Exe-rated runners!

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

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Comer in Columbia: Latest installment from our Katie down South!

Exmouth Harrier on Tour, now in Colombia!!

Okay, so it’s been a while since my last blog so I’m going to try to fill in a few gaps. I am now officially leading trips, which essentially means my workload has trebled and I have to make all of the decisions. I started working with Domingo in Cusco and had two very successful first leads to Quito in Ecuador. Then came my first ‘blind’ lead – a trip I have never done (and neither had Domingo for that matter).

It started with the standard busy day in Quito, Ecuador, sorting out all of the trip crossover information, before meeting the group at our pre-departure meeting that evening. A slightly older crowd, they ranged from 28 to 74 and a mix of Brits, Aussies, Canadians, Swiss and Americans, they were very enthusiastic about the oncoming trip.

We hit the road at a reasonable hour the following day, taking a trip to El Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the World). Ecuador cannot call this the equator, because in Spanish ‘Ecuador’ IS ‘equator’ and it just gets confusing! Anyway, we took the obligatory photos with a leg in each half of the world, and then discovered that the actual equator line is 200m to the north which as since been established using GPS… Small matter! The equipment used to initially pinpoint this area then went on to be used across the world as a measurement system – it was the origin of metric measurements.

We headed on up through Equador to a little town called Otavalo where we found a fantastic local market to do some food shopping ready for dinner that evening, before heading off up a mountain to find our campsite. The local was simply beautiful, with incredible views down to the town, and out to three surrounding volcanoes.

Otavalo is famous for its weaving, so the following morning we headed into town for an hour to explore and see the locals in their traditional dress. We then headed north to the Colombia border. A smooth border crossing meant we were in the border town of Ipiales with plenty of time to visit Las Sancturio de los Lajas, a pre-gothic church built across a deep gorge against a rock face where is said that an image of the Virgin Mary materialised. They have now painted a Virgin Mary on the rock inside the Church so you can’t get confused as to where this miracle took place!

The next day we headed out to the town of Popayan. One of the border officials had advised me not to stop for any reason between the towns of Pasto and Popayan as there is still occasional trouble with guerrillas along this section. Message heeded until we realised it was going to take us 6 hours to cover this stretch – difficult with no toilet breaks! We found a safe town to stop for lunch and then just headed on again. The scenery was incredible – we were following through the Andes and although winding, the road had fantastic scenery along the entire route. Reaching Popayan we found that we were at the tail end of one the Semana Santa festivities (Easter!) and there was an evening parade with the children going through town playing instruments which was fun to see.

We were back on the road again, heading to Cali, home of Salsa dancing! Arriving at lunchtime (having been nicknamed ‘Rock Star’ by my passengers for the amount of attention I was receiving from Colombian men for driving a truck!), we had a relaxed afternoon before chartering a Chiva bus for the evening. Now, traditionally the Chiva bus is used for locals to travel around the country bus (like a normal bus) but they are brightly decorated and made of wood. There are versions of these which have been converted to a mobile dance floor, with a DJ, for a bit of a party night. Best party bus EVER – we were driven around Cali for two hours of dancing, before heading into town to watch the experts doing some salsa. Nursing a hangover, I used the following day to catch up on paperwork, confirm bookings and do as little as possible!

Leaving Cali, we headed on to a coffee plantation near the town of Manizales. The Hacienda Venecia is located at the north end of the coffee axle, which stretches from Medellin to Bogota and Cali. The Hacienda was located down a long narrow drive which was very overgrown so we assisted with the pruning on our way down! Complete with a plunge pool and hammocks, the location was just idyllic. During the evening we had a barbeque and a fiesta night with traditional Colombian music and dancing which was a lot of fun.

The following day we headed up to Manizales to see a local charity supported by Dragoman, the Sagrada Family Charity. The Charity supports pre-school children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old who are from the slum areas of Manizales. It gives them a safe place for education, to play and to have a decent breakfast and lunch. For some of these children this is the only food they will have. It also allows their parents to go out and work. The slum areas still suffer from a lot of violence, with guns and knives a regular part of every day life. We were taken to see one of the schools, but the other is in an area which is too dangerous to take tourists – a bit of a wake up call! After the Charity we had a quick city tour of Manizales, exploring the sights and local market. Manizales is built along the top of a ridgeline so the views were amazing!

Our final day at the Hacienda was spent having a coffee plantation tour which was really interesting. We learnt some background and history about coffee, and what to look for when buying proper Colombian coffee (the Juan Valdez symbol on the back – if it doesn’t have it then it is blended with inferior beans!). We then had a guided tour around the plantation and processing plant, before an afternoon to relax and enjoy our surroundings which meant I managed to squeeze in a run! Having not run a step since I broke my shoulder on the 2 January I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I can still run 6Km without collapsing in a heap - a bit of work to be done if I want to consider the London marathon again next year though, assuming I’m back in the UK in time!

Back on the road, we headed further north to Guatape and my favourite part of the trip. Guatape is a small town in a beautiful location. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, it also has a mini sugarloaf mountain called ‘El Penol de Guatape’ which has 700 steps to get to the top and enjoy the views. It is a huge granite monolith, of which only a third is actually exposed. The rest is buried deep below the ground. We had two free days for activities whilst in Guatape, so I spent the first day doing a waterfall walk, literally up the
waterfall which was great fun, and the second day I finally managed to go rock climbing. This was a complete day off for me as no passengers wanted to come – a rare treat!

