Zoë Wragg, Mar 2023

Blimey o’Reilly – it’s that time once again, Ladies and Gents!
Assume the position… Let’s get ready to marvel at the mega miles mashed in the marvellous month of March! Mmmm!

Round Up

Starting with the first weekend, four members of GRC made an early morning journey to a chilly Scunthorpe to take part in the North Lincs 10k race. With a Half Marathon option too, it attracts a fair-sized field – the weather conditions were perfect come race time. Self-christened ‘fast and flat’ – the route has two motorway overpasses which comprise the only elevation. It also boasted a track finish of circa 300m at the Quibell Park Stadium. Sam Dodwell made a solid start to his season, the first GRC runner home clocking 39:58, only 21 seconds off his PB.

Shaking off and testing himself after a bout of sciatica, Richard Payne was next in a time of 49:35. He started at the back and picked up the pace throughout. He managed to pip Paul Jepson who clocked two seconds behind in 49:37. Next was Wayne Baxter, returning to racing after a short hiatus – after a winter of discontent. He was rightly pleased to clock 53:01 and is now looking forward to his next 10k race in the Spring.

On the same day, six took part alongside 388 other runners in the 20-mile race at Oundle. The race provides an excellent test bed for those training for spring marathons. First in, and something of a collectors’ item, was the rarely-raced Darren Harley, who is training hard for the London Marathon. He ran a well-executed 2:31:21. Just seven seconds back and hot on his heels was Robin Atter in 2:31:28, another great showing in his preparation for Edinburgh Marathon.

Next was Dean Riggall in 2:34:19 as he continues to build toward his own marathon. Warren Stark another Manchester and London Marathon entrant was able to pace his race in a composed manner to cross the line in 3:14:29.

Dale Towning and Naomi Rivers ran practically joined at the hip and cross the line just a second apart in in 3:17:56 and 3:17:57 respectively. For Dale, this was on tired legs after the previous week’s half marathon PB. Naomi, the only GRC lady, was very happy to exceed her previous time over the distance and a much-needed boost in her preparation for Manchester Marathon.

GP Round Two

Round two of the GRC GP Series kicked off at Holme Pierrepont, with a half dozen joining the small but competitive field for this low-key, old-school race. A famously flat but exposed course, the team were fortunate that the weather on the day was as good as you could expect.

First home was Joaquim Jeronimo who was targeting sub 1 hour. Starting like he runs any other race – hard. Digging in on the long finish smashed his target with a time of 59:03. In doing so, becoming only the third runner to represent GRC to break the magical one-hour mark. Next, Andrew Pask. Using this race as a bit of a reset, he concentrated on running as hard as he could and then evaluating later. Finishing with a confidence boosting 67:39, recapturing something like his times of old.

Next across the line was the ever-improving Stefan Latter. Confident of a PB, Stefan ran a near perfect race to clock a time of 69:57 which beats his previous best by 37 seconds and ranks him 210 in the UK for the V45 category. Alan Carley was next in his longest race in 3 years and his first attempt at a 10-mile race. Clocking a solid 71:03. Ben Mason ran his fastest 10-mile race in 4 years with 79:53 and is now targeting his next race, having race twice at HP this year.
Emma Duncan who was attempting the distance for the first time in preparation for an upcoming and targeted half marathon. Having run nine lonely miles, she was joined in the last mile by the other members of the team, it lifted her for a strong finish to clock an impressive and better than expected 96:10.

Caroline Davis took on the Hobo Pace Waterways 30. Welcoming a CaniCross element, Caroline was joined by trusty sidekick, Pepper. Starting at South Wheatley Village Hall, the CaniCross runners set off prior to the main group of runners and so for the first time in a race, Caroline lead for the first two miles! Taking in the Chesterfield Canal running through Nottinghamshire and heading towards Lincolnshire the route moved to follow the river Trent.

The next section along the Trent winds around the Power Station and starts to introduce some tricky to navigate stiles (especially with a dog!). After leaving the Trent it was time to wind their way back to the finish. As is usual with Ultra’s the distance is but a guide, clocking approximately 32 miles in the end, Caroline finished as second CaniCross home in 5:55:04.

The same weekend on the Sunday saw four runners from Grantham Running Club meet up to take part in the Cambridge University Hare & Hounds annual Boundary Run. This offers runners the chance to follow a waymarked course either halfway or fully around Cambridge, with approximately 30% of the course being off-road and the rest being on pavement, urban footpaths, cycleways, and quiet roads. Craig G Drury had opted to stop at the half-marathon point. Muddy conditions following recent snow were strangely welcomed as he prepares for a fell race in May. The next two finishers ran together for the first 20 miles, with Peter Bonner taking advantage of Robert McArdle’s experience in the race to avoid any navigation issues. Parting for the final 10k Peter was pleased to overtake multiple other runners during this time and finished the marathon in 3 hours 52 minutes. Robert meanwhile was taking part in his first race this year, having had time off for two eye operations. He finished in 4 hours 10 minutes. The final runner was Nick Payne, who arrived at the event fresh (!?!) from running 32 miles the previous day at the Waterways 30 event. He is currently preparing for a Lands End to John O’Groats run in June. Nick finished in 4 hours 43 minutes and was pleased to run big days back-to-back.

An eventful weekend also saw fourteen venture the short distance down the A1 to Stamford for the Burghley 7. This popular event hosted in the grounds of Burghley House where the race starts before taking to the streets of Stamford until finally finishing in front of the majestic house. A question mark had hung over the race starting only 48 hours before due to the freezing weather conditions and snow. Thankfully it started as scheduled at 9.00am in perfect spring like conditions with little to no breeze.

