overall. He has also put in many hours of work in putting teams together for relay events, such as the Erme Valley Relays, where he captained the 4-strong team to victory, assisting Hugh with the Parrett Trail Relays, and, more recently, has gotten behind a new idea of a 24 hour relay and camping weekend for 24 members that he is organising for May 2014. The other thing that both Dawn and Adam have in common is that they are both jolly nice people and so, like Dawn, Adam is a popular winner among club mates for this award.

The president's award, unlike the athletes of the year awards, is a little more subjective as it is chosen, as the name suggests, solely by the president, Bob Keast. This award is designed to recognise an individual's contribution to the club throughout the year. Of course, there are many ways in which a person can contribute to the club, the most obvious being by going out on the race circuit, running your socks off and doing your club vest proud, but there are many other, often far more understated ways, in which a member can help to make the club a success. This year's recipient was chosen for being the backbone of the social-side of the club and for taking time to organise many events for members, outside of the racing calendar, that bring the club together as a cohesive whole, in a social, non-competitive setting. This year Terry Oldham has organised the Coast to Coast Relay, for the second year in a row, and also a new weekend on the Harriers' social calendar, in the form of a trip to a bunk house on Exmoor. Oh, he also booked the venue foe the Christmas awards do too! Add in to this that he is the chief marshal for both the club's races - hard work as a stand alone task - and that he is a regular on club nights, always ensuring that everyone is coping and nobody gets left behind. The Harriers, unlike many clubs, don't have an official "social secretary" committee role, but Terry has quietly but effectively been fulfilling that role, with ultimate commitment, all year. All of these things make Terry the ideal recipient of this award.

In addition to these 3 annual awards, this year we had the added excitement of the announcement of the club championships. 17 Harriers in total, 10 men and 7 women, completed the full set of required races and each had their commitment rewarded in the form of a small memento. In addition, the top 3 men and top three ladies received trophies recognising their achievement. In the men's championship, Dave Stone came out on top, with Mike Musgrove a close second and Rob Orton an even closer third. Adam Miller was unfortunate to have just been dislodged late in the game, as the top 4 men all finished within 2% of each other! In the women's, the top three were set in place from early on in the year and from then on worked to consolidate their positions. Cathy Newman took the victory with a whopping average percentage of 89%, followed by Ellie Sutcliffe in second and Hannah Bown in 3rd. Dawn Teed was not too far adrift of Hannah and so will be looking to improve on her 4th place finish next year. Well done to all who completed!

The Harriers' prize winners 2013
L - R: Adam Miller (Male Athlete of the Year), Dave Stone (Male Club Champion), Cathy Newman (Female Club Champion), Dawn Teed (Female Athlete of the Year), Terry Oldham (President's Award Winner)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Harriers land 6 county XC titles!

The 1st day of advent, Saturday 1st December, was a highly successful one for the Exmouth Harriers. Fueled up on the first chocolates of their advent calenders, no less than 8 women and 10 men from the club made the trip to Exeter Arena for the 3rd round of the Westward League Cross-country, which, this round, also incorporated the Devon County Championships. This meant that the standard was high across all the different category races as Devon runners who haven't raced in the previous rounds turn out especially for this one to try and achieve county glory, either as an individual or for their club's team. With a smattering of Cornish runners added into the mix, this meant that all the fields were of a reasonable size. 

The course is on the sloping Eastern Fields, adjacent to the Exeter Arena. The basic lap for the event measures in at about 2km,  but loops in such a way that there were two climbs in each 2km long circuit. The women’s race took in two and a half laps of this circuit for just 5km of racing. This is compared to nearly 9km for the men and the question has to be asked, why this inequality? It has been scientifically proven that women often perform better at longer distances and, in the case of ultra running, often win races outright. Perhaps one theory is that it is likely that the longer the race is, the fewer women will contest it, though that theory would probably not hold water in our club where most of our women would consider a 5km a sprint and barely worth muddying the spikes for!

In the senior and masters' women's event, Exmouth certainly made their mark in the team contest. There were 2 team medals up for grabs, one for the first female team over all, comprised of the clubs first 3 runners across the line, of any age, and the other for "masters" teams, i.e. only including the first 3 women age 35 and over. Exmouth cleaned up with gold medals in both these competitions.

91 females finished the Senior Women’s race, with our Exmouth winning team of last year comfortably retaining our team champion status. The first counter for the team was myself, Ellie Sutcliffe, in 6th place overall in 17:74, closely followed by Cathy Newman, 8th overall in 18:01, and Hannah Bown, 19th in 19:16. Individually, I picked up the championship silver medal for the senior women, Cathy claimed the golden honours with a huge winning margin in the women over 50 section, and Hannah scooped a silver medal in the FV35 section. In the separate master's (Over 35) competition, Cathy and Hannah were allowed to score again, and they were joined by Lisa Hatchard (55th in 22:13) to make up the 1st placed team. A little younger, but no less gutsy, was Alice Kelly, who - making her first appearance in a Harriers vest and following in her Mum's footsteps - showed great promise in 39th overall in 21:00, bagging a well deserved silver medal in the under 20 women's competition. New women’s team captain, Carly Miller was 45th in 21:18, taking one for her team and turning out to run despite having been ill with a cold all weekend. Meanwhile, Carly's predecessor, Dawn Teed, was 63rd in 32:51 with Nicki Kelly, starting alongside daughter Alice, 67th in about 34 minutes.

Latest recruit and promising under-20 athlete, Alice Kelly.

Alice's Mum, Nicki Kelly, keeping running in the family!

The successful Exmouth women's team - 2 county team titles!

In the men’s race the Masters' team title was also won by Exmouth Harriers. That team was comprised of Tony Hatchard, 27th in 30:05, Dave-Sparrow-Legs-Stone, 32nd in 30:10, and men's captain, Adam Miller, 41st in 30:49. There were high hopes too for the Exmouth men’s team too, but the forecasters had forgotten how strict the 'First Claim Rule' is in athletics. So Tom Merson won the race in 27:13 and new Exmouth recruit and last year's defending county champion, Andy Chambers, was 3rd in 28:04, both second-claim members and both sporting Exmouth vests, but while they could score for Exmouth in the incorporated Westward League (via special permission), they could only race in the county championships as individuals. There was the small consolation of the team remaining in 3rd position within the league.

The first of 3 closely fought intra-club battles in the men's race, this one between Tony and Dave.

Further down a highly competitive field of nearly 200 runners, Marc Cox (74th in 32:30) finished just held of Mike Musgrove (76th in 32:32). Some way behind, another intra-club battle was playing itself out, with Dave Eveleigh (167th in 42:09) gradually pulling himself back to a fast-starting Lee Russell (166th in 41:43), but Lee fought back hard in the closing stages for a first win over Dave in a long time. Jim Wyatt, a veteran of cross-country in more ways than one, battled round the course in a time of 48:54 to take the County Over 70 Gold medal, making that 6 gold medals for the Harriers: 3 in the team competition and 3 individual wins.

