Four runners from Grantham Running Club joined a small field of 78 runners in the inaugural 8 Sail Saunter, an 11.1 mile route starting and finishing at the 8 Sail Windmill and Brewery in Heckington. Organised by the Sleaford Striders Running Club, the Saunter replaces the Sleaford Half Marathon as the club’s longest race offering.
After striking out south from the windmill to Little Hale, the runners turned east towards Screddington, which was skirted before the route turned west to Helpringham. Finally, the runners headed north to Great Hale before retracing their route to the finish at the windmill. Enthusiastic and helpful marshals and frequent signage ensured there was no possibility of going off track on the scenic and gently undulating course.
The day was considerably hotter than the previous day’s Met Office prediction of 15 degrees, being around 22 degrees. A reasonable breeze took some of the edge off, but it was still very warm for the runners.
First home for GRC was Phil Crowcroft, who described his preparation for the race as not drinking and trying to resist eating too many cookies the day before! Starting out steady, Phil gradually increased his pace as the race progressed, eventually crossing the line in 01:35:15, well within his target time of 01:40.
Fraser Marshall had a target of 01:40 for the race too, based off his recent personal best of 01:59:05 in the Boston Half Marathon. Perhaps, he reflected afterwards, running the initial miles too fast, he had to dig deep in the heat of the second half of the race to maintain his pace, and was very pleased to have achieved a time of 01:39:11.
Mark Rice had also set his hopes on beating the sub-01:40 time, which the first half of his run suggested he would have easily managed. Unfortunately, in the later stages, he suffered from stomach cramps that only let up when he eased his pace and restarted if he attempted to raise it again, meaning he had to settle for an unsatisfying 01:44:51.
Kate Marshall, the only female runner for the club, followed close on Mark’s heels as the next finisher. With her form still not entirely recovered after getting Covid a few weeks ago, she found the heat challenging, but stayed focused to finish in 01:45:09.
The first finisher was unaffiliated runner Thomas Sergeant in a time of 01:06:34, and the first female finisher was Paula Downing of Mablethorpe AC in 01:19:44.
The inaugural 8 Sail Saunter enjoyed a good route and was well-organised, and it was certainly appreciated by the runners; it was just a shame that the race hadn’t managed to attract as many competitors as it deserved.