All posts by Paul Harrod

Race report – TRC 10k Club Championship, 27th April 2023

The last time TRC members flooded the banks of the Severn in large numbers was during last summer’s Mob Match with Chepstow, when the temperature was well above 30 degrees, and sunglasses, hats and ice-packs were the order of the day.

Last Thursday evening was just mizzly-drizzly, as it has been since, well, late 2022. Not an encouraging meteorological backdrop to the Club’s annual 10k Championships.

Despite suggesting that we just say Nick won, and head straight to the bar, the race did go ahead.  And the inauspicious cold and wet actually proved to be ideal racing conditions once the shock of stripping down to the club vest was overcome.  Some of the times recorded were exceptional, and a few club members even recorded 10k PBs which is a marvellous achievement on that course.

We ran the new Thornbury 10k route in reverse – starting with the ‘pan flat’ sections around Oldbury Naite, before heading down Kington Lane, turning right and continuing the undulating loop round towards the imaginatively named Cow Hill – (‘say what you see’). Any runner who had overcooked it by this point then faced a gruelling final mile.  The climb into Cow Hill is bad enough, but we then had to negotiate the final hill up to St Arilda’s church.  She has been a welcoming sight for ascending worshippers for over 700 years, but last Thursday doubled as the dispiritingly distant – yet highly visible – 6-mile marker. If the lungs were not bust by that point, the quads would be on the final 400 metre sprint down the other side of the hill before collapsing into the hopsy, malty embrace of the Anchor pub at the finish line. 

We must  give a huge thank you to the marshals who not only forewent their chance to run, but also stood still in the cold and rain for well over an hour.  It is hugely appreciated by all those who compete.  I never have enough breath to offer a breezy ‘thank you marshal’ as I run by, so I’ll put my gratitude in writing instead.

The race was a straight shootout – no age-graded adjustments on this occasion.  However, before we come to the winners, a special mention to those TRC members who ran a PB on this testing course.  Yes, conditions were good, but to get a PB on that route suggests some of us are in very fine form indeed.   Congratulations, therefore, to Chris Pritchard and Liz Ball for their lifetime best 10ks.

The women’s race looked very close on paper, and it was surprising and impressive in equal measure to see the club’s London Marathon record holder, Jessica Heffer, line up just four days after her stunning run in the capital.  Yet a quick massage, and a spincycle (on a bike, not a washing machine) seemed to have done the trick. She was the clear winner in a fantastic time of 41 minutes and 16 seconds.  Last year’s winner, Ali Vaz, had to settle for second, in a still excellent time of 43:27, with Hannah Hamilton in third in 44:59.  Melanie Wilson and Megan Harrison completed a high-quality top five.

Nick Williams did lead from start to finish, but there was a lot more drama in the men’s race than might have been expected.  Nick ran an incredible time of 35 minutes and 45 seconds, which is precisely the same time as he managed just over a year ago when the course was run in reverse. How’s that for consistency?!

Nick would possibly have been surprised to have been pushed quite so hard by Ben Bohane.  Fresh from his triumphant PB at the Newport Marathon, Ben showed what good form he is in by working his way through the field to finish second in 36:24.  Andy Wilson had an excellent tune-up for the Bristol Half with a fine third place in 37:08.  Peter Cable ran a strong final mile to overhaul Sean Leadbetter as the two finished fourth and fifth respectively.  We must also mention new-ish member Mark Hanson who came sixth in the excellent time of 38:53.  

Glos League cross-country – race report, 5th November 2022

Race report written by George Evans

It’s wet and cold so it must be cross country season again! The first race of the 2022-23 series took place at a damp, windy, yet beautifully autumnal, Cirencester Park. Despite the recent heavy rain, ground conditions were an improvement on 2021 making for a faster course.

Thornbury fielded a slightly leaner turnout than 2021…perhaps because Jo Plumbley couldn’t make it, so everyone knew we’d be down on cakes.

Holding up the women’s team was Hannah Hamilton finishing in a very respectable 80th position (field of 192) with a time of 34.20.

He has more records than the KGB and Nick Langridge didn’t disappoint at Cirencester, finishing 109th in the combined Ladies and +MV65 race…only narrowly missing out on age adjusted 1st position by 3 seconds!!

The men’s race saw a field of 208 (and a lot of them looked like they could run). Top 3 from Thornbury were led in by Ben Bohane finishing in 48th (41.20) followed by Andy Wilson in 68th (42.38) and David Hobbs 83rd overall and 6th in age category (43.32). Conner Vidal-Cocker notched up a very respectable first cross-country race in 101st place with a very respectable time of 45.22.

Sweeping up the rear for Thornbury was George Evans (107th in 45:46) and a “pretty much straight off the operating table” Jim Godden (137th in 48:22). Given his only very recent return to training, Jim was looking very strong and finished 4th overall in his age category. This season see’s Jim entering the next age category (undisclosed) and based on this performance I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more age adjusted podium positions this season….no pressure Jim 😉


During September and early October, the amazing Chris Foley has turned up at just about every major road race in the calendar to string together an incredible series of results.

