Newsletter December ’07 – January ‘08

Newsletter December ’07 – January ‘08

Vegan Runners UK

Est. 4 July 2004

Affiliated to: SEAA Eng Ath ECCA FRA UKA Bucks

Newsletter

December ’07 – January ‘08

News Reports

  1. Miami Half Marathon 2007
  2. Lady Godiva Half Marathon, Coventry, 21/10/07
  3. Shepshed 7 miles, Leicester 4/11/07
  4. Luton Marathon & 3-Stage Relay, 2/12/07
  5. Andy Reading 10K, Bicester, 9/12/07
  6. Stockport 10 miles, 9/12/07
  7. Campbell Park Cross Country, Milton Keynes, 16/12/07
  8. Poole Lakes 10K, Dorset, 26/12/07
  9. Cliveden Cross Country, Buckinghamshire, 30/12/07
  10. Godiva New Year’s Day Five, Warwick Univ, Coventry
  11. Buckinghamshire & Bedfordshire Cross Country Champs, 5/01/08
  12. Wimbledon Common Cross Country, London, 19/01/08

News in Brief

North-West Vegan Festival, 26/1/08

We had a stall in a good location helping to attract a lot of interest. Sold six vests or t-shirts, distributed lots of literature and another 14 or so joined the free mailing list. No new members just yet.

Animal Aid’s Cruelty-Free Xmas Fayre, 2/12/07

Many members met up at this annual event and had a great time but given the editor’s commitments to the Luton Relay on the same day could not make it. Dave Arnold gave his usual competitive performance in the press-ups and although there was some dispute over counting, Dave’s press-ups apparently were more genuine. We normally have a stall at the London Vegan Festival earlier in the year so give the xmas fayre a miss. The Luton Relay held on this date is also a unique event where we have yet to enter a complete vegan team!

London Marathon, 13/4/08

This year there will be a meeting point at the finish for VRUK runners and supporters at the ‘NO’ tree, assuming it is labelled the same as previous years. Remember the meeting point as O for Oakes or Oats. In 2007 it was H for houmous but the hard ground was unpopular. Currently the Club is aware of six members running including Fiona Oakes & James Meldrum so we will need to be at the meeting point early. If runners and supporters are interested we could also go for a post-marathon vegan buffet meal.

The Vegan Runners green and black vest continues to be popular in the UK and abroad. The Swedish Vegan Runners club have decided to adopt the green and black vest, many having already purchased a vest since 2005 and their club will be placing a bulk order in March.

The Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary has accepted one of the horses from Spindles Farm where over 30 were found dead and gross neglect was uncovered.

1. Miami Half Marathon

Florida, USA, 2007

E-mail by Mike Winnemuller from Canada

Editor – Mike gives a critical review of himself and his one performance of 2007 in the VR vest.

A pretty pathetic one at that. hehe. No, seriously, I was really disappointed in my result but I shouldn’t get mad at myself cause I’ve been so busy with school the last two years so I haven’t been able to train as much as I’d like. But I’m done school in April, I’m moving out west to Alberta (close to the mountains and more varied terrain) so I’m getting back into my running. I’ve been experimenting with the raw food diet thing lately and it’s going extremely well. I’m shedding off some pounds really fast. I’m about 20 lbs heavier than when I was in my running prime a couple years ago but I am 10 lbs lighter than a month ago.

Anyway, here’s that result:

2007 ING Miami Half Marathon, Miami, Florida

Chip Time: 1:42:02

I came through the 10 km. mark in 45:57 so you can see I really came downhill from there. It was a fun weekend though, away from the snow and cold at home.

Hope all is well with you. If you’re on myspace, my page is www.myspace.com/mikewinnemuller

I have a few races planned this summer if I can get into better shape. I want to get a relay team going for the Canadian Death Race (www.canadiandeathrace.com) since I’m moving to a small city only 2 hours north of where this takes place. 125 km. passing over 3 mountain summits. Some crazy people do the entire thing themselves but most do it on a relay team of 5 people. The entire race needs to be completed in 24 hours though. I also want to get myself a good road bike this coming summer and get more into triathlons. I still want to qualify for Boston Marathon so that may put a hamper on me getting a bike just yet.

