Exe-rated runners!

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

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

11 Harriers tame the muddy beast!

Honiton Running club’s Blackdown Beast run is not a race; there are no positions or even times issued, and there are no marshalls. What it is though is an opportunity to get some healthy exercise, in the fresh air, in good company and over a course that offers some stunning views in and around the Blackdown Hills north of Honiton. The lack of a competitive element does of course allow you to relax and fully enjoy all this. For most of the 11 participating Harriers, this 16 mile, self-navigational route offered the first opportunity for them to test their off-road legs over this distance before the 4 Trigs and Grizzly races that many of them are tackling in the following couple of months. There is an entry fee, but this year’s event, held on Saturday 25th January, was in support of MacMillan Cancer Relief who will receive a worthwhile donation. The entry fee is also reimbursed in part by the sheer wealth of refreshments on offer throughout the run: basically, the bigger your appetite, the better the value for money you gain!

Runners are issued with detailed instructions to help them navigate their way around the full 16 mile route, or a shorter 10 mile option. Both routes are multi-terrain, in every sense of the word, and were very very muddy in many places. The thought of the warm pasty and mulled cider awaiting them at the finish spurred them all on to cover the 16 miles in a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes. The participating Harriers were all of different abilities, but, in the true spirit of this type of event, they all pulled together with the faster runners going on ahead to open gates, check the route and then double back to assist the slower members over styles and through muddy sections. All eleven, and one Harrier guest for the day, enjoyed their muddy day out and the training will have stood them all in good stead for their own personal challenges and running plans that await them later in the season. 
2 Trigs (a.k.a. Scott Jordan) chivalrously assists Nicki Kelly through a muddy gateway!... Thankfully the navigation side was safely in the hands of other members of the group though!! ;-)

Group photo at the start: will they all look as fresh at the end?!
 L - R: Jane MacDonald, Susan Hill, Lorraine Kirby, Tony Hatchard, Scott Jordan, Terry Oldham, Bob Keast, Dawn Teed, Guest, Amanda McCann, Nicola Kelly, Lorraine Gilson.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Team Dupain take on Axmouth!

Of the 113 runners who completed the Axmouth Challenge on Sunday 19th January, 3 of them were Exmouth Harriers and all 3 were from that well known Exmouthian running family: the Dupains! However, a glance at the results would not reveal this as matrimonial alliances now mean that they are running under different names!

Hannah Bown (née Dupain) was the first of the family and the first Harrier home in 20th place overall in a time of 1:11:38. It was an extremely competitive ladies' field on the day, with 3 off-road specialists from the host club, Axe Valley, taking the top 3 births, so Hannah ran well to fend off a familiar vet 35 category sparing partner from Teignbridge Trotters and secure the 4th female spot.

Ben White was the next runner in, covering the 9.75 mile, hilly course in a nimble 1:18:22 for 39th place. Ben hasn't raced for a while so this run should give him confidence that he can still produce the goods when required!

Ben's wife, Emma White (also née Dupain) was hot on her husband's heels, crossing the line in 50th place overall, 11th female, in a time of 1:21:26. All the more amazingly, this came after running the Killerton parkrun and playing in a 2 hours hockey match the day before, showing that PE teachers sure have stamina!

All three were rewarded by a splendid array of tea and cakes at the Axmouth village hall; a tradition that has become synonymous with all Axe Valley runner events.

Also, this race was the second event in the InStep Devon Championship. With Axe Valley Runners unable to score points in their own club's race, this means that Hannah scored the maximum points here and so will be up in the top 3 ladies in the championship overall, with Emma just tucked in behind her; with 2 races down and 8 to go, runners must complete a minimum of 5 races. Further details here: http://www.instepdevon.org.uk/instep-championship.html

Well done to all three Harriers!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Obelisk? What obelisk?!

Such was the question on the lips of most runners as they crossed the finish line of the Dawlish Coasters organised 'Oh My Obelisk' multi-terrain race on Sunday 12th January. Despite running right past it at the drinks station at the top of the hill in Haldon Forest, very few runners actually notice the edifice - concentrating too hard on not missing out on the drinks and jelly babies no doubt! Although advertised as being in the region of 10 miles, the race in fact measures in at 11.5m and incorporates in the region of 1500ft of climb over those miles. This, combined with the very claggy mud, make this an extremely tough race, despite its rather twee name!

