December parkrun results – and Pete Mainstone Challenge

Thornbury Running Club members dominated the local parkruns in December, with our tally of first-place finishers surely* a record. It has certainly capped a fantastic year for the club, and our thanks must be extended to the amazing volunteers who kept the parkruns going through the late autumn and early winter.

December 4th was ‘parkrun of the month’ at Severn Bridge. This was during those halcyon days before it became a criminal offence for runners to congregate and run alongside Welsh motorways. Apparently good ventilation helps prevent the spread of Covid 19, and so one would have thought the furious gales whipping down the Wye Valley would make the event “safe,” but apparently not.

Anyway, huge congratulations to Sean Leadbetter for winning the race in 18:25, thereby joining Laura Orna as the only TRC member to be first-finisher at this event which attracts a lot of speedy runners from across the region, due to the downhill finish and PB potential (wind-permitting). Alan Gatling was 7th overall in 21:37, and Nathan Darkin 9th in 21:52, surely* the only time we’ve had three in the top ten at this event.

There was a suggestion on the day that the M48 was closed to traffic, and concerns over a wasted journey meant that Hannah Hamilton decided not to make the trip. There then followed frantic calls to her agent from the other parkrun directors, before she elected to run at Wotton. Needless to say she surfed the mud in spectacular style to win her race in the aesthetically pleasing time of 22:22. At the Mundys, Ben Bohane came first in 19:37, leading, as always, from the first few strides, with Paul Thomas in third in 21:03.

December 11th was the only week of the month where TRC didn’t notch up a first-place at a local race. However Nick Williams won the Brueton parkrun in 17:42 – a fine victory in a field of over 200 runners. Lizzie Williams was just outside the top 10 in her race in 23:49.

Other notable performances came from Moray Sloane, 7th at Thornbury; Taryn Roberts, third at Chipping Sodbury, and homing in, once again, on the 20 min barrier, with 20:31; plus Kevin Arnold, sans 50kg backpack this time, with an excellent 12th place on Severn Bridge. However performance of this week must go to Simon Pinnington (20:46) and Gary Slater (20:50), third and fourth respectively at Wotton. Both men compete in an age-group that would merit a round of applause and a modest raise of the bat in a cricket match, and they showed the youngsters how it’s done by recording strong 70% plus age-graded scores. On a flat, tarmac course they’d both be mightily close to 80% I believe, which Parkrun UK says is ‘national standard’.

Jim Godden missed that mark by 0.03% on December 18th at Chipping Sodbury – that early Christmas glass of prosecco the night before counting against him in the agonising sprint to the finish. Still, 14th place, in 19:53, and as close as makes no difference to 80% age-graded score, is proof that Jim is running as well as he ever has. In the same event Catherine Dack just missed out on a top 10 finish, running 25:30.

Dylan Roberts won the Mallards Pike race in a brilliant 17:28, although with modest assistance up the steep bits from his canine companion. At Thornbury, the incomparable Clare Watt was first finisher in 23:39, also missing an 80% age-graded score by a fraction, but the heavy ground of the Mundys in mid-December, means she is significantly above that benchmark in reality. She was backed up by Richard Jackson (22:59) and Moray Sloan (23:12) who recorded top-ten finishes in the men’s race.

Christmas Day fell on a Saturday this year, and so it was fantastic to see so many parkrun events take place. Once again, we can’t thank the volunteers enough for giving up their precious time on this most special of days. The turnout from TRC members was also impressive, with over a dozen members keen to offset their pigs-in-blankets with a bracing three-miler in the mud.

The Watt family were at Warwick Racecourse, and despite the going being good-to-soft at best, Clare still came close to an 80% score with a 4th place finish in 23:55. John ducked under the 30 min barrier, and was allowed roast potatoes at lunch as a result. Poor Andrew Darton has had a miserable year with injuries, but still finished inside the top 10 at Hentstridge parkrun. Wishing him a full return to racing form in 2022. Finally, Chipping Sodbury always schedule their event on Christmas Day, and four of our most venerable members donned their Santa hats for this one. Nick Langridge doesn’t even take Christmas Day off from being awesome; he ran within a rounding error of an 80% score to finish in 22:03. Kevin Wood ran an excellent 24:30, Chris Foley 26:45, and John Francksen 33:20.

Finally, Dec 19th was the date for the Chippenham ‘Shortest Day’ 10k, and the latest event in the Pete Mainstone Challenge. I ran the ‘Longest Day’ version, which was held one sun-dappled evening in June, a contrast to the cold, wind and mud of last month. The course is a good one, but runners climb gradually for most of the first 9km and then you go sharply downhill for the final 1000m. The net effect is that you can’t go as fast as you’d like on the downhill, and the cumulative effort of the climbing means that this not a PB course, especially in the winter.

That makes Sean Leadbetter’s performance all the more remarkable. Sean was fifth overall in 36:25, beaten only by some of the most seriously committed club runners in the region. Sean was spotted in the pre-race photo sporting an outlandish woollen bobble hat that ought to have to led to his disqualification on sartorial grounds, but that fashion crime aside, he delivered one of the very best results by a TRC member across the whole of 2021. Well done Sean!

Nick Langridge maintained his Vadar-like grip on the top of the overall leaderboard with a typically consistent run of 46:71, second in his age-group. Kevin Wood just missed getting under 50 minutes, but was rewarded with a fourth place age-category result. John Welsh ran 53:19 and Carol Mosses finished in 80 mins.

*writer shorthand for “I can’t be bothered to check”.