When combined with his training efforts, he has surely run 500 miles. Considering the Proclaimers only walked it, and even then had plenty of Irn Bru breaks on route, Chris’ is surely the superior feat of endurance. Although walking/running 500 miles is losing its cachet as the ultimate romantic gesture. I offered to do it for my wife, but she said she’d prefer it if I just loaded the dishwasher and took the bins out once in a while.

I’ve already reported on Chris’ excellent effort at the Great North Run, with a run well inside two hours for the Half, and just missing out on a top-10 age-category finish.

Yet that was just a mere warm-up for the main event, the London Marathon, the capo de tutti capi of all road races. Chris completed the demanding 26.2 miles in under four and a half hours and flew the TRC flag alongside the wonderful Hannah Hamilton. Hannah was the deserved recipient of the club’s guaranteed marathon entry this year, and she made the most of it, and should be absolutely delighted with her sub 3hrs 30 min run which demonstrated just how well her training plan came together for the big day.

The lactate was still stiffening the sinews when Chris dusted off the daps and turned out on the streets of Bath for the long-anticipated and much-rearranged half marathon. A mere fortnight after London, Chris ran a brilliant 1 hr 55 minutes to beat his time set in Gateshead. Roger Glew also ran at Bath and should be very pleased with his 1 hr 51 minutes, which is a good two minutes quicker than his time at Bristol the previous month. The fastest TRC performance of the day went to George Evans – the Kington Kipchoge – who also improved on his Bristol performance with a brilliant 1 hr 23 mins 31 secs. This was an average pace, per mile, of 6 mins 22 secs.

However, Chris wasn’t done yet, and just seven days later, turned up at Stroud for what was, by all accounts, a foul day with howling wind and lashing rain. Yet Chris ran 1 hr 51 minutes to slice another sizeable slab of time off his effort of the week before. So there you have it, boys and girls, forget resting and tapering and carefully scheduling your efforts – just run marathons and half-marathons every week and you’ll get faster and faster! Until you get injured of course, but hey, this isn’t a coaching column!

The Stroud Half was the latest in the Pete Mainstone Challenge series, and aside from Chris’ heroics, there were some other excellent performances from Thornbury members. Nick Langridge was the fastest TRC runner on the day, running 1 hr 39 minutes, which for his age-category equates to an 81% score. It goes without saying that he was the winner in the category too. Nick is looking strong favourite to retain the overall race-series title he won last year.

Jo Plumbley was the only Thornbury lady to take part, and she ran an excellent 1hr 44. Not many of our ladies’ team have taken part in the PM Challenge this year, but with several races to go it looks like it could still be a very close contest to see who secures the title. Richard Jackson is improving all the time and he ran a fabulous 1hr 40 minutes; all the more impressive considering the conditions. Hugh McPherson was just outside the 2 hr mark but would still have finished high up in his age category.


What’s the most competitive race in the world that an amateur runner has a chance to compete in?

You could make a case for one of the big city marathons – London, New York, Tokyo etc. But while they will feature the very best marathon runners on the globe, the vast majority of competitors are ‘the masses,’ as Brendan Foster insisted on calling them.

So how about the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc, and its sister event the OCC, which is a shorter version of the main event, although that just means the athletes run at a higher intensity. It is 55km of incredibly demanding trail running, at altitude, featuring many sections that are tricky to ski down let alone run. To even have a chance to take part you have to qualify by doing several other long-distance races, and perform at a high level, and then every single athlete that does make it, drawn from nations across the world, is a serious and dedicated ultra-runner.

Huge congratulations to Nick Williams therefore for a monumental effort to come a fraction outside the top 100 in the men’s event. He was the 5th British runner to finish, and many of the runners ahead of him would be professional or semi-professional athletes. Nick looked to be in good form judging by his wins at the TRC club 10k championship, and at the mob match, and it was fantastic to see him put it all together on his favourite trails.

Round 4 of the Pete Mainstone challenge took place at the Severn Bridge 10k. This was an excellent event, organised by the company that still operates the Severn Bridges, and must be the only race in the UK where you get to run on a closed motorway. I was very impressed with the quality of the tarmac. Cut above what you get on the A38.

Compared to what Nick put himself through in the Chamonix Valley, this event was a doddle. However the old Severn Bridge is still deceptively steep, especially as the route took us up and down the slip roads which made the total elevation much more than we’re used to for the shorter 5k parkrun. In fact, there was barely any flat section at all; it was all up or down hill, plus you’re very exposed to even the lightest wind on that bridge, which had a cumulative impact when having to run the first three miles into a headwind. So not a PB course. Yet the race organisers made it a very special event, even if they snuck in a horrible lung-busting 200m climb up a footpath just yards before the finish.

I could tell we were getting close to the finish as you could hear the music from the loudspeakers getting ever louder. Katy Perry was insisting I was a firework – and to be fair my arms do resemble a malfunctioning Catherine Wheel when I get tired. Freddie Mercury was adamant that no one should stop me – oh, but please do!- as I was having such a good time. But that was no longer the case by the 10th kilometre!

TRC recorded some excellent overall results. There were more than 500 runners in the race, and yet we had two runners in the overall top 10, and two age-category winners. Phil Blackburn was the star performer once again, and his time of 37:27 was close to his overall 10k PB which suggests this was an exceptional run even by Phil’s meteoric standards. Hopefully he’ll find a flat 10k on a cool autumn day and go well under 36 minutes. Phil was fourth overall, and only narrowly missed out on a podium place.

