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South Downs Way 50 - Saturday 7 April

This year I've decided to attempt Centurion Running's 'Grand Slam' of 50 mile Ultras. This consists of four 50 mile events; the South Downs Way 50, North Downs Way 50, Chilterns 50 and Wendover Woods 50.

The South Downs Way 50 was a tough run, it presents plenty of long drawn out hills and these make up for the 1800m of overall ascent. To add to the flavour, the wind on the tops was pretty beastly but this was tempered with the first sign of warmth this year, particularly evident in the valleys (boyo). Conditions were good overall with runnable trails throughout (owing to the chalk bedrock) and a cool start was very welcome.

I'd originally planned to run somewhere around 10 hours based on a previous 50 miler in the Lake District. Progress was steady and things were all fine for about 20 miles. At CP 3 however, I snacked on some delicious fruit cake, well, it was nice at first. I suffered some less than enjoyable reflux for a while after this and it made things a little uncomfortable to say the least. Fuelling on Ultras can sometimes be a pain, but you have to push through and make progress when possible. My second half was a tad slower but I'd worked through the field quite well by then so focused on plodding on and keeping an even pace.

Undeterred by my vocal proclamations to the god of cakes, and still wading my way through the rolling countryside, I tuned in to some vintage Beatles. Following this, I ramped up the energy on the home leg and selected some classic Iron Maiden; I made for a 'sprint' to the 165bpm rhythm of 'Powerslave' (quite apt I thought) and finally finished a little under 8hrs15mins. A great way to start the year and overall, a great day all round.

Scott Huntley - 8:13:14

Great Barrow Marathon Challenge - Friday 30 March & Sunday 1 April

During the quest for the 100 marathon vest, I first stumbled across the Great Barrow Challenge events last year and since then have managed 12 or so of their races. They have five reasonably scenic albeit undulating courses based near Bury St Edmunds and run a 10 in 10 days challenge in the summer. This time around they put on four races, covering both half and full distances. Friday and Sunday were on the same route, as were Saturday and Monday. I only needed to do one, but if I managed two the plan was to drop out of Manchester or London and save a few bob. On the Friday, I ran most of the way with Mark Rouse and the first twenty miles flew by. It was all on quiet country lanes and even though I had run it before, I couldn’t quite recall it which helped. In the week leading up to the event, I ate well for once and stayed on the wagon, which meant by mile 20 all that goodness needed to come out. I pulled over for a pit stop and told Mark to press on, as I did have one eye on getting up and doing one the next day. He did and managed one of his best times. I kept it steady and felt as though I could run on at the end, but at the same time I was happy to stop.

The next day, the alarm went off at 5.50am, I looked out the window at the rain and went back to bed. Plan B was to run on the Sunday on the same undulating country lane course as Fridays race which I did managing to run this one quicker. From around mile 7 to 20 I didn’t see anyone in front or behind, but despite the loneliness in parts I found myself running better than two days earlier. I had thought at one point I might slip in under 4, but I slowed from 19 on. Running 38 marathons in 15 months leaves a fairly constant tiredness in the limbs and that can get magnified in the latter part of races, which it did in this one. Still I have to thank Mark for keeping me going. He wasn’t there but he beat me on Friday in about 4.10. I managed to pick the pace up in the last mile so that I would at least even the score. Just London to go before the big one two weeks later at MK. And then 5ks. Or less.

Paul Owen

Llanbedr to Blaenafon 15.8M Fell Race – Saturday 31 March

Quoted by the Mynydd Du Fell Running Club at 15.8 miles, 1375m ascent - my first proper fell race. I have always been a bit in awe of fell running and fell runners. Big admiration, and aspiration tinged with a little envy and self-doubt as to whether I would or could ever be up to it. I have dabbled around the edges, loving my bits of trail and off-trail hill running both on my own and with events like the Grizzly, the Charnwood Hills race, the more local Ridgeway run, and latterly getting into score courses in Mountain Marathons with a real navigational and route planning element, but with the kit load affecting running ability to a degree. As an enthusiastic off-road runner and mountain climber I have always wanted to give proper fell running a go, but always doubted myself, partly by simply being awestruck, and partly living so far away from proper fell running terrain.

