Saturday saw the first Chiltern League Cross Country match of the season, taking place in Keysoe, Bedford, with the Gade Valley Harriers intent on defending their hard earned position in Division One.
The Harriers fielded a strong team of 26 athletes, competing with the best cross country runners in the area.
In the men’s race, Mark Crabtree was first home in an impressive 34:14, with team-mate Anthony James to finish in 37:35.
James was quickly followed by men’s captain Ed Price in 37:42, ahead of Guy Woollett in 38:25, Dylan Wendleken in 38:41, Jon Roberts in 39:02, Tom North in 40:05, Bill Hawes in 40:20, Andy Wells in 40:27, Steve Newing in 41:05, Mike Birch in 42:40, Simon Geary in 43:27, Dave Wise in 44:03, James Thomson in 45:07, Russ Bailey in 48:46 and Andy Newing in 52:04.
In the ladies’ race, over a slightly shorter route, ladies’ captain Gemma Bitaraf was first back for the team in 24:13.
On top form, Claire McDonnell was next back in a speedy 26:12, chased down to the line by Laura Sharma who clocked a time of 26:15.
Next back were in Kathleen Courtier in 26:30, Tracy Aldridge-Jones in 28:28, Victoria Crawley-Wise in 28:46, Emma Phillpot in 29:26, Leona Flaherty in 31:21, Jaqui Samson in 33:03 and Emma Graham in 34:26.
In the team competitions, both the men’s and ladies’ teams placed 11th in Division One, putting them in a combined place of 12th – a good show despite having no junior runners.
The following day, 29 Harriers took on another off-road challenge, this time the Ridgeway Run in Tring.
In its 34th year of running, the Ridgeway course is famous for its tough 15km route, along the prehistoric path.
In a show of strength, the GVH men’s team claimed first prize, with Mark Crabtree, Matt Watt, John Lawler and Anthony James taking the honours – Crabtree also achieving fourth overall finisher.
Results: Mark Crabtree 56:39, Matt Watt 1:00:48, John Lawler 1:01:24, Anthony James 1:02:00, Ed Price 1:02:56, Guy Woollett 1:03:39, Tom North 1:08:16, Vince Slade 1:09:38, Nick Crowther 1:09:33, Gemma Bitaraf 1:10:10, Mike Birch 1:10:14, Steve Newing 1:11:04, Laura Sharma 1:12:20, Andy Cook 1:12:27, Anthony Willcox 1:13:58, Robert Bowler 1:14:01, Claire McDonnell 1:14:20, Dave Wise 1:18:23, Tracy Aldridge-Jones 1:18:51, Andy Terry 1:20:10, James Thomson 1:20:35, Deon Percival 1:21:15, Rob Potten 1:21:34, Victoria Crawley-Wise 1:22:45, Rich Peters 1:22:48, Rich Hutton 1:24:17, Russ Bailey 1:27:22, Emma Nash 1:33:11, Jackie Eskdale 1:38:21.
Elsewhere, Tina Searle and Martin Storrie headed north to York on Sunday to take on the challenge of the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon.
Coming back from injury, Storrie put in a solid performance to come home in 4:34:07, with team-mate Searle crossing the line in 4:40:00. Also in Yorkshire was Paula Cook from GVH, taking on their 10-mile challenge and setting a new PB of 1:29:19.
Emma Cooper and Luca Ramusino were in London on Sunday to compete in the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Ramusino crossed the line in 2:24:55, with Cooper, running for the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, just pipping him to the post in 2:21:12.
Organised by the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge, the Henley Half Marathon had James Birnie racing for GVH. The scenic 13.1 mile race around Henley raises money for the RNLI and several local charities, and Birnie crossed the line in a solid 1:36:18.
Also raising money for charity were Jenny Barnett, Paul Mosely, Andy Smith, Veronika Bartalska, Carol Skates and Tom Colligan who were taking on the Herts 10K.
First over the line for the Harriers was Smith in 44:41, followed by Bartalska in 1:02:51, Moseley in 1:06:26, Barnett in 1:06:26, Colligan in 1:06:27 and Skates in 1:11:41.
Concentrating on his cycling, Harrier Rich Peters tackled the 60-mile London to Milton Keynes bike ride, in support of the British Heart Foundation. Peters completed the ride in four hours.
Despite the cross country meet on the same day, six Harriers raced in the Gadebridge parkrun on Saturday, with James Thomson and Bill Hawes competing in both races.
First home for GVH was Rich Coles, claiming second overall place in a new PB of 19:04. Thomson was next home in 22:04, equalling his PB. Andrew Watt followed in 24:37, ahead of Helen Cook with another PB of 31:34, Sam Hawes (PB) in 38:23 and Hawes in 38:25.
Vince Ellerby was the lone Harrier at Black Park this week, where he rocketed round in 19:38 to claim third overall place.
Continuing his fine form, Matt Ashby set yet another PB at the Canterbury parkrun, and once again claimed first overall place, clocking a time of 18:23 – over a minute quicker than the second placed runner.
As a warm up for the cross country, Tom North powered round the Tring parkrun to claim fourth place in a time of 20:57.