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Flying Fox Marathon – Laura Slack

Flying Fox Marathon 2017 Race Report by Laura Slack

May 27th 2015. This is the date that will stick in my head as it was the date that I, (all by myselfJ) went for a run of my own accord. Not running to catch a bus, not running around teaching PE at work. A run. An actual I want to improve my fitness run….and I hated every last second of it! It was a measly mile that took me 10:43 to complete. That mile as much as I despised it started something. It started my love affair with running. I say love affair as I do so often feel guilty going out on a training run with my other man (coach Bill Mac) whilst leaving my partner at home on his lonesome!

Fast forward to 2017. January 2017 to be precise. I had completed 32 races since that May 2015 and was looking at how I can push my running further. This is when after toying with the idea of joining a running club I became a Bat! Stone Master Marathoners newest recruit. To accompany my new ‘affiliated runner’ status I also joined the NSRRA and after submitting my previous year’s race results I was placed in group ‘M’.

So I had my support in place and now I needed some target races to train for. So I signed up to race the Flying Fox Marathon.

I was down at the ‘Bat Cave’ as much as possible, training with the Wednesday group and completed a dozen or so races to keep my legs fresh. One race in particular that comes highly recommended would be the Market Drayton 10K. Well marshalled race; well supported race and for me it gave me my coveted sub 50 10K time I had been chasing since last year.

The month of May arrived in no time and soon enough it was 27th May. This was now my 2 year anniversary since my first mile run, and it was now the eve of my first road marathon! How time flies when you’re having fun!

My wonderful parents have supported me so much in the past two years, and they have just recently started to partake in the strange sport of ‘marshalling’ or standing around in high-vis jackets and pointing left and right to runners. So of course they had agreed under the watchful eye of Bernie to marshal the Flying Fox Marathon. We all arrived at Knighton Social Club including the one and only Sammi ’the bat’ dog to begin what would be a long day.

Sammi keeping a watchful eye in high-vis

Although the weather during the week had been positively tropical, it was seeming like near perfect running conditions for the race. A nice breeze and cloudy… still being a red-head, the factor 50 sun cream would be needed as all I have to do is hear the word ‘sun’ and I burn to a crisp.

Race ready and on the start line, I can see the newest addition to the ‘Bat Cave’ Aggi Pope is here. But trying to run along with her is near impossible…the lady has got some serious speed in those legs! So I stick to the back where I will be able to run and not have a cardiac arrestJ

The route starts the same as the Knighton 20 which I completed earlier in the year. This also meant that I knew that at the finish I would have an incline to compete with…but best not to think of that at the minute!

I had my times in my head and an overall time I was aiming for, sticking around the 9:30minute mile mark to get a finish time in the region of 4:10-4:15. I did a comfortable first mile and then another but then the runners ahead started to spread out. This continued for another mile until at mile 4 I had no runners in sight either in front or behind. Then my brain starts to pester me. ‘You sure you’ve gone the right way? There’s nobody else here. You must be going really slowly to have lost the other runners.’ So, myself and I argue with each other whilst smiling and thanking the marshals along the way.

I am approaching a water station and I can hear whistling? I am certainly warm but I don’t think that I am suffering from heat exhaustion or any other condition that would make me hear things. Yes there is definitely whistling. But in a 90’s rave style rather than the wolf-whistle of a pervy builder (apologies to any un-pervy builders). It’s Penelope (aka Victoria Hughes) dancing around with her high-vis, first aid bum bag and blowing a whistle! A truly welcome sight and utter bonkers at the same time. After not seeing another runner this has lifted my spirits and stopped the arguments I was having with myself in my head. Carry on Laura. Keep going.

Penelope Pitstop raving it up

Now as much as I enjoy road running, my natural inclination is to be out trail running, x-country or just being anywhere that’s green and away from civilisation. The Flying Fox marathon although packaged as a ROAD marathon is an ideal compromise. Yes there is the road to run on but the views that surround you mile after mile compare far better to your city marathons. Rolling fields and tiny lambs bounding around to make you feel almost at one with your surrounds. It was at this joyful thought that I realised I would now need to become one with my surroundings and dodge into the hedgerow for a wee! Relieved, I carried on to the shock horror that had I miss-timed that by a mere minute I would have given some oncoming cyclists an eyeful…oh dear.

It was now coming to mile 12/13 and I can hear heckling in the distance…Fiona Bradley. Fiona and I joined Stone together in January and are coached by Bill Mac. From my brief recollection of my time at Fiona’s drink station she managed to tell me I was on target for my time (1:52 at the moment) and that she had been having a dog jumping all over her. I didn’t question that and she looked happy enough about it so I let it be.

So now I had just passed the halfway point, in the distance I can see two runners. I was going the right way after all! Two gentlemen with 100 marathon runner vests on. They congratulate me as I run past, on the fact that I am able to run up the hill we’re currently tackling. Again in the distance I can see another runner.

The miles roll along and then there is yet another delightful hill to climb. The temperature has increased and I am feeling strong but too damned hot. Around mile 18/19 I can see another marshal in high-vis at a water station…with a bike. Oh no. Now I’m in for it! Bill Mac. Coach.

If I had any plans to ease off on the pace or complain I was feeling too hot or tired, they went out the window when I saw Bill. An outstanding runner and coach, Bill was the one who came up with the times and pace for today and so there was no chance now that I wasn’t going to achieve it. Imagine having ‘Jiminy Cricket’ on your shoulder for the last 7 miles and that would sum up how the rest of the race was going to pan out.

We saw some more runners as we went along and then I knew I was approaching my holy grail… the focus point that I was hoping would give me enough of a boost to get me through the final few miles. My Mum, Dad and Sammi-dog were marshalling at water station 8. As I came round the corner I saw them and got my usual jeering from Mum. Quick re-fuel and a kiss off your parents can do wonders for the energy levels. In fact the pace for that next mile dropped to 8:54. Still on target.