After Guatape we headed to Medellin, former home city of the infamous drug cartel Pablo Escobar. With a half day city tour which gave us our bearings of the city, we had plenty of information to go exploring the following day. The nightlife in Medellin is also excellent. Arriving on a Saturday meant we could fully enjoy this aspect! Incredibly in 1993 Medellin was considered one of the most violent cities in the world. Just 20 years later it is now one of the safest in South America, and the atmosphere and vibe is amazing.

Leaving Medellin, we had a long drive day to Covenas on the Caribbean coast – blue blue waters!! It was a late arrival with no time to explore, but the next day we headed out to the San Bernardos Islands. I was actually a little disappointed with this part of the trip as the islands, although beautiful, have become incredibly touristy and the locals just seemed to be out to make money. A complete contrast to the welcome we had received throughout the rest of Colombia where the people are very warm and welcoming, and can’t do enough to help. It was still a lovely day out, with highlights being a snorkelling trip using gear which leaked (yes, that is the mouthpiece!) but which provided us some great entertainment. Not an activity to recommend to my next group!

We headed out to Cartagena for our last drive day, arriving at lunchtime again after an unofficial city tour… we took a wrong turn and ended up in the old town where trucks REALLY shouldn’t be! With narrow streets, tight turns, balconies and street sellers to negotiate, I’m not quite sure how I got the truck through without leaving a trail of devastation behind me but I did! Cartagena is simply beautiful, the old town is picture postcard pretty. Every street is full of character, with beautiful buildings, different street sellers and good local food to be found. It is however very very HOT. With the temperatures never dropping below 31 degrees, the best way to explore this city is to walk for 15 minutes and then dive into the nearest coffee shop with air-con to cool down! It is the most beautiful city that I have ever seen so well worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

The final day of the trip involved a small contingent of the group taking a local bus to the Mud Volcano. Now this really was an experience!! You walk up the side of a big pile of mud to find a small pit at the top, completely full of mud covered people. The mud is actually over 200m deep, but it is so buoyant that you just float. It is impossible to move from horizontal to vertical without assistance as your bodyweight simply can’t sink into it! We had great fun jumping on each other in a vain attempt to push each other deeper. Once out of the mud bath we made our way down to the nearby lake to be washed off. A Colombian lady sits you in a foot of water, then proceeds to half drown you before (without warning) whipping off your bikini to give it a rinse!
The San Bernados Islands, on the Caribbean coast

A mud bath!

Katie getting down and dirty... what's new?!! ;-)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Club Championship 2013: current state of play

We are now 4 months into the year and the newly launched Exmouth Harriers Club Championship is starting to heat up. For anybody who has not seen any of the emails about this and is unaware of it, it is open to any first claim member of the Exmouth Harriers to enter. It is free to enter, but you do need to inform me (Ellie) of your intention to take part and let me know your date of birth as I use this to work out your age-graded percentages, which is how the performances are calculated so that everyone is on an even playing field.

This year is very much a trial run of the idea and so we have tried to keep it basic and as simple as possible. In a nutshell, there are 6 categories and runners need to complete 6 races across a minimum of 4 different categories in order to complete their championship portfolio. The categories are as follows:
1: Track races of 3k and under
2: 5k races (can include parkruns, accurately measured road 5ks and track 5000ms)
3: 10ks (can be on or off road but must measure at least 10k; 10’000m track also ok)
4: half-marathons
5: marathons
6: wild-card (any other accurately measured distance but not track. E.g. 5 miles, 7 miles, 10 miles, 20 miles, 50k)

If this year proves to be a success – and it’s already shaping up to be – then we can expand it next year to incorporate multi-terrain races and work out difficulty ratings to make this fair.

There are 3 separate championships: a men’s, a women’s and a beginners’, this latter for runners who have been running for less than a year and who score less than 60% on age-graded. So far there are no entrants into this category but if any of our new runners or members of our beginners’ course are reading this and are interested, just let us know and we can tell you more about it. Beginners only need to complete 3 races across 3 different categories.

At the end of October the time for registering performances ends and we assess the final standings. There will be an overall male and female (and beginners, if there is demand) champion, and there will be a champion for each section. Only 1 person can win one section. If the same person comes out on top across multiple sections, they will be awarded the prize for their highest age-graded score and then in subsequent sections the 2nd highest score will get the prize. This means that 6 different men and 6 different women will win something.

And so, to the action! Well, it’s suddenly gotten very exciting following a busy couple of months on the racing scene with half-marathons in March and marathons in April.

In the MEN’s championship, 8 men are currently battling it out for supremacy. A late arrival to the contest, who has stormed in and stamped his authority on it, is our resident triple world record holder, Dave-Sparrow-legs-Stone. With 4 races recorded across 4 different categories, Dave only needs two more performances from any 2 distances of his choosing to complete his championship, with 6 months left to do it. His average WAVA percentage of 81:40% gives him a narrow lead over Mike Musgrove, who is currently lying in second place with an average of 81%; however, so far Mike has only completed 2 of the required 6 races, and this percentage only refers to 1 race as we wait for confirmation of his London time, so he will have to get busy between now and October and fill in the other 4.

Whilst Adam Miller might be the man-of-the-moment in terms of raw times, Dave and Mike’s handful of extra years just give them that advantage over him in terms of age-graded scoring. Adam is not far behind them though, with a current average of 78.83% and having already completed 5 races across 4 different sections. If he can improve his Yeovilton 5k time later in the year, he will be able to delete his current 5k clocking and replace it with one that will give him a few extra percent.

Not far behind Adam is super-vet, Ray Elston, on an average of 77.5%; however, Ray has thus far only completed 2 races and they are both in the same section (section 6, wild card). He will now need to think about doing some 10ks, 5ks and possibly a track race or a half marathon if he is to complete the championship.

