Cotswold Way Relay 2017
Always better late than never – only a month Linda!
Provisional Results as follows...
Our Army Ants placed 8th in the ‘Mixed’ team category timing 14 hrs, 2 minutes. Our Perpetual Motion Squad finished 36th in 6 hrs, 40 minutes (their position and time has yet to be confirmed due to an error with Stage No7). Both teams performed really well and compared to previous years, the 2017 results stack-up impressively.
Individual Stage results; -
1. Alec Vincent 24th 1:35:08, Elaine Vincent 80th 1:59:23
2. Nigel Tillott 28th 1:41:10, Gary Duxbury 45th 1:52:01
3. Jane Sauer 41st 1:12:50, Fran Osborne 51st 1:15:57
4. Stuart Dudfield 33rd 1:44:33, Cathy Dudfield 68th 2:03:04
5. Jon Mansfield 6th 1:21:56, Jude Rodrigues 76th 1:52:18
6. Mark Parker 17th 1:12:12, Mark Gardiner 37th 1:19:42
7. Natalie Jenks 32nd 1:04:22, Liz Spiers 74th? 1:18 (unofficial)
8. Ed Hardy 9th 1:27:52, Michael Jackson 44th 1:46:50
9. Paul Mason 45th 1:20:19, Chris Duckworth 85th 1:37:56
10. Angie Sadler 47th 1:21:40, Linda Younger 78th 1:35:10
Stage No1: The early alarm call to travel to Chipping Campden isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, the reward for starting the trail at 7am is some stunning and peaceful North Cotswold scenery. Once the mist and dew has evaporated, the runners perform at the coolest part of the day. Alec and Elaine Vincent stood at the very start/end of the Cotswold Way for the two Tewkesbury teams. Once the runners left Chipping Campden, their first famous Cotswold landmark was passed in the shape of Dover’s Hill – made famous by the Olympick Games which have taken place there since 1612. Alec and Elaine both put their excellent 2017 fitness to the test as they ran towards Broadway Tower, the 18th century folly. Superb views are offered from the peak and on a clear day, an incredible 13 counties can be seen. But there was no sight-seeing from the determined Tewkesbury pair as they worked their way towards two quaint Cotswold villages, Stanton and the Stanway. Stanway house, the impressive Jacobean manor house, once owned by Tewkesbury Abbey marked the end of the stage. True to form, Alec clocked an impressive time and Elaine broke the 2 hour mark by seconds to set the teams on their ‘way’.
Stage No2: Taking on the first of the regarded ‘harder’ stages, were tough terrain specialist Nigel Tillott and off-road gazelle Gary Duxbury. Like our Stage No1 runners, they were in good shape – and they really needed to be. Once ascending Stanway hill then down past the remains of Hailes Abbey, a trek along Winchcombe high street before the chance to hydrate at the official Tewkesbury Running Club water station positioned in front of Sudeley Castle. Resisting the opportunity to pay their respects to the former Queen, Katherine Parr, the brave runners were soon into one of the most demanding longer climbs of the day to Belas Knap. As the stage paned-out, Nigel struggled over the early stages before feeling stronger later in, while Gary felt it tough over the last few miles towards Cleeve hill – so much so, he has pledged to return to the testing 12 mile stage later in the year.
Stage No3: The popular shorter stage from Cleeve hill tracing the escarpment above Cheltenham’s Prestbury Park featured two of our finest hill runners. With Angie Sadler running later down near Bath, Jane Sauer and Fran Osborne were trusted with the rocky terrain past the old Cotswold quarry and the lung-busting climb from Dowdeswell reservoir. Jane’s training has been patchy with work commitments and time spent running after young Ben, while Fran has recently returned to running after a long rehab with included her having to pull-out of this year’s London Marathon. Fran patiently started her running again and recently completed the deceivingly tough Worcester marathon. With Russell Steele withdrawing from this year’s event due to his fitness being not quite ready, Fran was the obvious replacement as she ran this stage back in 2014. With current form, it was always going to be close as to who would reach Seven Springs first? Jane was in her element and went on to record the club’s fastest woman’s time ever. