Simon Smith, May 19

Having harped on about how hard it was to produce a concise, definitive list of GRC Member of the Month nominations for April, May turned out to be even harder, with the quality of performances arguably greater and the list of worthy nominees spiralling out of control to the extent that ultimately some fairly brutal cuts had to be made and some performances unfairly culled to bring the list somewhere near a manageable number.

The Sleaford Half Marathon was a great race for the club – a top three finish, an age category prize, and 14 of the 25 taking part claiming a PB. It’s little surprise that the majority of May’s nominees came from this event. Among those who secured personal bests: Nicola Cottam, Caroline Davis, Joe Diggins, Julie Gilbert, Kevin Kettle, Matt Kidd, and Rachel Pattison were all nominated. It was tricky to determine definitively which PBs merited nomination; factors taken into consideration were: the margin of PB – for instance, Joe Diggins broke his half marathon PB by 14 minutes; a landmark time barrier broken, such as Matt Kidd breaking ninety minutes for the first time and  Julie Gilbert going sub-two hours; and proximity to having recently raced before –  Julie had run the Manchester Marathon in early April and the London Marathon just a week prior to Sleaford, as did Caroline Davis.

Like Caroline and  Julie, Tony Johnson had raced the London Marathon a week before Sleaford, yet showed precious few ill effects at Sleaford, clocking a season’s best 1:24:04, winning the V50 age category, and securing his highest ever age grade with the club (81.75%). He backed this up a week later with an impressive 39:02 at the Eye 10K.

Rob Howbrook raised the club’s age grade bar, on the men’s side at least, to a new high with his sensational run at the Lincoln Wellington AC 5K. Back to his very best form his time of 18:47 saw him finish first in the V60 category. More significantly perhaps he broke his PB by 10 seconds and in so doing scored a men’s GRC age grade record of 85.39%, which means he may become the first member of the club to receive a platinum race standard certificate at the next club awards night. On that night he also set a club record for a mile (5:38) by dint of being the first GRC finisher of the first road mile race the club has taken part in. Catherine Payne pulled off a similar trick, establishing a club record over the mile (6:14) in a race she won overall and then clocking 20:57 in the following 5K, which earned her first place in the V50 category. Both performances earned her year leading women’s age grades of 83.10% and 83.04% respectively.

Earlier in the month Rob won his age category and ran one of his fastest ever half marathons at the North Lincolnshire Half, clocking 1:28:35. At the same race Hayley Staff earned herself a thoroughly well deserved nomination with a fourteen minute PB and her first sub two hour clocking. It was a busy opening Sunday of the month as the club also had good representation at the Langtoft 10K. In a race packed with great performances from GRC, it was Matthew Williamson’s minute plus improvement over his previous PB that earned nomination, his time of 37:48 good for twelfth overall. Another runner to take part in the LWAC 5K, he also bettered his 5K PB by 16 seconds, clocking 18:30.

A little up the road that evening was Ian Williams, who continued his seemingly unstoppable meteoric run of improvement in breaking the old club 5K record by 12 seconds with a minute plus PB time of 16:33. This came just over a week after he had taken his first race victory at the Meridian East Coast 10 Mile, breaking the magic hour barrier for the first time with a fine 058:55.

For many cyclists living in an imperial world completing a 100 mile bike ride is generally considered a significant achievement, broadly the equivalent of completing a marathon on foot – especially if the terrain is challenging. I remember well my first ever ‘Century’ ride. It was on Thursday May 3rd 2007 and happened, unintentionally, on Day 7 of my first and, to date, only Land’s End to John O’Groats tour. I recall that over the course of the unsurprisingly hilly affair from Sanquhar to Crianlarich, the scenery was stunning, the road surface was terrible and, nearly twelve hours after setting off, I learned the harsh lesson that postcodes in the Highlands of Scotland are nowhere near as precise as the rest of the UK…

Riding 100 miles, much like running a marathon, is a considerable challenge but, with ample preparation, is actually well within the capabilities of most healthy men and women and, to some, becomes something of a regular occurrence, a distance that is perhaps surpassed in training, let alone racing. Running 100 miles though is a feat that is beyond the comprehension of most runners, let alone the sedentary. It is a distance that few would even attempt to run, few have managed to run, and can break even those who are the best in the ultra distance running business. Chris Limmer returned to Richmond, South London, on Saturday May 4th 2019, a year on from his brave, but unsuccessful, attempt to complete the Thames Path 100 mile race. Having vowed to finish the race, Chris returned better prepared than in 2018 and grateful for far more favourable weather conditions. Despite this Chris had to dig incredibly deep into his physical and mental reserves, especially deep into the second half of the race when he faced unchartered waters in terms of distance run, terrain more demanding than anticipated, and temperatures colder than had been accounted for.

A thoroughly exhausted, emotional Chris finished in 21 hours 24 minutes and 56 seconds, earning himself a buckle for his efforts and the satisfaction of finishing 50th in a race that had some of the best ultra runners around.

If this wasn’t achievement enough Chris was soon back out taking runners out through Grantham as part of the club’s 10 Weeks to 10K programme. He went with some of those runners later in May to take part in the Little Bytham 10K Farm Run, where he finished an impressive second, then clocked his fastest 5K time in five years later with 17:36 at the LWAC 5K. Chris is our runner up for May 2019 Member of the Month.

A couple of days before the Sleaford Half Marathon, I popped into Cyclesport in town to pick up my new, finally complete time trial bike, almost exactly a year after I had crashed and written off my old one. In the shop was GRC May Member of the Month winner Simon Smith. Before joining GRC Simon was a cyclist and we spent a most enjoyable twenty minutes with the shop’s mechanic discussing bikes and time trials of yesteryear and the present.

Simon was there to buy some gels for Sunday’s event and we were both enthused about the prospect of the weather being cloudy and cold, much to the bemusement of the bike mechanic who had falsely assumed we were taking part in a bike event (where you definitely don’t want it to be cold).

Simon had unsettled business of sorts with the Sleaford Half Marathon as he had suffered the misfortune of breaking down and missing the start of the 2018 race! Safely at the start in 2019, Simon took full advantage of the great conditions for running and the fast, predominantly flat, course to break his PB by nearly three minutes, breaking 1:40 for the first time with 1:39:09.

Congratulations Simon on being Grantham Running Club’s May 2019 Member of the Month!

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