There were just the 2 Harriers on the start line for this one - Jane Macdonald and myself, Ellie Sutcliffe. Upon asking Jane afterwards how she found it, she puffed out her cheeks, rolled her eyes slightly and exclaimed, 'After last week's cross country, I wanted a nice easy race this week. Well, I sure picked the wrong one for that! I suppose it's all good training though'... or something along those lines (it's been a week and I can't remember your words verbatim, so please don't sue me for misrepresentation Jane if they are slightly out!!). Jane in fact acquitted herself very well and finished in a commendable time of 1:47:16 (in the region of 9:30m/m pace - very good on this tough, hilly course) and placed a solid 137th out of the 259 finishers. As an indication of how tough this race is and of how good Jane's run was, the last couple of runners took over 3h10 minutes to complete the run, averaging around 17m/m pace! The poor marshalls must have been freezing as there was a very very stiff, cold wind on the starting and finishing field.

I had a little bit of a personal hurdle to overcome with this race as, although I won it last year, I twisted my ankle with about 2 miles left to go and hobbled home on it, so I wanted to avoid the particularly vicious pothole that cruelly singled me out this time round! My plan was to do a few miles before the race started to get my long run in for Grizzly training, so when we started I wasn't at my freshest and so I had mixed feelings about a strong Axe Valley Runner, Amy Greenhalgh, taking the race out to me from the go. It is nice to have an opportunity to have a good, competitive race with another female, but secretly I was hoping for a nice easy run, like Jane was, after having raced hard both previous weekends. But Amy went off hard, my competitivity levels soared, and it was game on! It took me a mile to draw level with her and then we ran neck and neck for the next 3 miles until a long uphill stretch came and I was able to get a gap. I worked hard on the killer hill up to the Obelisk at 5 miles and at the top I had enough of a gap to relax a bit and just keep working hard for home. By the end I'd managed to put 2 minutes between us to finish 15th overall in 1:23:44. 3 minutes faster than last year, encouraging, but I was flagging towards the end so much more work is needed to be done before the Grizzly!

Ellie at the finish - thankfully minus a sprained ankle this year!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Tally Ho! Off to Westward Ho! we go!

Ten Exmouth Harriers were at Northam Burrows in North Devon for the fourth Brooks Westward League Cross Country fixture last week-end (12th January). The Exmouth senior men's team (this year’s “surprise package”, as they were described in the Cornish press) are hanging on to third place but have not been able to come up with a big enough score yet to make inroads into the scores of Cornwall A.C. and Bideford A.C. who are lying first and second respectively. Team captain, Adam Miller, had hoped that the Westward Ho! fixture would be the place to score valuable points as, due to its remote location and distance from some parts of Cornwall and Devon, there is often a much smaller field that turns out to this round, with runners opting for this one as their 'drop score'. This was in part the case, however, the men's team was not at full strength this time round with Tony Hatchard and Jamie Pearson unable to make it. That said, the Exmouth runners who did turn out all had great runs and finished higher up in the placings than in previous rounds, which certainly limited the points deficit. 

Tom Merson led the Harriers to his third victory in the league of the season in an 88 strong senior men’s race, covering the 5.5 mile distance in a time of 29:41. With Dave Stone finishing 12th overall and 2nd athlete over 40 in 32:32, both Tom and Dave now look set for a top 3 individual placing in their respective categories in the series overall.  

The course was flat but, unsurprisingly, very soggy with patches of standing water to plough through and muddy ditches to negotiate. Team captain, Adam Miller, was a solid 20th in 33:03 and was chased all the way by Marc Cox, 27th in 34:02. Jamie Palmer, making his first racing appearance after a truly nasty fall and ongoing injury sustained during a training run on Woodbury Common fought hard for 69th place in a time of 40:18 and made up Exmouth’s scoring five. Dave Eveleigh (over 55 category) and Jim Wyatt (over 60) finished 84th in 43:58 and 88th in 54:28 respectively.