And the second Exmouth battle, between Marc and Mike.

Just some of the 10 strong Harriers' men's team.

A successful day for Exmouth Harriers and impressively the team from Erme Valley Harriers, who are responsible for the over-seeing and managing of the Westward League, had those results published in detail within 24 hours. While acknowledging their hard work and commitment, it was unfortunate that the County officials chose to make the presentations to the Female medallists during the men’s race. This meant fewer people there and no male club-mates to offer their appreciation of their women club-mates. In fact this timing meant that the Exmouth women were not there either as they were course-side, cheering on their male club-mates and showing what the spirit of being in a club is all about: supporting your fellow club runners. This, combined with the shock of seeing the size of the men's team trophy compared to the complete absence of trophy available for the women's winning team, left us with an interesting debate about continuing gender inequalities within the domain of athletics. Well sorry guys, but we're here to stay, so invest in a trophy for us for next year please!

So, the Senior Men missed out, but three out of four senior team titles available were won by Exmouth Harriers, ahead, let's not forget, of teams from much bigger towns throughout Devon. Most importantly, all those who took part thoroughly enjoyed the experience and, in particular, appreciated the support from their fellow club-mates on the multi-lap course. For those us us who placed in the top 6 in the race over all, a Devon vest awaits us to be donned at the inter-counties event to be held at Killerton on January 5th. However, for those who aren't selected for Devon, this event is still open to everyone and the Harriers will be looking to defend, in the case of the women, and challenge, in the case of the men, the mob-match titles on offer within this event.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Nigel is crowned 3k category king in a thrilling series finale!

Report kindly composed by Carly, with minor input from Ellie.

This year, the Ironbridge Runner Winter 3k Series has proved very popular with the Exmouth Harriers with several members, including some who had not run on the track for many years, turning up to join our small band of track stalwarts to have a go at running seven and a half laps of the track as quickly as they could. Over the 3 events, a total of 15 Exmouth Harriers ran. Some of these completed the series, while others decided to do just one or two of the races.

Martin Richards and Neil Whittock were among those who decided to tackle just the one event, both choosing to race in the second race of the series, which was held on Monday 11th November in surprisingly warm, still conditions. Neil, a recent recruit to the Exmouth Harriers, ran in the B race and finished in 12 minutes exactly. Martin Richards had found it difficult to know what to put down on his entry form as a predicted time, having not run the distance before, but, urged on by Mike Musgrove, he put down 12:45 and found himself in the E race with no idea whether this was the appropriate race for him! However, it proved to be a great race for him as he found himself running round in a group that pulled him to a fantastic 12:46; just one second shy of Mike's prediction!

Les Turner and Lisa Hatchard had both missed round 1 of the series but decided to run in rounds 2 and 3. Les is no stranger to running on the track, so knows exactly what he can expect of himself in a 3K race. He does, however, have the challenge of running in the first (least fast) race of the night, which often encompasses runners with a wide range of 3k times (for example, in round 2 the times in the F race ranged from 12:00 to 18:20). With runners so spread out around the track, Les can find himself isolated, with nobody to chase. It can also be difficult to keep track of how many laps you have run, as inevitably, with a spread of 6 minutes, much lapping of other runners occurs. He nevertheless always seems to put in a good performance. Les ran an excellent time of 15:04 in round 2 and a slightly slower 16:33 in round 3.

Lisa was rather nervous about her first track outing since her school days, but soon relaxed when she saw just how informal the event is and how much support you receive from your clubmates cheering from the side of the track. Lisa predicted a conservative 14:00 for her first ever 3k, but then stormed round the track to finish 2nd in the F race in a fantastic 12:53. Another great performance in round 3 saw her knock 8 seconds off that time, to finish in 12:45.

Seven Exmouth Harriers completed all 3 races, to compete for prizes in the series. For the ladies there was myself (Carly Miller) and Dawn Teed. Dawn, keen to have a go at improving her standing in the club championship, set her sights on the 3k distance in the hopes of getting a good age graded score. After just missing out on a sub 14 minute time in round 1, Dawn made big improvements to record times of 13.42 and 13.21 in rounds 2 and 3 respectively. These performances left Dawn in second place in the F50 category, with a cumulative time just 33 seconds more than the category winner.

I myself went into round 3 knowing that I only had to complete the race to be awarded the senior lady prize as, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it!), no other senior ladies had completed both the previous races. This left me without the motivation of competition, but I did want to improve on my disappointing round 2 time of 13:10, and maybe even improve on my round 1 PB of 12:37. I set off at 12:30 pace, determined to stick to it and, with a bit of helpful pace-making from a fellow Killerton parkrunner, managed to finish in a very pleasing new PB time of 12:25.

Andrew Johnson also completed the series. Unlike most runners on the track, Andrew manages to start off steadily and gradually work his way through the field during the race, as his rivals start to suffer from running a fast early pace. This makes for an exciting race for clubmates watching from the sidelines. Andrew managed to improve his times in each round of the winter 3k series, running 11:52 in round 1, 11:46 in round 2, and 11:36 in round 3. He finished 2nd M50 in the series.

Dave Eveleigh and Lee Russell both competed in the M55 category (although Dave did have a significant birthday to lift him into the next 5 year age band during the series). Lee had been pleased with his first round time of 12:58, as it was quicker than the time he had predicted for himself, but he hoped to improve on it in subsequent rounds. Unfortunately this was not to be, as Lee recorded times of 13:00 and 13:09 in rounds 2 and 3, but he can be pleased to have put in 3 consistent performances. Lee finished in 3rd place in the M55 category. One place ahead of Lee in that category was Dave Eveleigh, who couldn’t quite match his round 1 time of 12:05, but worked hard to finish in 12:12 in round 2, and 12:20 in round 3.

Richard Hawes is known amongst the Harriers for his speed over the shorter distances, so a target of sub 11 minutes for the 3k seemed very realistic. In the first two rounds Richard was tantalisingly close, clocking 11:05 and 11:04. In round 3, Richard found himself in a competitive position in the race, running in a group and using those ahead of him to pull him on to a faster time. His blistering speed in the final 100m enabled him to overtake a couple of his competitors, finish second in the race and bag himself a new 3k PB of 10:55. Richard was rewarded for his impressive performances with a M45 category win.