Next we have the ever-improving Richard Hawes who, let’s not forget, has only been running for just over a year, so is doing very well to be on an average of 75.56%: this being boosted by his recent track 5000m performance. Rich has completed 4 races across 3 different sections and is well on his way to building up a full portfolio.

Also boosting his average from the weekend’s track 3000m is Dave Eveleigh, who is currently on an average of 74.76%. Dave will be looking to replace an earlier March 3000m performance (72.92%) that is currently dragging his other percentages down later in the year. He has so far completed 4 races across 2 different sections. Some 5ks and maybe a 5 or 7 mile race later on will give him all the performances he needs to complete.

Jon Garrity is on 72.88% with just the 2 races completed in 2 sections. He’ll be looking to improve upon his 5k time though throughout the Yeovilton series and erase his current clocking.

Lee Russell has also declared his intention to complete the championship, but with just the 1 race (a 5k parkrun) recorded so far, he is on 69.2% - tantalisingly close to joining the 70+% club.

Hugh Marsden will likely come in and break this little lot up when he returns from the southern hemisphere and starts his summer season of racing.

So already, it’s a close affair with all the men within 12% of each other. It will be exciting to see the developments that take place now that we are moving out of marathon season and into the track season and the summer 5k and 10k road race calendar is getting underway.

If there are any other men in the club that have raced / plan to race and would like to be included, please let me know.

On the WOMEN's side, things are equally as competitive amongst the 7 participants. Unsurprisingly, the stand-out leader in terms of age-graded percentage, is our super-vet 50 star, Cathy Newman. However, Cathy has only completed one race so far out of the 6 needed (the Bideford Half), but is nevertheless sat pretty on an astonishing and, surely, uncatchable, 89.31%.

A whopping 11% behind her is myself, Ellie Sutcliffe. Luckily I had managed to record some half-decent performances before my injury forced me to rest for 2 months. Including a parkrun performance, which I am looking to replace with a faster 5k time later in the year, I have managed to complete 5 races across the required 4 categories, with an average of 78.50%.

Current female athlete of the year, Hannah Bown, is currently occupying the 3rd spot, following a strong performance in the First Chance 10k that gave her 76.48%. The Tavy 13 race, however, was a hilly one and so she may well look to replace that with a faster performance in a flatter half-marathon, such as Torbay, or an autumn half. She is presently on an average of 72.60% with 3 races across 3 categories completed.

With excellent times in the Bideford Half and when winning the Stanley Marathon, ladies captain, Dawn Teed, is on 70.75%. Having just had a special birthday in April that has tipped her into the FV50 category, her percentages can only benefit from this… even if she isn’t that keen on it in other respects! Dawn now needs to consider some 10ks, possibly a 5k, or some 5, 7 or 10 mile races to fill the other 2 sections.

Lisa Hatchard and Joan Mason are having a battle royale, with both being within 0.20 of a percent of each other! Lisa currently has the edge, with an average of 66.27%, with 3 races completed across 3 categories. Joan is on 66.10%, following a superb performance of 69.39% at the Bideford Half. She has done 2 races in 2 different categories and will now need to think about some 10ks and other distances to complete her portfolio.

Carly Miller has both Lisa and Joan in her sights, her being on an average of 64.25% with 4 races completed across 3 categories. Now that Carly is back into training, following a hectic spring that included the small matter of a wedding to organise, she will be looking to chip away at her 5k times and erase the 2 present clockings to boost her percentages and catch Lisa and Joan.

Again, if there are any other female Harriers who wish to be included in this light-hearted but mildly competitive fun, please let me know.

If you are unsure on how this works or have any questions, again, please let me know. All the percentages are calculated using the runner’s current age (exact age, not just category bracket) and using the same calculator for parity.

Well done to everyone who has given this a go: it’s starting to get interesting!!

A Trickey track meeting for Dave and Rich!

On Saturday 20th April, two Exmouth Harrier representatives were on the track for the annual Ken Trickey Memorial Meeting at Exeter Arena. They tackled much shorter distances than their London and Llanelli bound marathon running club-mates would face the next day, however, they still faced challenges of their own on the Exeter rubber as the physical demands on the body do not last as long but are arguably more intense.

Richard Hawes has been with the club for about a year now and during that time he has been keep to try out a whole range of events, from off-road events such as the Haldon Heartbeat and the Tipton Rail and River Rub, to road races such as the Chudleigh Carnival 6, the Exeter 10ks and the Bath Half, cross-country and also track races. He ran extremely well on his first outing on rubber back in September when he picked up a silver medal for his age group in the Devon County A.A. 10'000m championships. This time though, he was trying out a new distance and taking on his first ever track 5000m. With his only other experiences of 5ks being at the local Killerton Parkrun, the track was always going to get him a faster time, and for this first attempt he recorded a fine 19:07 clocking. True to form, Rich put on his now signature finish kick, showing an impressive turn of speed over the last 200 metres to come 3rd in a field of five, which was mixed in age and gender. In fact, it was an interesting race, as it was won by a clear margin by local talent, Tom Merson, with Rich being the only other male in a race which also contained two senior females and local super-vet 55 athlete, Karen Cook. 

In contrast to 5000 metres novice,  Richard, Dave Eveleigh had well over a hundred 3000m events under his belt when he lined up in a similarly eclectically mixed, but slightly larger, field of nine to race over the seven and a half lap distance. He finished 7th overall and first veteran athlete of any age in a time of 11:54, a more than respectable time for a 59 year-old. This was a vast improvement on his first outing of the season , in which he posted a time of 12:21, and which, with an age-graded percentage of nearly 76%, will prove a useful addition to his Club Championship portfolio.