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2. Lady Godiva Half Marathon

Coventry, 21/10/07

By Stewart Boulton

Although its only been going a few years, Coventry Council have got their Lady Godiva Half Marathon down to a fine art. Without wanting to be accused of local bias here, I can honestly say that the organisers have got this race finely tuned to near perfection. At times it feels more like a city festival than a race. Most of the ring-road is blocked off hours before to allow for the magnitude of the event to come. You arrive to a spectacle of balloons, stages, market & charity stands, radio broad-casting, group aerobics and much more. As a result, it attracts a large field of runners… plus thousands of friends and family turning up in the city centre to cheer on their local heroes.

It’s almost a shame when you start the race… and have to leave the party behind! This is also the point, when you realise that the rest of the event doesn’t live up to the initial gloss of the start. The biggest shame of the LGHM is the route. It has to be said that Coventry is not the most glamorous city in the World… and there are certainly more scenic and rural Half Marathons for runners to choose from. Saying that though, they do try and make the best of it, ensuring you do pass by some of the local landmarks such as Warwick University and the Memorial Park. But to be honest it’s primarily city streets and ring-roads. The upside of this though is that most of the course is fast and flat, with good wide roads for overtaking. Many runners have told me that this particular race is an attractive proposition for anyone seeking a HM Personal Best, which is worth bearing in mind.

Due to a heavy running schedule both before and after this event (sandwiched between two Marathons), I couldn’t give this race my all. Since it started, I have never missed this annual treat, and even though I had other commitments, I still wanted to run it… in what ever time it took. So I started off cautiously and tried to maintain a steady, comfortable pace throughout. Continuing this sensible approach to the end, I finished in a time of 1hr 43m. Not a P.B, and not my best time for the event, but a reasonable performance in the circumstances.

At the end, you are awarded with a medal and a goody bag with wate
r, energy drink, fruit etc, although this year, the event T-Shirt was an additional cost. Saying that though, I always feel you get good value for money with this event. It’s well marshalled, you’re provided with a good show and the local sports centre provides excellent changing and baggage facilities.

As Coventry is nestled nicely in the centre of our Country, with good transport connections making it easily accessible to most, I would say that it’s well worth considering visiting our “Lady Godiva” in 2008.

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3. Shepshed 7 miles,

Leicestershire, 4/11/07

By Stewart Boulton

I cannot fully explain why, but the Shepshed 7 is probably my favourite race of the running calendar. Is it because it’s in Leicester, the greatest County in England? Is it because it’s close to my Vegan friends who I meet for drinks and lunch after? Is it because it was my first ever proper race and it has sentimental value? Or is it simply because it’s a great, well organised event? Whatever it is, it never fails to disappoint and 2007 was no exception! Incidentally, it was also the race where I found out that Vegan Runners exist! When I spotted 2 runners in those distinctive green and black VR vests… and a few months later I too was a member!

For those of you who have not done the Shepshed 7, it is (as you’ve guessed) a 7 mile race, consisting of two laps of a 3.5 mile course, primarily around the grounds of a private estate. There is also a few football pitches, a motorway bridge & underpass (both M1), a housing estate and college grounds thrown in for good measure as well. Due to the time of year, it can be a messy affair with heavy rain-soaked ground and plenty of deep puddles to avoid/jump in* (*delete as per your personal preference).

The start and finish are based at a local Sports Centre where organisation and facilities are both excellent. Changing Rooms, Showers, Secure baggage claim, Physio/Massages, Bar and Café refreshments are available to all. There’s also a stall held by the local running shop “Running Fox” where there’s always a good bargain to be had!

All in all, it makes for a good race and a great event. This year, I had a decent run and felt good throughout, maintaining a consistent 7 minute mile pace for much of the race. For some reason at Shepshed, I always feel better on the second lap than I do on the first. I think it’s because I’ve warmed up and I’m reaching my top gear for competing the second time around. After 2 dirty but enjoyable laps, I crossed the finish line in a time of 49m 29s, with a race position of 128th. Admittedly, not as good as my Shepshed performance in 2005, but better than last year, and I’m confident for an even better result when I return again in 2008…

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4. Luton Marathon & 3-Stage Relay,

2/12/2007

By Peter Simpson

At the 2006 event there was a very strong headwind coming out of Streatley (approx halfway point) for a couple of miles, thereafter it was in our favour. At the 2007 event we had a similar strength of wind
but an additional hazard of heavy or persistent rain to contend with in the first two legs.