The miles kept coming, I kept running, Bill kept coaching and the sun kept shining. Mile 25 and the last hill. This is the finishing hill of the Knighton 20 so I knew it was coming. Up the hill and left into the Social Club past the 26 mile sign. 0.2miles to go. 0.2 of a mile seems like nothing after just running 26 miles right? Wrong. That 0.2 miles felt never-ending. Past the caravans to cheering campers. Around the outside of the field and I can see the finish line and stood next to it my running-widower partner Scott. Keep going. Last push.

Done. 4:12:21.

Laura flying high at Flying Fox Marathon

There was a good show of Bats out running the course who all did amazing. Our very own Paul Swan was first male finisher with a winning time of 2:53:27. For the ladies we had Joanne Bentley coming in third lady finisher with a time of 3:22:45; And as I mentioned our newest bat Aggi Pope earlier has some serious speed in her legs, well she didn’t disappoint with a 3:59:50 finish.

So what’s next for this flying bat…..well let’s see what all this ‘Thunder Run’ talk is about!

Laura xx

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Uttoxeter Half Marathon (NSRRA) – 30th April, 2017

Uttoxeter Half Marathon Race Report – Kathryn Ambrose

I had really looked forward to Uttoxeter Half, as I had heard of its reputation as a tough course with plenty of undulations. My preference is for hills, as although it’s tough going up, it’s a lot of fun on the descents! I’m not great at half marathons as I never seem to know how to pace them, but with two 10K PBs in consecutive weeks at Newcastle and South Cheshire, I was fairly confident in my racing form. Unfortunately, the two weeks prior to the race saw me struck down with a chest infection and I wasn’t certain I would be able to run. After a doctor’s visit on the Thursday and a prescription for Doxycycline, I felt decidedly better and resolved to make it a steady one to bank the points. The fact that I couldn’t drink alcohol also probably helped with my race preparation! One thing I didn’t bank on, however, was a warm day after a week of much colder weather. Another contraindication of Doxycycline is sunlight, as it can make your skin very sensitive and prone to burning. So on the morning of the race, I was covering myself in Factor 50 and doing a rain-dance in the front garden. I also abandoned my usual race kit of vest and shorts in favour of T-shirt and capris, thereby running the risk of the dreaded comedy tan. The things we do for running!

We arrived at the start nice and early, which gave us plenty of time to socialise with running friends, both fellow Bats and our old teammates at Trentham. Roger was wondering why he had decided to do a half marathon a week after London, but I knew he would be fine. In the event, he had what he described as a fairly solid race, and finished in 1:26 (19th place). Lots of banter with him and Mick Downes, who was in the ascendancy today – but apparently he won’t get him on Flying Fox 🙂 Also some amusing moments when David realised that Indira had been promoted to D, not E – his dreams of 50 points in every race having been previously shattered, his whoops of joy could almost be heard out on the country lanes we would soon be hurtling along!

Lining up at the start, I positioned myself somewhere in the middle as I wanted to get away cleanly, but not get pulled along too quickly. The aim was to run steadily, so my breathing never became laboured. Coming out of the town and up the first little climb, I was hovering at around 9 min pace, which was probably a bit too quick for what I wanted to do, but I felt fine and I was in amongst people I often run with in races, Bonnie, and Bobbie Hickman from Trentham. Bobbie and I always have a good chat on races (when I can breathe!) and it makes the miles go by quickly. Through the first water station and I felt good holding my pace, and was enjoying the undulations. JC had told me about the big climb at 6.5 miles, so I was grateful for the big downhill that came before it! By this time, my quads were starting to feel a bit heavy and my breathing more difficult, so I opted to tackle the hill like I would on the fells  – hands behind the back, head down and power walk. This technique pleasingly saw me pass people who were running and I reached the top in fairly good shape. The next little climb, however, felt just as hard and my pace began to slow. Thank goodness for the steep downhill at 8 miles, I thought, as I let myself fall down it and recover slightly. I was able to use the momentum of the hill to keep a nice even pace through Mile 9, but from 10 to 12 I really struggled and lost touch with both Bobbie and Bonnie, as well as a few other girls from Group W. As I reached the top of the lovely big descent back to the racecourse, I felt relieved as I knew that it was downhill all the way and I could stop running in about 10 minutes! Heading back in towards the finish, I was delighted to see some fellow Bats, including Bonnie, and Fiona Bradley, who’d had a great race to finish first L35 in a time of 1:46:05. She ran in towards the finish with me, as did Roger, bless him, but he couldn’t even keep up with me as his hamstrings had seized up! Crossing the line in 2:10, I was pleased with a time only four minutes outside my PB on a flat course. Hopefully more to come from me this season.

Some superb performances across the categories today on a tough course. Some of the highlights for SMM were Fiona, as mentioned, with her L35 victory and Staffs Champs Gold. Also winning their categories for the ladies were Victoria Hughes (L40), with an outstanding 1:34:25 (PB). Ros Bould took the honours in the L50 category with a great run, coming in at 1:46:42. Many of us were delighted to see Paul Swan returning to his best following a spell out with injury – he took the V50 prize in a time of 1:23:09. Kevin Uzzell won the V65 category in a time of 1:43:59. Stone Ladies also took second place in the team prizes.

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South Cheshire 10K (NSRRA) – 16th April 2017

A day of firsts – South Cheshire 10k

Relatively new to club running compared with some of my inspirational running veterans, I was completely naive to the racing scene and thought that joining a running club was a bit like going to a fitness club at a gym.

It was only after entering a few local races, then running my first Marathon (London) and transferring to Stone Master Marathoners in July 2016 that I was ‘actively encouraged’ by my fellow BATS to try NSRRA. I also felt inspired after the club Gala Evening when Amy Gamble made a lovely speech addressed to Ken, recognising him for all of his efforts and the time he puts into NSRRA. To be honest I was always nervous of the additional pressure of league tables, as I tend to fall foul of the occasional unplanned pitstop. I’m still nervous of how this could impact on my times and points, but of course, I’ve learnt I’m not alone in that, and I figured life is too short.

In 2015 I ran 10 road races and last year I ran 13 road races 8 of which were NSRRA races anyway so I technically only need to race another 4. I therefore made the decision to drop a couple of the other non NSRRA races I had planned to do and support this great local running initiative instead.