Unbeknown to the organisers of the series, the main event of the final night (for the Exmouth Harriers at least) was not the super speedy A race, but the E race, for on the start line were Nigel Dupain and his rival for the M60 title, Keith Anderson of the Teignbridge Trotters. Nigel was just 10 seconds behind Keith in the standings, having run 13:17 in round 1, and 13:05 in round 2. Earlier in the week, Dave Eveleigh had thrown down the gauntlet via Facebook, urging Nigel to ‘step forward’ and take down Anderson in a ‘last lap burn-up’. Nigel showed up to the Arena on the night, having been teased by his family about the Facebook comments the night before, exhibiting his usual calm, relaxed demeanour. This was soon belied, however, by a steely look of determination in his eye, as he steadily tracked his rival round each lap of the race. A crowd of Exmouth Harriers watched, waiting for the moment he would make his move. Lap after lap was completed, and still Nigel stuck on Anderson’s shoulder. Would he have time to create a 10 second gap?  Suddenly, with a lap and a half to go, Nigel made his move and stormed off ahead. The Harriers watched, as the gap got bigger, all trying to count how many seconds there were between them. By the time Nigel came onto the finishing straight, it was clear that he had done it, and he was cheered home to a fantastic time of 12:49 and a category win. It's surely moments like that, where a stalwart member of the Harriers who is always quietly there in the background but never one to hog the limelight, that sum up the true essence of the club. Well done Nigel, we're all thrilled for you!

In fact, well done to all the Harriers. Whatever the distance, whatever the terrain, we continue to show that we are not only willing to have a go but we are a force to be reckoned with to boot!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Runners set a blistering pace at the Blister!

On Sunday 24th November that time of year had come around once again: the date of our annual Bicton Blister race. This event has been going for some years but has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years that coincides with a recent general trend in the increased popularity of off-road, trail races. If mud, hills, stunning scenery and countryside fresh air are your thing, then the Blister race is right up your street. It certainly seemed to be up the streets of the 500 runners who contested both the main 10.25 mile event and its little brother, the "lite" 4.5 mile version. Some runners were even overheard as saying that the course was too dry for their liking this year and they preferred the floods and knee high muddy water of last year! Either way and whatever the weather, this course always offers something to challenge even the hardiest of trail runners and this year's assembled field was one of the most competitive yet.

Leading the challenge was Bristol and West runner, Andy Chambers, who covered the tough, hilly course in a time of 61:21. As an indicator of the difference the underfoot conditions made the winning time was over 3 minutes faster than in 2012; although, it should also be highlighted, that Andy is a talented runner and with a strong field this year, he had to work hard for that time nevertheless. The Men’s team prize was won by Exeter harriers, with Axe Valley a close second. Ami Yetton of Plymouth Harriers was a worthy winner of the women's race. Making a rare appearance on this sort of terrain - she is predominantly a road and cross-country specialist - she made light work of the course to finish in a superb time of 1:11:54; again, this time was up by 5 minutes on the winning female time from last year. 431 runners completed the main race.

Due to the need for marshalls and officials, only a limited number of Exmouth members actually "ran" the event. The Harriers have a policy that in order to run in the race you have to find a substitute marshall to stand in your stead. For those of us lucky enough to be able to do that, we all enjoyed the opportunity to race on our usual training ground, over the beautiful terrain of Woodbury Common. One marshall did point out that ten tough miles of running was probably a much more pleasant way of spending a Sunday morning than being stood still, shivering, directing the runners, on such a cold, frosty morning, but those marshals are vital on a course which winds and climbs and twists and turns around our local mini-wilderness.

Tony Hatchard was the highest placed Harrier runner, following his excellent race at the Drogo the previous week with another solid performance, placing 6th place in 64:46. Running the Drogo and the Blister events in back-to-back weeks is no easy feat, and performing well and finishing in the top 10 finishers at both is certainly no mean feat, so hats off to Tony for showing he and his legs are made of tough stuff!

Next in, in 38th place overall and second woman in 73:24, a minute and a half behind the winner, Ami Yetton, came myself, Ellie Sutcliffe. This was the first time I've done this race as I've always marshalled it before, but now I am hooked! I loved every minute of it... well, apart from the slight wobbly moment at about mile 8 when I experienced a sudden blood sugar crash: thanks must go to Haldon Trail runner, Tom Bates, who was running near me and let me have a swig of his electrolyte drink! Without him, who knows, I may have collapsed, or worse, conceded my 2nd place! Now that would have been a catastrophe! ;-) 

Richard Bishop is really getting back into the racing groove. He also did the Drogo-Blister double and was once again in the thick of the front running action, placing 52nd over all and pretty high up in his Over 45 category in a time of 75:31.

Lorraine Gilson was unsure at the start of the race whether or not she would be able to go the whole Blister distance. She's been blighted by plantar fasci-wots-its-name issues for the best part of the year and is only recently getting back into competing again. She planned to run as far as the race split, assess how she felt, and decide there whether to carry on with the full race or opt for the "Lite". As it turns out, she must have felt on top form, as she not only completed the full Blister but she did so in a commendable time of 1:38:34 and her efforts earned her 241st place overall and 2nd in the new vet category she has just edged into: women Over 55. 

Lisa Broad was the third and final female Harrier competing in the full Blister race, finishing 306th in 1:43:00, and well inside the top 75% of finishers. Lisa's time is all the more impressive when we consider that it was her first ever race off-road and that she stopped en route to help an injured runner and added a little bit onto the 10.25 miles by doubling back to alert a marshall. Lisa says: "Thank-you lovely Harriers for an amazing experience! I'm very happy with my 1:43 finish as it was a very eventful race - (1st time off road, first time merrily splashing my way across a river, 1st time stopping to run back up a hill to call St Johns for a man who went down in front of me!) - I DEFINITELY need help to train, train, train for the Grizzly - no way I could do double the distance where I am currently. Oh well, time to pop the trainers on (when they're clean again) and get back out there (especially with my snazzy new head-torch!) Fab marshalling and support. A great event. x" Glad you enjoyed it Lisa, and we think you'll be fine for the Grizzly!!

In 78th (79:49) and 81st (80:14) places were Chris Dupain and Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan, having another one of those intra-club battles, which went right to the line, with Chris edging out Scott by about 50 metres. If the grins on both their faces were anything to go by as they crossed the line, both looked as though they had enjoyed the race and the rematch of a similar tussle they had last week as they finished closely together at the Drogo. 

The real hard work on the day though was done by all the Harriers and their families, and also the Exmouth Cadets and St John's Ambulance crew, who gave up their Sunday morning to stand in the cold and ensure that the event went ahead safely. We have heard this week that the Plymouth Hoe 10 mile race, an iconic race in the county and one of less than a handful of opportunities to race at the 10 mile distance, has been cancelled for next year due to problems with road closures and runner safety. This could well mean that the popularity of off-road events continues to boom and, who knows, next year we may see closer to 600 runners completing the Blister races. They certainly seem to be popular with the local off-road running fraternity, but the race can only go ahead with the combined efforts of club members. So a big thanks to everyone involved!

The huge array of trophies and prizes to be won!
Photo (C) Charles Whitton Photography

Lots of superb photos of all the runners out on the course and of the prize winners were taken by Charles Whitton Photography. They can be viewed and purchased via his website, here: http://www.charleswhittonphotography.com/

Monday, 25 November 2013

Dave and Dave run 26.2 miles for a pasty!