Adrian rejects London for scenic Wales!

On the same day as the London event, Exmouth Harrier Adrian Kearns opted for a rather more scenic 26.2 mile run in Llanelli, west Wales. The Great Welsh Marathon was arguably not quite so great in numbers as it might have been, were it not scheduled on the same day as London, nevertheless, the route, the organisation and the atmosphere, in addition to the caliber and enthusiasm of the 260 runners who completed the race were definitely great.

Not only is this race lacking in the numbers of runners compared to London, the spectators on the rural route would also have been thinner on the ground, making this the ideal race for someone who prefers to run on a quieter route through some spectacular scenery along the stunning west Wales coast. It's by no means an easy route and has far more undulations than a city marathon would offer, which makes sole Harrier representative, Adrian Kearns' time of  3:10:39 all the more impressive. This was comfortably inside his 3h15m target and gave him a creditable 22nd place overall and 5th of 63 men aged 40-44. Adrian described  this as an enjoyable race on mostly runner-friendly cycle paths but a troublesome wind, which seemed to strengthen as the day progressed, in addition to the hills, made the 26.2 miles that little bit more challenging. Given these factors, this could suggest a time just under 3 hours just might be possible for Adrian on a flatter course, in better conditions. Very well done, and well worth the trip west!

World records, PBs, debuts, top performers in Devon: the Harriers London Marathon tally!

2013 proved to be an exceedingly lucky year for the 6 Exmouth Harriers who took part in this year's London Marathon. Firstly, luck arrived in the form of almost perfect conditions, with clear skies and a light cool breeze to accompany the runners on their 26.2 mile journey around the country's capital city. Let's face it, on a dull, cloudy day, London can easily look a little grey and depressing, but in the sunlight the Thames sparkled and all the new glass buildings in Canary Wharf and the new Shard edifice looked resplendent. The nice weather and perhaps the London Olympics legacy also helped to entice the largest (and noisiest!) crowd in the history of the race to the streets in support of the 30'000+ runners, generating an atmosphere that was sure to inspire even the most weary-legged runner to keep plugging on towards the finish line. These conditions certainly boosted the performances of the 6 participating Harriers, who all had excellent runs.

Anchoring them home, and cementing his position as club male athlete of the year, was the in-form Adam Miller, who knocked an astounding 10 minutes off his personal best - set in London last year - to clock 2:38:44. This gave him an amazing 145th place overall in a race that is getting on for having 40'000 participants. He had hoped to break 2h45 and felt confident that he was capable of that, and anything near 2h40 would have been an absolute bonus, so 2h38 is nothing short of fantastic and just reward for all his hard training efforts over the cold winter months. Most impressively, this placed him as the 2nd fastest finisher in Devon, behind former Commonwealth Games marathoner, Stuart Hall. Adam says that he plans to have a break from the marathon next year but with a time that will gain him a championship start alongside Mo Farah, he may well be tempted back: watch this space!!

Not too far behind Adam, having run with him in the early stages of the race, was London Marathon stalwart Dave Stone. This year's performance marked a hatrick for Dave in two respects: firstly, it was his 3rd year of attempting to break a fancy-dress Guinness World Record (which he achieved, with the fastest marathon as a film character, dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean) , and secondly, it was the third year in a row that he has posted a time of 2h42! 2:42:52 this year, to be precise, placing him not only well up the field in his MV40 category (42nd), but also giving him a top 250 finish, in 249th overall. He was also comfortably the fastest finisher not only as a film character but in any form of fancy dress! Not bad stats, revealing that old (Jack) Sparrow legs is fast acquiring a reputation as Mr. Consistency!

Another London Marathon veteran, running in his 3rd consecutive race here, was Mike Musgrove. Mike's first outing at London ended in a rather dramatic fashion in the medical tent and was very much one that he'd rather forget. Having learnt a great deal from it though, he returned to the race last year to rewrite the script and turn it into a more pleasurable read. He ran comfortably within himself to give himself a confidence boost and to enjoy the experience along the way. In so doing, he raised a lot of money for his charity, Whizz Kidz, and still clocked a sub 3h time, with 2h58. This year, with a good block of training behind him and a superb performance at the Grizzly to give him a mental boost, he decided to go for it and see what he could do. He ran a sensibly paced race and remained strong to the end to clock a time of 2h50. Unfortunately, Mike was one of a few casualties of faulty timing technology, as his timing chip failed to register on the electronic mats, leaving him without an official finish time. However, just because this chips were down - literally and metaphorically - this did not get the better of Mike, who made a note of his finish time on the clock, so it's now just a case of waiting for the organisers to study the finish footage and attribute him an official time.

A happy trio of Harriers celebrate 2 PBs and a world record at the finish!