Dave Stone (far right) and Adam Miller (far left) in the opening stages of the race.

Marc Cox tackles a boggy ditch crossing - one of the very few features on an otherwise flat course.

The inclusivity of athletics was demonstrated in the senior women's race by Exmouth’s former international and super-star vet 50 athlete, Cathy Newman, finishing second overall to under 17 runner, Emily Ackford, from Plymouth A.C. In a race covering about 3.5 miles, Cathy worked her way through the women’s field of 46 and was closing on the winner when she ran out of distance, clocking 23:00. With her highest individual placing of the season, Cathy too looks to be heading for a top 3 place, but in her case both overall and in the over-50s section. Captain Carly Miller’s performances are still on a steady upwards curve as she continues to gain in confidence at cross-country, this being her second season of the Westward League and now having the benefits of some familiarity with the courses. Here she was 17th of 46 finishers in 26:27, having finished 27th at the equivalent fixture a year ago. Dawn Teed, racing on tired legs after a long, hard Grizzly training run the previous day, was 31st in 29:29 and is not out of the running for an over 50s category medal herself at the end of the series.

The next round is local, taking place at the Parke Estate in Bovey Tracey on February 9th. If you're not racing elsewhere that weekend, the teams would appreciate your support: you don't need to complete the series to gain points for the team as every run by every athlete counts.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The not quite 10k First Chance 10k...

Whilst the main event of the weekend in the region was the South-West inter-counties cross country at Killerton House (see previous post), for the mud-dodging, tarmac loving contingent, there was another option on offer in the form of the South West Road Runner's organised First Chance 10k. So called because it offers runners the "first chance" of the year at running a 10k race (if we gloss over the Chard Flyer 10k on New Year's Day...), for those looking to avoid mud and water, this year's event was sadly not the one to sign up for. It became the latest victim of the flooding and recent tidal surges, like its bigger bother, the Exeter Half Marathon was the previous year. Due to the course location, on a flood plain, sandwiched between the River Exe and the Exeter canal, it would appear to be ever thus. However, SWRR did their best to come up with an alternative route, to allow the race to go ahead and to avoid disappointing the 500 or so runners, although it measured in short of 10k (approx. 9.6km / 6 miles). You would typically look to add on 90 seconds to the times for an indication of a 10k time.

Exeter based Exmouth Harrier, Andrew Johnson, lives only a convenient warm-up jog away from the start of this race. It is a firm favourite of his and he consistently runs it year in year out, and his times and performance match that consistency. He continued his good form since turning 50 with 3rd place in his age 50-54 age group with a time of 41:08 for 83rd place overall. Nicola Musgrove was making a rare racing appearance, often allowing her running to take a back seat in a family in which both husband and wife enjoy the sport, and she placed 298th overall in a time of 53:57. Super-Veteran Jim Wyatt (Over 70) was 352nd overall, finishing comfortably under the hour in 57:05.

This event was the first of 10 in the new InStep Devon championship. As such, Andy Johnson finds himself leading the MV50 section and Jim Wyatt the MV60. They will now need to plan their other 4 races carefully to try and keep themselves in contention. For more information on the championship go to: http://www.instepdevon.org.uk/instep-championship.html

Harriers do Devon (and the club) proud at Killerton

Sunday 5th January offered the first opportunity for Harriers to stretch their racing legs in 2014. The South West region inter-counties cross country championships took place not at its usual venue (Bicton College) but at Killerton House this year. To many Harriers, this location is not unfamiliar, it being the venue of the weekly parkrun that has now been sampled, at least once, by over 30 Harriers. However, for those familiar with parkrun's gently undulating, predominantly down hill course, the routes devised by the organisers of this cross country championships would come as a bit of a shock... not least to the legs!

Harriers members have been embracing the cross country circuit a lot more this year, thanks to the efforts of team captains old and new to encourage more members to have a go. It was good to see so many of the royal blue and yellow vests on display at the event, despite the fact that it had competition for attendance from the ever popular First Chance 10k, being held on the same day. It was also fantastic to see some cross country debutants giving it a go for the first time: Jane MacDonald and Susan Hill sure picked a tough event for their first go at cross country; talk about in at the deep end, they were in it up to their necks.... mud that is, glorious mud, as much of the stuff as you could shake a stick at! A handful of Harriers had been selected to run for Devon and so were to be seen sporting the blue and white county vest; although athletes running for their county could also score points for their respective club teams, so they were clad in the Harriers blue and yellow still in spirit!