Dale Towning, who only 24 hours earlier had completed an 18.5-mile training run in preparation for his upcoming marathon, finished in an amazing 55:48. A steady stream of the Green Army followed to cross the finish line, including Jon Whittaker in 57:18, Danny Wallace just missing out on a sub 60 min with 60:00:24, Debbs Jones was the first lady home in 1:06:17 just in front of Rach Deans who improved on last years’ time to finish in 1:06:27. Following was Catherine Wallace in 1:07:30, Gayle Smith who scored a PB with 1:15:08, Louise Hirst 1:15:20, Christine Sawyer 1:15:35, Yvonne Buckley 1:15:43 and Brendon Buckley 1:22:58. Running closely together were Gillian Cardus, 1:23:14, and Vicki Geeson 1:23:35 who both scored new personal bests.

Final week bedlam

The last weekend in the month proved to be another pack race schedule, with five races of various distances crammed in. Firstly, Andrew Pask travelled to Hampshire for the Fleet Half Marathon. The event serves as the Armed Forces Inter-Services Half Marathon Championships, with Andrew racing for the RAF. Unsurprisingly, this long-standing iconic race boasts a super competitive field. With modest expectations, he positioned himself in front of the ‘sub 1hr 30min’ pacer from the gun… hoping to never see them in front the entirety of the race. He need not have worried, crossing the line with 1:27:51 on the clock, his fastest over the distance for eighteen months.

Closer to home, five made the short trip to the village of Caythorpe for the biannual Caythorpe Dash. For the sold-out spring event there were four classifications: a 5k, 5k-CaniCross, half marathon and half marathon CaniCross. All club members opted for the 5k distance with two choosing to run with their canine companions. The recent wet weather had made its mark on the mostly trail route.

Martin Rodell was first home for the club in 9th place with a time of 24:58 having already run three miles to the event. Gillian Cardus and Vicki Geeson ran the race together coming in 37:34 and 37:40, respectively. In the 5k CaniCross, Alan Carley ran with his trusty companion, Fergus, and with a time of 21:24, came in 3rd place. Vicki Ball returned with her dog, Monty, and was pleased to come in 33 seconds quicker than 2020, at 24:11 and 7th place.

New member Balint Beni arrived at the starting line for the Ironbridge half marathon, his first race running in GRC colours. The route allows runners to take in the sights of Telford landmarks such as Coalport Bridge, the historic Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale Viaduct and Rough Park with a start and finish in Telford Town Park.

As he hit the halfway point, he was feeling strong and confident thanks to a net downhill. As they reached the world’s first Ironbridge, the course began to get more challenging, with steep hills and winding paths. As he crossed the finish line, he was happy to see a time of 1:50:07.

Robin Atter and Kirsty Dickens made the journey over to Ashby de la Zouch to compete in the Ashby 20, organised by Ivanhoe Runners established in 1989. The challenging two-lap route undulates around scenic countryside – it is popular with club runners and provides ideal preparation for a Spring marathon.
Electing to run together throughout, Kirsty finished in 02:47:55 and Robin 02:48:04.

All runners received the famous Ashby 20 hoodie, this year in orange. The colour is kept a secret until the runners are awarded the hoodie on completion.

On the same day, over the same distance the Bedford Oakley 20 also presents a good opportunity for those preparing for the spring marathons. There are two laps – a larger loop, then smaller loop, in the Bedford countryside. Sole representative, Caroline Davies with a finish time of 2:53:52, about eight minutes faster than last year. This performance earned her a race hoody whose design took inspiration from the mad March hare. Writer’s Note: Upon further researching this month’s report it would appear that Caroline raced 75+ miles in March. Two Ultras and a 20 miler… Mad! Brilliant, but mad!

Runner up

Y’all must stop this running lark – my keyboard quivers every time I sit down to carve one of these out!

Jus’ messing!

So, on to the Runner Up. Back to beautiful Burghley…

A keen parkrunner for many years, since 2016, it seems as though he’s still getting better and better. Seemingly using the craft and technical skill gained on the Belton House course – the Burghley course is far from straight forward a mixture of surface types and some testing hills, keep it lively throughout. Finishing quicker than competitors half his age and improving on last years’ time by over two minutes, showing age is no barrier – the Runner Up for March is Clive George.


Always the bridesmaid, never the bride…

Since joining in 2020, this runner has been on steady upward trend, and it shows no sign of slowing down either! Flying in the face of statistical trend that suggests that women of her age group are the least likely to take part in running (or any other organised sport).

Whizzing our way back to the start of the month at the North Lincs 10k and greeted by a flat and fast course and near perfect racing conditions… You still must run it… and run hard to smash a PB.

Since injury plagued parts of last year, it nods further still toward her considered approach: consistent mileage, effort sessions and a deep-embedded determination. Pushing hard from the offset, she clicked off miles slightly ahead of her own ambition, but pushing on regardless and silencing the nagging voice that rises in all of us at some point in hard races, she threw caution to the wind in the closing stages, revelling in a quick track finish.

Bettering her Doncaster 10k time set in November by a blistering 1 minute 44 seconds, the March Member of the Month is; Zoë Wragg!

(Side note – such is the modesty of Zoë, her own race report summarised her performance as: “Zoe Wragg was next in a time of 51:10, setting herself a new 10k PB.” – not exactly a lot for me to work with!)

Zoë Wragg, North Lincs 10k, 2023

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