Unless you organise a relay team for a club dispersed nationwide, you may not realise the effort that has to go into making sure you have done your job. Even then the handover to the next leg runner
could still go awry. Unless you can somehow follow the runner around the course or get feedback on their progress, the wait at the handover point can seem very long. Meanwhile you are getting colder at this time of year. At least the organisers this year erected a gazebo which was useful apart from your sight being blocked by the crowd of runners under cover awaiting their team member to return.

There were two veg*n teams with me the only member in the VRUK vest otherwise the other team members were wearing the VC&AC vest. Keith who was running the first leg for my team of three was helping to complete the team given that he was already entered for the marathon. As usual I was running the 3rd leg due to my team manager’s role. The 2nd leg runner of the second team, Rod arrived close to his handover time and had it not been for a phone call from Ade who was waiting to start the 2nd leg for the first team, we would have lost time and position to put it mildly. Team numbers for the relay runners are only distributed on the day.

Amazingly, the first leg runners for both of the veg*n teams finished at the same time and with Keith starting his 2nd of 3 laps and Andy the 2nd team runner deciding to run a second lap for training, there were four runners in VC&AC vests running together around the edge of the square before disappearing out of sight.


As the handover for the final leg approached, Steve (3rd leg for second team) and I waited, me under the gazebo for a while before thinking Ade should have been here by now. To my surprise Keith started his third leg of the marathon with no sign of Ade and it was some minutes later that Ade finished. He did not have time to explain what had happened except to say that it is very slippery out there, in fact Ade had fallen early into his leg when taking a short cut across a grassy/muddy patch as runners were going up the notorious steep point early in the 2nd & 3rd legs. It was some considerable time before Ade recovered sufficiently to continue at a more normal pace.

The early uphill stretch for me was a struggle as normal but at least the rain appeared to ease off. Slowly with fresh legs (although with not much of a warm-up I was not quite in gear) I began to overtake the marathon runners on their most tiring third leg. In the second mile there is a long sandy path, mainly downhill which was treacherous. We were then on the flat section of the A6 going north out of Luton where I met up and passed Keith as he slowed on his 3rd lap of 8.7 miles. I continued to pass runners including a small number of relay runners leading up to and through the hilly section in Streatley. We then turned into that strong wind although it did not feel quite as tough as in 2006. We were helped psychologically by cloud clearing and the sun appearing. From the experience of 2006 I was hoping we would have the benefit of the wind behind us for the last two miles. It did not seem quite as beneficial this time but anyhow I was going well but I was taken by surprise when three relay runners obviously running at a much faster pace overtook me within a short time.

With less than half a mile to go, suddenly one of my lens dropped out. I obviously retrieved it but had to remove the glasses and run with blurred vision to the finish. Luckily I did not lose much time and
could just make out the clock saying about 3 hours 17 mins but the rest of the event and for the next four hours or so, life was a blur until I arrived home via public transport and on foot.

Our second relay team finished in 3.28.59 and 63 / 166 teams, a very respectable achievement. The 1st team finished in 39th position and the time for my leg was 1.05.48. Keith, despite his tiring last leg finished in a very respectable 3 hours 25 mins on what turned out to be difficult conditions on a tough course for a marathon. Another VC&AC member, Manuel finished in 3.27 with our Andi Gaywood in the VRUK vest withdrawing after two laps due to increasing concerns of injury.

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5. Andy Reading 10K

Bicester, 9/12/07

Email by Maria Hamilton

Down south I did my second Andy Reading 10k – my first, last year, was my first 10k ever and so I wanted to do it again

a) for nostalgia reasons
b) to do it in my nice shiny VRUK top
c) because last year the memento was unbelievably lame and we had been promised bling in the form of a glass cube this year
d) it’s a good pre-Xmas, end-of-year race
e) Alchester Running Club do good races – very encouraging marshalls, nice finishing straights
f) I think that’s quite enough reasons!
Official position and time: 333 (out of 416 finishers) 57:24 (a good five minutes down on last year’s time).


