Strap in, readers, this is a long one, even by Mr Jepson’s usual standards.
Friday 12th May – 12:46pm: I’ll be honest, Constant Reader, I’ve no bloody idea where to start… so I guess I’ll start there!
Edit: Out of necessity I must slightly tweak the structure of this month’s MoTM. I don’t intend to make apologies for that, looking back it’s a staggering month of running. Frankly, it’s bloody ridiculous!
Round Up – Part 1
The first Sunday in April 2023 saw over 17,000 participants in the ever-popular London Landmarks Half Marathon. Starting on the iconic Pall Mall, runners were treated to the sights and sounds of London’s famous landmarks, eventually finishing outside Downing Street.
It was an all-female squad of eight that arrived in London for a chilly start, they were warmed by the unyielding support of thousands lining the streets and by the thoughts of charitable endeavours.
First over the line was Rachel Hamilton who powered her way to her fastest time at this distance in an amazing 1:39:37. She ran for the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance, raising a fantastic £300 in the process.
Next, the ever-improving Nicci Whittaker in her debut at the distance. The electric atmosphere helped especially at the dreaded 11-mile mark, where and she had to dig deep. Her time; 1:51:34.
Paula Pick Ebbins trained hard and raised money for Alzheimer’s Research, crossing the line in 1:54:54.
Holly Wragg continues her meteoric rise and was pleased to finish in 2:04:52. She was running to raise money for the Lincolnshire NHS Charity.
Holly’s training partner, Emma Duncan echoed the praise for the atmosphere. With a finish time of 2:05:20 she also raised more than £700 for Marie Curie, a charity close to her heart.
Running in a pack of 3 were Vicky Platts, Kathleen Gray and Tracey Gell who crossed the line in 2:26:55/56 and raised a staggering amount of money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
On the same day, a little closer to home; Six journeyed to the village of Hose in the Vale of Belvoir for the fourth round of the club’s GP Series. An undulating, scenic route taking in the villages of Harby, Langar, Colston Bassett and Long Clawson.
The GRC contingent were led away by Piers Pye-Watson who settled into a strong position toward the front of the field of 200 runners. He was the first GRC competitor to cross the finish line in a fine 34th place and a time of 1:29:48.
Next back, after a huge effort, was Paul Davis in 1:44:26 followed by Peter Jennings in 1:46:02. First GRC lady to finish was Caroline Davis in 1:48:43, with Jo Grace 1:53:56 and Simon Allsopp who was a last-minute entrant, crossing the line in 2:04:42.
The day of the inaugural Lenton Predictor turned decidedly dreary, with drizzle all afternoon…. Nevertheless, twenty-seven hardy souls assembled on the start line at St Peter’s in Lenton for this twist on the usual race format; participants challenged to leave their activity trackers behind and see how closely they could match a time they’d have to predict in advance.
Last minute road closure shenanigans meant an out-and-back course with a small detour at the end.
The results remained in the balance until, finishing in 01:10:45, 15 seconds slower than her prediction Wendy Fraser was the inaugural winner of the Lenton Predictor, with Peter Jennings in second and Julie Stewart in third, just a second separating each of them.
Despite the inclement weather, the runners were in high spirits and reported having enjoyed the undulating course and different challenge of trying to race to a predetermined time.
Thanks go to Paul Jepson for the idea and for organising it (with considerable assistance from wife Kath), and all of the crew of marshals, cake wranglers, tail runners and timekeepers for supporting the event, without whom, things like this can’t happen.
Making the pilgrimage (sorry, had to be done), ten athletes took to the UK Boston Marathon. Originally held on the same day as the iconic World Marathon Major of the same name, it boasts to be the flattest marathon in the country with full, half and new to 2023; a 10km option.
The grey conditions made way for bright sunshine and climbing temperatures later in the race, which hampered many. Thankfully no fenland wind compounded the issue.
Balint Beni and Andrew Macallister took on the challenge of the full marathon distance. First-time marathoner, Balint was proud to complete the race in 03:54:50 after encountering difficulties with leg cramps at mile 20. Balint reflected the volunteers provided fantastic, encouragement and aid throughout the race.
Long distance expert, Andrew Macallister crossed the line in a solid 04:37:58.