As I had already entered Manchester Marathon this year, the first three NSSRA races of the season didn’t fall into my training plan. However, Knighton 20 was a perfect marathon training run. Although I didn’t ‘race’ it and I had convinced myself I hate laps (who doesn’t? and not forgetting Cheddleton Pudding Run a couple of years ago) I actually really enjoyed Knighton and the new 3 lap course.

So, onto my first official NSRRA ‘race’ – South Cheshire 10K, with Manchester Marathon still in my legs, and 2 weeks of very easy occasional recovery runs, I didn’t really know what to expect or what I was capable of on a 10K. My last 10k was Trentham back in July 2016 (my first race as a Bat), and the four 10K laps I ran on the 24hr Thunder Run. Oh, I hate 10K races too and to top my day off, this was 2 laps but at least this race was flat, I was reliably informed, which also meant it would be fast!

Strange also to return to my student days as I studied at Manchester Metropolitan Uni. The Student Union (Race HQ for the day) was a more civilised area resembling Costa than I remember with a lovely selection of homemade cakes on offer. Last time I was here, I was ordering a Green Monster from the Bar and dancing on a sticky floor to Stone Roses and now I’m queuing for the ladies facilities for the 3rd time before a race. Ironic that this University was and still is a centre for Sports Science and yet the closest thing I ever got to experiencing exercise here was riding my bike to Kwik Save for my ‘No Frills’ loaf of bread and baked beans.

As there was also a 5k fun run, my husband and I wanted to make it a family day and take our two boys. My eldest has started running for Trentham Juniors and he really enjoys the fun runs. Unfortunately, we didn’t read the small print and as he is under 12, he needed an adult to accompany him on the course. I wasn’t too keen on a 5K warm up so my husband had to step in. This wasn’t too big an ask as he can actually run but he had a slight handicap wearing jeans, his chunky walking shoes and the additional challenge of getting our youngest around the 5k course. Quick change into the nice blue Air Products race T shirt and although a little on the tight side (as I had requested the smallest size for myself), he looked the part, well at least his top half! He deserved a medal for pushing our 5 year son in a pushchair that isn’t really designed for running let alone the weight of a 5 year old. In all the last minute organisation, we had missed the 5k start but at least it was chip timed and it is a ‘fun’ run, after all.

Meanwhile I am reminded why I get more stressed taking the kids to races as I now only have a few minutes to get back to race HQ for another loo stop and to find my fellow BATS for a decent warm up and the all important pre race team photo. A quick warm up accompanied by the usual ‘Booooo’ from Mr Pickles (Dave Pickstock TRC) for wearing red (he just won’t let it go). A great turnout from the club again although with many now tapering for London it wasn’t a full colony of Bats flying.

Conditions were good, cool, overcast with a little wind. Quick chat and usual banter with some of the BATS about pace or more accurately who I was going to try to hang on to, as well as whether I should have Indira’s race number (No 2, due to my reputation of pitstops). My running buddy Kathryn Ambrose had already kindly advised me I should be doing at least 7s at my level and my wing girl for the day, Anna Hollingworth (Anna Longlegs) thought we should aim for 6:50s as we could always slow down at the end. True to form, Anna flies off and I’m left watching the Bat on her back. I tend to be a slow burner

and ideally need my 43 year old legs to warm up a bit before tackling what ended up being 6:32 pace in my first mile. I settled into my own pace and actually hung on to

6:50s for the rest. The course was a little ‘industrial’ but it was traffic free and flat. There was a little section where we went off the road and onto a winding public footpath with a couple of footbridges which was a welcome break from the long stretch of pavements. I tried not to focus on the race signs informing you of 7kms when we had only ran 3kms or the points of interest that I was going to have run past for a second and most likely more painful time.

Lots of support and shout outs from the marshals, fellow runners from South Cheshire Harriers and other club runners who were also possibly tapering for London and not forgetting Bryan Dale, really helped to keep me pushing. I wasn’t aware of any other runners in my group around me, so I focussed on 3 ladies I was running behind on the 1st lap and most of the 2nd lap. After taking the first 2 ladies, the 3rd looked over her shoulder and she put her foot down. My lungs and legs said ‘fair play, let her go and save yourself’, my head said, ‘no way, Penelope, use her’ and I somehow managed to sprint past her after the last roundabout, just before the finishing stretch.

I made the usual school girl error of not really familiarising myself with the course or the location of the finish (ignorance is sometimes bliss and I lack navigation skills anyway) so before I know it, I hear the shouts from the supporters and our fun coach John Clemens and I have a decent amount in the tank to sprint the last few metres.

My 10K PB was 45:35 on St Michael’s back in June 2016 (another flat PB course) and I knew with all the training I had done for Manchester I was capable of a PB, so I was over the moon to finish with 41:38. Another bonus was to be presented with a Group Winner’s Mug. My first proper NSRRA race and my first group win. I wasn’t the only BAT to smash a PB and win their NSRRA group or age category.

Congratulations to my fellow Bats

Mick Downes – 37:26 – PB
Paul Swan – 37:41 – 1st M50
Mike Keeling – 40:06 – PB
Anna Hollingsworth – 41:27 – PB
Indira Natarajan – 43:57 – PB and Group F winner
David Dunsmore – 44:05 – PB and Group E Winner
Kevin Uzzell – 44:14 – 1st M65
Ros Bould – 44:35 – 1st F50
Lisa Ashton – 49:15 – Group W winner
Emma Dutton – 50:59 – PB
Bonnie Seabridge – 52:11
Kathryn Ambrose – 53:05 – PB
Michelle Miles – 56:29 – PB and Group X winner
Joyce Edwards – 63:23 – 2nd F65

 Thanks to South Cheshire Harriers for a great PB course, to Ken for another well organised race and HQ. I’m looking forward to my next NSRRA race. No doubt there will be more competition on the courses after London!

