Sam Jepson, Dec 21

Firstly, before It’s not too late, may I personally wish you a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year, Constant Reader.

I’m sure, like me, you can’t quite believe that 2021 is now last weeks hangover and it’s time to refocus, refresh and attack the 12 months of 2022 ahead.

Before we do, let us collectively look back at the last Member of The Month of 2021.

December can be a traditionally quiet month for runners. With runners more akin to reflecting on the years successes, toasting victories, PB’s, performances and achievements throughout the year. Quite rightly, we ‘usually’ spend more time socialising and joining in much merriment.

But, much like most of the world, the continuing Coronavirus Pandemic has shifted the layout of the sporting landscape. 

Thus, it’s really of no great surprise that some members of GRC were able to save their best til the last month of the year.

The conclusion of the club’s Grand Prix spurred on the final push for positions.

It’s here that we see our first nomination; Catherine Payne scorched her way to the highest age graded GP performance of the year (82.78%!) with 21:35 at Doddington Hall parkrun.

Kate Marshall also secured her nomination on the same course, her exquisite year signing off with one last hurrah! Her clocking of 27:21 not only a venue PB, but an overall parkrun PB, her highest age grade of the year and her 6th event/distance PB. Wow!

Alan Carley and Robert McArdle also drew acclaim for their own Doddington Hall parkrun performances, each smashing 74%+ age grade to score valuable late points.

December also saw the return of our own flagship running event – The Solstice 10k Race held at Long Bennington.

For ten straight years it had been the ‘Summer Solstice’, held on or near the very zenith of summer (just in case it wasn’t obvious!) but, as previously stated, the world is now a very different place and it had fallen victim to the ongoing pandemic.

But, from the ‘Ashes’ rise the ‘Phoenix’ and so it was amid much toing and froing, innumerable volunteer hours and organisation, that some 18 months after the schedule 2020 race, GRC were able to the host the 2021 Winter Solstice on 19th December.

T’was the roads of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire that saw a couple of nominations;

Hannah San Jose fairly obliterated her previous 10k best with a superb run of 46:35, 59 seconds better than her Sleaford 10k ran in August 2018.  With an age category win to boot, it may well indicate a strong 2022 for Hannah.

Robin Atter was another to enjoy the misty conditions to secure his own 10k PB and creep ever nearer to his goal of ‘breaking 40’ for the distance. Crossing the line on 40:06 he vowed to banish those 7 seconds soon. He also represented the club over the XC double header earlier on the month; the testing North Mids league held in Heanor on Saturday 4th December and the fabulously wet Louth for the Lincs XC round 2 clash on Sunday 5th. 

Away from the Solstice, Sylv Hull captured the eye with a fantastic 5k at the notoriously opinion dividing Nottingham 5k Winter Series. The second race in the series, held at Victoria Embankment is full of momentum arresting 180 degree turns and is held in the evenings… in winter… in The UK – hardly fitting the bill of an appealing 5k formula, it was no matter though, as Sylv knuckled down and attacked the race with gusto. Bold pacing resulted in a 58 second improvement on her previous PB clocking 24:29.

The understated but brilliant Sarah Chynoweth was next on the nominee list with the clubs fastest womens 10k of the year. Travelling over to Telford to take part in one of the fastest races in the country. A furious start was tempered by even pacing for miles 2-6 that propelled her to the finish in a time the Ironwoman herself thought improbable.

Her clocking of 40:18 an official PB improvement of 41 seconds over her own 2019 Solstice performance. It also partly laid to waste the ill-fated short course of Leeds Abbey Dash of the same year.

Further afield still and indeed outside of the UK, our pigeon-chested chairman and Welsh Dragon, Andrew Pask recaptured some of his form to clock his third fastest half marathon whilst he is posted overseas with the RAF. 

Arguably, his most favoured distance, he battled unseasonable Cypriot weather to clock a sterling 87:42 at the Logicom Cyprus Half Marathon in Paphos.

The runner up of December’s Member of The Month, truly is in the form of his life! Once again his appetite to keep pushing himself and keep improving is nothing shy of admirable.

Fresh from October’s multi distance triumphs (and of course the crowning glory of winning October’s fiendishly competitive MoTM) he started his month with a little trip over to Melton to tackle the infamously ‘underlating’ parkrun, where his 19:37 saw him take the P1 berth.

It proved to be the amuse-bouche of a simply divine main course.

Back to Long Bennington we go for one final time;

A deliberate attacking mindset was adopted from the off, as he sought to make time and ground on the somewhat more generous half of the course. Such is his strength, his effort and inner grit didn’t dip throughout, which carried him in to the more challenging second half. 

A devastating kick for the finish line upon the turn at Costa Row saw him pass the finish gantry in fantastic 36:02 and a storming 12th place. 

Well done to December’s Member of the Month Runner Up; Joe Diggins!

And now, Constant Reader, on to the winner December’s Member of the Month.

Congratulations on sticking with me thus far!

(It is here that I must confess, the proceeding words strike me as a little uncomfortable to write, so please do bear with me, I’ll try to keep it brief.)

With a borderline obsessive focus throughout the year, it was always December that this runner was aiming to pique.

Having achieved PB’s in every race he carefully entered in the year, the confidence should’ve been sky high – but his crippling self-confidence and unsatisfied nature kept doubts nagging.

The Podium 5k in Leicester in early December the first success.

Remaining slightly conservative in the face of a fast start by the wave he ran in, with 2k to go he threw caution to the wind; clocking 17:37 was enough to improve his PB by 17 seconds.

So, to Telford 10k the scene for his finest race to date.

Scarcely believing the clock at 5k he refocused to keep pushing as hard and as long as he could.

The shock writ large upon his face after finishing was apparently quite the image.

Clocking 35:49 and destroying his 37:01 from Leeds in October.

Such is the 2021 journey, it represented a remarkable 3 minute and 5 second improvement on his first 10k race of the year in April.

December’s Member of the Month

 – rather awkwardly; Sam Jepson.

Fantastic work all and all nominees too!

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