The first of the GRC’s seven half marathon runners’ home was Robin Atter, running the race for the third year and continuing his upward trajectory in a respectable personal best of 1:31:12. Robin was followed home a few minutes later by Penny Hodges, who ran a well-paced race and was delighted with a personal best of almost two minutes, in 1:37:41. Ian Burridge was next home in 1:56:06.
Injury blighted GRC’s second lady home, Zane Wojtowicz, who experienced problems after 10km with her foot but managed a time of 02:02:57. Next Richard Urquhart, Joni Goodband and Rach Deans, were all racing the half marathon distance for the first time.
Joni was pleased to get to race day after a never-ending battle with injury and finished in a time of 2:13:31. Joni was chased in by Rachel Deans, who found the race tough after mile seven due to the lack of shade but commended the enthusiastic marshals.
Tracy Webb was the only 10k flag bearer, enjoying her race with a time of 1:02:51.
On the same day, our County Capital hosted its annual 10k, a race held since 1997. Ever popular, some 2500 runners, including fourteen GRC’ers, gathered in cool, dry and calm conditions, perfect for those hoping to achieve a quick time on the fast and flat course.
First across the finish line in a brilliant 35:59 was Joaquim Jeronimo, earning himself a long sought after sub 36 clocking and new PB.Next home was Stewart Pick, also earning a new PB with 41:23. Thrilled to knock 1:46 off his previous best over this distance.
Alan Carley was next to finish having run better than he’d expected in 42:31. Daniel Pearce followed closely in 42:47 and Paul Davis ran his quickest 10k since September 2017 in a time of 44:54.
Simon Allsopp crossed the line in 50:41 just ahead of first GRC lady Marj Spendlow. In 51:14.
Next to finish were Esther Fraser-Betts in 51:43, Robert Pask , in his first race in GRC colours, 53:01 and Paul Kelly in 56:37.
Nichola Webster led a quartet of GRC ladies with a time of 1:04:10, Judi Allsopp 1:04:14, Wendy Fraser 1:04:29 and in her first race of the year, happy to make it round with minimal training Lou Kennedy finished in 1:11:50.
The Thoresby estate provided the backdrop for the Longhorn Running Event; a multi terrain course of tracks, tarmac and woodland.
There were nine members participating, four in the 10k event, four in the half marathon and a sole entrant in the marathon distance.
With overnight rain, some of the lapped route worsened throughout the day, necessitated a need for ‘grip watch’ in some of the more technical wooded areas.
Jo Grace found herself quickly ruing the rain that hung around. Things took a turn for the better when she switched strategy to use the food stations and uplifting conversations with the amazing marshals. Though it wasn’t the fastest run of the weekend she was very pleased to finish the distance in 5:19:51 and enjoy the experience.
To the half marathon then, where Mark Rice followed the 2:10 pacer for only his second half marathon, looking to beat his previous best of 2:14.
He was very happy to cross the line in 2:08:29, impressive given the conditions.
Next, were husband and wife Judi and Simon Allsopp who crossed the line together in 2:38:12. For Judi, this run was an incredible nineteen minutes quicker last year’s Great North Run.
Mark Edwards rounded out the half marathoners with a finish time of 2:45:02.
In the 10k, the first finisher back for GRC was Daniel Wallace in a time of 54:57. Following was Robert Pask who crossed the finish in 57:08.
Debbie Bennett and Catherine Wallace finished the race within seconds of one another at 1:02:03 and 1:02:09 respectively.
The final Sunday in April dawned warm and sunny as large numbers of runners from Grantham made their way the short distance past Bourne to the lovely village of Langtoft.
A well-loved and flat (potentially fast) 10k beckoned and made up Round 6 of the GP Series. With a staggering 42 members flocking, a veritable sea of green and black did the club proud.
Near impossible to comment on all, the highlights included a young trio achieving PB’s; Holly Wragg knocked two minutes off her result from Doncaster last year in 55:02. Emma Duncan’s rise continues as she finished in 55:43 with more to come for sure.
Laura Pigott continued her run of improving races over the last year, having knocked over ten minutes off her results since July! Clocking 57:15.
With twenty-one achieving season’s best, it’s sure to feature on the race calendar next year.
Again, on the same day but decidedly further away; the forty eighth Gozo (a small island in the Maltese archipelago) Running Day attracted 1100 entries from forty different countries.
