Category Archives: NSRRA

Flying Fox 10 – Tale of a Compleat Runner by Jason Barrett

The alarm went off at 6am, and like all mornings over the past three weeks, the first 15 minutes were spent hobbling around the house with intense heel pain. But today was going to be different. Today was my 29th race of the year. Today was going to seal my NSRRA Compleat status. And having mentally prepared all week for pulling off something special at my inaugural Flying Fox 10, this pain wasn’t going to stop me.

After finishing my habitual pre-race sustenance, a hot teacake loaded with peanut butter, I donned my SMM vest with pride, and took to the roads for the short drive to Standon.

On arrival, I was directed down to the non-VIP car park by fellow bat and NSRRA Group F competitor, Richard Shaw. There were already many bats walking up the road or directing traffic, and bats supporting & cheering on every corner was a theme throughout the race. Remarkably it was also a positively balmy morning, which as someone who detests cold & rain was extremely welcome.

Having arrived at race HQ, picked up my number (who decided on Legs 11?), it was straight outside for a quick photo shoot with my fellow Compleat runners – David Dunsmore, Bryan Powell & Alf Slater. Whilst I had several goals for 2018, Compleat didn’t really enter the possibilities until late in May. It silently snuck up on me and before I realised what was happening, it was too late and the NSRRA addiction had well and truly sunk in. My congratulations to all the Compleat runners, inclusive of Colin Pheasant who surely would have been alongside us if possible.

Following a brief warm up, it was time to get into position; no longer starting innocuously towards the back, but jostling myself forward to gain a vital few extra seconds advantage. All pre-race fears – yes, I still have many – had now abated and after a brief delay for an impatient car, the starting pistol was fired and away I went.

The first half mile was simply a game of getting past as many people as possible in a lane that was tight at four runners abreast, but I took advantage as each small gap opened up. A quick look at my watch showed a 9:00m/mile pace, a fair bit off my target for today, but I was feeling good – really good – and was confident I could pick that pace up now the runners were thinning out.

I had latched onto my fellow group F competitor, Peter Williams, running about 50 yards behind and matching his pace. Peter vanishing off into the distance has been a familiar sight during 2018, and I congratulate him on a superb year. Alongside Peter was Laura Slack, seemingly running effortlessly as always. Flying Fox 10 promised a scenic route and it was delivering a great countryside run.

The first 2 miles go by and we’re heading back down Mill Lane towards Standon. I’m still feeling good, barely any pain in my heel, legs feeling strong and mentally in the zone. Running towards the crossroads, I can hear my name being shouted by several people – I didn’t look to see who – and as always it’s those simply shouts of encouragement that makes you pick your legs up just that little bit higher, to raise your head & straighten your back and to refocus on the task ahead.

I don’t think we’re allowed to call a course hilly, unless it’s Meerbrook. More than a couple of people had warned me Flying Fox 10 was “undulating” with an incline at mile 6, so the two miles leading up to this was purely about pushing as hard as possible and hoping I could make it up the slope ahead. I was still behind Peter, but now beginning to drop a little distance. Laura had noticed me behind her and dropped her pace to keep with me. During this couple of miles we passed Pam & Mac who were marshalling on one of the railway bridges. I can’t remember the exact comment, but Pam expressed true surprise at how well I was doing, and it was at that point I realised I was, so far, having my race of the year!

Then mile 6! Truly it didn’t feel that bad. I certainly lost pace, but Laura stuck by me offering encouragement and in the true spirit of the NSRRA, other close by runners also coached me up to that summit. I believe it was around this time I was caught by another bat running well, Bonnie, and we had a brief exchange of places – my legs serving me well down hill – before she gradually pulled away.

The next couple of miles were eventful. I was tired, shoulders & back aching and breathing hard, but still felt stronger in the legs than I have in any previous race. Despite the pains, I was really enjoying this. I reached the 9 mile sign, not far now and time to see what was left in the tank. I was passed by a group C runner and decided this was the time to really dig deep. With shouts & screams of encouragement from Laura, off I went and pushed ahead in pursuit of Mr. Group C. I knew I wasn’t going to beat him, but now it was purely about pacing off him for a better time.

As I ran down Church Lane towards the finish, I could again hear my name being shouted by several people, but I was now far too focused on getting to that line to recognise the voices dragging me to the finish. My legs hadn’t failed me and were still going strong, despite the rest of my body wondering when on earth the suffering would end.

One final left, a short sprint and there was the finish.