Keri is from the Welsh Valleys and introduced me to the area around Abergavenny, the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons many years ago, and we still go back periodically having come to know the area well. Last Christmas, with a little time to wander around some fell running websites, I came across the Mynydd Du fell running club (Mynydd = Mountain, Du = Black), who seemed to run a great selection of fell runs in the local hills and fells, which seemed committed but low key, relaxed enter on the day stuff, and gave off a friendly vibe from the website. The one thing that doesn't really appeal to me is big flat expanses of open boggy moorland for running on, and I know that although there is some of that in the Black Mountains & Brecon Beacons, there are lots of broad dry ridges and sandstone that should be more appealing running terrain.

I was particularly grabbed by one point to point race starting in the black mountains north of Crickhowell (a tiny village called Llanbedr) And finishing in Blaenavon, a town at the top of the Eastern-most of the Welsh Valleys. It went up, down and over three peaks, Crug Mawr, Abergavenny’s iconic Sugar Loaf, and the the Blorenge, before heading down to the finish at Blaenavon Rugby Club.

Knowing at least some of this terrain quite well, I couldn’t get this race out of my head as one that possibly maybe at a push perhaps I could have a stab at and not make a fool of myself. Not get lost. Find the 7 checkpoints. Not be too intimidated. Finish it. It wouldn’t let me go, or vice-versa, or perhaps both. I tentatively mentioned it to Keri. She didn’t laugh, so that was it. I was committed.

We made arrangements to stay with her parents who kindly transported us to registration at the finish, and then the 40 minute drive to the start. That’s the thing about point to point races, they emphasise the distance far more than running a big circle. Keri, doing London in 3 weeks, sensibly opted out as a too-high-risk-pre-London decision. She sensibly ran 12.5 miles along the beautiful Monmouth and Brecon canal instead.

It was as friendly, low key but professionally organised as I had hoped. There were some clear walking uphill sections, especially the punishingly steep and final climb up the Blorenge, but lots of the ups were gentler and so runnable, and pleasantly so, with fantastic views and still significant snow on the higher terrain. The downhills were also mostly very runnable with some great broad dry ridges to run down. The Crug Mawr descent was particularly stunning, flying down with a sense of running freedom over a couple of miles looking up to the Beacons and across to the looming Sugar Loaf as the next ascent. The sugar loaf climb itself was surprisingly gentle and pleasant, about half or more was runnable. The descent into Abergavenny was also fantastic, looking over the Usk Valley.

Sorry to write so much, but this was one of the most amazing runs / events I have ever done. It was tough. My garmin read 25km and 1440m up, but only 1278m down. To put it into context, the climb is 100m more than Ben Nevis from the beach. My legs still hurt. Quite a lot. But it was worth it. Am I hooked? Quite possibly!

Richard Stanley - 3h:29:26

Sandy Track Open Meet - Saturday 24 March

The sun was not shining, the weather was not sweet, but that did not stop Keith Morgan, Brendan O’Mahoney, Caroline O’Mahoney and Helen Satterthwaite from wanting to move their running feet, and ‘tick off’ the four shortest 30x30 running distances at Sandy track. None of us considered the implications of the road works at Chicksands/Shefford for getting to Sandy on time and screeched into the car park with barely ten minutes to spare before our first race, the 800m. Definitely not enough warm up time and unfortunately Keith sensibly pulled out after one lap. But we were all up and running for the other three races. Despite all of us being at least 20 years older than the vast majority of the field, we won full marks for effort and enthusiasm, were welcomed by everyone, enjoyed meeting athletes from other clubs, experienced the benefits of track running for our overall training, and had a good time! It was great to bump into Rob and Jane Cook as well, who were helping out with the field events. Bring on the next one!