The course had been thoughtfully designed to incorporate some of Killerton's finest (and steepest) terrain, taking runners from an initial lap (or 2, depending upon the length of their race) of the flat starting and finish field, in front of the house, up the short, sharp hill to the start of the parkrun, through the gates, into the next field, and all the way down to the bottom of the valley, only to have to turn around and head straight back up again. There were 10 races throughout the day, covering all age categories from 11 years up to masters, and with men and women running separately this represented a superb opportunity to line up against a fair but highly competitive field. In the week preceding the event, it looked increasingly doubtful as to whether or not it would go ahead, with torrential rain and high winds threatening health and safety issues on the course; however, luckily the forecast for the day was a calmer one, yet still very wet and grey.

Although we didn't manage to come away with any team glory, the team spirit was certainly very high with all the runners supporting each other on the course, and we did scoop a few individual medals and one inter-counties title.

In the senior men's race, the 7th race of the day, there was an extremely competitive line up in a decent sized field of 136 runners. The men had to complete 2 extra large laps, involving 4 substantial hills, which amounted to just short of 9k in distance. Our second claim star athlete, Tom Merson, was running for Bristol and West, his first claim club, at this event, but was a little under the weather, suffering the after effects of a cold, and so valiantly fought his way around the course for 5th place. Behind him, the Exmouth talent was packing tight, with a few familiar inter-club battles waging away for added competition. Marc Cox found himself out front, leading the field, in the opening few meters, showing that he's a fearless runner ready to attack a race, but also, perhaps, that he had underestimated just how tough this course is in comparison to the other Westward League events!

Dave Stone: 35:28; 36th overall, 3rd MV40 (bronze medal in vet 40 section)
Tony Hatchard: 35:28; 38th overall, 6th MV35
Adam Miller (Captain): 36:10; 47th overall
Marc Cox: 39:16; 76th overall
Jon Garrity: 42:26; 99th overall
Chris Dupain: 44:20; 113th place overall
Dave Eveleigh: 49:58; 131st place overall, 3rd ? MV60 (so it says on the results, but Dave reckons not!)

The senior women ran one extra large lap, tackling 2 of the big hills, covering a distance of approximately 6km. In this race, Cathy, Hannah, Alice Kelly (U20) and myself were all running for Devon. I fluffed up spectacularly and managed to miss the start (don't even ask how, I can't quite fathom it myself...) and so found myself playing catch up for the early part of the race and then paying for that catch up in the later part. Cathy had a truly outstanding run, arguably the Harriers' performance of the day, as she not only finished as a comfortable winner in the FV50 section, but she beat all the FV40s and 45s and the majority of all the other athletes, as she placed 9th overall. She was also the 2nd counter (of 6) in the Devon team. Phenomenal! Alice Kelly had a strong debut for Devon in the under 20s section and Jane and Susan showed true grit and team spirit to give this tough event a go without the best footwear (whilst trail shoes are fine for the parkrun course, this route was literally a bog by the time it got to the ladies race (8th of the day) and so anyone not in a 12-15 inch spike did well to stay on their feet, let alone get round!

Cathy Newman: 24:26; 9th overall, 1st FV50 (gold medal vet 50s section; 2nd counter and silver medal in Devon team)
Ellie Sutcliffe: 24:31; 10th overall, 2nd Senior female (silver medal senior female section; 3rd counter and silver medal in Devon team)
Hannah Bown: 26:26; 25th overall, 7th FV35
Alice Kelly: 29:22; 57th overall, 11th U20
Emma White: 29:28; 58th overall
Carly Miller (Captain): 30:01; 59th overall
Jane MacDonald: 32:35; 67th overall
Dawn Teed: 32:55; 70th overall, 5th FV50
Susan Hill: 33:20; 71st overall, 6th FV50

Well done to all the Harriers who gave it their best in miserable, muddy conditions. If this isn't tough winter training, I don't know what is!