Paul Harrod was 9th overall, and first VM45 in 39:57 which was some way off his best. Kevin Wood had an excellent run, cheered on by picnicking family members on the grass verge – a less salubrious al fresco location when the articulated lorries are thundering past, but a lovely spot on Sunday. Kevin was 66th in 47:01 and the clear winner in his age category, and he also took the honours in the age-adjusted rankings for this event. Chris Foley was 113th in 51:34 which is a really fantastic time on that course.

Hugh McPherson was inside the top 200 in a time just outside 56 minutes. Karen Carr just missed out on breaking the one hour mark, but did duck into the top 100 in the women’s race which is an excellent achievement. Liz Baird finished in 63 minutes, and beat 150 runners on the day.

Thornbury vs Chepstow mob match report

Generations of Chepstow children have gazed out across the shimmering Severn and wondered who was so rich and famous that they got to live in that Big White House?  The Mayor of Thornbury?  Arthur Renshaw?

So there was palpable excitement from our Mob Match opponents, Chepstow Harriers, as they turned out in force, excited by the opportunity to see this landmark abode for themselves.  Hopefully they weren’t too disappointed to discover it was a decommissioned nuclear power-plant.   Still, they must be warmly congratulated for turning out in such fantastic numbers for an away fixture in August.  Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and owner of Thornbury Castle, must be rolling in his substantial grave.  Although his efforts to keep the Welsh at bay have been somewhat undermined in recent decades by the M4 and M48 bridges.   

With the mercury still above 30 degrees at 7pm there was a suggestion that the Mob Match be resolved over games of petanque at the Anchor, washed down with ice-cold sauvignon blanc.  Instead after a very cursory ‘warm up’ we found ourselves assembling for a 5km dash along the Mad Max-esque bleached-blonde banks of the Severn, to the consternation and utter bewilderment of the slow-strolling dog-walkers.

Any thoughts that the run out into the headwind would be a cagey and tactical affair were immediately dispelled by Nick Williams charging off at 5 min 45 mile pace.  Andy Wilson’s usual race tactic is to run himself to the point of utter exhaustion, and then accelerate. He was the only other runner willing and/or able to pick up Nick’s gauntlet, and Andy pushed his team mate all the way to the finish line.   Nick a deserved winner of the 3 mile race in 16 mins and 56 seconds, with Andy a fine second place just five seconds behind.

Phil Blackburn has taken a well-earned holiday following the end of the football season, so was maybe not quite at his sharpest, although I wonder what would have happened if he’d gone with the leaders.   He still picked his way through the field to finish in 4th place overall, just behind the lead Chepstow runner, in 17 mins 15 seconds. Conner Vidal-Cocker is a relatively recent recruit to the TRC stable, but he already looks like a thoroughbred champion in waiting.  He paced his effort to perfection, pulling away from a cohort of Chepstownians, to finish in 5th, in 17:29.  Paul Harrod, who was a human parasol for a group of runners on the out-leg, also finished strongly in 17:47 to finish 7th.   At this early stage TRC were well out in the lead of the men’s and overall race.

Unfortunately at this point Chepstow’s weight of numbers started to tell, and they stacked the positions from 8th to 30th with just a handful of TRC runners bucking the trend.   That is not to say there were not some excellent individual performances within that mix.  Jim Godden ran a fantastic 19:32; Ash Blackmore ran 20:28, while George Evans in 20:32 and Asten Haynes, 20:49, are both recovering from injury, and should be heartily thanked for turning out to bag us some points despite both knowing they’d be far further up the tow-path if fully fit.

It takes a special athlete to beat the top TRC female runners, and so we should congratulate the brilliant Katherine Matthews who won the ladies race, and was 8th overall, in 18 minutes flat.  Such was the quality of performance from Chepstow’s leading ladies that Avon 10k road champion Lucie Wilson had to settle for 4th place, in a still fabulous time of 19:28.   Club road race champion Ali Vaz was second TRC lady, and 6th overall, in 20 mins exactly.  Jo Plumbley was brilliantly consistent as always to come home next for TRC in 21:34, just 10 seconds or so ahead of Natalie Bennett who had to sprint to the line to hold off a trio of fast-finishing Harriers.   Julia Jolley in 23:33 and  Ashleigh Ferris in 24 minutes exactly made up our top 6.   Despite these wonderful efforts Chepstow won the overall ladies competition pretty decisively.

Apologies that there is not the space to mention everyone who ran.  It was, without exception, a tremendous achievement to run in that heat and to score points for our team.  Even if a few sun-sapped and heat-addled later finishers mistook the picnic table set up 50 yards up the path for the finish line. Inevitably Chepstow’s numerical advantage meant they won the match, but our senior men definitely had the edge at the top-end of the field.   Perhaps we need to annex Berkeley to boost our numbers for future matches?
A huge thank you to Kevin Wood, and his family, and all those who organised this brilliant event.   Thank you to the marshals, and especially to Carol Mosses.   She was the sole person at the kissing gate, and not only coped with a wave of runners hurtling through the tiny gap in the gate, but even had time to set up a temporary traffic-light system to give priority to the faster-returning runners.   Which also meant that our Chepstow guests got a taste of the authentic Thornbury experience.  Thank you to the Chepstow captain for organising the chip-timing; that really enhanced the race, and meant we got the results accurately and promptly.   There was a warm and convivial atmosphere between the teams as we refreshed ourselves in the gardens of the Anchor pub by the light of the Sturgeon moon.  The Harriers returned home in triumph to Chepstow – or ‘transfluvial Thornbury’ as the estate agents call it in a bid to boost house prices.  But the best result of the night was the growing consensus that this fixture is now going to be a regular event in our club calendars.

