Exe-rated runners!

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

Monday, 24 March 2014

Harriers hunt PBs at Age UK's Exeter 10k

There were 8 Harriers on the start line of the Age UK Exeter 10k on Sunday March 23rd. Formerly the Wrap Up and Run 10k, the Exeter race was going to be dropped from the programme this year until InStep Devon (in)stepped in and put up the funding and support to enable it to go ahead and, thankfully it did, as it sold out before race day with all 850 places snapped up. Perhaps the chance to run a 10k in Exeter that actually starts right in the town centre and benefits from road closures enticed these runners to the event, or perhaps it was the PB potential of the course, which is all down hill and flat, with no uphill sections at all. Whatever it was, the 8 Harriers there made the most of the opportunity and 3 of them took the opportunity to sneak a PB.

Despite the overall downhill profile of the course, a very stiff headwind in the last 2 miles of the course, along the river back towards the piazza, counteracted the benefits of the earlier downhill section. In gusts of up to 30 mph, second claim Harrier, Tom Merson, clad in Harriers home colours, did well to run a solo race from gun to tape in a time of 31:38.

He was followed by men's captain, Adam Miller, in 6th place in a fantastic new PB of 34:55. This is the first time Adam has officially run a sub 35 minute 10k, although he has done it as a 10k split within the Bath Half Marathon last year. Adam hoped for an outside chance of a PB but wasn't sure if he'd get it given the windy conditions. Luckily for him he managed to get in with a group of 3 runners who all finished within 10 seconds of each other, which definitely helped him to stay on target in the latter, windy half of the race.

Cathy Newman was the next Harrier home having yet another superb run, coming in 3rd lady overall in an amazing time, given the tough conditions, of 38:21. It goes without saying that she was a comfortable winner of the FV50 category and earning a richly deserved podium place overall in a race which proved to be rather competitive at the sharp end, with two Exeter University athletes running sub 37 and sub 38 minute times for 1st and 2nd spots respectively. Well done Cathy!

Next in, and racing for the first time in months after having struggled with a string of illnesses and viruses over winter, was Richard Hawes. His time of 39:55 was a minute down on his 38:46 PB, set at this same event last year, but for a comeback race, in such windy conditions, he should take confidence from a sub 40 minute clocking and his fantastic 38th place overall and 5th MV45 placing. If he stays illness and injury free and get back to some structured training then he can expect to see that time come down over the coming season.

I, Ellie Sutcliffe, was the next to cross the finish line for the club. I had already entered this race before my calf tear back in January. I have only been back running a couple of weeks and so, not wanting to risk any further injury, I decided to just tempo run the race as I had the place anyway, and so I ran a controlled and comfortable pace that brought me to the finish line in 41:00 for 54th place overall and 5th female. It was a refreshing change to be able to enjoy the race and admire the scenery without gasping for breath, being in pain and spending the entire race desperately urging the finish line to appear!

Then there were three Harriers all crossing the finish line within 1 minute of each other. Lorraine Croome, having already expended a huge amount of energy cycling down to the race, into the stiff headwind, knew exactly what sort of conditions to expect in the last 2 miles along the river. Despite the tough bike ride warm-up, she still managed a PB of 47:18 for 154th place overall, 26th female and 4th FV45. Good going!

The ever-improving Susan Hill was hot on her heels, also bagging herself a sparkly new PB of 47:56 for 169th place overall, 34th female and 2nd FV55. However, when we consider that the only other FV55 athlete to beat her was the truly age-defying, local super-hero, Karen Cook of SWRR, Susan's 2nd place is all the more impressive and would have been good enough for the win in ordinary circumstances.

Dave Eveleigh was not far behind these ladies.A recent knee niggle meant that he was some minutes down on the outstanding 43:25 clocking he ran on this course last year, but, for a vet 60 athlete - which he now of course is - a time of 48:00 for 175th place and 7th in his category was still very respectable.

Well done to all 8 Harriers for battling the winds and, once again, doing the Harriers colours proud!

Start of the Exeter Age UK 10k, outside Debehams in Princesshay Shopping Centre.
Tom Merson, Adam Miller and Cathy Newman are already to the fore.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Another great Grizzly for the Harriers!

If, as a runner, you talk to any none-running friends about your sport, they often don't fully understand what it is you do. 'Been out jogging today?' 'I don't jog, I RUN'. 'Have you done a marathon yet?' 'No, not yet'. 'So how do you call yourself a runner then?' 'Oh, you did a marathon? How far was your marathon?' '26.2 miles, just like every other marathon anyone's ever run'. Any of these exchanges sound familiar? If these friends happen to be local, then you can add another little gem to this collection. 'So, have you done the Grizzly?' In Devon, it would seem that no runner can claim to be a real runner unless they have completed this iconic event; it's practically a right of passage, in the same way as hitting a hole in one is for golfers, or scoring a century for cricketers: you cannot possibly be a bonefide participant in the sport without it. It would seem that, around these 'ere parts, the Grizzly is the one race that everyone has heard of: it even makes the local ITV news for Gawd's sakes, it's that famous!! This year, a total of 15 Exmouth Harriers earned their Grizzly (or Grizzly Cub) paws and their associated respect!