After the obligatory priority of stopping Strava, I was instantly congratulated by many bats and other competitors with nothing but positive comments, and informed my time was just over 1:24. I had achieved another huge personal best, beating Rugeley 10K by a whopping 13 minutes and I’d finished the Flying Fox 10 with a 3rd place in my group. 2018 NSRRA was over and I was a Compleat runner.

Yet 12 months ago, I was a distinctly average runner. I was in my first year as a runner and as a bat, and whilst I had improved over the year, I had no targets or focus.

Then I read an NSRRA race report by David Dunsmore, someone I only knew as one of the “quick ones” in the SMM.

That report set in motion the changes in my life that have defined my 2018. This year has been tough, but I’ve discovered that by combining goals with determination and support, the unimaginable doesn’t take that long to start achieving. I’ve discovered competitiveness at a point in my life when I didn’t expect to have anything I could achieve. I’ve discovered pain that I didn’t think existed, but that you can work around and through it with the right guidance. Being part of SMM & NSRRA has brought me new friends of all ages, paces & abilities, and the “quick ones” are just as supportive and approachable as anyone. Being part of the incredible SMM family has helped me overcome major running anxieties (I came close to fainting at the start of Stafford Half 2017!) and has driven me to PB after PB.

I’ll remember 2018 as the year I stopped being a jogger and became a runner. I’m already planning to stretch my goals & challenges for 2019, and if this article encourages just one person to do the same with their running journey it would be the proudest achievement of my year.

David Dunsmore – Compleat NSRRA Runner Report 2017

Running (or as I called it, jogging) was something I’d see people do early in the morning, quite often in dreadful weather conditions and I’d just think…why? What can you possibly gain from putting yourself through this, and by choice?

That was until I started running. As with many of us in the running community, this was initially as an attempt to improve my mental well-being. There’s no doubt that for me, the benefits were almost immediate. A change in routine, combined with physical exercise, a sense of achievement and self worth were literally just what the doctor ordered. Now that I’d seen the light, I was happy to put myself through the pain of early morning weather-beaten runs.

I’d been trying to build up distance on my runs (with music as my only running companion) and so decided I would enter my first race, the 2016 Stafford Half Marathon. The performance will never go down as my finest hour but it was enough for me to catch the racing bug!

My sister, Kirsty Stephenson, a seasoned campaigner in the Staffordshire running scene, eventually persuaded me to join her club, The Stone Master Marathoners at the end of 2016. I’d been hesitant about joining a club for fear of being too slow or lacking long distance stamina. But the support, encouragement, training and most importantly, the banter provided by The Bats has been invaluable!

By January 2017, talk at The Club had turned to who was going to be competing in something called Road Runners. As a new member and a relatively new runner, I didn’t think this was something that concerned me and so contentedly waited for the next Stafford Half to come around (as far as I was aware, there were only a couple of local races – The Potters’ Arf, The Stafford Half and the St Michael’s 10k).

Then, on a club training session, I spent a while speaking to Victoria Hughes about what exactly Road Runners was and whether it was something in which I should be competing. I didn’t have long to decide – the Alsager 5 was a week away and I figured I’d be better front loading the races to the first half of the year.

And so it was, on a cold February morning, with my “E” firmly pinned to my back, I lined up with the other runners in Alsager ready for the off. Not only was this my first foray in to the world of NSRRA, it was also my first race for The Club. I chatted nervously with Fiona Bradley (who was also running her first race as a Bat) while trying to identify other runners in our groups. Thirty six minutes later and I’d crossed the line, 48 points the richer.
Celebrating the start of the NSRRA season with my fellow Bats in the pub, I was thinking “1 down, 11 to go!” My intention was to pick 12 races and just see how I got on with those – this being my first year, I just wanted to find my feet. With that in mind, I entered the Knighton 20 and Newcastle 10k. I didn’t have “a great day at the office” on either of these, but was still happy to pick up a couple of 49s.

Next up, The South Cheshire 10k – a nice, flat PB course. Such was my love for The Bats, I‘d been toying with getting inked with the Stone Master Marathoner’s distinctive bat logo and decided that I would only do this if and when I achieved a group win. As I crossed the finish line, I was handed a group winner’s mug and so didn’t have to wait to find out if the 50 points were mine. Over the moon with the group win and a PB, I headed to Raymondo’s tattoo parlour to get my bat-tat / battoo – short of an appearance on Tattoo Fixers, I was now a Bat for life!

It wasn’t until later in the week that I discovered my good friend and fellow Bat, Indira, who had finished just ahead of me, had quite rightly been promoted to group E and so my precious 50 points became 49 and the tattoo should never have been!