Cotswold Way Relay 2022 – race report

The Cotswold Way Relay gets harder each year. I can’t imagine the depths of endurance required, the relentless mental focus, and the sheer, bloody-minded determination it takes. Some say it is an impossible job.

Yet somehow Judy Mills manages to get three teams out, and ensures the correct race results are fed back.

As for running the race? That’s the easy bit!

A huge thank you once again to Judy, and fellow team captains Rob Watkins and Kev Cundy for coaxing and cajoling 27 TRC members to make up our three relay teams. Rob led the Firethorn team, which had to be reshuffled more times than Boris’ Cabinet – a motley crew of over-40s male veterans, who somehow managed to tape themselves up and make it to the start-line.

Kevin helmed the Quickthorn team – a mixture of some of the club’s fastest and youngest prospects, alongside some wily older hands. There really is no substitute for experience at this level. Well, apart from running speed, but let’s not be picky. Firethorn and Quickthorn looked evenly matched on paper. Last year the male vets team only secured victory by a handful of minutes with the race still up for grabs going into the final leg. Judy captained the Hawthorn team, another mixed team, although sadly not a full roster on this occasion.

There was never a chance of a repeat of 2018 and 2019’s furnace-like conditions. However the wind (and later the rain) played a significant part. Usually the prevailing south-westerly deals a glancing blow to the runners on the more exposed early stages. This year the Minchinhampton Mistral smacked into our faces with all the force of a Tyson Fury straight right, and the only time the wind eased was when the rain had settled in. It was soon apparent this was unlikely to be a year for course records.

Stage 1 often attracts some of the best runners, as the leading teams stack their line-ups. This year the stage was won by a multiple winner of the South West cross country title, and a 15 min 5k runner. That puts Ben Bohane’s eighth place overall into perspective. This was yet another remarkable run from the club’s Stokes-like all-rounder who covered this 12 mile stage, featuring savagely steep ascents and descents, in a fraction over 90 mins, despite getting lost at one point. However any thought that Quickthorn would establish a commanding early lead in the intra-club race was short-lived, as emerging out of the early-morning mist, like a modern day Owain Glyndwr (with an advanced accounting qualification) came Nathan Darkin in a fabulous run of 1hr 46 mins. Collette Jackson got Hawthorn on the board with a fine run of 1hr 56.

Paul Thomas clawed that time back for Firethorn on leg 2. His recent ultra runs on trails clearly helped him on this very demanding stage. Paul descended like a wheel of the finest Double Gloucester to take a splendid second place in the vets race, and despite an excellent CWR debut for women’s club 10k champion Ali Vaz, who ran 2hr 7mins, Paul took Firethorn into the lead. Not far behind Ali was Julia Jolley in 2hrs 15.

Chris Foley and Mike Bennewitz would be quietly confident in any race that was scored on an age-adjusted basis. However the CWR is done solely on time, yet they still did their teams proud. On the journey up, Chris suggested he was aiming for 1hr 45, but instead obliterated that mark with a fabulous time of just over 1hr 28 mins. Mike was not far behind, finishing as the rain began to fall, with an excellent 1hr 39. Paul Harrod took Firethorn into the lead in the overall vets competition with a solid run of 1hr 6 mins, that earned him a top-10 place, and second male veteran. That would have been two minutes quicker if not for getting lost on one section, and quicker still if he could find a way of negotiating the sharpest descents in a style that doesn’t resemble a broken fridge-freezer being lowered into a municipal skip.

Sadly there was no runner for Hawthorn on leg 4, but there was excitement in seeing whether Danny Bonnett could extend Firethorn’s lead over Quickthorn, especially when up against club legend Jo Plumbley, who has run the Cotswold Way so frequently I’m surprised they haven’t named a section after her. Danny did a brilliant job in what I think may be his club racing debut (??) finishing 4th veteran in 1hr 38. Jo ran brilliantly, as always, and her 2hr 7 mins was very competitive in her personal age category, but the remorseless logic of the stopwatch meant that team Firethorn was now pulling ahead. Would the club competition be over before we even got to Stroud?

Not so fast! Leg 5 saw one of the day’s highlights, and an extremely rare, and therefore all the more celebrated, stage win for TRC. The brilliant Sean Leadbetter managed to outsprint his Bristol and West rival to complete the 11.7 mile stage in a staggering (literally, at the end, I imagine) 1hr and 20 mins. A quite brilliant achievement – chapeau! Sean’s win grabbed back some time for Quickthorn, but not perhaps as much as might be expected, because Firethorn had the ever-reliable George Evans – the Lycra Woman’s Nigel Havers – on the same leg. George was inside the top 15 – second veteran – and only conceded 16 minutes to the outstanding stage winner. Judy Mills took a break from the incessant race admin by running 2hrs and 28 mins for Hawthorn.