Hannah Bown is another athlete who had had a very successful build up to London, starting the season with a massive 10k PB at the First Chance race, then churning out some strong performances at the Grizzly and the Tavy 13. Her main goal for the race was to beat her already impressive PB of 3:14:24, set back in 2006. Since then Hannah has had three children and over the past few months has done remarkably to juggle motherhood, her teaching career and her running so well. She has, if anything, been running stronger than ever, despite being so busy, and so a new marathon PB was a very realistic prospect. Up until halfway, Hannah was on - in fact, well ahead of - target, passing through the 13.1 miles in 1h33. With even splits, this would have easily given her the sub 3h10 clocking she was hoping for. However, they often say a marathon is a 20 mile training run with a 10k race tagged on the end, and it is in the last 6 miles of the race that you can go from being comfortable to struggling in an instant. Hannah started to tire in the closing stages and unfortunately her mile splits started to drop off, but, fighting hard to the end, she crossed the line in a superb time of 3:16:46 for 259th female and 2867th place overall: just outside of her PB, still an amazing performance, equivalent to a sub 3h clocking for a man, and placing her as the 2nd fastest female finisher in Devon.
Hannah pushing on through Canary Wharf

Dave Backway received one of the club ballot places for the marathon and was tackling the distance for the first time. A PB of 1h28 for the half distance showed that he certainly had the capability of running a 3h30 marathon. This time was foremost in Dave's mind as a race goal.... the fact that his best mate and fellow Harrier Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan had recorded a time of 3:34:17 in last year's race is of course just a bizarre and unrelated coincidence....! ;-) With Dave, the speed was there, but unfortunately the endurance wasn't quite able to match it. He was very unlucky not to have broken the 4h barrier, stopping the clock at 4:04:43. Nevertheless, he was comfortably in the top third of the field with 9345th place. Afterwards, Dave said of his London experience: "Not as quick as I wanted but it gives me a time to beat next year if I get [in through] the ballot. I was [running] next to the 3:30 marker until mile 18-19 and then at mile 21 my legs started cramping up. More training next year should do the job. Overall a brilliant experience." Not put off and wanting to have another go next year: yes, Dave has been struck with Marathon Fever!

Dave reveling in his first marathon experience!

The sixth Harrier running was also a recipient of a marathon place via the club ballot, and, since finding out that she was "in" back in December, Diane Richards has devoted herself to a rigorous training regime, which included a few key build-up half-marathon races, so that she toed the start line on the day as well prepared as she could be. What she could not prepare herself for, however, was the unexpected sunshine that greeted the runners. After months of training in extremely cold conditions, this came as a bit of a shock to Diane's system and she admitted to struggling a bit with the sudden increase in temperature. Nevertheless, her time of 4:25:07 was still a PB and placed her pretty much in the middle of the whole field with 16,509th position and well above half in her FV45 category, with 487th of over 1,300. They say that the average marathon time for men and women is 4h30, which makes Diane very much above average!

Well done to all the Harriers and particularly a big well done for those who raised money for charity through their efforts. Adam was running for Cancer Research UK, Dave for Exmouth and Lympstone Hospice Care, Mike for Whizz-Kidz and Diane raised a fantastic £1500 for the Motor Neuron Disease Association after witnessing the condition first-hand in a friend’s relative.

A great day, fantastic to be there and be a part of the experience. I think those of us who supported were almost as tired as the the runners, after screaming and cheering so loudly and running around London, hopping on and off Tubes, to get to different vantage points on the route. All worth it though to witness a small but formidable band of Harriers flying the club flag high and with pride.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Joan stamps her authority on Brighton

I intentionally delayed this blog post in the hope that Joan would respond to my request for some information and a few quotes about how she found her Brighton Marathon experience, but as this modest little lady has not been too forthcoming in commenting on her successes, it's been left to Dave Eveleigh and I to vaunt her achievement in our own words, on her behalf!

While Exmouth Harriers club-mate, ladies team captain and now fellow quintogenerian, Dawn Teed, traveled to the middle of the South Atlantic to post an impressive marathon performance, Joan Mason went instead to the heart of the South of England for hers.

With the London Marathon always massively oversubscribed and the average club level runner finding it hard to secure a place, the nearby Brighton Marathon, that takes place 1 week before, is growing in popularity year on year. This was the third year of its running and this time round over 9000 runners took to its streets and promenade to run this relatively flat race that offers some fantastic sea views over the course of the 26.2 miles. 

To the best of my knowledge, this was Joan's first marathon (would need her to confirm this!). But as far as preparation goes, she could not have equipped herself any better. A new half-marathon PB of 1:53:21set in her marathon build up at Bideford in March this year showed that she had the speed over half the distance, this, when combined with a dedicated training regime that incorporated long runs, tempo runs and recovery runs, ensured that she had a strong race in Brighton and did credit to herself and the club by posting 4:21:18. Joan was "really pleased" with this performance as she had not been expecting to break the 4:30 barrier, but her 1:53 half indicated that she was in fact more than capable of this time. 

The time appears all the more impressive when you learn that it placed her 4461st in the race, well up the rankings in her FV50 caetgory and comfortably inside the top 50% of finishers, which would have contained many, many runners 20 or 30 years her junior! There were just over 3,000 women running and the Harriers runner sneaked into the top 1,000, and the top third of finishers with 986th place.

Well done Joan! We are all thrilled for you! This backs up the results of Dawn and Lisa very nicely and now, as London dawns, we are just waiting for the Harriers men to put in an appearance and make a contribution to the string of marathon successes!

Joan proudly shows off her hard earned medal after the race

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Yeovilton "Summer" 5k gets underway

Yeovil Town Road Runners have a case of trades descriptions to answer in regard to their use of the word "summer" in the title of the April - September 5k series, held at RNAS Yeovilton, as the weather that greeted runners on the first (April) round of the series was as far removed from summer as you could possibly get. Long tights and base layers were the order of the evening as 4 (and a guest) Exmouth Harriers made their way up the A303 to take on this competitive 5k race.

With the promise of a fast and flat course, us ranking-aware runners we were all seeking to post good times for the club championship and for our Power of Ten profiles. What greeted us were mid-winter temperatures, lashing rain and the stiffest easterly head wind possible. Did that deter us from making the 100+ mile round trip? NO! Yes, conditions were tough and not PB-friendly, but we figured that we would all put down individual markers to chase in subsequent rounds, which would give us a target to run faster next time.