Happy Running
Victoria Hughes (Penelope Pitstop)

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Alsager 5 – 5th February 2017

Fiona Bradley – Alsager 5 – Sunday 5th February 2017

The day of my Stone Master Marathoners debut had finally arrived!  Waking that morning, I wondered why on earth I put myself through the stress of races and, rather unhelpfully, noted that this was not only my SMM debut but also my NSRRA debut, first race after the Lanzarote Marathon and the first race after my first ever injury (cue the violins)!

After forcing down my usual pre-race porridge, I was instantly lifted by putting on my lovely new vest which Tim had kindly presented to me at the fantastic Gala Dinner.  Armed with my fabulous SMM race clips, my Bat days had begun…

Arriving at Alsager, the weather felt unusually warm and I was incredibly pleased to have abstained from wearing a base layer.  I was even more pleased upon parking, when I spotted a familiar black and red uniform: looking dashing in his recently presented ‘Captain’ jacket, I made the walk to the Race HQ with Bernie.  Taking full advantage of Bernie’s vast race knowledge, I bombarded him with questions – predominantly regarding the NSRRA as I had signed up on the recommendation of another new bat, Laura Slack, but knew little of how it all works.  Imagine my horror when Bernie congratulated me on being part of the ‘L’ group (husband had earlier had a good chuckle at me being a ‘Learner’) and I discover that I am battling for points against our super speedy Kirsty, Amy, Angela and Ros!  I resign myself to the fact that it will all be good experience!

Walking in, we see Birthday Bat aka Emma arrive with Michelle, who was also making her NSRRA debut.  I instantly feel calmer and I now understand the comforting support of a club.  I’d always avoided the ‘pressure’ of being part of a running club but it was after the Flying Fox when I spoke to Victoria that I felt compelled to give it a whirl; she raved about SMM, reassured me that there was no pressure and, I must admit, part of the draw was the gorgeous red and black kit!  Our colony of bats grew and the fantastic atmosphere heightened – race nerves were overshadowed with the enormous sense of belonging.

Heading to the crowded start, we completed a gentle warm up before heading our separate ways.  Impressively, some of our bats had completed a 19 mile warm-up, running to the start – from Stone!  Well done Roger, Phil, Mike and Indira!  On a gentler note, David Dunsmore, another SMM newcomer, had mentioned a target time similar to mine (I wanted to beat my previous time of 37:55) so we hovered around the same area; I was pleased to find out David’s NSRRA group after being initially concerned that he was intent on finding ‘Es’…

The race began and we fought our way through the mass of runners.  Supporters were out in great force and, as always, the cheers spurred us on our way.  We were pretty surprised at the handful of runners taking a bit of a shortcut on the first left-hand turn but, as I teach my children, I thought ‘they’re only cheating themselves’!  The PB course of the Alsager 5 is flat and there are no hidden surprises.  Last year, I had joined a friend running with a sub-40 (unofficial) pacer but had found the course lent itself for a tad more speed so I had left them at around 2 miles; my main memory of that race was my sprint finish recorded on film by my father-in-law and I couldn’t wait to relive that moment!

It is always nice to hear the crowd cheering you on, so it was particularly special to see some fellow bats in a supporting capacity.  I couldn’t help but chuckle when they cheered: ‘Well done, Victoria!’ and then, looking a little confused, engaged in an ‘actually, who is that?’ conversation!  I can forgive Pam for not knowing me but who was she talking to?  Only Bernie!  I was then forced to use a little of my conserved energy to shout out my name!

Throughout the race, David was in sight, as was Ros, looking strong and experienced.  As the Garmin told me I had less than a mile to go, it was time to turn it up a notch and ensure I did my absolute best for my team.  I couldn’t wait to see that famous finishing stretch and when I did, it was a great feeling!  With my sights firmly set on the inflatable finish line, I saw my chance to make up a fair few places so I fought my way past the tiring runners and managed to part a formidable pair of men with a little encouragement from my elbows…

My Stone Master Marathoners debut was made!  With a PB of 36:30, I couldn’t have been more pleased.  Seeing Kirsty and Pippa laughing at the finish put an even bigger smile on my face!  We cheered in the rest of the team before heading off to a ‘debriefing’ at the George and Dragon.

Looking back at the results, The Bats really are a force to be reckoned with.  Our chairman’s PB of 29:42 shows that Tim really does lead by example.  There were also PBs for: Mick (29:55), Kirsty (33:07), David (36:07), Neil (39:34), Laura (40:01), Emma (40:12), Bonnie (42:18), Kathryn (42:20), Michelle (47:04) and me!  Our long run bats managed amazing times on (surely?) tired legs with Phil coming home in 32:20; Roger in 33:30 and Indira in 47:24 – true commitment!  Pippa ran a phenomenal 32:39; Amy 35:06; The Queen of Baps, Angela, 35:39; Ros 37:04; Lisa 39:13; Sam came in at 40:18; Richard 41:13; Anne-Marie 43:38; Mac 44:50, Margaret 48:24 and Joyce in 52:16.  Proud of you all!

In a bid to prevent this report being of record-breaking proportion, I won’t enter into discussing the NSRRA results other than saying ‘Watch out world, the bats are on fire!’  Let’s hope that our season continues as it has begun.

It would, however, be unfair to end my report without the mention of the public house debriefing.  Huge thanks to everybody who attended – particularly those who brought consumable treats!  I was privileged to experience one of Angela’s deliciously soft baps and sample a multitude of Emma’s birthday cakes!  After a fantastic weekend of celebrating achievements and running as part of a truly special team, this, for me, really was the icing on the cake!

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Congleton Half Marathon – 2nd October 2016

This was the first time I had ran the Congleton Half Marathon as it falls on my youngest’s birthday weekend but he agreed to have his birthday party on Tuesday, his actual birthday thus allowing me to run 13.1 miles on a Sunday morning  – Thanks Ben !!

For some reason I had gotten myself wound up more than usual and didn’t sleep very well for a couple of nights preceding this race. I suppose my competitive side had well and truly kicked in and knowing 50 points would all but see me promoted from Group D and also the possibility of a PB made my head do funny things in the lead up.

Anyway, set off to Congleton nice and early and halfway there realised I was going to get there ridiculously early so had a quick comfort stop in Sandbach services to make sure the sun had risen before I arrived !! (I wasn’t the first to arrive but not far off).