Kev Cundy and Jim Williams finished stage 6 almost at the same time, both recording 1hr 47 mins over one of the legs with more elevation than descent: Ebley Mill to Dursley. Chris Worrall buttressed Firethorn’s lead with a wonderful run of 1hr and 15 minutes, which started to pull the team safely into the top 3 of the overall veterans’ competition. Chris was also second vet in the race, and 9th overall. I hope he is going to be a regular racer for TRC over the roads and trails for many years to come.

There was eager anticipation to see the outcome of the race on stage 7 between father and son-in-law Kevin Wood and Chris Pritchard. In the end the gaps between all three TRC runners was the closest of any stage. Ellen Perrett had an excellent race for Hawthorn, and finished in 1hr 27 minutes. Kevin kept Firethorn in the hunt for overall veteran competition honours by running 1h 16. Chris played it safe, and rather like surreptitiously missing a putt on the 18th when playing golf against your boss, he finished a discrete couple of minutes behind Kevin! In all seriousness, Kevin deserves our congratulations, and thanks, for overcoming some significant back pain to not only race, but to do so with distinction.

Stage 8 is one of the longest and toughest in the race, and so Firethorn needed a dependable runner to maintain their lead over Quickthorn, and aim for a strong position in the overall team competition. Thankfully they had that in Garry Slater, who finished in a magnificent third place in the vets race in 1hr 38. Sadly Quickthorn didn’t have a runner for this stage, which essentially ended the intra-TRC competition, but Hawthorn had Rob Hopkins, who must have wondered what the fuss was all about – (only 12 miles of 1 in 3 gradient – too easy!) – who ran 2hrs and 8 minutes.

If a TRC stage win is a rarity, two in a day is possibly a first! The club librarians are still consulting the archives, but I think Taryn Roberts has once again made history. She was the clear winner in the tough stage 9 – and recorded the 6th fastest time by a female athlete in the history of that stage, in 1hr 9 mins and 52 seconds. More importantly she beat Rob Watkins by seven seconds, and I wish I’d been there to witness that sprint finish into Cold Ashton! To be so close to Taryn meant that Rob obviously had a wonderful race himself, and he was yet another Firethorn runner to come home as second male veteran overall. In my opinion Clare Watt is arguably the best runner in the club on an age-graded basis, and while this race is done purely on time, her effort of 1hr 24 minutes was still an incredibly good performance. I think Clare, Rob and stage-winner Taryn win the award for best collective stage by TRC runners this year.

And so, as the afternoon sun dappled across the honey-coloured stones of Bath Abbey (or maybe the rain lashed against the buttresses and battlements – it was a day of changeable weather) Hannah Hamilton and Jim Godden completed another successful day of racing. The final stage, like the opening stage, tends to have some of the best overall runners, so their positions as eighth woman and seventh male veteran would probably have been higher had they raced on other legs. Jim finished in 1hr 16 and Hannah in 1hr 20.

The remarkable consistency of the Firethorn vets team won us a third place overall in the team competition – in a cumulative time of 14hrs and 29 minutes, just 8 minutes behind Team Bath. We just should have run 1% quicker and we’d have been second! That is still a fantastic team performance, and (lente, lente, currite noctis equi) the inexorable march of time means that some of the club’s promising young mid-30 year olds should soon become available for selection. Team Quickthorn need to regroup and lick their (presumably bramble?) wounds. They were missing a few of the club’s very fastest runners this year, but should be more than consoled with two heroic stage wins for Sean and Taryn. Hawthorn sadly didn’t get a full team out this year, but still have some excellent individuals performances, especially if age-graded results were taken into account.

Next year the Cotswold Way Relay wends it way through Clarkson Country on Saturday 1st July. Please put the date in your diary, and let’s give the team captains some selection headaches to go alongside the admin ones!

parkrun of the month for June – and Bradley Stoke 10k race reports

Thornbury Running Club finally provided definitive proof to the age-old question that has divided the long-distance athletics community for years: does eating pizza washed down by a couple of pints of lager fewer than 36 hours before a big race improve performance?

And we can say, with confident assurance – yes it does.

That’s the only plausible explanation for the flurry of PBs that TRC members recorded at the ‘parkrun’ of the month’, which took place on Saturday at Chipping Sodbury, not long after our very enjoyable club night at the Olveston social club.  To those who say that Domino’s and San Miguel might not be the optimal nutritional strategy for a flat out 5K, I just say ‘follow the science’.

Paul Thomas had at least nine slices of pizza, (‘OK, this is getting into libel territory now’ Ed.) and that, rather than his consistent and focused training mileage, was the direct cause of his stunning new course PB of 19:14, for 11th place overall, and an age-graded score just under the magic 80%.   Hannah Hamilton had also been partaking of the pepperoni and she was rewarded by essentially equalling her PB, to finish second women overall – which is a fantastic achievement – and running 20:45.  Nathan Darkin had a pizza the action as well, and smashed his PB , (21:32), while Chris Foley was only a handful of seconds outside of his best which was set more than three years ago.

This month’s parkrun coincided with the graduation of the most recent cohort of the ‘couch to 5k’ beginners.   Congratulations to all of them, and thank you to the TRC coaches for continuing to run these excellent sessions.    Melinda Evans and Sam Glew were among the TRC members to run Chipping Sodbury parkrun for the first time.