A family holiday in North Wales had meant the Uttoxeter Half was never going to be one of my 12. As I trained in the rain around the foot of Snowdonia, race withdrawal symptoms kicked in and I was resigned to missing out on the 13.1 miles, the Bats’ banter and the celebrations at Uttoxeter. So when Katie, my incredibly understanding wife (and I mean above and beyond all levels of understanding), suggested we leave two days early as a result of the inclement weather (in North Wales? Never!), I had the car packed and ready to go before you could say Llanfair¬pwllgwyngyll¬gogery¬chwyrn¬drobwll¬llan¬tysilio¬gogo¬goch!

Boy, was I glad I never missed this one! The course was stunning, challenging but very rewarding and I finally got the 50 points that in my mind, justified being inked. Five down, seven to go.

Even after completing the Clayton 10k a few weeks later, I still had no intention of running more than 12 races. Next in the series was the Flying Fox Marathon and I was nowhere near ready to take on a challenge like that so decided this would be one of the races I’d drop. That was until Bernie Priekulis, The Bats’ team captain and race organiser, started parading the finishers’ medals on Facebook and so it was that race 7 was entered. I knew the risk of running a marathon without training properly – Westbridge 5 and Potters’ Arf were in the following weeks and I would be putting my fitness for those races in jeopardy.

Blinded by the beauty and promise of that medal, I set off nonetheless. Accompanied by Aggi Pope, the first 18 miles flew by but the lack of training and fitness soon took their toll and as Aggi disappeared off in to the distance, I inevitably hit The Wall. I’d never DNF’d before, but this was looking more and more likely. However, with the support of the amazing Bat marshals and fellow runners, I finally crossed the line in 4 hours 2 minutes and gained another 49 points. I dare say that this will be perceived as being more than slightly biased, but from start to finish, this was undoubtedly the finest race in which I’ve competed – not in terms of my own performance, but the atmosphere, camaraderie, support, celebrations, organisation were all second to none. To top it all, fellow Bat Paul Swan had finished first male.

Time would tell what damage I’d done. Despite managing a recovery run and some hill work, I was putting on a brave face. I appreciate that marathons should be treated with respect but what was done was done and it’s not a mistake I will make again. I did manage a 35 minute PB at Westbridge 5 the following week, but had one of my worst performances to date at the Potters’ Arf – nothing felt right, physically or mentally and I found myself barely able to walk up Heartbreak Hill, never mind run.

Indira, whose speed and stamina seemed to be improving exponentially, had been picking up the 50 points in all of the recent races and this continued through to The St Michaels 10k and The Cheadle 4 – always seemingly just in front of me, I could never find the strength to catch him when required.

After a weekend of running through mud and torrential rain at Thunder Run 24 in July, it was back to NSRRA. While away, Indira and I had been examining the points situation and we’d worked out that if he won the next two races, the group was his. With this in mind and full of grit, steely determination and TR24 mud still clinging to my legs, I proceeded to finish second to Indira yet again at the Staffs Knot 5.

I was still happy with being the runner up in the group, especially to such a good friend and fellow Bat. This was my first year in NSRRA and I would learn from the mistakes I’d made and push to improve next year. So, onward to Meerkbrook 15k and I finally felt the pressure was off. I still had an outside chance of winning the group but it would mean taking 50 points in all of the remaining 8 races. Given Indira’s current form, I didn’t fancy my chances.

As I’d discovered with all of Mick Hall’s races, he loves his hills and Meerbrook is no different. Since joining the Bats, I’d learned to embrace the hills as a necessary evil and as the season had progressed, I found myself able to tackle them with greater conviction and speed (I’ve got John Clemens to thank for this!). For the first 8 or so kilometres, the race went the way of the previous few – me chasing Indira before he got so far ahead that there would be no chance of catching him. As the steep inclines took their inevitable toll on my calves, I felt the energy drain from my legs and with it, the last chance of winning the group. I’d pushed myself to collapsing exhaustion over the finish line of every previous race and so I was still proud of what I’d achieved and that I’d run to the best of my ability. In the distance, I could still just about see Indira who seemed to be slowing slightly – had the hills hit him harder than they’d hit me? There was one long steep downhill on the course before the finish and so I convinced myself if I managed to catch up before then, I might still have a chance. Luckily for me, this is exactly what happened – as steep as the inclines were, the down hills were magnificent. I’m pretty fearless on descents and so managed to get far enough ahead to cross the line and claim my second group winners’ mug and the 50 points.

Ecstatic as I was to have kept the group alive, I soon realised that I still had to repeat this 7 times, all the while aware that just one more win for my friend and it was all over. I was now going to have to complete all 20 races and the initial 12 race plan was well and truly out the window.