Dave stone and Dave Wright made their annual trip to the Duchy last Sunday (17th November) for the Cornish Marathon. This is one of the toughest marathons in the country in terms of hilly and rugged terrain and the fact that it is staged in November doesn't usually bode too well for good weather. This year, however, was the exception, as runners were blessed with balmy conditions for the time of year with virtually no wind, even up on the higher parts of Bodmin Moor around Jamaica Inn. This is a low-key, friendly, but well organised race, staged by the East Cornwall Harriers. The rewards for runners are plentiful with a tee-shirt, medal and Cornish pasty awaiting all those who complete.

Dave Stone, our 26.2 specialist, went one better that last year, when he was just pipped to the finish line in a final sprint finish, and run out of the placings. He made up for it this year though with a comfortable 3rd place in a time of 2:50:28; one of his fastest times on the course. He was first Man Aged 40 – 44.  

In recent years, Dave Wright has joined Dave Stone on his annual pilgrimage to Kernow Country and this year, despite struggling during parts of the race with a hip injury that Dave reports flares up whenever he really ups his mileage for marathon training, he showed real grit and determination in battling on to the end, even though in discomfort, to finish in a respectable time of 3:35:15. This placed him well up in the overall rankings, 67th, and well up the pecking order in the MV50 section (7th).  Dave's time was only 2 minutes slower than when he last ran the race in 2011 and he stated that, but for the injury, he felt fit and full of running. Hopefully he can get on top of that niggle and 2014 will see him setting some personal best performances.

Around 300 athletes took part in the event. Well done to both our Harriers for being in the thick of the front-running action!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Harriers men top the Drogo podium!

The Drogo ‘10’ is a challenging trail race on woodland tracks and paths around Castle Drogo and the Teign Valley at Drewsteignton. This year it took place on Sunday 17th November on an overcast but mild and windless day, making for ideal running conditions. Despite the name, the race actually measures in at 9.6 miles but offers plenty of climbing within that distance with 3 killer hills to challenge the runners but also to provide some superb views of the valley and river below.

The race is always a highlight on the local running calendar and this year we once again fielded a large team of Exmouth Harriers; fourteen altogether who lined up along side a field of over 500 other runners. Turning out for his home-town club, Tom Merson was the first of that 500 to cross the finish line. He was certainly pushed hard the whole way though as last year's winner, Ceri Rees, along with Tom's training partner, Andy Chambers, all broke the 1 hour barrier: no mean feat at this event which involves around 1500ft of climbing! Tom’s time of 58:17 was also a new course record. 

Tony Hatchard was next in, having a superb run, to finish 6th in 63:40 and comfortably inside his own personal target of making the top 10 in a field that was stronger than usual this year. Adam Miller was a little further adrift of Anthony than he would expect to be on the roads, but, as he recognises, off road technical terrain is Anthony's strength. Adam nevertheless helped the Exmouth team to the first male team prize with his time of 68:28 in 23rd place, with just the 3 runners to count, ahead of a strong Exeter Harriers team.

A further four from the club were inside the top 100 finishers. Marc Cox was 33rd in a solid 70:31. Richard Bishop made a welcome return to racing after a year of so away from competitive running, but he has been putting a solid block of training in recently so we can expect to see his times improving again over the coming months. He was 63rd in 75:27. Richard Hawes was a creditable 69th in 76:10 and looked full of running at the finish. He was followed shortly by Exmouth’s first female, Hannah Bown, who was 74th in 76:48. Hannah also claiming the 3rd female spot, having had a good battle for second with a by-now familiar female rival from South Devon AC: a dual that seems set to run and run as these ladies are very evenly matched and seem to target the same races! 

One dual that Hannah will have been pleased to was the ever-exciting brother-sister battle with Chris Dupain. Chris finished 101st in 79:46 with two more Harriers packing in tightly behind him and crossing the line within half-a-minute, Jon Garrity 103rd in 80:05 and Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan, 105th in 80:22: a little inter-club rivalry always speeds up that last few hundred metres and gives the chance to work on that sprint finish! 

Martin Richards, making a rare racing appearance, was 220th and just outside the 90 minute mark (a tough barrier to break on this tough race) in 90:48. Lisa Hatchard was 250th in 92:55 and Dawn Teed placed 281st in 95:24; both ladies were right in the middle of the finishers. Finally, for those mathematicians amongst you, while Lisa’s was the median performance of the day, Diana Richards, in 343rd in 1:41:28, sneaked into the inter-quartile range (top 3/4 of finishers).

The winning Harriers' male team: Anthony (6th), Adam (23rd) and Tom (1st)

Well done to all the Harriers. Great to have such a good turn out and show our blue and yellow vests off!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Things are hotting up in the XC!

On remembrance Sunday, 10th November, Exmouth Harriers once again headed to Cornwall to take part in the second round of the Westward cross-country league. This month the fixture was held in a high school in Newquay over a 6k course for the women and a 9.6k course for the men. The event also incorporated the Cornish County XC Championships and so, although not eligible for this race within a race, our Harriers had stiffer competition to face than in the previous round in Redruth, with entry numbers up across all the races.

Once again we managed to field a team that offered both strength and depth in the men's event. Although we lost Rob Orton, who has now returned to his winter home and job in the Alps, Tom Merson stepped in as a more than adequate replacement. Backed up by a battalion of some of our club's speedsters, this ensured that we were able to remain in contention in the team competition and consolidate our third place established in round 1.

In a very competitive field of over 160, Tom won the 9.6 km Men’s race in 33:45. The next three scorers were packed close in behind: 20th (Dave Stone 36:48), 22nd (Tony Hatchard 36:50) and 31st (Adam Miller 37:42). Completing the scorers was Jamie Pearson in 51st place (39:00). Marc Cox was 72nd in 40:10 but don’t forget that there were rival scoring runners behind Marc who each scored a point less because of his efforts, making his - and indeed any non-scoring Harrier member's - presence at the event crucial to the overall outcome in the team contest. Cornwall AC Lead the men's team event on 2901 points, ahead of Bideford AC (2888) and then us (2775). Now that the events move north to Devon, it's still all to play for.

The welcome arrival of Cathy Newman into the team meant that the ladies had a sufficient number of counters to close in a team this round. They were 10th on the day and are lying in 12th overall, but really need to get at least 3 ladies to each event from now on to ensure any chance of climbing higher. In a field of over 70 females, Cathy Newman was a creditable 8th in 25:59 and comfortably first FV50. Recently voted in, new ladies captain, Carly Miller, was 37th in 30:23 and out-going captain extraordinaire, Dawn Teed, placed 52nd in 32:51.

The next round is closer to home, at the Exeter Arena Exhibition Fields, on Sunday 1st December. It would be great to field a strong men's and women's team and to repeat (or better!) the success we saw here last year as it is the Devon County Championships. Not forgetting that teams for the South West Intercounties and the National Intercounties championships are decided upon based on your finish position at this event, so get your Devon County entry forms in asap!!!

The boys are back in town! 

Men's captain, Adam Miller, in action in the 9.6km men's race

Opening stages of the men's race, with Dave and Tom out front

Small, but perfectly formed: our ladies team

Lorraine yomps her way to 2nd spot!