First job was to collect my race number and chip and then back to the car to get sorted and keep warm as it was a bit fresh and then the long wait before other Bats started appearing.

The race start was 9:30 so by about 9:00 there were a few bats hovering round and we managed to get a couple of pictures, then comfort stop before a planned  warm up. However, about 10 past there was a call to go to the start so the warm up didn’t happen other than a gentle trot of 200 yards to the start area.

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It was quite a crowded start area but I lined up with Jo, Kirsty and Mick hoping they would drag me round for a bit before disappearing into the distance. The first mile or so is relatively flat before dropping down (the future ‘Sting in the Tail’)  and then a steady climb back off before levelling off. It was quite steady start and when we passed Bryan Dale at about 3 or 4 miles we were all still together and managed a great Bats in Flight photo, however very shortly after that the others started pulling away and I did all I could to keep them in sight for the following few miles.14519931_10207549313870641_1467317158645578447_n

Unlike other races this year there was no-one near me that I knew, mainly because a lot of Group D runners weren’t present but also going off a bit quicker the ones I did know were left behind so it was a bit of a lonely slog on slightly undulating but not hilly lanes avoiding tractors and one particularly rude driver who decided it was okay for her to weave between us and the marshals !

After about 10 miles I had well and truly had enough, the marathon a couple of weeks previous was taking its toll and I gave up any thoughts of a PB and just settled for the fact I was in front of all other group D’s and should get my 50 points. At about 11.5 miles there is a big downhill which caused a bit of a pull in the thigh so I had a brief stop to stretch off before turning the corner and starting up the Sting in the Tail. Now anyone who runs round Stone in the summer knows we climb much bigger hills so this Sting was nothing more than an irritating itch but after 12 miles it feels much worse.

The last mile was a bit of drag as the sun was quite warm by now but I crossed the line in 1:35:03 (chip) which was over a minute better than my PB at Uttoxeter earlier this year and my goal of 50 points and a PB was achieved, the only annoyance was why did I stop for a stretch…it could have been sub 1:35…..next time !

I made my way over to Jo Bentley who was first in for the club and also 1st F40, Mick Downes and Kirsty ‘Pocket Rocket’ Stephenson who all looked fresh. We then watched as the other Bats came in, I have put all the results on the website so sorry for no mentions here but work keeps getting in the way….how rude !

Once we were all in we managed a couple of photos and then made our way back to the school to pick up goody bags and T Shirt and then all went our separate ways.14470436_10211011265896756_153102930136414119_n

It was a great race and although I left feeling a bit annoyed at myself on reflection my Garmin said it was my quickest 10 miles, 15K and 3rd fastest 10K and of course PB for a half so perhaps it wasn’t all bad.

Later that evening when the #thumbsupforemma photos started appearing it made the hard work worthwhile and that running with the Bats is absolutely fantastic and the camaraderie we have is one of the main reasons I run.

Go Bats !14600983_10211012610290365_2762022607217806749_n

 

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Ipstones 5 ish – Saturday 10th September

ipstonesHello again, its been a while since I last managed to get 5 minutes to write a report which meant I missed one for the Dave Clarke 5 so here it is in a nutshell.

5k, lots of Bats, Danny Soltys challenging Amy Gamble’s husband, footpaths, canal, lap of field, lots of pain but soon over. I managed to scrape 49 points in my group which was ok and all the results are on the website – job done !

Anyway onto this weekend – a Saturday run at 3:30 in the afternoon, this had its plus points as it meant not having to watch Stoke and also (don’t tell the wife) we had family over which meant I had to nip out for a few hours.

As regular readers will know myself and Anne-Marie tend to get to races early and this week we had to collect Joyce on the way so we pencilled in an early pick up, however, when Anne-Marie arrived at about 20 to 1 even I was surprised as I was halfway through my lunch and not dressed for running. Anne-Marie was an hour early so I sent her packing (she is trying to blame the kids for wanting their lunch early).

So at about 1:45 Anne-Marie reappeared and we set off to Ipstones – I haven’t done this race before but I knew Ipstones was in the Churnet Valley so there was bound to be a hill involved somewhere. We collected Joyce, arrived at Ipstones and collected numbers and our free gift (plasters or a cook book!) and then did our usual wandering around for an hour saying hello to fellow Bats and making excuses as to why we were just taking it easy and not being competitive.

A short warm up was involved and I spotted a few D runners, including Chris (Rugeley Runners) who is leading the way, deservedly so and Adrian (Cheadle) but not many more, another plus point of a Saturday afternoon run perhaps.

3:30pm, quick announcements, then we were off with a lap round the field just to lull us into a false sense of security before making our way out onto the road. It seemed a very serene start so I guess everyone knew what was coming up ! Once out onto the road it started to settle down with it soon becoming apparent that there wasn’t the normal number of D runners but we were all grouped within a few metres of each other as we began the climb.

I don’t mind a gradual climb early in a race as I find quite a nice rhythm and plod on and as it was I was passing the D runners including Chris and after the first mile was the frontrunner for my group and could still actually see the leaders ! However, I was in a similar position at Meerbrook after a couple of miles so I knew Chris wouldn’t be far behind but I kept pushing on and tried to enjoy the quiet (apart from the sound of runners heavy breathing and stomping feet) !

As we turned at the top of the hill we flattened out before a big long decline down a farm path and actually enjoyed it even though I was pushing harder than normal. Now being a 5 mile race there is not a lot to tell you about and before long we were back on the road with over 3 miles in the bag, now I had been warned there was a tricky hill about 4 miles in and so it appeared. I looked over my shoulder and sure enough Chris was there and I had a flashback to Meerbrook where Chris passed me on the last climb and as you know it is near on impossible to pass anyone down Gun Hill. However, Chris had run SC20 last week and we had only done 4 miles so I pushed on hoping to have enough left for a decent last mile and potentially a sprint finish if it came to it.