Despite it being far from a PB I was moderately pleased at how it went, because I spent last week with frozen peas in my lap after pulling a lower abdomen muscle slipping in the bath, and woke on Sunday morning with a calf cramp! So when, despite this, I maintained the same pace as I did for an earlier 5-miler, and felt so much better doing it too, I was quite relieved. Last year I was coming off marathon training so I did not expect to be matching the scorching time I did then!


Photos here:
http://picasaweb.google.com/t00m45i/AndyReading10k2007
and yes, the armwarmers were chosen to go with the VRUK vest 🙂
A Cool Yule to all VRUK folk and see you all in ’08!

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6. Stockport 10 miles, 9/12/07

By Peter Simpson











I had a break this year from the Christmas Pudding 10-mile run near Walsall in the West Midlands. I had not run in the north-west of England so far this year so thought the Stockport 10 would be a suitable event for VRUK to target. It was also an opportunity to meet up with probably our current fastest all round vegan runner, James Meldrum from Liverpool who has a PB for 10 miles of 55.52 achieved in the Brampton to Carlisle event in 2006. Jenny Kinnaird is also based in the town, a member of the organising club Stockport Harriers and a marshal for the event. Jenny had attempted a 50 miles multi-terrain event the previous day in Rotherham but due to her lack of training, she withdrew after 30 miles which is an achievement in itself.

It was not long before I met up with James Meldrum who suggested that we have a warm-up run that I hoped would not be too fast for me. I was still building up fitness following my calf injury in October during the Cardiff Half. It had been raining heavily the previous day and the weather conditions were uncertain for the event. I was also informed that the course was undulating with a couple of
tough climbs so, I decided to take it cautiously.

The organisers decided that all runners should register on the day rather than receive their number in the post. I got there early but most participants arrived at their normal time hence the very long
queue and the delayed start of 15 minutes or so. The delay helped me as I felt I needed a long slow warm-up rather than the faster run with James. The start was on a track so took the opportunity of using it.

The route was mainly through residential streets but was punctuated by short sections of countryside. The course was rather wet and there were coned busy roads early on which were a danger to runners when the cones appeared without notice due to the congestion of runners and traffic. The toughest part of the course turned out to be at about halfway, a double-whammy for some runners. There was a long steep climb for which I had fortunately been holding back and after reaching the top and turning about 160 degrees to the left, a short distance later, there was another fairly long and steep climb. Fortunately I do not recall it taking my breath away and from there on the course was easy for the next 4 miles with at least one sharp descent. With the
track at quite a high altitude in the local area, it was no surprise that we had a long but gentle climb in the last mile. By that time I was pushing the pace and moving up the field. Seeing the clock on the
track I was slightly disappointing to finish over 1.14.

James, 2 weeks short of his 28th birthday, ran another personal best of 55.17 for 6th. This time would likely have won James some events. Looking ahead, despite his commitments to his local Club, James is planning to wear the VR vest at some other events during the year.

After the event, Jenny invited me to join other Stockport Harriers members for a drink in a local pub and wearing the VRUK kit, veganism was a topic of conversation.


Peter Simpson with 200+ metres to go.

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7. Campbell Park Cross Country

Milton Keynes, 16/12/07

A series of 3 events with the venue only a couple of miles away, yet I missed the 2006 series as the events clashed with other activities and similarly the first of the 2007 series.

The course is potentially very heavy but on this occasion there had been a week of dry weather leading up to the event during the cold spell in December. The meeting up area is very exposed and with a cold wind, I was glad I walked to the venue. Runners were also grateful for
the small tents for changing and keeping warm.

There were two events advertised as 5K and 10K but in fact turned out to be longer. I was entered for the latter, 4-lap course. We were starting at the highest point so were soon charging down a sharp bank into an area used for music festivals but
soon we had to climb up the other side. The course was then mostly flat or gently downhill for about 1.5K. There followed a series of sharp climbs and an awkward stretch along a contour of a steep climb
that we eventually had to negotiate up to The Beacon.

The field of runners was fairly small despite the two events with 91 doing 4 laps and only a small number in the 2-lap event. The runners were soon spread out and I felt that I might have a chance of a prize here if the organisers are generous.