The event, organised in its own very distinct and superb style, by Axe Valley Runners, is the highlight of many runner's yearly calendars. Many begin their training as far back as summer the previous year so that, on the day, they are ready to tackle all that the tough local terrain has to throw at them. And, believe me, it has a lot to throw at them: mud, pebbles, hills, more mud, bogs, styles, more pebbles, streams, mud again, a giant jacobs ladder, bogs (did I mention those?), pebbles etc. etc, repeat repeat repeat for 20 miles. You get the idea!

This year the weather conditions were as near to perfect as you will likely ever find them in early March on the exposed cliffs of Devon; some competitors might have said it was even too hot (spectators basking in the sun at Branscombe would strongly disagree!). The paths had dried out well, making the going a little easier in parts, but the bogs were still as boggy and the pebbles still as pebbly as ever, creating their own unique little challenges. 

There were over 1500 finishers of which about a third were female. Incidentally one of those females, Lucy McAllister from Bristol & West A.C, was an astounding 6th overall! The first Exmouth Harrier home, having a very fine run indeed, was our in-form Tony Hatchard. Tony hit the race hard from the get go, an ambitious strategy that saw him up as high as 2nd place in the standings after 15 miles, but the early pace took its toll in the latter stages and Tony lost a bit of ground on the 1 mile long energy-sapping beach section at mile 16 and conceded a few places, eventually finishing a fine 12th in a time of 2 hours 36 minutes to finish 12th. Very well done to him.

Hot work, Tony Hatchard?!

Next in, and taking it all in his usual long, loping stride, was Grizzly aficionado, Dave Stone. Dave's effortless display of scampering over pebbles even featured in the ITV local news footage that evening: no doubt chosen as an example of how to make the Grizzly look easy! Whilst it may look easy, his shuffling stride is rather deceptive and hides a cheeky turn of speed as he finished 22nd over all and 6th in his age category (MV40) in 2h43. 

Jon Croome is most definitely back with a bang after his injury lay-off of Autumn 2013 and he really comes to the fore in tough, off- road races. Here he was in the top 10%, finishing 148th in 3:08 and claiming a hard earned and highly respectable 2nd place in the MV45 section.

Jon Croome, still looking relaxed and full of running after 16 miles.

Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan, despite originally hailing from the Midlands - not an area renowned for its fell running scene - has taken to this sort of terrain like the proverbial duck to water. He absolutely relishes this type of long, off-road, hilly event and is beginning to show a remarkable amount of talent at pacing these events to perfection. Looking as fresh faced and smiley at the end as he did at the start, a cheerful, chirpy 2 Trigs crossed the line just outside the top 10% in 173rd overall (31st man over 40) in 3h.12: his fastest Grizzly time to date by a long way.

Scott-2 Trigs-Jordan, making a splash at Branscombe.

Ben White deserves a special mention as he had an absolute stormer of a run, making it look easy and effortless from start to finish, he added to his recent string of impressive performances with 221st placing in time of 3h14, grinning away like a Cheshire cat as he crossed the line with a sparkling new Grizzly PB.

Amazing run from Ben White who still looked fresh faced and full of running in the final 1/2 mile down into Seaton.

Emma White had to concede victory to her husband on this occasion, but still had a very fine run herself. Emma looked stronger and stronger as the race went on and she timed her run to perfection, picking off many other flagging runners over the final few miles and working her way through the field to finish in a superb 332nd place and 35th female. She was unfortunate to just miss out on a sub 3h30 finish, with 3:30:21.
Emma White, enjoying one of the Grizzly water features, at Branscombe.

Nicholas Brown goes in for quality rather than quantity when it comes to racing and on this occasion he placed a fine 433rd in a solid time of 3h39. 

Terry Oldham, a.k.a. 'The Dark Destroyer' conceded a defeat to his sparring partner, Emma, on this occasion, stating afterwards that he had a sneaky suspicion at the 4 Trigs race that Emma was in excellent form and on for a good time. He ran his own solid race, as ever, though and relished in the spirit of the event as he cantered around to a time of 3h46 and 527th spot (23rd in the MV55 category). 