In the Harriers, the name 'Croome' has almost become synonymous with the words 'mud' 'off-road', 'hilly', 'tough' as these are the types of events that our multi-terrain loving pairing John and Lorraine most enjoy. Unfortunately, John has been injured of late and so Lorraine has been going it alone and seeing considerable success on the local off-road racing circuit. On Saturday 2nd November, she was in East Devon tackling the Axe Valley Runners organised 'Yarcombe Yomp'.

Lorraine was the sole Exmouth runner at this event, which is run over a two lap course and measures in at around 10 miles. Perhaps a victim of several diary clashes, as this race had to compete with the Templer 10 and Bideford 10 races, both of the same distance and on the same weekend, it only attracted 48 runners. Lorraine nevertheless did well to finish as 2nd lady and 22nd overall in a time of 95:00 on this very tough, hilly course. Perhaps the event should be called the YarCROOME Yomp from now on?!

A Templer 10 triumph for the Harriers!

When runners cross the line of the Teignbridge Trotter's organised Templer 10 race, they usually have 3 comments about it: 'that wasn't 10 miles'; 'I expected it to be hilly - where were the hills?!'; 'what a superbly well organised event'! I think each of the 10 participating Harriers at this year's race would all concur with these observations.

I think the title of the race was chosen more for its alliterative properties than for it's numerical accuracy as the race in fact comes in someway short of 10 miles (about 9.5). It sure manages to pack a lot into that 9.5 miles though, with country lanes, fields, woodland paths, stony lakeside tracks and a nature reserve all adding to the variety of the event.

It never seems to attract the same numbers that the other Teignbridge Trotter organised races do - perhaps because some do not like the 3 miles of road involved or the flat profile of the course - but those who do participate seem to head back year on year, so it certainly has a niche cult following! Amongst that following are members of Torbay AC, who target this event every year en masse and invariably take a clean sweep of the podium places in the men's event. They did so again this year but they didn't quite have the same luck in the ladies event as the top 3 ladies podium spots were all occupied by members of...... the Exmouth Harriers!!

To the best of my knowledge - and certainly for as long as I have been with the club - this is the first time we have managed a 1-2-3 in race. With a number of other Exmouth ladies also finishing high up the overall pecking order, this gave us a comfortable win the female team competition (with 4 to count) and also gave us a 4th place with our B team, which further highlights the strength and depth that we have amongst the ladies at the moment.

As with the Tavy 7, unfortunately we were just lacking enough testosterone to field a men's team, with just the two stalwart representatives there. This did not stop them from being competitive though, with Jim being first in his rather exclusive vet 75 age group and with Scott producing one of the finest sprint finishes of the day as he tussled for the line with 3 other runners... all of whom had longer legs than him! ;-)

Mention too must go to Jane Macdonald and Susan Hill, who both had superb races just 2 weeks after their PB performances at the Amsterdam Marathon: talk about good recovery powers and dedication to the cause! And well done to Hannah Bown, who managed to even the score with a female rival from South Devon AC who just pipped her to the post at the Tavy 7 last week: clearly the longer distance played to Hannah's strengths.

The finish positions and times of the Harriers were as follows:
Ellie Sutcliffe: 1st lady, 16th overall in 61:34
Cathy Newman: 2nd lady, 1st FV50, 19th overall in 63:22
Hannah Bown: 3rd lady, 1st FV35, 25th overall in 66:08
Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan: 8th MV40, 39th overall in 67:38
Emma White: 17th lady, 75th overall in 72:36
Jane MacDonald: 88th overall in 74:54
Lisa Hatchard: 93rd in 76:00
Susan Hill: 99th in 77:15
Dawn Teed: 103rd in 78:08
Mick Allen: 1st MV75, 189th overall in 94:07

Well done to all the Harriers on good runs in what were tough, muddy underfoot conditions.

Team Templer!

The victorious ladies' team with our winning wine :-)

Harriers embrace the club's track running roots!

With the Exeter Arena stadium due to be closed for refurbishment shortly, the Ironbridge Runner Winter 3K Series, now getting on for 30 years old, will be squeezed into just 3 events over six weeks this winter. The first races of the 2013 series were held at the arena track on Monday evening, 28th October, when there was an excellent turn-out of 90 runners, a dozen of whom were Exmouth Harriers.

There were five graded races, each with a field of 17 – 19, providing for a good level of competition for runners of all speeds. In the A race, Exmouth based youngster, Jason Drew (running for Sidmouth Running Club as we don't have a junior's section) set a fierce early pace, but it later transpired that he had been a little over-zealous and had over-cooked slightly, allowing Exmouth Harriers' man-of-the-moment in terms of current form, Rob Orton, to reel him in. Rob them finished a comfortable winner in a time of 9:08. Had he not run the a fast parkrun on the Saturday and a 38 minute 7 mile at the Tavy 7 on the Sunday then a sub 9 minute time would surely have been his for the taking. As it is, this makes for a useful taregt for Rob at his next outing over the 7.5 lap distance. 

In the ‘B’ race Cathy Newman was 5th overall and fastest female on the night, once again putting her younger rivals to shame, with a time of 11:00 dead. Richard Hawes flew down the home straight in his customary fashion to bag 6th place in the B race but started his finishing burst just too late to go under 11 minutes, his time 11:05, second fastest male over 45 on the night, was still a PB for this ever-improving athlete. Also in the ‘B’ race, and also running her second race in two days, was Hannah Bown, who was 11th in 11:27 and second woman. 

There were four Harriers in the ‘C’ race. Andrew Johnson enjoyed the close competition in the middle of a pack of runners and was hauled along to 9th overall in 11:52; he was second fastest MV50-54. Ben White could only recall school sports days in describing his experience of track running but he seemed satisfied to finish 15th in the ‘C’ race with 12:04. Dave Eveleigh was just behind Ben, 17th in 12:05 and second fastest MV55, in what will be his last outing in this category before next week's big 6-0! 

Carly Miller looks quite at home on the track now and she took 14th place in the ‘D’ race with a time of 12:37; a new Personal Best in what she describes as her 'best paced 3k yet'. Lee Russell though was a little disappointed with his time of 12:58 for 17th place in the ‘D’ race. 

 The ‘E’ race saw Nigel Dupain finish 7th in 13:17, just 6 seconds behind the winner of his MV60-64 category. There was then a bit of a gap to Dawn Teed who was 8th in the ‘E’ race in 14:01, on weary legs from her Tavy 7 exertions, but a valued part of the team as usual. 

The remaining two races in the series are at the Arena on 11 and 25 November. £5 entry on the night. Races start at 7pm.

Harriers do the double at Tavy 7!

