Mike Down’s Welcome to the Coming 2010/2011 Road and Cross-Country Season!

19 Aug

With less than a month now to the start of the forthcoming winter season – perish the thought as the nights draw in – this is the customary call to arms for all our road and cross-country runners.

Not many of you have been running on the track, but those that have been involved, particularly Tom Marley, Steve Mitchell, Rich Peters, Tom Russell, Harry Webb and Mike Wilsmore among the men, and Imogen Ainsworth, Hannah Alderson, Kate Goodhead, Claire Hallissey, Katie Knowles, Ruth Mitchell and Debbie Niccol for the women have all distinguished themselves with new personal bests over 800, 1,500, 3,000 or 5,000m.

All of them, apart from Rich Peters, who is off to Boston University on an athletics scholarship, and Claire Hallissey who is now domiciled in the US, should be out in force this winter as we set out to further consolidate our position among the top distance running clubs in the country.

Although there will be few new faces in the team, we welcome English School’s 3,000m bronze medalist Hannah Alderson, who has joined us from neighbours Westbury Harriers, while after nearly three years of “courting” him we are hopeful that last year’s Welsh cross-country champion Owain Jones, who regularly trains with us but is a member of Windsor, Slough and Eton, will at last tie the knot. If so he will be a huge asset to us, especially on the country. There is also a strong chance that another Welsh international Michael Johnson, who was born in and has been back living in Bristol for the last couple of years, will be joining us from Cardiff. Watch this space!

Another new face – though he has actually been a member for a couple of years after joining us from Exeter Harriers – Andy Chambers will – all being well – make his debut for the club after enduring a wretched time with injury that has necessitated two hip/pelvic operations in the interim.

Among those we will still be missing in addition to Rich Peters are our current crop of elite athletes on scholarships in the States – Dave Bishop, Steph Barnes, Hollie Knight and Emma Reed – while injury too continues to wreak havoc with the hopes and aspirations of our Olympic heroine Kate Reed. Kate has suffered horrendously over the past year following surgery to both achilles tendons. While the first op on the one that she had to contend with in Beijing was successful, the second on the other ankle resulted in a post-op infection that subsequently needed two further surgical interventions plus extensive intra venous anti-biotic therapy for its resolution. Regrettably at the time of writing she has had yet another recurrence of pain and is undergoing yet more treatment. We all wish her a full and speedy recovery and still harbour dreams that she may yet anchor our women’s road relay team to victory sometime in the not too distant future!

U23 cross-country international Robbie Bugden has been yet another injury victim this summer. Following the Bristol 10K in May he discovered that an ankle strain he had been nursing for some time turned out to be a hairline fracture. Surgery had been an option, but he decided to rest it and is apparently at least back running again. We await an update on his condition.

There is better news on the long-standing injuries suffered by our international duathletes Tom Lowe and Oli Mott. Tom is at last back training and racing again and will hopefully be available when in the UK, while Oli is reputedly back running again for the first time for more than a year. Fellow duathlete Phil Wylie has meanwhile been prospering on the circuit with his French sponsored club and has been selected by Great Britain for the forthcoming European championships at the beginning of September.

We hope to see all three in action during the winter along with the long-awaited return of former UK cross-country champion Rob Whalley, who has at last overcome his recurring calf/ankle problems. Rob has recently relocated from Corsham to Bradford-on-Avon, where he has discovered he is a near neighbour of Phil Wylie, so the pair of them should be able to benefit from training together when convenient.

Cross-country international Tom Russell may not be fully satisfied with his progress on the track this summer, but he can still boast running the club’s fastest 5000m (13:51) since Nick Rose’s retirement and will surely be a major force again this winter. Tom Merson, who has also been inconvenienced by a couple of illness/injury problems that have compromised his track racing programme, should be back with a vengeance, as too will Dan Woolford who has been sidelined with achilles tendonitis for most of the summer. What’s more we are trusting that Craig Peters may make a serious comeback for the first team.

We also hope to have the services more often of our other top vet Haggai Chepkwony, who had a brilliant run for us in the National Masters road relays in May, He too could be a serious contender, if available, for our top team in the autumn 6-stage road relay championships.

Our most enduring veteran Phil Parry is another who has been plagued by an ankle problem this summer, but he too hopes to be back in action soon, along with our other Bath-based veteran stars Mick O’Doherty and Alec Woods. There is also likely to be a new recruit for the vet’s team as Steve Goss, who has run under 16mins for 5K this summer, is set to join us from Exeter Harriers.

The success of the U20 men’s team may well depend on whether Nathan Young gets back into full training again because Rich Peters, Harry Webb, Chris Dodd and Nathan Hardee have all graduated to the U23 age group. Sean Hazell and Matt Peters may well have to carry the can until our outstanding young U17 runners move up to the junior age group.

The women’s team will only on rare occasions have the services of international Claire Hallissey now that she has joined her husband Matt in Washington DC and is embarking on her marathon career. She will launch that in New York in November, but will be over to defend her Bristol Half title next month in order to clinch a place in the GB team for the World championship race.

So our women’s team looks likely to be the youngest we have had for years. In Claire’s absence Rebekah Randell and mountain running international Kate Goodhead will hopefully lead the way, with Imogen Ainsworth, U20 cross-country internationals Katie Knowles and Ellie Wimshurst and Hannah Alderson providing a very talented younger element.

But not to forget the older contingent there are high hopes that Amy Chalk, Lucy Hasell and Dorchie Lee – children permitting – may return to the fold, while Nikki Brookland, if she makes herself available, could make her presence felt along with another new mum Camilla Briggs, who won the women’s event in the recent Avon Clubs 10K mob match, and of course Charley Coffey-Wills.

The U20 women’s team looks unbeatable on paper, but unfortunately Annabel Gummow, Naomi Speake and Olivia Sadler all have another year at U17 level, but as with our boys what a team they could form for this autumn’s National U17 road relays!

As usual our main early season target will be the Midland and National 6 and 4-stage road relay championships. The aim must be to at least match last year’s medal-winning success in the Midland champs, where the men took the bronze medals and the women silver.

Meanwhile the Avon road relay championships at Clevedon, which happily return to the calendar after a year’s absence, will provide an ideal low key warm-up before the Midland event. The men’s race is over 5 X 5K and the women’s 4 X 5K. As always we are hoping there will be a large turn-out for what can be treated as a hard training session. Please let us know your availability ASAP.

Similar to last year Keith and I will be sharing the team managers’ duties again, with Keith – lucky man! – chasing the girls up and me the men. Please – and this is a special request from us both – do make a point of responding to any calls or e-mails we send you concerning selection/availability within 48 hours of receipt. That will make what can be a very tedious and time-consuming job a little more tolerable for us both!!

With respect to our group training programme, we plan to start as has become traditional on the Downs on Tuesday evening, August 31, meeting at the usual clump of bushes where we start the annual Xmas Handicap. September’s training there will concentrate on basic fitness work, while like last year Keith will circulate our planned training venues up to a month in advance, beginning with the October sessions. We also plan to liaise closely with Chris Elson’s group, so that everyone is working in the most appropriate group for their current standard. 

Finally, I am sure you will all want to join Keith and I in wishing good luck to Jon and Charley Wills, who will both be starting a new life in Leeds from next month. For the time being I am glad to report that they will be staying with B&W and we shall look forward to meeting up with them at Sutton Park. Before then they are holding a farewell get-together on Friday evening, September 3 in ‘The Clifton’ pub in Clifton Village, and we hope to see many of you there.

The PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK feature will resume in September. There will be one change to the format: the JUNIOR category will be a joint U17/U20 function.