Grizzly virgins, Susan Hill and Jane MacDonld both loved their first experience of this unique race. With big beaming grins of their faces, they all completed the race well up the overall pecking order, with Susan and Jane running in together in a time of 3:50, giving them 615th and 616th spots overall but top 100 female place of 92nd and 93rd (Susan was an impressive 5th in her Over 55 category and Jane a not-too-shabby 14th in the women’s Over 45 group). Not far behind these two was Lorraine Gilson, 636th overall in 3:52, who finished 6th FV55 and, hot on her heels, was Amanda McCann, also a Grizzly virgin enjoying her first experience of the race, placing a fine 714th in a fine sub 4 hour time of 3h57 (20th FV40).

Just over 400 completed the associated but shorter 9 mile Grizzly “Cub Run”. There were more female than male finishers here, and they included three women from Exmouth Harriers. Hannah Bown, dropping down to this distance from the full Grizzly event after having been forced to miss a few weeks training with a winter virus, was 12th and an impressive 2nd female in 76:23. Lorraine Croome was timed at 87:36 for 39th overall, 10th woman and 2nd woman over 45. New member, Sarah Jackman, made a fine debut in the event and placed an impressive 47th (just outside the top 10%) and was 13th woman in 91:27: the full Grizzly for Sarah next year, perhaps?!

Well done to all the Harriers in what is, without question, a superb yet extremely tough event.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Harriers bag their best set of Westward League results in years

For those Harriers members who took part in the Armada Park Relays on February 16th, it must have felt like they'd never been away from Central Park in Plymouth, which, last Sunday 2nd March, also played host to the final round in the Brooks Westward Cross Country League.

Harriers men were sat in third spot in the team standings entering this 6th and final round, but things were tight between them and Plymouth AC, who were snapping at their heels and waiting to pounce on any mistakes made in 4th. This meant no relaxing for our boys and we had to get a strong team out and everyone had to run well. Luckily the lads rose to the challenge and produced some of their strongest individual performances to date. 

Leading them in and also looking to complete a perfect score card of 5 wins out of 5 (he only missed the first event at Redruth) to lift the individual men's title, was Tom Merson. Looking in control and never in danger of being challenged from the gun, Tom completed his task with ease, bagging a clean sweep of victories in this winter’s individual competition for men and securing the maximum number of points at every outing towards the team competition. Tom won by almost a minute at Plymouth, taking 30:37 to cover around 5½ hilly miles of saturated grassland while looking out for low hanging branches and avoiding flying off course, like an F1 car struggling to corner, on the greasy, tight turns. 

In his highest individual placing of the season - 9th - in a time of 33:09, was Tony Hatchard. Tony has improved consistently as the rounds have gone on and he looks to be rounding into fitness just in time for his attack on the infamous Grizzly race the following Sunday! 

Dave Stone, as ever, chasing Tony hard, was 13th in 33:3 and with that finish clinched 3rd place overall and a bronze medal for the 2013/2014 season in the veteran men aged 40-44 category. 

Captain Adam Miller was a solid 21st in 34:26 and Mark Cox 35th in 36:21, being the team's solid 5th counter. These five men had done enough to stave off their rivals and hold onto their 3rd place in the team standings, picking up bronze medals. Contributing with scores in earlier rounds, and also part of the successful bronze medal winning team, were Jamie Pearson and Rob Orton. 

Dave Eveleigh found the going a lot tougher than over the tarmac at the Armada Relays here recently. Dave was 92nd in 49:18 of the 94 men competing on Sunday. Almost two dozen clubs made up over 50 teams who were represented and so team captain Adam Miller must have been very satisfied that his team building work has put the club back on the local cross country map.

In the Women’s competition, Cathy Newman entered the final round secure in the knowledge that, baring catastrophe, the vet ladies 50 - 55 prize was hers for the losing; however, she was also in a strong position to make an impact on the overall female standings if she produced a good final round run here. Ever the cool-as-a-cucumber professional that she is, she produced an absolutely stunning last run to finish as 2nd female on the day, covering the tough 3.5 mile course in a brisk 24:49, and this was good enough to claim 3rd woman overall for the season, beating some talented athletes, some of whom were less than half her age, and a run-away winner of the women aged 50-54 category. 

The Women’s team ended up in 7th overall for the 2013/2014 competition, out of 43 teams who represented 19 different clubs. Most of the points for these teams have been achieved by Cathy, Dawn Teed (who didn't run this final round, having done her bit in the 5 previous outings) and team Captain, Carly Miller. Like her husband, Adam, Carly has also done a great job of team building and encouraging the Harriers' ladies to have a go at cross-country. This week-end Carly was 21st, her highest individual placing in the series overall, in 29:30. Lisa Hatchard, despite struggling with injury, did her bit for the team and ensured that we had our third counter in this final round, and placed 33rd in 32:07. The Women’s race was finished by 51 athletes.