As we turned the corner we could see the cars on the field and the finishing runners so I had increased the pace and as we turned onto the field I could see the clock just passing 34 minutes so I gave it my all to try and get in under 35 minutes, if I was passed here it wouldn’t be for lack of effort.me

As it was 34:59 official time and managed to finish a few places and seconds in front of Chris for my 50 points. It might be enough to guarantee 2nd but as we have only raced 5 of the races against each other (Chris 3-2 up at the moment) Chris has managed more 50’s in the races I haven’t done so unless I can turn over the deficit I will probably be pipped to the post but let’s give it a go. (Come on D runners, do me a favour at St Thomas and take some points off Chris whilst I drink wine in Austria!!)

After I had managed to get my breath, congratulate Chris and Adrian who wasn’t far behind (the top 3 D runners) we then cheered on the remaining Bats as they finished.

We managed to get 3 NSRRA group winners by my reckoning – Bonnie, Mac and myself and Joyce was 1st F65 and a couple of second placed age group, Jayne and Kevin.

Moment of the day goes to Michelle Miles who put in an amazing sprint finish to beat 50 minutes !!michelle

A great turn out for the Bats and some great photos by Margaret Shaw which are all on the facebook page (pinched a few for this report).

Enjoy St Thomas and see you all at Congleton.

 

Go Bats !!

Paul

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Meerbrook 15k – 30th July 2016

Well…what a week !

This time last week (about 6 or 7pm Saturday evening), I was just setting off on my 1st leg of 3 at the Thunder Run, what a fantastic event that was and I am sure everyone has seen the rave reviews, pictures and Kathryn’s excellent solo report. A few of you will also know that the hug I gave Kathryn wasn’t just for her benefit.

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Wednesday saw the unfortunate mix up at the Staffs Knot 5 where we ran and extra ¾ mile and thus not counting as a NSRRA race, I was going to write a report on that one but time and circumstances have been against me this week.
BUT today…the Meerbrook 15K, for those of you who don’t know this race, it is as flat as a pancake, superfast and super easy, one that everyone should give it a go next year….sign up before reading on !
However, for those who do know, I may not be telling the whole truth or in fact not even an ounce of truth…..it’s a bit hilly and it’s on a Saturday morning – it has been noted that Tim Hulse has booked his holiday to coincide with this race the past two years…coincidence?
As I am sure regular readers are now aware myself and Anne Marie like to arrive early and I am glad we did as it was the Leek Show and traffic was busy round the town and we also have a short walk to the race HQ before another short 1km walk back to the start line, making for not a lot of time for chatting, but we did have time for a mile or so warm up to the bottom of Gun Hill in preparation.
As we made our way to the start, we noticed Danny Soltys mingling around the front of the pack and we also had a rare sighting of Jackie Allen doing a NSRRA race….now anyone who knows Jackie knows she is allergic to hills…so why Meerbrook we asked ? Also on the start line was Anne-Marie, Victoria (aka Kathryn), Joyce, Emma, Bonnie and Pippa – at this point I must say…”C’mon Lads….two of us” it might mean I get 49 points in the club championship but we won’t be winning any team prizes if we don’t up our game (After Trentham it looks like the girls are leading the NSRRA team event).
Anyway, on to the race, my main competition for Group D spoils is Chris Wood from Rugeley and he is running very well at the moment so we chatted at the start and for some reason I told him the profile and best strategy, I should have said go hell for leather for 4 miles and see what happens ! We started at just after 10am and it is quite a congested start and you don’t really get into your stride for the first 1km which is a blessing really as it stops you going off to fast, because as you pass the 1km marker you start to climb Gun Hill – I can’t put in words how hard this is at the start of the race but it climbs for over 2km and at one point you need crampons !
I worked hard up the hill and passed lots of the D runners who had managed to get a better start but by the top myself and Chris were at the front of D group and I had even passed Pippa (she got her own back don’t worry). Waiting just before the top is Bryan Dale, thanks Bryan, it will be interesting to see if Emma gave the double thumbs up at this point (don’t let me down Emma).
When you get to the top it is a long gradual and occasionally steep descent for the next 4km or so, however after the climb your legs can’t make the most of it straightaway as they are still aching but gradually you get into your stride and make the most of it knowing you have to come back up here shortly. At this point I am still running with Chris and we pretty much pacing each other knowing we have the points in the bag, just a case of who gets the 50.
Although it is a difficult course it is very scenic with very little traffic and only the sound of heavy breathing disturbing the peace, the weather was good with a nice cool breeze and a few drops of rain did threaten briefly but thankfully not for long.

After the water station you drop down again and then a climb starts about 8km and then another climb and more climbs which make Beech feel like a flat track session, maybe an exaggeration but this is around the 10km mark and you have normally finished by now. About 11km I am just in front of Chris and then Pippa comes past looking strong, I feel like I have just been pacing the pair of them because not long after Chris comes past and they open up about 20-30 yards on me.
This is where I need to up my game because in my head I accepted that they were in front and was quite happy to settle for the points there and then, would I have caught them if I tried harder ? Between 12k and 13k you then climb back up to the top of Gun Hill and I did see Pippa have a sneaky walk for a few yards but unfortunately my legs decided enough was enough and I just plodded up the last 1k uphill knowing the downhill was to come.
When you get to the 13k mark the race, as a race is pretty much over because down the hill most people are just going all out and it is difficult to make up any ground. I could see Chris and Pippa just in front but they weren’t getting any closer and they crossed the line a few places and about 40 seconds in front of me – I think Chris was panicking it was me in the red vest right behind but he was safe.

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I crossed the line in about 71:25 over a couple of minutes faster than last year so I should be happy enough with that but my initial thought was disappointment, someone did say I had done Thunder Run, followed by Staffs Knot and then this so perhaps my legs may have had that extra 30-40 seconds and I shouldn’t complain.
The end of this race it is difficult to chat too much because everyone had worked hard and was knackered but had a quick catch up with the regulars and also discussed the race with the Bats. Danny came in a fantastic 4th just missing out on the top 3 by a matter of seconds and Joyce claimed the only silverware for the bats with 1st F65.