Anon Again

Limassol Marathon, Cyprus - Sunday 18 March

The quest for the vest continued with marathon number 96 for me in Limassol. Having run a marathon last year in Cyprus that for the most part was fantastic, RJ and I thought we would head back to the same neck of the woods and try a different one. On race morning, 30 mins before the start our taxi hadn’t arrived and we were 4 miles away. Luckily a very kind security man dropped us to the start with minutes to spare, just as we were about to run there. It was fortunate we didn’t as I had a nightmare. Too much body pump the previous Wednesday, a failure to drink enough water while travelling, the untrained for heat and extra belly blubber meant by halfway, my legs were just shot. At 16 miles, I began run/walking and had to let Richard go. The course was out and back one way and out and back the other, it wasn’t interesting along commercial tourist streets and all of the above combined to make this a toughie. Having run two now in Cyprus, my vote very much goes to the one that ends in Paphos and I would recommend that. I would not recommend this race, as the course was just not very interesting with the first half taking in sites such as a commercial dock. I felt more drained than normal, although post race the free beer and large McDs helped. Still compared with many of the club in the UK running Oakley despite it being cancelled and the Grizzly cub, I have to admit there were worse places to have a race nightmare.

Paul Owen

Grizzly Cub Run - Sunday 18 March

The full 20 mile grizzly run was cancelled due to the terrible weather conditions, snow, blizzards, high winds and freezing temperatures. Everybody did an amended route omitting the famous stairway to heaven for safety reasons. So it was "ONLY" 9 Miles.

Anon

Wimpole Hall Nightrun 7K – Saturday 10 March

A small number of Flyers – Laura, Denise, Christine, Jackie, Gemma, Helen, Val, Pat, Mark, Stanley and me – ventured over the border to Cambridgeshire to take part in this run (and for some of us, tick off ‘novelty’ in the 30x30).   Set in the lovely grounds of Wimpole Hall (although being dark we didn’t see much of the loveliness!) it was billed as a 7K fun event, although Val’s Garmin indicated the distance was nearer 6.5K.

After registration and a group photo (see Laura’s post on the AFF FB page) and admiring Christine’s bespoke running attire, we set off for the start. It was a great sight with everyone entering into the spirit of the occasion – lots of glow-sticks, bangles (thanks Jackie) flashing lights and headtorches.

On the dot of 6.30pm we were set off – oh my goodness, I thought I’d have to give up after 200 metres!   I stupidly didn’t wear my trail shoes and immediately knew it was the wrong decision.   I think I slid around most of the course but amazingly managed not to fall over.

Most of our group went galloping off into the distance, but Val kindly kept me company and we trotted round just enjoying a chat.   The course wound round the parkland, was slightly undulating and took us round a lake, over some bridges, through a field of very bemused sheep and then – joy, oh bliss – onto an actual hard road and through the finish.

We re-grouped at the finish – apart from the ‘boys’ who were probably home before I crossed the line, collected our goody bags and set off for home. This was a great event – we all enjoyed it despite the heavy going and are up for doing it again.   It was the first organised run I had done in 10 years and had forgotten what great camaraderie there is between runners at these events.   The course was really well-marked with friendly marshals along the route and lots of encouragement at the end.   Well done to all! The run was self-timed by some of us.

Ann De Winter

Seville Marathon - Sunday 25 February

Day 881 of the running streak and my 95th marathon with this one in the amazing city of Seville, just a short hop on a metal bird at a cost less than travelling to London on the train. All was going well until 8km when the current asked why was I running as a small, fast Spanish woman called Josean? It appears they gave me the wrong number at the expo despite passport control. She’s going to be well cheesed off with her time! 14,500 runners and at the start, standing there minding my own business the bloke next to me said, hi Paul as we knew each other. Spooky. During the race Richard Satnav Jones chatted to a runner who is with Craig Palmer’s new club and who said he is very nice. We did check but it was the same Craig. A bit further we chatted to another runner from Jess Anstee's old club who also said hi, but didn’t say she was very nice although of course she is (as is Craig I hasten to add). Small world really. Good course, temperature great for mile munching and the sun came out at the end when we needed it. Post finish we were on the free Cruzcampo before we left the exit tunnel and then found a bar where a bucket of the same cost 4 euros. It was warm enough to sit in the sun in our race gear. Can marathon running get any better? Oh yeah, if they give me the right number. Hopefully the organisers will see the error of their ways and realise I wouldn’t have travelled to Espana to nick someone else’s number from the expo. Apart from that, as a foreign marathon destination this race gets the big thumbs up from me. Nice time of year to go, real PB potential for those that are that way inclined, amazing sites and top quality tapas at a very reasonable price.