Well done to everyone who contributed to a revived Harriers' success this year. Dawn Teed started the ball rolling last year and has now handed the baton on to Adam and Carly and so thanks to all three of these for their efforts in coordinating this year's success story. Here's to an even better 2014/25 season, where maybe the men can improve upon their bronze and the women can get in the team medal mix too?

Some great photos from the final Plymouth round below, courtesy of Pete Newman. More photos from this and the previous rounds can be seen on Pete's Flickr page, here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97050275@N02/with/12915197973/

The bronze medal winning men's team
L - R: Tony Hatchard, Dave Stone, Tom Merson, Adam Miller (Capt.), Marc Cox. 
Not here but part of team: Jamie Pearson, Rob Orton.

Tom Merson - on route to an emphatic individual men's victory in the league.

Dave Stone - bronze medalist in the male vet 40 category. 

Cathy Newman - Bronze medalist in the female overall section and gold medalist in the FV50 section.

Carly Miller - successfully captained the ladies team to their highest team placing to date. 

PBs galore at Bideford and Bath and a silver for Susan!

Sunday 2nd March saw two big half marathon races take place in the South West - the Bath Half and, nearer to home, the Bideford Half in North Devon. Those wanting a big city half with lots of crowd support on route and who don't mind the hefty £40 entry fee or mind jostling for position with 11'000 other runners, opt for Bath; for those preferring a smaller, lower-key, cheaper affair, Bideford is the one for them. What both events have in common though is that they both offer fast, flat PB potential courses, and many Harriers seized their opportunity to achieve just that.


Eight Harriers lined up in a field of over 11,000 competitors to complete 2 laps of this historic and architecturally stunning city. For our home club, the most impressive performance was by Susan Hill, who had a phenomenal run to finish a superb 2nd of over 80 runners in the Women Age 55-59 category, in a new personal best time of 1:41:13. She was also well inside the top 2,000 of those 11,000 finishers. Susan has only just entered this 5 year age category and, if this is anything to go by, we can expect to see a lot more success from her as the season progresses. A PB and a podium place at such a huge event: Susan could not have wished for anything better than that. Very well done Susan!

Three other Harriers came close to their PBs: Chris Dupain was 621st in 90:57, improving on his season's best from last month's Exeter Half by about 2 1/2 minutes. Showing a remarkable turn of consistency and spot on pacing, Ben White was 1330th in 98:46, just 4 seconds faster than his run at the Exeter Half. Jane MacDonald placed 1854th overall and 22nd of 439 women aged 45-49 in 1:43:03, just shy of her PB of 1:42 set at the Chippenham Half last Autumn. 

Hannah Bown’s and Emma White’s performances meant that the three Dupain siblings all finished within 10 minutes of each other: a little family rivalry never does any harm for teasing out some consistent performances! Hannah was 567th overall, 77th of nearly 5,000 women & 8th of nearly 600 women aged 35-39 in a time of 90:47. It should be mentioned that Hannah missed a lot of training due to a lengthy winter virus so this time is all the more encouraging and shows that, when back to full form and fitness, another sub 1h30 clocking is comfortably within her grasp. Emma White was 1493rd overall and 180th female in 1:40:00. Again, a good time considering that running is really her second sport after hockey: the endurance of running and speed required for hockey appear to make for a good combination! 

Nicholas Brown finished 1951st of all competitors in a consistent 1:43:18 and was 228th of nearly 600 men aged 40-44. Amanda McCann was timed at 1:46:18, also close to her PB, and was 2350th in the whole race but, 40th out of nearly 600 women aged 40-44.

What was most impressive is that of these 8 runners, 6 are due to participate in the Grizzly race the following week, so well done to them!


Nearer to home, in Bideford, four Exmouth Harriers took on the challenge of running 13.1 flat miles around the quay and along the Tarka trail in his North Devon town. Nearly 1,000 completed this year’s race - not bad numbers considering the event was competing for entries with the Bath Half and also the last round in the Westward Cross Country League. 

Adrian Kearns was 125th and 23rd of 101 Men Age 40-44 in 90:17, about 5 minutes shy of the Personal Best he ran set at the Burnham-on-Sea Half Marathon in 2010. Since then he has consitently run at least one half marathon every year and his times have always been under 91 minutes. 

Andrew Johnson was 200th and 15th of 63 men aged 50-54, his time was a solid 95:16. 

It was good to see Roger Riggs donning the blue and yellow vest once again after a string of injury problems over the past year or so and his position of 743rd and time of 2:07:18 give him encouragement that he is well on his way back to full fitness. 

The performance of the day here though came from our super-vet, over 75 athlete, Mick Allen. Mick was 719th overall and a comfortable winner of this category that contained 3 steely competitors and was clocked at 2:06:15. Well done Mick and all the Harriers.