The first Harrier home and first across the line outright was Ethiopian guest runner, Berihu Tesfay. With nobody to push him, the race turned into a bit of a time trial for Berihu and, with no shelter from the strong headwind on the home stretch, he did well to post a time of 15:32, putting him 18 seconds clear of the 2nd placed runner. With more clement conditions and some stiffer competition, it will surely be a matter of time before Berihu is dipping under the 15 minute mark here.

Adam Miller had never run a road 5k before; his only previous experiences of the distance being at the weekly parkrun, which, being multi-terrain, is a much slower track. So a PB was most certainly up for grabs for him, even though he was trying to take it fairly steady and not risk any injuries as he enters the final week of his London Marathon preparation. Given this, his time of 17:09, giving him 11th place overall, is very encouraging and shows that a sub 17 clocking if most definitely on the cards in subsequent rounds.

Using this race as my first competitive outing after my 8 week injury lay-off, following my achillies trouble and calf tear at the Plymouth Hoe 10 mile in February, my aim for this race was to get around pain free and put down a marker to chase in later rounds. Sensibly avoiding my usual 5k strategy of going off like a bat out of hell and watching the mile splits steadily fall from 5:40, to 5:55 to 6:15, I managed to keep an even pace this time. Luckily my achillies felt ok and aside from a massive drop in top end speed and leg cadence, I was pleasantly surprised to feel quite strong. I must have managed my pacing better than the other  ladies as I reeled 3 of them in over the latter part of the race, to finish as 2nd lady, just 6 seconds adrift of 1st, in 18:52.

Jon Garrity is likewise looking at completing the whole series at Yeovilton and aiming to preogress throughout the year. Not having done a scrap of speed work all winter to try and give his troublesome calf muscle a rest, he knew he was not as sharp as he could be, so he did extremely well to get around the course in a time of 19:16 for 27th place overall and a very commendable 2nd place in the MV40 section. He was just 1 second ahead of the next MV40 athlete, highlighting the importance of that final kick for the finish line! With a Killerton PB of 18:34, you can be sure that there is much much more to come from Jon once he gets back into structured training.

Carly Miller, like Jon and myself, was also approaching this first round at below full fitness: work, winter illness and the small matter of her wedding to organise have understandably gotten in the way of Carly's training! Not knowing what shape she was in, Carly was keen to just do her best and put a time up that she'll be able to chase in the next round once she returns to full training. That said, considering what she has been juggling over the past few months, her time of 23:39, for 14th female and 81st place overall, in Wednesday's horrendous conditions is very encouraging and gives her a target to aim for at the next outing in May.

Next round is Wednesday May 8th. Only £5 to enter and fast times are most certainly there for the taking if the weather complies! The 4 of us intend to go again and would love another car-load of Harriers to join us!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Obituary: George Lovegrove

The passing was announced last month of George Lovegrove. While in later years he had no longer competed, George was one of that rare breed, a pre-boom runner; that is he had been foot racing in the years before the London Marathons of the early 80s caught the public imagination. George’s running CV included events such as the Poly Marathon, which had begun in 1909. This meant that by the time the Exmouth Harriers club was re-launched at the end of 1981, George was already a mentor for a small group of local men who wanted to run a marathon themselves. This group included Martin Shepherd, John Alexander and Brian Costello, and a group of Exmouth Harriers did indeed complete the 1982 London Marathon. George and the others did not stop there though and went on to take part in many further events, which, in George’s case, included ultra-Marathons. He ran his marathons in a more than respectable 3 and-a-bit hours. Former training partner, Martin Shepherd, described him as “never a speed merchant” but that he was able to “[keep] going when others had long stopped". In the last 10 years running has become dominated by veterans in terms of numbers participating but George and his contemporaries missed out on the “veterans boom”, stopping running because of injury or illness. George often raised money for charity when he raced and he was very generous with his time when the track at Imperial Road  was repaired, more impressive when you realise that this was an old fashioned “cinder” type  track which needed digging at times and George’s day job was as a gardener at Rolle College. A picture of George would be recognised by many Exmouth residents because of his distinctive Old Dutch style beard which made him one of the more distinctive faces in the collage of people that make up the population of Exmouth. George played his part in making the very simple activity of running - along with its health and social benefits - accessible to more people than perhaps any other sporting pastimes.
George Lovegrove: 1942 - 2013

The attached group picture was taken after the 1986 Fulfords Five with George on the far left.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

It's a Parisian PB for Lisa!

Marathon season is now underway with ladies captain Dawn Teed starting the ball rolling in the Falklands and clearly inspiring Lisa Hatchard to go out hard and nail a marathon PB in Paris.

Lisa headed to Paris with friend and fellow Harrier, Alison Milborrow, but unfortunately Alison was forced to withdraw beforehand due to an injury hampering her preparation. The ladies still went over together though for a girlie weekend in Paris and what better way to take in all the sites than to run past them all on foot for 26.2 miles?! The Paris Marathon course is one of the most awe-inspiring in the world in terms of the architecture it passes by. Long boulevards as straight as a dye, iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Le Grand Palais and Les Invalides, and the two forest parks on the outskirts of Paris, known as the 'lungs' of Paris: the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes.

The race starts at the foot of the majestic Arc de Triomphe and offers runners a fast downhill start as they swoop down the full length of the Champs Elysées. From there the route twists and turns around the streets on either side of the Seine before finishing on Avenue Foch, not too far from the starting point at the Place Charles de Gaulle roundabout.