Paul ‘Josean’ Owen est time-4.17.20

New Forest - LDWA 18M - Sunday 25 February

Haydn and I did an orienteering event, in the New Forest with the LDWA. It was 18 miles – if you didn’t go wrong…. But, unfortunately we did and ended up knee deep in freezing bogs quite early on in the day - and again about mid way – and again towards the end!  We ended up run/walking over 20 miles and finished in 6.52.  The veggie lasagne and cake with custard that we got at the end tasted amazing!

Laura Johnston

South Shropshire Circular - LDWA 26.2M - Saturday 24 February

This year the event started from village of Norbury to west of the Long Mynd. After starting over Linley Hill we went east for a long climb over northern end of the Mynd. It was a beautiful clear day and the threatened cold wind was mostly just a slight breeze. The views were wild & amazing.  We spent the rest of the day climbing back & forth over the Mynd. Some climbs were gradual but 3 were very steep - finally crossing the southern 'toe' before heading north west back to Norbury. Total climb was 4,733 feet and was very pleased to finish in 8 hours 34 mins. Last year on a course with only slightly more climb, but 2 miles shorter it had taken me over 9 hours.

Dave Sedgley - 8:34

English National X/C Championships Parliament Hill - Saturday 24 February

There is nothing more exhilarating than watching near on 2500 athletes at the start of the National Cross Country Championships charging up that first hill with the London skyline as the background. The only thing better than that as a runner is being part of that experience and this year not only did we have 10 Flyers we were able to field a Women's team. When we arrived at Parliament Hill the conditions looked reasonably good under foot but the two senior races follow on from some 8 previous races with many thousands of athletes having now lapped around the course and Parliament Hill is unforbidding when it comes to mud. But if you like cross country then you must run at Parliament Hill - its as simple as that! 9569 runners had been entered over the 10 races with 3486 entered in the senior men's race being held for the 131st time.

The Senior Women's race saw our Jess Anstee lead our team home over the 8K course in a time of 39.30 and overall we were 87th team out of 112 and ahead of locally Watford Joggers, Cambridge Harriers and North Herts - A tremendous performance. The race was won by Phoebe Law in a time of 28.33.

In the Men's race over 12K Craig Palmer was pushing for a top 100 placing but admitted that the previous week he hadn't felt the best with his running - and so it proved and despite moving through the field on the final lap he finished in 147th place but still first Flyer back. Great to see Tim Harris back and running as 2nd Flyer home and we would have expected to then have seen Ian Halpin finish had it not been to loosing both his spikes in the mud on the final lap - and he failed to find them both! Unfortunately with 6 to count for a men's team we were 1 Flyer short. The race was won by 29 year old Adam Hickey in 39.35 from Southend winning his first senior title having won twice as a junior runner.

A great day of running and I can only encourage all Club Flyers to run this brilliant course at least once in their running career.