All the results are on the website already with 9 of us completing the course. I understand Tim Clegg did attempt to make the start but due to an accident and delays in Leek he came to the start area without his number as not realising so we missed the Usain Bolt finish today.
After the team photo we all made our way off home with no race plans for a couple of weeks so I might have a couple of days off to rest up. Unfortunately, my kids may have other ideas as they dragged me for a walk into Stone Pokemon Hunting although a sneaky pint at the Three Crowns on the way back was well deserved. I am now sitting here with another glass, legs aching and glad this week is over.

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Well done today to all the Bats and everyone who ‘survived’.

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Trentham 10k – 17th July 2016

At the moment it is non-stop racing with the Thunder Run coming soon quickly followed by the Staffs Knot 5 and the Meerbrook 15k but today was the turn of the Trentham 10k.

Plenty of people recall the original Trentham 10 when it was a 2 lap 10 mile course but a couple of years ago it was rejigged to single lap 10k race meaning only one trip up past Beech Caves.

I last did this race 2 years ago but missed last years due to holidays and also it was a reserve NSRRA race last year so no points up for grabs !

After my successful jaunt round Cheadle last week I feel like I am running well and relatively comfortable so I even let the family come and watch at TrenthamIMG_0936

Usually this is quite stressful as I want some sort of routine before a race but this Sunday morning I still got up early enough for Porridge but  then sorted the kids out and made sure they were dressed and ready for my planned 9:30 departure. Guess what ? We left on time….shock…horror (suppose I better return the clocks to the original time now…..I didn’t before you shout at me !)

We arrived at Trentham and I sorted my number out and started chatting with the fellow Bats, Anne-Marie had thought it was a good idea to run up in preparation for Thunder Run next week, I toyed with the idea then dismissed it quickly, I think Anne-Marie wish she had also dismissed the idea.

It is always a bit sketchy before the race because everyone prepares slightly differently or warms up in their own way so I left the wife chatting to some of the girls and went off for a quickish 1mile war up to get the bones moving, during the warm up I quickly discovered it was much warmer than anticipated so I removed the under armour and went with just the vest. (its okay on a 10k I don’t get any friction on the chest area so took the chance even though I got the raised eyebrows from my darling wife).

Whilst warming up I checked out the competition, same crowd as last week and no sign of Chris from Rugeley, could it be another 50 pointer ? However, with the climb to Beech in the mix nothing can be taken for granted especially with Ollie Clarke closing in quick (is this okay Ollie ?). I also found out the start had changed slightly with the rapid downhill past the school changed to an uphill around the housing estate, it was a bit manic last time so hopefully this is a sensible move.

Anyway quick cuddle with the boys (and wife) and I made my way to the start, I am becoming to realise I should start a bit closer to the front and go off a bit quicker rather than jog round for a mile before starting up.

Quick speech from Ken mentioning something about car drivers being ‘silly’ I think that is what he said and then we were off. The quick left turn into the housing estate was a bit of a shock but off we went doing a loop for about 500 metres before rejoining Winghouse Lane and making our way to the bottom of the climb up to Beech.

A quick mention to my fellow D runners at this point as with the NSRRA you run alongside the same guys week in week out and it is all in great spirit and good fun so today I set out with Adrian (Cheadle), Matt (Trentham), Jon and some guy called Ollie (Newcastle), Steve (SC), Kevin (SMM) and a few others, there is also one lad Nick in Group E who has been running with me the last few races and is looking good for promotion this year.

We all started the long haul up to Beech and myself and Matt ran side by side most of the way until closer to the top Matt started to drop back, it is a good climb and when you get right to the top you have a quick 100 yard downhill before another little climb back to the main road. As we turned onto the main road myself and Nick found ourselves with a nice little gap so we use the big long straight to recover a little after the climb, you forget quite how far a mile is until you see it on a straight road….it goes on for miles….well a mile ! At this point you just need to focus on your own pace and not look too far ahead, so on we plodded and discussed tactics for the next couple of miles as I was leading D and Nick Leading E.

When you get to the A51 roundabout you turn left and there is a gentle climb for about 500 metres maybe a bit more but once you get to the top it is as good as downhill for the rest of the way so a bit more effort here and you have done the hard work. It was when we got to the top Nick said this is where I leave him, he tends to stay with me for 4 miles then drops back but I encouraged him on for about another half a mile before he started dropping back, I also took the chance to have a sneaky look back to see if I could see any of my competition, relieved to see they were not hot on my heels.

As we turned left back onto Winghouse Lane I did pick up the pace a little but with the number of races coming up I definitely decided to hold something back as I wasn’t going to smash any records by knackering myself up so when Captain Bernie hollered out my name I thought it was only fitting to holler back, a couple of runners next to me commented how did I have the energy to shout…oops.

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Hearing our shouting spurred on Pippa Steele in front of me and she put some effort in, she needn’t have worried I was quite happy trundling down and finishing a good minute or so faster than the previous time and leading group D runner.

Although it is quite stressful having family present it is always nice to see them towards the end and they give me and the rest of the Bats a good cheer as we finished with a downhill spurt, however for a second week running I walked the last couple of steps – saving myself for Thunder Run (every second counts …..what a pants program that was!).

We got branded shoe bag as a finishing memento this year which was unusual and actually a very useful addition to the kit so kudos to Trentham for this.

I then hung around and cheered on my fellow runners, Bats and all, with the various handshakes, pats on backs, and congratulations passed round on what turned out to be a very hot day, I even understand my children had ice creams and didn’t bother getting me one…..how rude !

Sixteen Bats flew round past Beech with Paul Swan finishing an amazing 2nd behind Amy’s husband ! IMG_0845Pippa Steele was the first lady bat with Tim Hulse sandwiched between them. I understand Mac won his Group again along with myself  and Emma Dutton won Group W, Kevin won 1st M65, Pam won F60 and I can’t figure out the younger women age groups but looks like we occupied a lot of the F35 and F40 places in the NSRRA tables if not overall – well done to everyone. I will try and get the results on the website asap but full results are up on the NSRRA site and Bryan Dale’s Race Photos (you will have seen photos on Facebook already).

All in all another excellent turn out with great support from fellow bats on the course, great turnout and another new member racing with us, well done Victoria Hughes  (you’ll need to check the name with Bernie as he shouted something different.)