To set the scene: imagine a remote, rugged, wet, windy and wild field in the middle of Dartmoor and, picture in it, a gathering of small white tents and marquees, a row of blue portaloos and 333 multi-coloured runners in various club and charity vests milling about and you have the Tavy 7! To set a date at the end of October for a race that is run out of a field a good 2 miles from the nearest form of civilisation (not including the resident sheep!) seems slightly bizarre, and yet, year on year, the Tavy 7 goes off without a hitch and offers runners one of the best organised races on the local running calendar and a superb value for money experience. The tents and portaloos even stood up to the wrath of the worst storm to hit the UK this year and only added to the experience of what is already an atmospheric and dramatic 7 mile moorland race.

This year the Harriers decided to target the race as a team as there were plenty of prizes on offer, with team awards for the top 3 men's and women's teams. Unfortunately, we did not quite manage to field a men's team, but we did have more than sufficient runners for a women's team and the journey across the moor in the wet and blustery conditions was by no means a wasted effort. Read on to find out why!

The first success for the Harriers came from Rob Orton. Continuing his rich vein of form of late, Rob stormed to an easy win in an amazing time, given the conditions, of 38:04. Rob won here last year too but this year managed to better his time by over a minute in tougher conditions. He was a comfortable winner with a margin of over 3 minutes.

I, Ellie Sutcliffe, then secured a double for the Harriers in winning the ladies event in a time of 44:36 in 15th place overall. This was also an improvement by over a minute on my winning time from 2011; however, I had to work hard for the victory as I trailed super-veteran athlete, Ann Luke from Tamar Trotters, for most of the race and only managed to get past her in the last half mile.

Our ladies team then packed in tight behind to gain valuable points towards the team competition and to claim some category podium places.

Hannah Bown was 37th overall and 5th lady in a time of 47:46 - just out-sprinted to 4th by Michelle Moore from South Devon AC. Hannah did, however, claim top spot in the vet 35 category - an age group she has only recently moved into and in which she will no doubt be seeing considerable success for some years now to come.

Terry Oldham was our next athlete home. Although the men lacked the 4th counter needed to field a full team, this didn't mean that Terry just coasted around on a nice Sunday afternoon jog across the moors. He raced the event to the best of his ability and posted a fine time of 53:26 for 5th spot in his MV55 category and 93rd overall, comfortably inside the top third of finishers.

Dave Eveleigh was the next Harrier home and was quite rightly pleased as punch with his performance as his time of 55:31 as it was a full 5 minutes faster than his time of the course set in 2011. Dave was 123rd overall and 7th MV55; however, it should be highlighted that he was very much at the top end of this category with a milestone birthday coming up in a couple of week's time. Things look very promising for Dave in 2014 and the other vet 60 year olds had better watch out if he keeps this vein of form up!

Terry's wife, Lorraine Gilson, and Dawn Teed, had another of their now legendary epic battles for the line. Although Dawn went out hard and looked to have this little duel sewn up, she had not bargained on Lorraine's endurance enabling her to claw her way back up to her friend, club mate and category rival towards the end of the race. In the end it was a tussle to the line and the two of them crossed it together, being given the same time of 56:52, but Lorraine was just given the nod over Dawn in terms of positions. This meant that they were 156th and 157th overall, so inside the top 50% of runners, and they placed 2nd and 3rd in the FV50 category respectively.

In terms of the female team placings, it was very tight as just two points seperated us from South Devon AC. But a win is a win and so our ladies team can add this accolade to a fast expanding list of team triumphs this year.

Well done to all the runners who braved the elements on Dartmoor. The fantastic array of reasonably priced cakes, bacon baps and teas and coffees that we indulged in after were highly deserved!

Team Tavy!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Harriers sat in 3rd spot after XC opener in Redruth

The Westward League Cross-Country got underway on the 13th October with the first of 6 fixtures of the season being held at Redruth School, in Cornwall. At over 100 miles each way, this may seem like a long way to travel for what can amount to only 20 minutes of running, the level of competition at the Westward League events is unlike any other you will find in the South West and the support from fellow team mates makes it a great club day out. 
Harriers laid down the hammer for their local rivals with a set of solid performances over the rather uninspiring, but tough 8km course with a series of short, sharp climbs and descents. Most of the Exmouth athletes were running on tired legs as they had already taken part in the Parret Trail relays the previous day. So, bearing in mind the less-than-ideal preparation for this round and that both an individual's and a club's weakest score from the six fixtures can be dropped for the final rankings, the results were extremely encouraging.
Individually, for the women, over a two lap, 4.9 km, Carly Miller was 26th in 23:37 and Dawn Teed 35th in 25:22. With my (Ellie) calf playing up slightly from the previous day's exertions, causing me to withdraw on the morning, this unfortunately left Carly and Dawn short of a full scoring trio of counters in this first round, but with the option of dropping a fixture’s score later and an awful lot of points still on offer, all is by no means lost for the ladies team. 
The men raced over 8.1.km. Rob Orton was our first finisher, seventh in 28:35, with Tony Hatchard 16th in 29:31 and Dave Stone 20th in 29:55. This trio were supported by a slightly under-the-weather Adam Miller, 35th in 31:01, and the recently returned and not yet at full fitness Jamie Pearson, 36th in 31:05. These five were the team counters and brought the team home in 3rd place overall, behind strong Bideford AC and Cornwall AC squads. 
Although outside of the 5 counters, other Exmouth runners are still vital to the competition, as they can push rival team members down the standings and prevent them from gaining points. Playing their part in the team effort were Hugh Marsden, who completed the race in 33:42 for 65th, and Jim Wyatt (puzzlingly labelled as Over 55, although in fact over 70!) was 20th in 46:30.
In the Veterans competition Stone was third Over 40, Marsden fourth Over 50 and Wyatt seventh Over 60 (although in fact over 70). 
The next event is in Newquay on 10th November. It would be great to get another strong men's team to this event to defend our third spot and try and make some headway on 2nd and 1st. Having a full compliment of ladies there too would also be great. We car share and petrol is claimed back off the club. It's a fun day off with fellow teamies and there are no entry fees as these are paid for by the club, so you literally have nothing to lose by giving the cross-country a go!

The men's team at Redruth.

And the depleted ladies' team!

Adam is the bioMic man at Eden!

The imposing and impressive structures of the Eden Project glass biomes sure make for a unique backdrop to a race and Adam showed that he wasn't so much the bionic man as the biomic man when he raced to a 2nd place podium finish at the Eden Project Half Marathon on October 20th.

After a year out, the Eden Project Marathon and Half Marathon events were back with a bang this year, boasting a new and improved course. I'm not sure whether or not Adam would agree that the course was "improved" but he'd certainly say that it was tougher, incorporating more hills and off-road, technical sections that were muddy and heavy going underfoot. In light of this, Adam's time of 81:08 was very impressive and saw him run in as a comfortable 2nd place in the 13.1 mile event, 3 minutes clear of the 3rd placed athlete. However, the winner of the race - also the winner of the opening round of the Westward League Cross-Country in Redruth, Peter Le Grice of Mounts Bay Harriers, was equally as untroubled and secure in first. I think Adam's good-humoured acceptance of the situation explains it best: 'Yes, I came second, but it was close; a real fight to the line. We were sprinting for it, but he eventually held me off with just an 8 minute cushion'!! Le Grice will be one to watch for the Westward League title at this rate! But that it not to do away with Adam's achievement as he still had to fend off some handy athletes and very much deserved his 2nd place, which was 2 places and 2 minutes better than his previous outing here in 2011, and on a tougher course. Well done Adam of Eden!