Unfortunately on the third lap I made a mistake after climbing up to the Beacon. I took a detour, the path we would follow on the final lap to the finish. It allowed some competitors I had worked hard to
overtake, to retrieve some lost ground.

Running a mu
lti-lap course it was not long before the slow runners were being lapped, some twice. Even the 2-lap participants, obviously out for
some gentle exercise were being lapped by the 4-lap runners. Following my earlier error, climbing the Beacon for the last time I was overtaken by a runner who before the start introduced himself as a
vegan and plans to join.


For a change there was suitable food waiting for us at the finish including melon and vegetable soup with french bread. Despite the small event, high technology was setup to show participants their time
and position. There were in fact more runners ahead of me than I calculated. I finished in 24th and the overall winner was a female, Juliet Potter, an elite runner no less.

We were soon getting cold again so glad I had the walk home with the wind behind.

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8. Poole Lakes 10K, 26/12/07

By Stewart Boulton

I’ve always wanted to go away at Christmas but never got round to it. Then when I found out about a nice 10K Race, called the “The Lakes”, on Boxing Day in Dorset (one of my favourite seaside areas), I couldn’t resist! So with nothing special planned on Christmas Day, I drove down on quiet roads whilst the majority of the nation masticated on the mass genocide of slaughtered poultry.

On Boxing Day itself, I headed off from my Travelodge nice and early to allow for “getting lost” time. After one quick intervention for directions from an old local, I got there with plenty of time to spare… or so I thought!

When I arrived, I happened to park next to a fellow runner who I’d been chatting to on the Runners World Forum for the race (he recognised me from my forum photo) who had flew over from China to see Family and also run the race whilst he was staying in the area. We got chatting… and chatting… to the point where we were only minutes away from the start of the race and we were still standing around in the car park!

So I had very little preparation time, no warm-up, no stretches; I literally walked up to the pack of runners assembled at the start-line… and started running! It was a cold day and I think the sudden change from standing around in the elements to running fast was a little too much for my chest as my breathing felt restrictive for the first few minutes.

The course itself was a little “samey” as it was three and a half laps around a large boating lake in the centre of a Seaside Victorian Park. The course was fast and flat along park paths and internal park roads… however this did mean there were many kerbs and speed bumps to keep an eye out for as you ran round. With each completed lap you passed the Park Pavilion (race centre for the day) when an assembly of festive friends and family were lined up either side to cheer you on for your next lap.

Despite training hard for the race, I did not have the most comfortable run and found my new race pace difficult to maintain on the day. I had wanted to achieve my first Sub 42 10K time but I soon felt after a couple of laps that this aspiration was slipping away.

By my last lap there was a little confusion as some slower runners still had a lap to go and there was a T-Junction where you needed to split for the finish line. I could tell that several runners were unsure if they had to go left or right as they approached. I just followed the guy who had been racing me throughout the last lap…

I eventually crossed the finish line in a time of 42m 39s – missing my target by 40 seconds, but still a new P.B nether-the-less. I enjoyed the race and found everyone at the event friendly and welcoming and would consider doing it again if I have another quiet Christmas looming.

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9. Cliveden Cross Country,

South Buckinghamshire, 30/12/07

By Peter Simpson

Last time I entered this event, maybe 2004, I stayed overnight due to the difficulties with public transport plus the cycling required. A 11am start made it possible to attempt the 4-stage journey so gave it
a try and took the risk that I may arrive late. The journey was only about 45 miles but for
me it felt a lot longer. Left home in the dark at 655am to walk to the station with the bike already parked the previous evening in Leighton
Buzzard, 10 miles or so away.

Arrived at the station only to find the replacement coach did not arrive at 720am. By 8am the train company had kindly arranged a taxi at no extra cost to take me to Leighton Buzzard. Arriving by 825am I
had time to cycle the 12 miles to Aylesbury. Apart from the steep climb out of town, it is mostly downhill and flat for the last few miles but with little cycling in recent weeks I was struggling into a
light breeze. Arrived at the station with over 10 minutes to go before the train was due to depart. Was relieved that I had 30 minutes rest on the train before reaching Beaconsfield.