With this glimmer of hope, I pushed myself harder and harder in the next few races, managing group wins at The Trentham 10k, The Leek Half and The South Cheshire 20. Fortunately for me, these are undulating, country road courses with some fantastic descents – my kind of race!

Lining up at the start of The Ipstones 5, I was eager to keep up the momentum I’d gained from the previous races, but from the off, I could tell that Indira meant business. As we rounded the top of the field, I could see that he was the lead runner. There was no point in trying to chase him at this stage, I just had to have confidence in my race plan – tackle the inclines strongly and then play to my strengths by sprinting on the descents to the point whereby one false step and I’d be a goner. Thankfully, the risks were rewarded and another group win was in the bag.

I carried on with this same winning strategy through The St Thomas 7 and Congleton Half Marathon – both wonderful courses that really suited my style of racing. I’m not going to lie – by now I was thinking I did have a chance of pulling the group back. The only niggle was that being Scottish, we’re not famed for comebacks – more often than not, we’re grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory!
Going in to the last two races, it was all square in the group. Unlike other recent races, Indira and I ran The Werrington 10k together and by the 9th kilometre, it was still anyone’s race. Over the tannoy system, I could hear Ken Rushton announcing the finishers as they crossed the line, a comforting indication that the end was just around the corner. As I sprinted back through the school grounds towards the finish, I was aware of chasing feet pounding behind me. However, when I allowed myself a brief glance over my shoulder, Indira was nowhere to be seen. Fiona finished shortly after me and said she’d passed him on the last ascent, so we waited at the finish line for our friend to appear. What we didn’t expect was the chilling sight of a severely exhausted and dehydrated Indira being held up by Paul Glover and Vince Coyne as they supported him down the home straight. As the medics attended to him, it was a relief to see he was still adequately compos mentis to stop his Garmin – runners’ priorities! Thankfully, Indira recovered sufficiently to return to the race HQ at the school where he was plied with cake, Lucozade and sweet tea while being attended to by Nurse Bradley.

Needless to say, Paul and Vince sacrificing their races to help a fellow runner in his time of need is undoubtedly one of the most heart warming, endearing and selfless acts of the year. You did yourselves and the running community proud guys!

I do hope Indira doesn’t mind me writing about this, but it was such a pivotal part of my season. Seeing my friend suffering in that way was as much a wake up call as it was distressing. We’d been running, supporting and pushing each other throughout the year, but through points and PB chasing, I’d missed the bigger picture – this is supposed to be fun!

19 down, 1 to go. I am writing this the day before the Flying Fox 10. I was going to finish the report on the Sunday afternoon after the race, but there is no need – it really doesn’t matter about the result and who won the group. I still get emotional when I think about what I have taken from my first year as a runner, a Bat and being part of the NSRRA community. Putting aside becoming a running bore, it has undoubtedly changed me for the better – both my physical and mental health got a much needed shot in the arm (maybe not the best metaphor in the context!). I also forged what I consider to be some of the most important friendships of my life and their support, encouragement and ability to listen to me wittering on about the highs and lows of every race while still feigning interest is very much appreciated!

My only regret? The fact that I never ran The Rugeley 10 – so close to it being 23 out of 23! Next year.

Dave Clarke 5 2017

Dave Clarke 5k 2017 Race Report – Alison O’Mara

Hi my fellow “Bats”,

When Emma posted “can you help, we need a race report….. I reacted straight away without hesitation, almost a sense of urgency & said I’d be happy to do one, although I had no real idea of what was expected so I hope this fits the bill. The urgency came from me still feeling on a high from completing the “Dave Clarke 5” race and I felt I wanted to share the positive feeling with, well…. everyone but more so with some of the newer members of the club, in the hope it will encourage them to give a future race a good go.

And this is why:-

After only my 3rd official race with the club I arrived home and walked up my driveway with a very big spring in my step, having dropped Jools (Julie Hargreaves) off after the race, my beautiful friend that got me to do my first race some 15 years ago when I couldn’t run for a bus!!!!

On Thursday evening I had a feeling of happiness, achievement and complete elation, and absolute belief I can deal with anything that gets thrown at me. I kind of know that sounds a bit over the top but you know what it’s so true, so it doesn’t matter does it…???

I don’t want to harp on about issues I’ve had recently and goodness knows folk have much bigger traumas to deal with but life throws some pretty big emotional boulders at us sometimes so we need a coping mechanism. Running has become such a means to me.