Adam in front of the biomes with his prizes at Eden.

Our super-vets impress at the Dart-Vale races

The Dartmoor Vale races, organised by the Rotary Club of Dartmoor in conjunction with the Sibelco clay works, consist of a trip of races of three different distances: 10km, half-marathon and a full marathon, all on the road, around Kingsteignton (for the 10k) and further up the Teign Valley to Chudleigh (the half and full, which is two laps of the half). 

Dave Stone was the lone Harrier representative in the 10k race and had dual motives for doing well in the event. Aside from his usual competitive nature which always drives him to give his all and try and mix it with the leaders, he was also mindful that he held just a 0.02% advantage over Mike Musgrove in the Harriers' Club Championship. Thi race represented a final opportunity to put a cushion between himself and Mike and ensure a victory by the time the championship wraps up at the end of October. It was mission fulfilled for Dave on both counts as he completed the 10km route in a swift 35:26, which gave him 2nd place overall in the race, just 50 meters behind the winner, and earned him some valuable age-graded percentage points to lift him clear of Mike. 

Mick Allen, born in 1938 and being 75 years of age, is fully entitled to the description of Super-Veteran in more ways than one. He competes sparingly and here took on the half marathon. The course is far from an easy one, being undulating throughout and with one particularly steep hill out of Chudleigh, so he did exceptionally well to complete in a time of 2:11:58 for 180th overall out of 236 runners and 1st MV70. 

Les Turner, a young whipper snapper in comparison to Mick, but still an over-70 veteran himself, completed the full Marathon in 4:55:41 for 123rd of 132 and was also 1st MV70. As this race also incorporates the Devon County Marathon Championship, Les now finds himself as the proud title holder of county champion and can await the arrival of a shiny gold medal coming through the post as just reward for his efforts. Les has shown himself to be nothing if not versatile this year as he has had a go at every distance from 100m sprinting up to the 'Big Daddy' of endurance events, the marathon. He's even found time for a sport of tripple jump, javelin throwing and parkrunning too: talk about a 'have-a-go' attitude! He puts us youngsters to shame!

Well done to all three Harriers representatives for doing the club proud once again!

Harribelles are ringing in Amsterdam!

A quartet of 'Harribelles' (a new term coined for the members of the Exmouth Harriers who also run with the Exmouth Belles Running Club) travelled to Amsterdam on the weekend of October 20th to take part in the annual marathon in the city. Billed as a fast, flat course with PB potential, our four ladies were planning to do just that: beg themselves a pan-full of PBs as a Dutch souvenir! 
After overnight rain and early morning fog soon lifted to give way to a sunny, autumn day which made for ideal marathon running conditions.
The race started and finished in the 1928 Olympic Stadium. After the elite runners had set off, some 11,000 runners followed in their wake in in the mass participation event. Long distance running, as a spectator sport, does not seem to have been embraced in Mainland Europe with quite the same passion and fervor that we have witnessed at events such as the London Marathon in the UK. This meant that, in certain parts of the course, especially along a 10km dog-leg by the river, support was thin. Nevertheless, our four ladies - Susan Hill, Jane MacDonald, Amanda McCann and Lorraine Kirby - dug deep and never lost sight of their goal. They maintained their target pace right through to the finish, on the track inside the old Olympic Stadium. The dearth of support on some quiet corners of the route was more than compensated for within the stadium as Susan describes running in to be greeted by an atmosphere that was ‘incredible’.
All four runners finished well inside the first half of finishers. Susan was timed at 3:49:00 for a massive personal best; Jane at 3:49:26, also for a personal best. Amanda ran 3:56:22 - again, a PB. These three were delighted to break the pinnacle of barriers for many female club runners: the magical 4 hour mark! Although Lorraine just missed out on that target by a hair's breath, her performance was perhaps the most impressive of all as she came very close with her 4:03:52, despite suffering illness in the week before the race. All four acknowledged the value of training with both the Belles and the Harriers for their success in Holland. Having seen the dedication these ladies have put in on training nights all season and having seen them improving their times at the monthly 'Sandy Bay Time Trial', this fantastic set of results is just reward for all their hard work and efforts: well done ladies!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Parrett Trail REELays: a rEEL success

It’s mid-October, the nights are drawing in and Autumn is in full swing. The warmth of summer has given way to cool, crisp mornings and a fresh blanket of crunchy leaves to run on underfoot. For the Harriers this can only signal one thing: it’s time to pile into a mini-bus and head to Somerset for the Parrett Trail relay!
Organised by Crewkerne Running Club, the Parrett Trail Relay is a 6 stage event that takes teams of runners from the starting point, at the mouth of the River Parrett in Steart, Somerset, to its source at Winyards Gap, 53 meandering miles away in Dorset. Those 53 miles are divided into stages of varying lengths, with the longest measuring in at 9.5 miles and the shortest at 5.6 miles. Some stages are more technical than others, some are muddier than others, and some are hillier than others, which makes for an interesting mix that plays into the hands of different running styles... it also makes for some mind-boggling planning on the part of our team captains who must decide which runner to put on which leg to give the team the best chance of success.
This year, the weather was once again kind to us as the grey skies and few spots of rain that threatened in the morning soon lifted and gave way to clear, deep blue, sunny autumn skies. By the time the leg 2 runners got underway, the cool, sunny conditions were ideal for both running and supporting fellow team mates. Following a drier summer, the underfoot conditions were much more favourable this year. Who could forget the energy-sapping, knee deep mud and surface water that we had to plough through last year?! But enough of this talk of weather and setting the scene, what we rEELly want to know is how our Exmouth Harrier teams got on, right? And what do all these awful puns about eels have to do with anything! Read on to find out!
Usually this event is highly competitive and the 40 team spaces sell out weeks in advance. This year, for whatever reason, entry numbers were down with only 23 teams entered; three of those were occupied by Exmouth Harriers. This year we fielded a team in each of the three categories: men’s, women’s and mixed (must have at least 2 females in the team to count). Our men’s team had a lot to live up to, having won this event for the past 3 years in a row, so they were looking to defend their title. We were grateful to have Jamie Pearson back on board running for us; after his victory at last year’s Parrett Trail we haven’t seen him on the running scene since, but he has clearly been keeping himself fit by playing football and doing the odd late-night run home from a night out in Exeter! However, a late withdrawal by our leg 1 runner, Berihu, meant that men’s team captain, Adam Miller, had some last minute team re-jigging to do and some eleventh hour phone calls to make. Thankfully, Chris Dupain – despite already being entered for the Great West Run the next day – showed great team spirit in stepping in at the last minute and running leg 2 for the men’s team, freeing up Parrett Trail afficiondo, Hugh Marsden, to take on the longer first leg. Hugh, who is very familiar with this leg, got the men’s team off to a flying start by winning in a comfortable margin of 6 minutes. The team then went on to win another 4 legs in total and to come second in the only leg they did not win, giving them a comfortable victory in a total time of 5:25:36; 30 minutes ahead of their nearest rivals from the host club, Crewkerne.