Elsewhere last Saturday, other thin-crust crusaders included Ben Bohane winning Thornbury parkrun for the 12th time in 18:26; Phil Blackburn running his fastest parkrun time at any venue, coming third at Burgess parkrun in a brilliant 17:15, while Simon Pinnington ran 20:01 to come first at Wotton for the fifth time.   More observant readers might point out that Simon didn’t make it to the beer and pizza night, and thus our ground-breaking dietary study is undermined, but I can assure you that Simon had at least three Thatchers’ and a Papa John’s the night before, so the evidence base is further strengthened.

A handful of TRC members also turned out for the Bradley Stoke 10k, which was held on Sunday 5th June.  This is an extremely popular event organised by another thriving local club the (hey sisters) Sole Sisters.   Tom Usherwood was first TRC runner in 44:27, finishing in an excellent 5th place in his age category, which is as venerable as Joe Root’s test match batting average.  Paul Saville wasn’t far behind in 46:41, while Chris Pritchard (51:37) and Paul Reeves (58:01) made up our male team for this event.   Carol Mosses was the sole TRC sister this time around, and finished in 1hr 18 mins.

Hogweed Trot – Pete Mainstone Challenge, race 2

Round 2 of this year’s Pete Mainstone Challenge took place in Yate – the only town in South Gloucestershire that simultaneously rhymes with ‘great’ and ‘party’ depending on how posh your accent is.

The Hogweed Trot is another impeccably organised local event that doubles as the Avon County 10k road Championships, and attracts a commensurately high-calibre roster of runners.

The organisers again claim it is a ‘pan-flat’ course – (is there a conspiracy amongst the race directors?) – but the roads are as rolling as the stir-fry wok at a hall of residence’s communal kitchen. However it takes place on quiet country roads on the edge of the town, with the final mile a gentle downhill to the finish on a cyclepath.

Andy Wilson is TRC’s Jason Kenny – no matter how fantastic his own performance is, all anyone wants to talk about is how amazing his wife is! I’ll come to Andy’s run in a moment, but first we must acknowledge Lucie Wilson, who ran a course record 40:20, to win her race and take the coveted county champion crown. Lucie is only an occasional runner with TRC – as she competes at a high level at netball – but after this stunning run we hope she might nail her colours firmly to TRC’s mast, and come and win a lot more races with us cheering her on. Mainly from some distance behind!

Hannah Hamilton also had a wonderful race, and finished in 5th place in 43:39. Strava suggests this was a 10k PB, but whatever it was, Hannah is racing well, with consistency, and is hopefully taking a lot of encouragement from that.

We had a strong turnout from Thornbury’s male runners. Phil Blackburn paced his effort to perfection, holding back slightly over the first 5k before marauding through the field to clinch a 10th place finish in a new PB of 36:51. The exciting thing for Phil, and for the club, is that he’s still going to get faster for at least a few more years, assuming he can maintain his obvious enthusiasm for, and dedication to, his training.

Andy Wilson set off as usual like a Diamond League pace-maker on a caffeine buzz. If his run last Sunday at the TRC championships was mesmeric, this effort was merely sensational. It’s possible the effort of six days earlier caught up with him a fraction, as he couldn’t hold off Phil on this occasion, but he still finished in 12th place overall in 37:09.

Paul Harrod was the next TRC male runner in 37:54, in 16th place, even though his chip-timer didn’t register. DB Max aren’t accepting his proffered explanation that his sprint-finish exceeded the maximum conceivable speed, so it is possible that the 10p metal chip was just a dud. Simon Pinnington had another marvellous run, and went inside 39 minutes with an excellent 38:46. The age-graded scores still need to be fed into Mel Lloyd’s SuperComputer, but it seems probable that Simon will score very highly in the overall PMC competition.

George Evans just missed out, yet again, on a sub 40 min 10k; clearly his in-demand work as a Samba and Salsa instructor might be taking the edge off his finishing speed. But he still produced another fine performance to finish in 40:14. George was just ahead of Asten Haynes in 40:21. Asten is another runner who is going to go under 40 minutes very soon, and he has another opportunity in the Bradley Stoke 10k later this week.

Tom Usherwood was next home in 44:29. I have a hunch that is a 10k PB for Tom, but either way he is running extremely well at the moment. Nick Langridge, who is as ever-green as the perkiest pine, ran 44:38, to take his inevitable, if still well-earned, victory in the V70 category. Chris Foley was second V70, and just missed out on a sub-50 run, with a highly creditible 50:43. Arthur Renshaw completed the TRC septuagenarian champagne trio, with 56:14. Paul Saville ran 46:43 and David Flemington 65:42 to complete this strong team performance from TRC’s men.

TRC 10k championships – and recent race round-up

If Arthur Renshaw ever invites you for dinner on Shrove Tuesday, you might want to think twice before accepting.

At the pre-race briefing for the Club 10k championships, Arthur assured us that most of the course was “pan flat” – which makes you question how much heat his kitchen utensils would transfer to the pancake batter!

