50% seemed to be the statistic of the day for the Exmouth Harriers at the First Chance 10k. 50% of the 8 Harrier participants smashed their PBs and all 8 Harriers finished within the top 50% of overall finishers. The only thing that wasn't 50% was the effort put in to achieving some amazing times, which was of course double that percentage! In what was arguably one of the best quality fields on both the men's and women's side in the event's history, Harriers did themselves more than proud to be well in the mix.
After some doubts about whether the race would go ahead earlier in the week, fortunately the snow that has hit the rest of the country and seen many events over the weekend of the 19th / 20th January cancelled, First Chance was able to go ahead... albeit in sub-zero degree temperatures.
At 10.30am, 8 shivering Harriers braved the cold and lined up on the start line at Haven Banks to take on the two lap riverside course. Although flat and offering the promise of PBs, a stiff wind can easily have a detrimental effect upon that and the gravel section too can further slow the times (is it me or did that gravel seem thicker in sections than in previous years?!). Neither the wind, the gravel nor the cold affected the Harriers though as 4 of them not only set new PBs, but all 4 obliterated them by over a minute!
First Harrier home, smashing his previous PB of 36:39, was Adam Miller. In a superb quality men's field, Adam stormed around the course to post a time of 35:02 for 15th place overall. Agonisingly close to skipping over the 35 minute section and diving straight into the 34s, but with this vein of form a sub 35 min time looks like a distinct possibility later in the year. Either way, this can only be a great confidence boost as he gets stuck into his London Marathon preparation.
Next in was myself, Ellie Sutcliffe. Aware that I had dropped some fitness over the course of an over-indulgent 3 week holiday, I knew this one would hurt! However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well my sports asthma coped with the bitterly cold conditions and to find that I haven't lost too much fitness, but just some speed-endurance. After holding 2nd place for the first 4k I was overhauled at the end of the first loop (always a mental barrier for me on this course!) but managed to hold onto 3rd female spot and 39th place overall in 38:06. Agonisingly just 2 seconds shy of my PB set on this same course in August 2011.
The next Harrier to clock a shiny new PB by another huge margin was the talented newcomer, Richard Hawes. Not forgetting that Richard only took up competitive running last year and that this was only his 4th attempt at the 10k distance. At his first outing on the same course last August he posted 41:35. At the Devon County AA 10'000m track champs in September, he reduced this time to 40:32. This time round he shaved over another minute off to stop the clock at 39:12 for 54th place overall and 5th MV45. With a progress curve this steep, we can only marvel at what else might be to come!!
And how's about another PB? Well, next up for the challenge of PB obliteration was current female athlete of the year, Hannah Bown. Having smashed her long-standing half marathon PB back in October in Cardiff, Hannah now felt that her 10k time needed an overhaul. She not only knocked 2 minutes off her previous best but set a sub 40 min clocking in the process with 39:57. This gave her 69th spot overall and 10th female, though it should be pointed out that the field was much tougher this year as a record 10 women dipped under the 40 minute barrier. Last year Hannah's time would have been good enough for 3rd place!
Not managing a PB on this occasion but managing a highly respectable time and position nonetheless was Adrian Kearns. Not a regular racer, whenever Adrian pops up he makes a good job of it and on this outing he ran 40:24 for 84th place overall and 15th MV40 (always a tough category!).
Andrew Johnson is a big fan of the fast, flat 10k and 5k races held on the river banks of Exeter and usually turns up to them all to give it his all. Showing no signs of getting slower year on year, Andrew again posted another solid time of 43:06 for 121st place overall and 17th MV45.
Harriers' press man, Dave Eveliegh, was next across the line, having a superb run and looking very comfortable at the finish to cross the line in 44:40. This was almost a minute faster than his time over the same course at the Exeter 10k in August 2012 and almost 3 minutes faster than his time at the same event in August 2011. Great news for Dave who digs deeper than most of us to train hard and race hard in order to finish well up the overall standings: 157th overall and 7th MV55.
Returning from a long injury spell, Roger Rowe was treating this race as his longest run for some months and so had a nice canter around this familiar course to finish in 46:27. Well down on his more impressive times of recent years but still good enough for 2nd MV65 on the day and 196th overall, 2 1/2 minutes behind his category rival, Keith Belt of South Devon AC.
And let's go out on a high with yet another massive PB. This time the honours go to Carly Audritt who has reduced her 10k time from 53:29 in 2011, to 49:21 in 2012, and now to 47:03 in 2013. Not a bad record considering that she's only ever participated in those 3 events over the 10k distance! This gave her 206th spot overall and 17th senior female. Judging by the beaming smile she had on her face as she shouted across to me at the passing point halfway round, it also looked as if she was enjoying the experience!! Perhaps a welcome break from the mud of her usual Killerton stomping ground?!
DISCLAIMER: Just redone the math and realised that makes 9 Harriers, not 8. But if we accept 9 then my 50% opening line doesn't work, so I am employing poetic licence and leaving it!!
Winner: Tom Merson (B&W) in 31:32.
Female winner: Lucy Commander (SWRR) in 36:51.
Well done to all the Harriers in what were tough conditions and an even bigger well done to all the Harriers' course-side supporters in what must have been even tougher conditions for spectating!
If anyone has any decent pics, please send them to me as my Mum's camera didn't work very well in the cold!!