Leading from the gun: Adam starts as he means to finish leg 4 - in pole position.
Leg 1: Hugh Marsden, 1st in 1:06:17
Leg 2: Chris Dupain, 2nd in 35:51
Leg 3: Marc Cox, 1st in 51:40
Leg 4: Adam Miller, 1st in 50:37
Leg 5: Dave Stone, 1st in 58:38
Leg 6: Jamie Pearson, 1st in 1:02:33
Total team time: 5:25:36
And so, for the fourth year in a row, the eel returns home to Exmouth. Ah, yes, the eel! The River Parrett is full of eels and this is the symbol on all the way-markers that you follow on the route and so, appropriately, the winning team trophy is a rather distinctive, hand-carved wooden eel.
The men take their turns to feel the eel... this is either some clandestine, ritualistic practice that they feel they must go through in order to seal the fate of continued victory or they just enjoy a good feel of the eel! ;-)

Our victorious men's team and their winnings (minus Chris Dupain, who had sloped off early to prepare for the Great West Run the next day!)

Our women’s team were looking to reclaim a spot on top of the Parrett podium after a couple of years of losing out to other teams; in 2011 to South West Road Runners and, last year, to a team from Yeovil. Again this year, Yeovil ladies looked set to be our main rivals as they had fielded a strong team to defend their title. With this event, it is hard to gauge your team’s position as you go along as, unlike the Erme Valley Relays format, this does not have a runner-to-runner baton style changeover, but runners are started on their legs at pre-set times and the accumulative times for the stages are then added together at the end to give you your team time and position. 
Lisa Hatchard got us ladies away on leg 1 and, although she ran very strongly and posted a superb time of 1:23:45, she was worried as she was beaten by 2 other women. However, another unknown factor with the Parrett Trail is whether that female competition is part of a female team or a mixed team. Basically, you have little idea of how your team is doing in relation to others and so you just have to run your leg as an individual time-trial, as best you can, and hope that it’s good enough to either gain your team some time or at least limit any time losses: it’s time that counts here, not finish positions. It turned out that Lisa beat all of our direct competition and only lost time to 2 ladies from mixed teams. 

Carly certainly gained the team some valuable time on leg 2, finishing as the fastest female overall, and the other team members consolidated our strong start by posting two more leg victories and two 2nds. By the time I, Ellie Sutcliffe, took over on the final leg, I thought it was pretty tight between us and Yeovil and so I couldn’t afford to dilly-dally and admire the views; however, it turned out that Yeovil’s leg 5 runner had gone wrong and incurred a time penalty and so we actually had a 1 hour cushion! That’s another trick for ensuring success at the Parrett Trail: rekkie your leg well and don’t go wrong! It can cost you dearly! In the end our ladies team secured victory with a whopping margin of over an hour and added another trophy to the collection... no eel for the ladies though (we’ll refrain from making feminist, phallic references here...!).

Face of determination: Dawn, looking like she means business, at the start of leg 4.

And the victorious women's team. Sadly, we had no eel to feel :-(

Leg 1: Lisa Hatchard, 3rd female, 1:23:45
Leg 2: Carly Miller, 1st female, 42:18
Leg 3: Jane Macdonald, 2nd female, 1:06:11
Leg 4: Dawn Teed, 2nd female, 1:08:02
Leg 5: Lorraine Croome, 1st female in 1:21:46
Leg 6: Ellie Sutcliffe, 1st female, 1:09:24
Total team time: 6:51:26
 We have not seen success with a Harriers’ mixed team since 2009: could 2013 mark a turning tide and could we take a clean sweep of all three categories? Not quite, but we gave it our best shot and came a very very close second, with some fine individual performances from each of our 6 runners.
 Kicking off the proceedings with a fine run was Scott-2 Trigs-Jordan; fortunately 2 Trigs didn’t live up to his unfortunate reputation and made no navigational errors, allowing him to finish in 4th place overall on the leg. Lorrain Gilson consolidated their position on leg 2, by posting the 2nd fastest female time on that leg (only being beaten by the Harriers’ women’s team, in the shape of Carly Miller). Susan Hill ran a strong leg on leg 3 to keep the team in the mix and Dave Backway, despite struggling a bit on leg 4 and having to stop to be sick, showed true grit and team spirit in pressing on to the finish to limit any time losses. Dave Wright had a stormer of a run on the tricky and complicated leg 5, successfully navigating himself around to the 4th fastest time on that leg. Terry Oldham finished it all off by showing true team spirit to step in and run a that would be by no means his first choice, and fought hard up the final hill to the cheering and support by fellow Harriers who were stood at the top to welcome him in. A great effort that resulted in the team just being edged out of the top mixed spot;  the victory going to Chard AC, who, without a men’s team, were able to put their stronger male runners on the longer, harder legs and take the advantage.

Dave Backway, on leg 4 for the mixed team.

Focused on the finish line like a predator focuses on its prey: Terry with about 5 meters left to run to the pub after the hilly leg 6!

 Leg 1: Scott-2 Trigs-Jordan, 4th in 1:13:30
Leg 2: Lorrain Gilson, 2nd female in 44:05
Leg 3: Susan Hill, 3rd female in 1:07:03
Leg 4: Dave Backway, 12th in 1:09:48
Leg 5: Dave Wright, 4th in 1:11:10
Leg 6: Terry Oldham, 17th in 1:30:14
Total team time: 6:55:50
This is always a cracking day out for the club; regardless of whether or not we manage to come away with a victory, everyone enjoys themselves and the opportunity to run as part of a team and represent the club. It was nice to have a good mixture of faithful stalwarts and some new blood to the event and we particularly welcomed our "Harribelles", Jane and Susan, who showed real team spirit in giving their legs their full effort, despite the fact that they are both tackling the Amsterdam Marathon the following weekend! 

However, the day could not happen without the logistical organisation being spot on, both in terms of the preparation leading up to the event and on the day itself. To that end, we need to thank team captains, Adam Miller and Dawn Teed, for putting together 3 terrific teams, and Hugh Marsden for his time and effort in co-ordinating the whole day and making sure it runs smoothly. On the day itself, we were indebted to the services of our driver, Paul Champion, and navigator / chief supporter, Sue Wilkin, who ensured that all the runners got to the start of their leg on time and were collected again at the end of it.
It’s a shame we have to wait another year for the next event, but that gives us plenty of time to consider our plan of attack so that next year we can return and claim victory in all three categories!!

53 miles later, at the pub at the end of the event at Winyards Gap, Dorset: a few well-deserved drinkies!