In fact, the course did get flatter as it went on – and in my view Arthur and the TRC committee have found a fantastic route to relaunch the Thornbury 10k in July.    It begins with seriously steep climbs and descents out of Oldbury; on into the tiny hamlet of Cowhill (although I bet the estate agents still call it Oldbury-on-Severn); followed by bumpy bits in and around Kington, before a final two-mile loop on the outskirts of Oldbury that takes you back into the heart of the village for the finish.  It is a test of race strategy, as well as endurance, and it should certainly be possible to run a negative split if you can avoid the temptation to run too hard on those opening climbs.

A huge thank you to the volunteer marshals who made sure the event ran smoothly, and will help refine the plan ahead of the race later in the summer when we expect up to 200 runners to take part.

It was a warm and sunny Sunday morning, even by 8.30am when the first runners arrived at the Anchor Inn, where the race would start and finish.   You don’t normally see that many scantily-clad people congregating at a pub so early in the morning unless you’re about to board a flight to Malaga.   The Anchor management kindly let us use the outdoor toilets, and given the high percentage of middle-aged men taking part that was a mercy.

Jack and Rory Williams were there to check out the course on which they intend to win the 2038 edition of the race.   They enthusiastically rang their cow bells as we set off, and were still shaking them with undimmed enthusiasm an hour or so later when the final runner came home.  It gave the opening climb something of an Alpe D’Huez vibe, but fortunately their mum, Lizzie, had confiscated the orange smoke flares.

Rory and Jack already knew their dad was awesome, but Nick reminded the rest of the club of that fact, with a stunning run in 35:44, which I am told is the best 10k time by a TRC male runner in nearly a decade.  Nick could go at least a minute quicker on a properly flat course!

Nick led from the gun, and had already put about 10 seconds on the second place runner by the time we passed Oldbury parish church.   Before the start, I predicted the finishing order of the runners would be the same as at the top of that first climb.  But like driving to the very edge of Almondsbury village, it ain’t Over till it’s Over. 

Andy Wilson was second up the hill, motoring to his usual fast start, but showed how much his endurance levels have improved to hold on to that position, despite the quality of the runners behind him, and finish in 37:07.  Andy’s best run in TRC colours so far I’d suggest.

Phil Blackburn deployed a different strategy and was much more circumspect up the opening hills, and he was the only runner to come through the field, moving from 5th to 3rd, to record an excellent time of 37:22.   Sean Leadbetter did struggle slightly in the closing miles, but that’s all relative.   He was still fourth in 38 mins flat.   Ben Bohane continued his remarkable run of results with 38:11 in fifth place, although like Paul Harrod (39:02; 6th), is possibly at his best on the flatter road routes, and/or evening events.  Both were notably down on their Berkeley 10k PBs.

George Evans has the most elegant and efficient upright running style – honed by bounding hurdles topped with champagne coupes set out by his butler at his Kington estate.  George pulled away from Asten Haynes in the final mile to finish in 40:25, with Asten a mere 19 seconds behind.   Paul Thomas (42:11) and Pete Cable (44:05) completed the male top 10.

Ali Vaz was an equally emphatic winner of the women’s race, and also finished inside the overall top 10.   Ali ran a brilliant race and completed the tough course in 42:15.   Jo Plumbley – just a week after finishing another gruelling ultra – managed to outsprint Hannah Hamilton, and pip her by 44:50 to 44:54.   

Nikki Foss ran her overall 10k PB, which is a magnificent achievement.  She ran 51:54, and I am sure there is much more to come, as she has fractionally more time to devote to training now the demands of motherhood are merely relentless as opposed to all-consuming!  Congratulations to junior runner Abbey Bonnet for coming in 5th place in the women’s race in a fabulous time of 53:40, and for making sure her dad, Danny, didn’t get lost or get into mischief on the way round.

As the TRC committee decided that this would be a straight shoot-out for the club championship, there isn’t space to list all the results.  However please check out the website to see the full standings.  Many of the other performances were just as impressive on an age-graded basis, but we weren’t recording those on this occasion.

Finally, a brief roundup of some of highlights during the previous fortnight.

Ros, Jo and Natalie – the 3 Amigas – ran the 40 mile Stroud Ultra together.  Literally, ran it together, as they paced each other round to finish at the same time, in 9 hours and 54 minutes.   All very civilised, and each of them got medals in their age categories; in Ros and Jo’s cases it was gold!

Ben Bohane ran his first ever ultra, in Pembrokeshire – a race that attracted a high quality field from across the UK, and he only went and finished 6th!   Stunning run, for a guy I’m running out of superlatives for.  Well, I ran out of them a while ago, but just hope you’ll forgive the etymological recycling.

Mark West ran one of the best marathon races in recent TRC history, with an excellent 3hrs and 8 mins.   At the other end of the scale, Phil Blackburn was the first TRC member to race in a county 1500m track championship for quite some time.  In his first attempt at the distance since he was school, Phil bravely tracked the leaders for the first few laps, and while he inevitably had to descend into the pain cave over the last 400m, he still finished in a brilliant 4 mins and 33 seconds.   I am sure he can improve on that, and I’d also like to challenge Andy Wilson to try one too!

Highlights from the parkruns include, 14th May, a first place at Lydney for Dylan Roberts in 18:08, (followed by a second at Berkeley Green the following week). and a 19:06 PB at Severn Bridge for Simon Pinnington. 