Lisa had had a brilliant few months of hard preparation and her training had gone well. A new sub 1:40 half-marathon PB at Bideford confirmed this. However, marathons are unpredictable beasts and things can be going superbly well and then, usually at around the 19/20 mile mark, the wheels can fall off, sometimes quite spectacularly. Luckily for Lisa, this didn't happen, and with her quality training to fall back on, she remained strong to the end, crossing the line in a time of 3:47:13 - a sub 4h marathon to add to her growing collection of impressive times. This placed her 10803 overall and 277th in her FV35 category. There were around 40'000 entered into the race, so Lisa did fantastically to be just outside the top 25% of them. Well done Lisa, ou, comme disent les Français, bravo!

EXEcellent to AXEceptable

From excellent to acceptable: this was the range of Harrier performances at the testing 20 mile Exe to Axe event on Sunday 7th. Some Harriers faired far better than they expected, whilst others reported having a bit of a shocker of a race and finding the going particularly tough this year in the inclement weather conditions.

The Exe to Axe race is so named as it sees runners follow the 20 mile stretch of coastal footpath from Exmouth, and the Exe estuary to Seaton, and the mouth of the River Axe. It is a very scenic route but not one for the feint hearted. With 4000ft of climb (well, 3999ft, according to the Power of 10 site), it is classed as a category B, Long fell race. In real terms, for the participants, this means a hell of a lot of ups and downs!

Never ones to back away from a hilly, multi-terrain challenge though, a merry band of nine hard-core Harriers were toeing the start line at Fox Holes car park on Sunday morning. This year there were almost 200 finishers, which shows the growing popularity of tough off-road events, such as this, the Four Trigs and the Grizzly. The fastest finisher, Tim Lenton from Axe Valley, took 2:46:58 to cover the 20 hilly miles; the slowest runner took over 5h40m.

The highest placed Harrier was Nicholas Brown in 44th place overall in a very respectable time of 3:46:12.

Scott Jordan feels his progress has been on a bit of a plateau recently after having several weeks off due to injury, so finishing here in the top third of runners (62nd) in 3:51:47 should be something of a confidence booster and reveals that he is well on his way back to fitness.
No stranger to these tough, muddy, hilly events, Jon Croome clocked 4:03:44 for 86th spot. Shortly after and running in together in 90th and 91st places, with times of 4:06:30 and 4:06:33 were brother and sister pairing, Chris and Emma Dupain. In fact Chris was just in front, no patronising chivalrous gestures from him!

While Diane Richards was speeding around on Somerset tarmac in the Taunton Half, husband Martin was on his feet for 4:09:28, to claim 95th spot.

Terry Oldham was 104th in 4:13:19. Ever the philosopher, Terry reflected afterwards on what a tough event this was for him this year, having gone into it with a few hamstring niggles: 'It is 48 hours now since I completed the Exe to Axe run, and I am still asking myself quite why I did that this year. As a Category B long fell race, it is going to be a challenge, and given that I have done it on a few occasions now I should be prepared. But it is one of the strange and attractive aspects of running that you never really know how it is going to turn out, regardless of training and preparation, until you are well underway. This year I discovered that a tight upper hamstring remains a tight upper hamstring regardless of whether you ignore it and or ingest a considerable number of anti inflammatory drugs. This discovery occurred on the way to West Down and hence with some 18 odd miles to go. Although tempted on multiple occasions to pack it in, my simple cussedness kept me going to the end in Seaton. A quick chat, a look at the medal, and off back to Exmouth in the car, as if none of it had actually happened. Why did I do it? Still not sure!'

Club Chair Bob Keast was 166th in 4:51:18 and explains that he too, like Terry, had a particularly bad day at the office: 'I had a truly awful run as well. Felt sick at Sidmouth, should have stopped as well, but kept going but I did not eat/drink anything as felt so bad, so got slower and slower, walked last few miles. But will it put us off? NO!!'

I think the above exchange gives you some idea of the sort of mentality needed to do well in these grueling off-road events!

Lorraine Croome rounded off the Harrier proceedings in 175th in 5:08:12. She may well have been slightly disappointed with this run too, like Terry and Bob, as it is well down on her usual high standards at these type of events; standards which saw her place 3rd female and 33rd overall at the equally tough 4 Trigs event in March. But that is indicative of this type of event: if you are not feeling 100%, they will find you out: no one to draft or slipstream up on the top of an exposed Devon cliff top with a  biting north-easterly wind howling in your face. So well done to all the Harriers for completing: not one Harrier registered a DNF! 

Tough times at Taunton in icy temperatures

We are all familiar with the expression “out of the frying pan and into the fire” but when it came to Exmouth Harrier Mike Keep’s recent running of the Taunton Marathon on Sunday 7th April it was more a case of “out of the frying pan and into”, well, “the fridge” I suppose. Mike, you see, has been working (and training) in tropical West Africa and he no doubt imagined he was going to have a breeze covering 26.2 miles of mildly undulating Somerset in refreshingly balmy conditions in contrast to the sapping heat and altitude he had been contending with 3000 miles south. Yes, it was 'a breeze', but of the artic, chills-you-to-the-bone easterly variety, no doubt leaving him to wonder if he could get a balaclava in club colours instead of a flimsy singlet! Enough of the meteorology though because in fact he had a pretty good race, finishing 2nd man over 65 in 4 hours 20 minutes and that is running a Marathon not just completing it. Overall he was 172nd of 199 finishers. Looks like Mike is set to extend still further the strength in depth of the Exmouth club’s veteran ranks and we are possibly looking at a crack team for the Erme Valley Relays!

