23 May

Any thought that our leading runners would be resting on their silver medal-winning laurels after last month’s National 12-stage road relay championship would be totally misplaced as they have been capitalising on their race fitness with a string of further ground-breaking performances on both road and track.

MIKE WILSMORE set the ball rolling just four days afterwards as he continued his intended transition to to the 5000m on the track by setting a new personal best for the distance on the road when winning the opening event in the Yeovilton 5K summer series in 14:51.

The following weekend produced what has been the outstanding performance since the relay when our star of that memorable day PETE LE GRICE underlined his burgeoning reputation by slashing more than five minutes off his previous best to win the Brighton marathon in 2:16:23, which at the time was the second fastest by a UK athlete in 2019. While he has predictably fallen down the pecking order following the recent London marathon, his time still keeps him on the fringe of the top ten, and unlike London he had to run the last 15 miles at Brighton on his own and was on for a considerably faster time at 21 miles before turning into the prevailing wind. Being based in deepest Cornwall, Pete is used to ploughing a lonely furrow, and few would bet against him going faster in his next marathon which should deservedly be in a British vest.

On the same day in Brighton HARRY ALLEN continued the relentless progress he has made over the winter by carving another half minute off his best 10K with a time of 30:34 in the accompanying England Athletics championship race. Not content he followed it up with a memorable marathon debut in London, which he admitted he was only doing for the experiemce. As so often happens to many debutants at the distance, he made the mistake of setting off too fast and paying for it in the cl.osing stages. Even so his time of 2:23:30 was no mean achievement, though he admits he has found recovering from the effort something of a challenge to his consequent training plans. Remarkably finishing just ten seconds behind him in 2:23:40 MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI continued his flirtation with the marathon, and though like Harry suffering too from going off too fast he still hacked more than three minutes off the time he set in winning last year’s Abingdon marathon to surely confirm that this may well be his event. Bear in mind too that Maciej has a nightime job that’s hardly conducive to any form of taining, let alone the marathon! Harry and Maciej were backed up for the National team championship by two members of our successful B team GRAHAM BREEN (2:35:19) and ANDY DRAKE (2:36:59), though it is not clear where our team finished.

Continuing the marathon theme JARLATH MCKENNA  successfully defended his Northern Ireland marathon title in the Belfast City marathon and was in fact the first British finisher behind a posse of Africans. Unfortunately thee race was found to be 460m over distance, though the times were adjusted accordingly with Jarlath credited with a time of 2:26:18. He was reasonably satisfied with the outcome as he says he ran virtually the whole race on his own.

Meanwhile back to the indefatigable Maciej, who only gave himself a week to recover from his gruelling London effort before leading our team to a convincing victory in Bristol’s annual 10K. What’s more he still improved his best for the distance, finishing 5th in 31:40 and followed closely in 6th and 7th by CALLUM JONES and ANDY WATT, who both dipped under 32 mins for the first time, Callum clocking 31:54 and Andy 31:55. Behind them DAVID AWDE made it four in the top ten finishers with another pb of 32:32. Dave has also been busy on the 5K scene recently, with three sub 15min efforts, two of them 15:44 and 15:35 in parkruns and the other 15:51 for 4th place in the club’s new Pomphrey Hill evening 5K series.

JACK BANCROFT has also continued his comeback recently, following his fastest long leg for our successful B team in the National road relay. He followed up victory in Exeter’s Fast Friday 10K in 32:25 by finishing a close second to Cheltenham’s PHIL BEASTALL in that Pomphrey 5K in 15:10 to suggest that he should soon be back to his best.

Others of our silver medal winning team have been proactive, but more particularly on the track. WILL CHRISTOFI and JACK MILLAR were both close to their 3000m pb’s as they wound up their preparations for the BUCCS championships in an early season open meeting at Watford, Will clocking 8:19.37 and Jack 8:25.21, while close behind them KURT TAYLOR maintained his remarkable progress over the last year  with another pb of 8:30.40. it proved ideal preparation for another breakthrough back on the road in Cardiff’s Victory 5K that incorporated the Welsh championship event where he made the top ten in a star-studded field in 14:46, a time almost 10 seconds faster than he had posted in the super fast Armagh 5K back in February. Just five places behind Kurt OWAIN JONES, who joined him in a Midland Counties representative team, was only five seconds outside his 15min target. As for Will and Jack the BUCCS 5000m championship was not run the way they had hoped, with a crawl over the first half making it a middle distance runner’s race for which they weren’t prepared, Will having to settle for 7th place in 14:40.15 and Jack a disappointed 15th in 15:03.02. Since then both have improved their times in the Oxbridge v Harvard and Yale match, Will to 14:26 and Jack 14:35.

On another encouraging  note JOSH MOODY and ADAM WILSON made the most of their opening to the track season in the BMC’s popular PB Classic meeting at Millfield School. Like Kurt Josh continued the relentless progress he has made during the winter by clocking an impressive 8:38.15 in his first ever race ovver 3000m, while behind him Adam, at last curbing his customary over ambitious early pace, only just failed to break his 9min target with a new pb of 9:00.73. This followed a notable 15:52 Cardiff parkrun that was only two seconds slower than he had run earlier at Armagh.

With the track season now gathering pace Kurt gave himself a busy workout in the club’s opening Midland League match at Abingdon on the weekend just gone. After finishing a close second in a tactically run 1500m with a time not far short of his best of 4:01.7, he teamed up with ANDY WATT to complete a doube success in the 5000m. Having only 20mins to recover from that 1500m, in which he had covered the last two laps in a blistering 2:02, Kurt let Andy set the tempo and he did it so effectively that he ended up setting a new personal best only just outside 15:20 to finish right behind Kurt whose winning time was 15:18.

Back on the road DAN STUDLEY followed up his 25K pacemaing stint in the London marathon with an impressive top ten finish in the prestigious Manchester 10K that was won spectacularly by 18 year old Ugandan prodigy JACOB KIPLIMO in a time only just outside Haile Gebrisselassie’s course record of 27:31. Meanwhile Dan, albeit just over two minutes down, was 4th UK finisher in 29:39, which shaved a couple of seconds off his previous best on the road.

With runners’ priorities now heading in different directions, there is just one more team target this coming weekend when the Vitality National 10K road championship is staged in the capital on Bank Holiday Monday. Unfortunately Dan Studley has pulled out as he has been given a place in an international 10,000m in Holland the weekend after next, and while he will obviously be missed PETE LE GRICE is still due to head a strong squad including HARRY ALLEN, JACK BANCROFT, MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI, OWAIN JONES, KURT TAYLOR, MIKE WILSMORE and ANDY WATT. It’s only three to count, but apparently there are team awards for the top six teams.