Dave Stanley/span>

Punchbowl - LDWA Marathon - Sunday 11 February

This was a top class 30 mile LDWA almost exclusively trail run, taking in area's of outstanding natural beauty including the Devils Punch Bowl in Surrey. Walkers went off at 7.30am and the runners an hour later, or whatever time they wanted to start provided they made the checkpoint opening times. The scenery from start to finish was superb. It was a tad muddy in places, sandy and hilly at times, with trails very similar to our very, very good friend, the Greensand’s trail in Bedfordshire. I went prepared this time with a newly acquired pair of daps to add to my other 14 pairs, which certainly helped with the conditions and time. My last 30 miler was 3 weeks ago and the long break helped the limbs, as I managed to shave at least an hour and 15m off my time. At least I would have if Chris Newnham hadn’t picked up my timing chip just before I nipped into the bog. The official time was about 16 mins later than the actual time, but who’s counting? Oh yeah, I am and this was marathon or ultra number 94 for me. Just 6 more to go to mine and Satnavs 100th. If you have never run a LDWA marathon, I would highly recommend them. They cost around £10 to enter, there are food stops every 6 or so miles (although on this one there were only 3), with a hot meal waiting for you at the end. The route instructions are always easy to follow and you can do what I did on Sunday, which was have no map and let Chris do all the navigating. The stops can add a fair bit to your overall time, but a fast time is not the reason to run these events and besides, another choccie biscuit and cup of tea worth another 10 mins.

Paul Owen

Winter Tanners - LDWA 30M - Sunday 21 January

Day 846 of my current running streak and marathon no. 93 at the LDWA Winter Tanners 30 mile ultra event in Surrey, which was closer to 32 due to the odd wrong turn. There were 20, 30 or 40 mile options with checkpoints every 6 or 7 miles that were stocked with snacks. With LDWA events you can start anytime within a time window, so I didn’t see Becs & Richard until near the end and missed Mark entirely. Self navigating, almost all on trails which were a mix of mud, snow, water, slurry and hills all the way. It was probably the muddiest race I have ever run, with my choice of flat road running shoes not a wise move. I did my best Torvill & Dean impression 78 times, although I only fell once, which added an hour at least to my time. That wasn’t an issue for me, but it might have been for Chris ‘Tigger’ Newnham who bounced through the at times shin deep cow/pig/horse slurry all the way. The route took us up a hill straight from the off, but it was so muddy and slippy that going downhill was much harder. The first part of the route was shrouded in mist and we were unable to see what would have been great views. The promised snow arrived on time but luckily the heavy rain didn’t appear until we were in the car on the way home. We mostly kept to the route with my Garmin registering longer mileage. The fun really started at the 25 mile check point. The description said climb 14 steps, then turn a corner and climb 114 more, run a bit and practically get your mountaineering kit out to climb the north face of Box Hill. From the bottom it looked very steep and it turned out to be just that. At the top, the mist returned and with the fading light, there was again no view which was a shame. My last marathon was 3 weeks ago and the rest served me well, as despite the length of time we were out there I felt fine at the end. Just 6 more to go before my 100th hopefully in Milton Keynes in May.

Paul Owen

3 Counties XC Race 5: Bedford Priory - Sunday 14 January

After many impressive turnouts this season, the 68 runners we took to Bedford today was a record ever turnout for Flyers. [Stats provided in this write up are supplied by Flyer's resident and top statistician Phil Bierton]. In addition to the many returning runners we were bolstered by a number of season first timers - Helen Kearns, Caroline O'Mahoney, Helen Satterthwaite, Sarah Schofield, Robert Cook, Stanley Greening, and Richard Jones [any incorrect people info is my hand so if errors please notify me and I will update discreetly].

It was very much a different type of course today with the shortest duration coupled with the flattest profile made for a quick race. Again all worked really hard and performed really well and there was also great team support with raucous cheering in of the Flyers at the finish.