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So bring on Thunder Run….

 

 

 

 

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Cheadle 4 – 10th July 2016

Last year I did my marathon debut (and still only one) at Potts so I gave this a miss, however I am concentrating on some shorter races this year and what could be better than a quick 4 miler on the flat scenic roads around Cheadle ! (Answers on a postcard).

The last few races I have approached with a more positive outlook to enjoy rather than to get wound up about competing and it appears to have worked as clocking up PB’s galore and plenty of points in the NSRRA. So much so John Edwards commented on my relaxed approach at Berryhill more than once as I tootled round “are you going to get out of second gear” was the shout on the 1st two laps….IMG_0346

However, Ken Rushton kindly pointed out earlier in the week that a group prizes were up for grabs and knowing Rugeley Runner Chris was not running I started getting it in my head that I needed to try harder.

Early morning prep changed slightly as I risked a cup of tea instead of the usual water and even had a shave……as most of us know shaving is a pain and weekends we don’t need to bother….especially the girls ! So I sat there waiting for Anne-Marie to pick me up at 9am all cleanly shaven and kitted out ready for Cheadle…I was slightly thrown when Nick Boulton drove up but with Julie and Anne-Marie in the car we set out on the short trip to Cheadle.

Parked up, met fellow bats meandering around the field, quick wee and then the usual spotting fellow group D runners. We all chatted as usual about how crap we felt and anything under 30 minutes would be a bonus etc. (even though Facebook chatter had been 29 minutes with 7,8,7,7 pacing according to Ollie Clarke).

Adrian from Cheadle, Ollie and Jon from Newcastle, Matt from Trentham and a few other group D runners were about so we were analysing the competition for the next 15-20 minutes before the race started. Ollie has been picking up pace recently so needed to keep an eye on him, it was Adrian’s home course and he ran well at Shugborough and Matt Burley had some great runs early on in the year but has been clocking in some titanic performances at various events for http://chelseaburley.wix.com/chelseaburleytrust – so might not be up for a 4 mile speed session.

Anyway 10:30 soon arrived and the sun was trying to shine and it was quite a humid morning with the threat of rain – typical British Summer – but we set off on the first flat, if not slightly downhill mile of the four.

I started quickly alongside Adrian who seemed to set off quicker than normal…was this confidence on his home course ? I settled in behind him as we found a 6:30m/m pace wondering if it was a bit quick with the hill to come but it felt okay and it was only 4 miles !!!!! After about ½ mile Matt Burley jogged past and we commented ‘there goes 50 points’ he looked strong and from earlier races in the season at Newcastle and South Cheshire we didn’t expect to see him again.

Then comes the left turn onto Freehay bank – it is described as 1 mile flat, then 1 mile hill, then flat then down…..well it is longer than 1 mile up and it’s quite tough. It is one of those hills that you just have to find your rhythm and dig in, you climb, it levels off, you climb a bit more, then a bit more then you turn into a narrow lane and then climb a steeper bit and (have I mentioned the climb) you eventually appear at the top. At this point I could still see Matt perhaps 100 yards ahead and had not heard or seen anything of the other guys in D behind me, a quick glance suggested they weren’t closing in fast.

Anyway at the top of the hill you are over half way and I was using Amy Gamble who was between Matt and I as a target to get me closer. Amy was having her own battle with another ‘L’ lady and it was helping me focus on closing the gap. Then comes the fun part a big downhill, I had forgotten quite how long a downhill it was – I caught up with Amy and I think I muttered something along the lines of lets catch these two up, with NSRRA it’s all about the points, and slowly but surely Matt was coming into range.

Over 3 miles down and you are telling yourself less than one mile and I can stop, but you know it is going to be a hard mile. I caught Matt up with probably ½ mile to go and sat behind him deciding if I should go for it or take him on in a sprint over the last 200 yards….well Matt is a lot taller than me and I am guessing those long legs might give him an advantage over a short sprint so I took a deep breath and surged past him. I pushed on and we turned back out onto the main road where we run for about 200 yards before turning into the park for a 50 yard finish on the grass – about halfway along I glanced backwards and I could only see Amy and not Matt so I turned into the field and basically jogged casually over the line with 50 points in the bag ! As you will see from the picture I was walking over the finish line, although it appears I stopped a bit too early as my watch was 10 seconds quicker than my official time…oops !Walking Finish

Amy was right behind me and had passed her ‘L’ competition so an extra point gained.

I was passed my Winner’s Mug and turned to congratulate Matt who finished not too far behind – he did admit when I passed he had nothing left  so he did well to come in with 49 points. The next 10-15 minutes are spent cheering on your fellow runners over the line whether they are Bats, fellow Group D runners or other likeminded people who just run on a Sunday morning for FUN!

One of the highlights of cheering in the Bats was Tim Clegg’s Usain Bolt sprint for the line, perfectly captured in the attached photo ! As Tim said he just needs to work on the other 3.95 miles !Usain Bolt

19 Bats completed the Cheadle 4 with Paul Swan with another top ten finish in under 24 minutes with Tom Wilson not far behind. By my reckoning we had 4 age group prizes with Amy, Kevin, Pam and Joyce and 3 Group winners with Bonnie and Mac alongside myself.

I won’t list all of the results as they are now up on the website but I know mine was a 4 mile PB and I am sure there were many others.Mug Shot

Cheadle 4 is a good race, lovely part of Staffordshire only 4 miles long so get home in time for lunch and well organised by a good running club and I am sure I will be back next year !

Next up Trentham 10k, I understand that’s a flat course as well.

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Bat secures Staffordshire selection following Potters ‘Arf performance

We’re delighted to announce one of our own, Paul Swan, has secured selection to represent Staffordshire against North Wales this weekend in the St. Michael’s 10k. Paul was 1st M50 at Potters ‘Arf this past Sunday with a chip time of 1:21:05, a fantastic 2min 30sec PB on the notoriously hilly course. Superb running, Paul, we’re very proud of you.

If you’re running or supporting on Sunday, be sure to give Paul a shout!