I’ve said recently that before I go out on a club run I feel like someone has filled my brain with thick treacle…!!!! Everything is cloudy and weighs heavy. BUT… when I finish a run it’s as if someone has poured the purist spring water through my mind and everything is ok with the world. AND you know what’s even better..!!!! After a race the feeling is even more special.

You put on your club vest, fasten on your race number and become one of the team immediately. At the Dave Clarke 5k race there was a real mix of long-standing fast runners, to intermediate runners and new members that were almost scared stiff of what was ahead, but once you spot another Bat the camaraderie is amazing, old and new mixing together, it doesn’t matter about your speed or your capability, we are all one Team.

The sense of belonging is very powerful.

To all our new members, never fear about entering a race, the moment you make that decision you will experience something very special. You will feel part of a group of like minded people who will want to encourage you and bring out the best in you.

Pop on your SMM running top and start something amazing, run to your best ability, remember it’s the taking part that makes you special, feel that unique buzz as you cross the finish line with other “Bats” screaming your name and words of encouragement, ( it’s never great to finish first anyway because there’ll be no other runners there to cheer you on….lol )  collect your medal and I promise you, you will be signing up for your next race in no time…

I’d like to give a special shout out for Jacqui Bennett who posted about how nervous she was days before the race, only to go out there and absolutely smash it, and Cleo Acraman, Kay Porter and Ellie Holmes…amazing running. Sara Buckley and Sandra both had a fantastic race with their next 10k just around the corner (see it’s infectious)

I’d like to thank each and every one of the club members I run with and those I don’t, I have said on more than one occasion that becoming a Stone Master Marathoner is one of the very best things I’ve done in a long time, I feel very blessed to have made such wonderful new friends.

A special thank you to Bill Clarke for all your time and encouragement, I’m becoming a more accomplished runner because of your coaching and guidance and the absolute ability to make me feel guilty whenever I miss a session… and of course a special mention to Anne Griffiths who was amazing, staying towards the back of the group as a support to runners who are new to racing.

My new racing mantra….” Keep the spring water flowing to melt the treacle”. Ooooh and Jane Weston, “It’s your fault”….. x

St Michael’s 10k 2017 Race Report – Marianne Stopka

St Michael’s 10k 2017 Race Report by Marianne Stopka

In June 2015, after running for about 4 years, on and off on my own, I entered Stone St Michaels 10k. I had never classed myself as ‘a runner’, I had completed Stafford Half Marathon 3 times and had trained hard each time, my first one after only starting to run 3 months before. I’d also completed a Race for life and a 5k race with friends (both of which were very wet and muddy), but generally wasn’t very consistent with my running. Stone St Michaels 10k was to be my first 10k race. I had no doubt I could run the distance, just hadn’t bothered entering many races. I was a 13 minute miler who walked up the slightest hill, but that didn’t bother me, as I was still enjoying it. After training for Stafford Half Marathon in 2015, I decided I needed to give another race a go, and wasn’t brave enough to enter a different half marathon that I wasn’t familiar with the course. I saw Stone 10k advertised, which was described as a flat course so I thought I’d enter, as it would keep me motivated to carry on.

It was a hot day, and I remember thinking on the first slight incline ‘How the hell am I gonna get through this, I thought it was flat!’ I’d trained by running consistently 4 times a week, but concentrated on distance rather than speed. I got through it, although I’m not gonna deny it was really hard work, somewhere I hadn’t ran before, but I completed it in 1hr 11min s11secs and I was happy with that. When I finished the race someone handed me a flyer with details of a running club on, Stone Master Marathoners, I had never heard of them before. I’d thought about joining a running club but I also thought that I wasn’t good enough and that they would be really expensive to join. I also wanted a change of scenery from running round near where I live and to meet new friends with similar interests. I’d been through a difficult time in my life, running had helped but I really needed more from it now. I kept the leaflet, had a look at the website, along with other running clubs, I eventually plucked up the courage to contact the club secretary and ask if I was good enough, and find out more about the club a few months later. I was shocked to discover that runners of all abilities could run with Stone Master Marathoners and it was a lot cheaper than joining a gym then never using it which I always did. I went along on a Sunday morning, everyone was so welcoming and friendly!

I’ve since made lots of friends, my running has improved , I’ve entered many more races including lots of 10k’s and I’ve grown in confidence. However in 2016 I was unable to run Stone 10k, due to being on holiday at the time, but this year I entered it, and so glad I did cos I got a PB of 58:28 it was no where near as hard as it was 2 years ago either and yes it was flat. I’m so glad I joined SMM.

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

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.

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)

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!

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.


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… 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


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

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 !!