Leaving Beaconsfield shortly after 10am I did not have much time to cycle another 5 miles or so and was not certain of the route. Arrived at about 1040 taking into account the long ride from the entrance to Cliveden House. I did not have much time to get ready for the run and relax again but unlike most participants I was thoroughly warmed up.

The event is very popular and the entry limit of 650 this year was still reached well in advance. It is a tough but scenic course up and down the steep hillside adjoining the River Thames. Was expecting it to be very muddy but apart from the slippery turnings near the bottom it was relatively dry. At the start met some of the VC&AC members. The Cliveden event usually attracts at least a few members and as it turned out will likely be our main cross country event of the winter.

Despite recovering from the cycle journey I was fairly fit for the run following the events and training during December. Started at a modest pace and was soon caught by VC&AC member, Ade who was looking competitive and went ahead. The course is basically a small lap and a much larger lap. When
we reach the lowest point for the first time I was catching Ade for the 2nd time, apart from when I lost control at the slippery corner and was saved by the bushes otherwise it was not long before we were climbing up the infamous long and wide steps. There are about 60-70 of them so very tiring by the time you reach the top. Managed to easily overtake Ade who decided to walk as he commented that he was fairly unfit at the moment, unusual for Ade who is very dedicated. Even on reaching the top of the steps there is still a slow climb so, the recovery is slow for most. We then proceeded around the perimeter of Cliveden House and back through the Start again to begin the large lap.

I was feeling the benefits of the training earlier in the month and maintained a good pace and overtook a significant number of runners on the top section before we descended to the bottom and the furthest
point away from the finish. There was a large gap to the next runner ahead but I was gradually closing it and by the time we reached the narrow, steep and winding climb I had made up the ground. Here
everyone was walking as usual as it is almost impossible for the average competitor to run and overtake. It was not long before we were
descending again and at the bottom we soon arrived at the large steps again. Despite my fitness, at about halfway I decided to walk briskly
and seemed to recover faster on reaching the top. Picked up most places
I lost on the steps and finished at a brisk pace, the clock showing 51:53, still about 3 minutes below my best achieved during my peak fitness back in the late 1990s.

Ade finished 2-3 minutes behind and vowed to get fit again for the New Year ahead. Waiting around at the finish I saw Sharon Davidson finish in about 65 mins as well as the other VC&AC runners. Later in the results I noticed Karen Pollard had ran, one of her local events and finished in 67 mins.


After a long break it was time for the long journey home although I had a long wait for the next train from Beaconsfield station but took the opportunity to keep walking to find some suitable refreshments and found Waitrose. The ride from Aylesbury to Leighton Buzzard, mostly uphill was quite tiring
so by the time I arrived home in the dark I knew I had a hard workout and the next couple of days were spent recovering.

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10. Godiva New Year’s Day Five

Warwick University

Coventry 1/1/2008

By Stewart Boulton

The obvious problem with a New Years Day race… is the NIGHT BEFORE! New Years Eve is a time for late nights, sleep deprivation, too much food & drink and the obligatory hangover!

However, all this had to be avoided, because for my sins, I had entered The Godiva New Year New Five. A 5 mile race held at the headquarters of the Godiva Harriers Running Club on the grounds of Warwick University near Coventry. The 5 mile course consisted of 3 laps (2 long and 1 short) around the University Campus perimeter, which was eeriely quiet being early New Years Day morning (a non-existent time for students!)

I could see no fun runners at this event, it was pretty much all club runners and although friendly, had quite a competitive edge to it. Because of this, the whole event has a very “clubby” feel to it and I probably wouldn’t recommend it for beginners for their first race. As it was their “home fixture” the facilities provided by the Godiva Harriers were very good. Immaculate changing rooms with touch-showers & lockers and a club hut with refreshments and presentations after.

On a personal level, this is probably one of the best races I have ever had. From the moment I woke up, I felt up for it and ran my Christmas socks off for the whole 5 miles. Because the field of runners participating in this event was of a very high standard, I felt it had a positive effect on me and I wanted to perform to the very best of my ability to ensure I put in a good performance in front of my fellow Coventry & Warwickshire runners. There was one particular chap who was always close to me for the entire race as we had a Titanic battle between us. We jostled and overtook each other for position a dozen times over… this really did feel like proper racing.