The ladies ran really well. It was always going to be difficult with Nicola away and Michelle Morris investing in the next generation of Flyers, though still taking the time to come and support her teammates. Nevertheless the team worked really well to finish 5th overall for the season in a competitive league. Sophia Bartlett, Kate Cornelius, Sarah Medler Kelley, Julie Pritchett and Sophie Windmill all secured their best results of the season which was no mean feat for what visually looked like by far the biggest turnout of the season. The scorers for the ladies were Jessica Anstee, Sophia, Hattie King and Louise Clark - three in the photo whilst Louise opted for cleanliness and showering.
For the men, the previous match victory at the home of North Herts had bought us some breathing space and whilst North Herts won the match today, the Flyers secured the men's title. The scoring team was lead by Pete Longstride Benedickter who finished in a magnificent 2nd place. Joe Strange welcoming a flatter course after last being seen not feeling the love for Heartbreak Hill had a really strong run in 7th ahead of Paul Farmer in 8th. Other scorers were Ian Halpin, Steve Steven Upton, myself, John Decesare and Ste Hartley. Like the ladies there were a lot of impressive performances with all the following recording their best position; Alex Anstee, Andy Atherton, Pete, Kevin Cutler, Martin Godin, Ste Hartley, Terry McHugh, Paul Owen, Mark Danger Rouse, Dave Stanley, Joe, Steve Upton and Simon Wilkins.

In the combined league we finished 2nd which was a great result that all have contributed too. It is a very competitive league that continues to get stronger- this year we welcomed a further club Rugby and Northampton. In the interests of sharing having 3 different winners Flyers in the men, Biggleswade in ladies and North Herts overall is fair.

On the individual side a big well done to Pat Godfrey, Mark Waine and Warwick Browning who won their age groups. Also congratulations to former Flyer (though we will always be close to his heart) Alex Ash who won the individual mens title.

A couple of big thank yous. Firstly to Julie Pritchett who has done a brilliant job as ladies captain over a number of seasons and will now take a well earned backseat. Thank you for all your hard work.  Massive thanks to Phil Bierton who does a sterling job not only doing the recording and results in some questionable weather (with great support from Richard Jones and Jane Cook) but also doing loads of other work both before and whilst everyone is chilling post cross-country he is still updating and producing results. He puts in a phenomenal amount of work. As part of this he has already calculated the cross country club championships which are provided below;

Women

Men

Champion

Caroline Gilby

Champion

Ian Halpin

V35

Lisa Wells

V40

Mark Waine

V45

Keri Withers

V50

Martin Beare
Finally thank you to all of you for your support to the team and each other. We have showed great strength in depth both from the scoring team with 17 different male and 13 female scorers and throughout the team. We have seen reams of improvement throughout the team this year and athletes like Ross Henson who in previous seasons was around the 160s and then progressed to score inside the top 30 show that anything is possible. Cross-country will help your overall running and hopefully you will all see the fruits of your labour. Keep up the training so we continue the progression through the longer days and into the next cross country season.

Mark Waine

County XC Champs (Shuttleworth) - Saturday 6 January

A small but perfectly formed turnout by the AFF ladies saw us scoop 2 team prizes and 2 individual age group county medals on what was a very cold, wet and windy afternoon. Just goes to show that if you turn up and give it your best shot you can achieve. Very well done ladies!

Deborah Beare

Northampton ParkRun & Magic Mile - Saturday 6 January

Early on Saturday morning (for me anyway!) four intrepid Flyers set forth for deepest Northampton in search of its infamous Magic Mile. As the mile could not take place until the completion of the Parkrun, we decided to use the 5K as a warm up. With over 670 runners the warmth of the crowd, Penguin style was a possibility on a cold morning. With such a large crowd it was hard to work out where to place ourselves and the first half lap was a case of weaving in and out of the throng. Richard decided to take the inside track on the grass, but claims he ran further than everyone else! Two and a half laps of a reasonably flattish route around the Racecourse park and it was all over.

We had about half an hour to cool down before joining a more select group of 20 or so runners taking on the Magic Mile. This used the flatter parts of the Parkrun route and the pack rapidly thinned out as the speedier runners set their sights on emulating Roger Bannister. The rest of us did our best to keep a steady momentum with the hope of finishing in a reasonable time, something we all achieved. So by 10.30am four happy Flyers departed Northampton with a little bit of Magic ready for a great year of running. We also had completed our first 30x30 run (or was it the second ?), so at least 1 down and only 29 or so to go!

Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2018 12:12