Electing for the half marathon, Stephen J Fay was treated to a route designed to cover a long ecological green and coastal path, as well as covering large parts of northern and central Gozo. Despite recent injury, the heat, and a hilly profile, he was still happy to run 2:28:31.
“So that’s April rounded up nicely, eh?”
“Wait just a gosh darn minute, there’s the small matter of the marathons, Sam?”
Time to go and get a cuppa and a biccy. Once you have that, it’s time for…
Spring signals the start of marathon season, emerging after the long winter months of hard training; a diet of miles, a soundtrack of pounding feet and very often accompanied by DOMS. Pitting oneself against the pinnacle of running for many, eleven journeyed north to Manchester.
Greeted with near perfect running conditions on Sunday 16th April, nearly 28,000 congregated at Old Trafford Cricket stadium for the waved start. Runners make their way through the city centre, on to the suburbs of Sale and Altrincham before turning around to head back to the finish.
As the befits second largest marathon in the UK, throughout the 26.2 miles, the streets were lined with cheering friends, family and members of the public who provided an endless cacophony of sound and support.
Caroline Davis was First GRC lady in a time of 3:46:00. Only 1 minute 39 seconds off her current marathon PB set in 2019.
Completing his first marathon, Russell Maksymiw experienced hitting the wall at mile 21 but rallied himself well to make it over the line in 3:48:53. Happy with his target sub 4-hour clocking, Simon Smith came in at 3:57:18.
Suffering from illness the night before made a tough race for Warren Stark. Regardless, he still ran a decent 4:18:52.
Returning to Manchester with a solid training block and confidence boosting string of improved race times, Dale Towning delivered by knocking a massive 1h 5m off his previous effort – finishing in 4:20:37. Hot on his heels was Naomi Rivers in her first official measured marathon. The atmosphere and the incredible support had Naomi smiling the whole way round and she was over the moon with 4:25:49.
Completing his debut marathon in a time of 4:45:14 was Mark Rice thoroughly enjoying the experience along the way.
Soaking up the fabulous atmosphere and running to raise money for Young Lives ‘V’ Cancer, Suzanne Angeloni enjoyed every mile. Suzanne crossed the line in 5:02:10 which was a huge improvement of 11 minutes on her previous time.
Gritty and determined, Kate Marshall battled foot pain to finish in 5:04:33.
On St. George’s Day no less, 23rd of April saw the 43rd edition of the London Marathon. A highlight in the sporting calendar, it lays serious claim to the title of ‘Best Race in the World’…
The whole nation watches elite athletes and the masses run the 26 miles and 385 yards through the streets of the capital. The route takes in some of London’s best-known landmarks including Big Ben, Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, and finishes with the iconic home straight on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.
Eighteen members of Grantham Running Club gathered in a soggy Greenwich Park in various start waves in the morning. Driving rain subsided to gentle drizzle, ergo largely good marathon conditions. The runners were enthusiastically supported by a large contingent of fellow club members, bringing with them banners, jelly babies, (randomly) pork pies and plenty of encouragement.
First back for GRC was Russel Whittaker in his second go at the marathon distance which had already earned him his Good For Age place. His meticulous approach to training, the atmosphere and crowd support romped round in a spectacular 2:53:05, knocking a resounding five minutes off his PB from Manchester in 2022.
No stranger to colossal training mileage, next back for GRC was Joe Diggins. Making improvements in his last three attempts, he continued this trajectory to knock more than a minute off his previous time, setting a shiny new PB of 2:55:43.
After a successful charity virtual run in 2020, Mikey Brain was invited by Fight for Sight to run the London Marathon for real. He enjoyed the first 20 miles and got stuck in “in the second half” with the last 6 miles, posting 3:32:05. Similar in his own charity endeavour, Mark Angeloni was taking part in his first London Marathon, in aide of charity Young Lives vs. Cancer. He was very happy with his time of 3:41:28 and is looking forward to taking everything he learned and applying it to his 2024 campaign.
Matt Fryer, in his long-awaited marathon debut, had previously been forced to defer his place due to injury. Finally fit enough, he crossed the finish in a time of 3:49:38. Seasoned marathon campaigner Caroline Davis was the first lady back for GRC and comfortably broke the 4-hour mark with 3:55:03. Warren Stark, forgot Manchester with a much improved 4:03:28.