Alongside the full marathon event there is also a Half Marathon (the full marathon is run over two laps of the half), which this year was contested by just under 1,000 runners, of which almost 400 were women and just over 600 men. The field also included four Exmouth Harriers. Mick Allen is 75 this year but ran in the men over 65 category. There are now so many veterans of Mick’s vintage that it is inevitable that races will catch up sooner or later and make sure there are sections for V70 and, even, V75 athletes, where runners like him can be competitive. On this occasion Mick was 13th in this category but of course he would have had opponents up to 10 years younger. 
Adrian Kearns was 46th and 6th man over 40 in 86:30, an impressive performance and over 3 minutes faster than on this same course last year: the cooler conditions of this year's event evidentally suited Adrian better. Adrian ran very close to this time (86:54) in finishing 71st overall and 19th man over 40 at the Bideford Half Marathon just last month, showing just how consistent he is.  
Julie Gellender was 214th overall, 7th woman over 40 and comfortably under 100 minutes with 98:37 while Diane Richards, stretching her legs in a last race as she enters the final stages of her London Marathon build up, was 558th, 18th woman over 45, and timed at 1:55:07. This was also a new PB for her, and an improvement of 12 minutes on her time set in the Bath half in March, which has to give her plenty of confidence that her training has gone well and she is in top shape as she prepares to head to London for double the distance.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Adam and Carly's double wedding joy!

Most people expect to only get married once in their life, but our Exmouth Harriers couple, Adam Miller and Carly Audritt, managed to have two weddings in two days!

Last Sunday, 31st March, Adam and Carly tied the proverbial knot at an official ceremony at Courtlands House in Lympstone. They were kind enough to open the invitation to the evening reception to the entire club and many of us took up the opportunity to be a part of their special day.

Before this, however, they had a less-official, impromptu wedding at Parkrun on the Saturday morning! Both Carly and Adam are regular faces at the event, having both completed well over 50 runs there. With Parkrun being such a friendly organisation, some of the regular organisers decided that it would be a nice idea to mark the special occasion with a pre-run ceremony.

John Caswell, run director, had prepared a few low-key costumes in advance, including a veil for Carly, a top-hat for Adam and a vicar's cassock for himself. Announcing that it is common for runners to indulge in large pasta meals before a big event he explained that he was the 'Parkrun Pastor' and that this was his 'Pastor Party'! Adam was then instructed to start at the back of the group of 100+ runners and Carly at the front and he was to take this last opportunity to chase and catch his girl! The horn sounded and off we all went, leaving Adam with a bit of work to do to catch up to the runaway bride, who had sped off the front. By the end of the first lap he had managed to catch her and just in time as when they passed by Pastor Caswell and the spectators at the finish funnel, they had confetti thrown over them.... well, actually it was bird seed as this is National Trust parkland, so only eco-friendly confetti allowed! The bride and groom then completed another 2 circuits arm in arm and Adam chivalrously stuck to the rule of 'ladies first' and did not try to out-sprint Carly to the finish! A small scale reception then followed in the form of tea and scones in the Killerton tearooms with several other stalwart Parkrunners in attendance.

If the permanent grins on their faces were anything to go by, it seemed that Adam and Carly had a terrific and very memorable two days before they departed to the North Devon coast for their honeymoon.

They are a great couple and a very welcome asset to the club, so on behalf of everyone at the Harriers, we would like to wish this happy couple all the very best for their exciting future together.

Bride and groom-to-be at their Parkrun ceremony!

Reunited after lap 1, they run the next 2 laps arm in arm!
(c) Adrian Midgley

And at their official ceremony on the Sunday, at Courtlands House, Lympstone

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A county classic!

The Bampton-Tiverton road race is very much one of the classic events on the Devon racing calendar as it was first run in 1946, making it one of the oldest surviving and longest running road races in the country. It has managed to retain its 'no gimmicks' approach by offering exactly what it says on the tin: a race, on foot, from Bampton to Tiverton, covering a total distance of 7 miles 125 yards. With the growing popularity of the metric measured distance of 10k stealing the 7 miler's thunder, these classic distances are getting harder to find these days. Indeed, it was mooted this year that this would possibly be the last opportunity for runners to run on this same original course. Let's hope that it does appear on the calendar again next year.

It provides a fine opportunity for, now usually about 150, runners to blow away the cobwebs of a lazy Easter week-end. This year, with the increasingly popular Yeovilton Easter Bunny 10k attracting over 350 finishers, and with the extremely cold weather conditions, only 99 hardy souls made it across the finish line, which goes to show that unlike the race they don’t make runners like they used to! There were though three Exmouth Harriers seemingly cast from an older mould who were on the bus to Bampton and two of them finished in podium positions.

Ray Elston got the better of long-time rival John Perratt (formerly of Exmouth, now with Sidmouth running Club) in winning the men over 70 category. Ray was 63rd overall in 56:12 (an impressive 8mph on a far from easy course in chilly weather). Exmouth’s Jim Wyatt was 93rd in 64:30 (7 mph, which is not hanging around on foot either) and Jim was 3rd man over 70. In 42nd place was young Andrew Johnson (actually in the men age 45-49 group). Andrew’s time of 51:36, just far enough in front of them to no doubt have had time to be waiting with a cup of tea each for club-mates Ray and Jim on their arrivals!

Andy Johnson ploughs on through the cold conditions.

Ray Elston pulls away from a younger rival.

Super vet Jim Wyatt striding out.