On the 21st May, Jo Webster ran her 104th parkrun – which is a great achievement – and completed the Thornbury run in 26:34.    Catherine Dack was fourth women at Wotton (sounds like a Shakespeare play) in a new PB of 26:29, while at Severn Bridge, Richard Jackson equalled his course PB of 21:31, but given the windy conditions I estimate that to be a real terms decrease of 15 seconds.

Berkeley 10k and parkrun of the month race report

On Sunday, several TRC members had the privilege of improving their running technique under the expert eye of coach Shane Benzie.   However the early proof of that pudding was to be tasted the following evening, as they lined up for the Berkeley 10k, the first event in this year’s Pete Mainstone Challenge.

During the warm-up there were admiring glances from other club members as we arched our backs and locked our eyes on the horizon, like Kate Winslet on the bow of the Titanic; or cycled our legs under our centre of mass like Roadrunner; or placed our forefingers on our thumbs and drove our elbows back, like a Yoga Master bisecting logs with a tiny saw.

Sorry, maybe you had to be there on Sunday!

Anyway, Shane’s input has already borne fruit, as several members ran their course, or even all-time, 10k PBs.

It’s particularly hard to single out any individual in such an impressive, collective, set of results.  I’m tempted to award it to Hannah Hamilton who ran a fantastic 43.56, and finished 12th in the women’s race – the best overall result by any TRC member.

Yet how can we not applaud Ben Bohane, who, just nine days after racing a ludicrous 34 miles along the Pembrokeshire Coast, pitched up at Berkeley and knocked a full minute of last year’s time to finish in 21st place in 37.05?  That’s 21st in a race that attracts runners from across the region and was won by an outstanding senior athlete who was a former silver medallist in the English schools 3000m.  Yet again one wonders how fast Ben could run if he ever actually tapered for a race!  

So Hannah and Ben were the two stars of the evening, but they were by no means the only ones to produce an outstanding performance.

Not far behind Ben was Phil Blackburn, who will represent the club in the Avon county 1500m championships on Sunday.  Phil proved once again that his endurance level is starting to approach that of his jaw-dropping raw pace, and finished a mere 4 seconds further back in 22nd place.   Paul Harrod ran his 10k PB and finished in 37.22, 27th overall, and third VM45.

When I wrote last week that I felt Simon Pinnington’s form was so good that he could get under 40 minutes at Berkeley, I was intending to pay him a compliment!   This was a rough extrapolation from his recent parkrun performances.  However it shows how bad my maths is, because Simon himself was aiming to go more than a full minute faster!  Hopefully he doesn’t read these reports…  In the end, Simon ran a wonderful PB of 39.02, but such is the measure of his recent improvement, that he was a little disappointed.   He was fifth VM50, and 44th overall.

Asten Haynes narrowly missed out on running sub 40, but only by 10 seconds.  That was a very notable run, and Asten is another club member who is naturally quick, and is now building an aerobic base that means he can be highly competitive in the longer distances.  The same is true of Tom Usherwood who is racing regularly, and with great consistency, and should be delighted with his time of 44.17.

I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating: a quick scan of the results might mean you overlook Nick Langridge’s performance.  He finished in 45.11, and for most of the race looked like he might get under 45 minutes.   That is still a fine run, but to do so while now competing in the VM70 age-grade is truly exceptional.  It goes without saying Nick won his age category race.

Paul Saville finished in 47.33, and sneaked into the top 100 of the men’s race by finishing 99th.  Kevin Wood had a busy weekend – running at the parkrun of the month, and attending Shane’s workshop.  Yet he once again produced a stellar performance to finish in 49.42 and fifth in age category.   Lizzie Williams was just  seconds outside the 50 minute barrier and a highly creditable 30th place overall in the women’s race.  Some of the club’s loyal and long-standing legends completed our line up.  Hugh McPherson 55.44; Arthur Renshaw in 57.10 and Mel Lloyd in 1hr 10.   In all cases they ran strong races and finished inside the top 10 in their age categories, so their results are entirely comparable with many of their younger teammates further up the standings.

The amazing members of Dursley running club put on another wonderful event.   I’m biased – I don’t think anyone organises races better than we do – but Dursley runs us close!  Once again, the good burghers of Berkeley were out on the streets to offer their support.   I’m always amazed how few cars are out and about – it really does feel like it is a closed road event, even though it isn’t!

Last Saturday was ‘parkrun of the month’ and we were back at Severn Bridge.   Sixteen members took part, which is a good number, especially as lots of us wanted to save our legs for Berkeley just two days later.

Andrew Darton was first TRC member, running a course PB of 20.28.   Chris Pritchard is improving noticeably and came home in his PB of 25.01 – so close to a 24 minute something time.   Jonathan Hall, 22.34 and Ashleigh Ferris, 26.26 ran the event for the first time.   

Congratulations to Kev Cundy for completing his 50th parkrun.   Hope he got a cheer from the Chepstownian locals for that achievement, followed by a chorus of boos when it was revealed he came from ‘that Thornbury’.   Kev ran with wife Suzie and let her finish 1 second ahead of him in 29.12.   Who says chivalry is dead?  Finally, the PB machine that is Carol Mosses – the Birkenhead Dibaba – raced to another personal landmark, finishing in 36.56.