Next, Hannah Whittaker suffered nausea during the race, which fairly robbed her of the result she deserved from her training. A trooper to the last, she battled hard and posted a commendable 4:04:56.
Sarah High had earned her Good For Age entry at Manchester last year. She finished in an excellent time of 4:11:27.
Anthony Boyle applied himself diligently throughout his training to run in his first ever marathon. Charmed and adulated by the magic of the day and the privilege of getting a ballot place. He posted an impressive debut of 4:11:47.
Next, Sylv Hull who was running for equine charity Brooke Hospital. Massively enjoying the event, atmosphere and splendiferous support, the smile on her face lasting for days after. She ran consistently to finish in 4:36:53 and raise over £3,000 for her charity.
Jonathan Whittaker was also making his debut at the marathon distance and what an event to debut at! Completing in a super time of 4:48:07.
Superstars and inspirational trio; Julie Gilbert, Rosalind Sadler and Rachel Pattison were running in the colours of the charity Young Lives vs. Cancer, as they have done so, admirably, for several years. This year’s London marathon was Julie’s 9th, Rachel’s 7th, and Ros’s 5th (including Covid virtual incarnations) and their phenomenal fundraising efforts over the years have raised an astounding £48,000 and counting.
Philosophically, it’s not about a fast time, but a great time! The support, atmosphere, and their reason for running all made for another superb event! They crossed the line together in 5:21:38.
Emma Hopkinson aim was just to get round and enjoy it after illness meant her longest training run was 16 miles. Ergo, she was very pleased to beat her previous London Marathon time set in 2011 by more than 20 minutes, crossing the finish in 5:10:09.
Vicky Honey rounded off the GRC contingent having gained her place through the club draw. She improved on her 2022 time by more than 10 minutes in a time of 6:11:18 and dedicated her run to the memory of a dear friend.
The above round-up brought to you by the letters, P, H, E and W!
As is my trademark, you may have noticed a couple of glaring omissions…
I remember joining this runner on a parkrun in the weeks running up to Manchester, the scene of the run of his life (to date), and the steely, precise nature of the conversations during that run gave me even more insight into the focus, dedication and strength of character within him. Those factors led to a meticulous training block, that you could argue started from his previous attempt in 2022.
Peeling off the first 10k in a controlled 41:47 he ever-so gently tuned up his pace in the quote-unquote ‘slightly easier half of the route’.
His halfway clocked 1:27:32. Halfway to go, but as we all know so much more than that.
An imperceptible slowing of his eye-opening pace (6:46 average) meant he passed 30k in 2:06:22. With one last impressive push he emptied the tank at the right time and drove for the line to clock an astonishing 02:58:38. It represented a twenty-one minute (read that again!) improvement on his hitherto Marathon best.
Peter Bonner takes the runner Up for April: Arguably, the performance of the year to date… until, well you’ll see…
How do you sum up a performance that has been some 11+ years in the making? How do you describe the week the winner of April Member of The Month had?
Well, I don’t think I can do it justice really… Exquisite. Mind blowing. Superb. Unreal. Ridiculous.
Yes, to all of those and I could continue to chuck around the synonyms for days!
To break the 3-hour marathon barrier is one club runners up and down the country, nay world, have sought after for years. In fact, it was a conversation I first had with our winner as goal of his when I first met him some 4 years ago at the campsite of Thunder Run 2019.
So back to Manchester, where the weather Gods smiled down upon the grey-haired athlete. His pacing was sublime, robotic even. He was locked in. The culmination of years of graft, niggles, ‘ever so nears’ and miles and miles of wind, rain, sun, snow, ice, hills and blisters all resulting in a richly deserved 02:57:52 paced at 06.47 per mile!
A week later (a WEEK!) his London pacing was so again on point, you’d be forgiven for thinking the app had crashed – he couldn’t possibly be churning out another 26.2 miles at a similar rate? He could. He did. Better even…
Clocking 02:57:35 he catapulted himself into Grantham Running Club Legend.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, stop and applaud the winner of April’s Member of the Month: Dean Riggall.
P.S. Dean your file photo needs updating!
I need a new keyboard!