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!