Start of the senior women's race; where's Wally? Er, I mean Ellie... well, no wally! Not there!

Cathy (left): truly superb performance, county gold in the FV50 section and top 10 place overall

(Both photos (C) Pete Newman)

Monday, 6 January 2014

Christmas racing round up

For your average Joe Public, the festive period is a time to be lazy, stay indoors and avoid the harsh weather, and over-indulge on mince pies, pudding, chocolate and alcohol.... well, the Harriers do that too, but in our case it's totally acceptable as we counteract it with running! Christmas might be a time for winding down but there are still plenty of races on in the region for those who want to work up an appetite for the turkey and stuffing.


The festive season kicked off with that good old local favourite, the Otterton Reindeer Run. Being held in the neighbouring village of Otterton, by our good friends, the Sidmouth Running Club, this event is always popular with Exmouth Harrier members. This year was no exception with 10 of the royal blue and yellow vests on display at the event which is billed as 10k but in fact measures in at just short of 6 miles. Of those 10 we had victory in the women's race, courtesy of Hannah Bown, victory in the women's team competition, with Hannah, Carly Miller and Lisa Hatchard all scoring valuable points. We also bagged 3rd spot overall, thanks to Adam Miller, 2nd MV40 (Mike Musgrove) and 3rd female team with our next three scoring ladies - Lorraine Croome, Dawn Teed and Nicola Kelly. We also had a first in terms of prizes won in the club: Adam and Carly took the honours in the 'first married couple' contest! What a novel idea and with so many married and/or cohabiting couples now within the club, it's a shame that more races don't offer this fun yet mildly competitive incentive. Who knows, it could strengthen the marital bond... but then, if the couples weren't as successful as Carly and Adam, it could have the adverse effect!

Well done to all the Harriers who ran and got into the festive spirit. The Harriers results were as follows:

Adam Miller, 3rd (37:24)
Mike Musgrove, 7th (39:58)
Hannah Bown, 15th, 1st lady (43:20)
Carly Miller, 36th, 9th lady (47:24)
Lisa Hatchard, 49th, 14th lady (49:18)
Lorraine Croome, 58th (50:26)
Phil Bater, 60th (50:38)
Dawn Teed, 78th (52:19)
Nicola Kelly, 84th (53:33)
Claire Baxter, 117th (1:00:53)

177 finishers. There were also lots of "mini Harriers" strutting their stuff in the 3k Junior race and fun run. It's good to know that the future of the club is looking promising in their hands / feet!!

Start of the Otterton Reindeer Run, with Lisa, Carly and Phil tackling the first hill.


On the Sunday before Christmas (22nd December) Dave Eveleigh took more than a minute off his 2012 time at the challenging Wellington Monument Race, held mostly on roads, over the 10km distance, and requiring an ascent to the highest point in the Blackdown Hills: the monument hitherto mentioned in the race title! For some reason, this event always attracts a competitive field and this year was no exception, so Dave ran exceptionally well to complete the tough, hilly route in a time of 52:35 for 130th place overall and 5th in his MV60 category. 199 runners completed the race which was won in a time of 34 minutes by Phil Burden of Taunton AC.


Just the 2 Harriers on the start line for this undulating 10k race staged on the country lanes around the village of Stoke St. Gregory in Somerset. Held on the 29th December, it represented the last chance to post a decent 10k time in 2013. For myself, Ellie Sutcliffe, it represented a last desperate stab at clocking a much covetted and seemingly elusive sub 38 minute PB. After not the most ideal of build ups, involving months of colds, coughs, mild food poisoning and a family death, I was amazed that today, of all days, should be the time that I finally cracked it! I ran a time of 37:43 which, in a highly competitive field, was only good enough for 19th overall and 3rd female, but that was irrelevant: it was seeing that magical '37' on the results next to my name that was the best prize ever!
Dave Eveleigh followed up his run at Wellington the previous week with another fine performance, clocking a time of 46:45 for 101st place overall, putting him comfortably inside the top third of the 322 finishers.