Mid-way through the last lap, I gave it my all, and broke away from my “rival” and also overtook several others ahead of me as I steam-rollered my way to the finish. I crossed the line in 33m 12s and in a place of 57th position. I shook hands with my adversary and we congratulated each other on a good run. I have to say, I was delighted with my New Years Day performance and only wish that I could run that well everyday for the rest of the year! Sadly not, I fear!

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11. Buckinghamshire & Bedfordshire Cross Country Champs, RAF Halton, 5/1/2008

By Peter Simpson

The cross country champs for the two counties were this year held at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. With the men’s event scheduled for 2.25pm there was no rush to leave however due to the reduced train service to the nearest rail station, Tring in Hertfordshire and not planning ahead, I had to take a service that only stopped at Berkhamsted, one station further along the line. I therefore had to
cycle an additional four miles into the wind and in total nearly an hour in the Chiltern Hills. Arrived with about 40 minutes to go, fortunately warmed up as the venue is very exposed to a westerly wind
and soon began to feel the chilly conditions. Unlike some XC venues there is a changing room.

The women’s event was reaching a climax as I began to familiarise myself with the course I believe was used four years earlier for these champs. The men’s distance was roughly 12K (4 laps) except for the 60+ age group who only needed to complete two circuits or 6K. In terms of cross country, the course is not much more that a sports field except for the fact that it is on the side if a hill with an added 100 metres stretch of real country terrain with tree routes.

Being a championship event and limited advertising, the quality of entrant was quite high. I was soon near the rear as we started climbing towards the real cross country stretch. Was feeling the effects
of the cycle ride but gradually I began to pick up some places although they all seemed to be Bedfordshire runners going by their club vest.

By the end of the second lap it began to rain and increased in intensity, changing the conditions slightly. With wet glasses I had to ensure I did not succumb to the tree routes. In the men’s Bucks champs (exc 60+) I finished in 59 / 67 and overall 108 / 135, time 55:29.

Cycling back towards Tring station, it was an easier journey with the wind behind however it did rain again from halfway.

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12. Wimbledon Common Cross Country, London, 19/01/08

By Peter Simpson

The Veterans’ AC, based in London hold a cross country series at the same venue with this event also designated as their Club Championship. I have ran the course several times and seem to be lowering my time for the 5.5 miles whatever the conditions. Apart from the few guests, members are first claim for a variety of clubs and I obviously wear the Vegan Runners vest. When we register on the day, the same entries secretary appears to be getting use to my face and our club, giving a little curse acknowledgement.

As usual we had a warm-up run/walk of about a mile from the infamous Belgrave Harriers Clubhouse in a residential area. Never quite sure of the most direct route to the start across Wimbledon Common. Many of the runners actually drive to the venue as there is a convenient car park nearby. It was exceptionally mild so apart from the slowest, there was no need to take the car except if you were late and the officials have an excuse.

As you would expect, the Common is very popular with dog owners and competitors in the Start area need to tread carefully!

It is noticeable at these events that most of the competitors are over 50 so, with titles awarded for the first three in each 5-year age group I normally think I have a chance but unfortunately the fastest
runners taking part are in my age group (45-49). I still go to the presentation in anticipation and again this year I was 4th in my age group but 4 minutes or more behind the third V45.

Onto the race itself, conditions were heavier than normal crossing the edge of sports field at the bottom of the rectangular course. Firstly we had to negotiate a number of dogs off-lead and on the second of the three laps some horse-riders kindly allowed us through. Ron Franklin (VC&AC Honorary member) now 80 as of January 2008 was marshalling at his normal spot just where we begin our long descent. Apart from a little honey, Ron has not consumed any other animal products since the early 1960s. One of his notable achievements is 10 times Welsh Champ
ion at various distances.

There is no separate race for the women and on this occasion I could see the leading two women going further away as well as a V65 male runner.
All competitors attach an age group card on their back which helps. Despite the usual tough climb towards the end of each lap which increases in severity as we approach the top, I continued to hold my position. I passed some competitors in the first two laps helped by two dropping out. In the end I finished 14 / 46 although as it turned out there were no runners in the male 40-44 age group.

Despite the small field, most of the competitors returned to the Clubhouse for refreshment and the presentation. It is also a chance to catch up with Ron Franklin and remind me of his achievements.

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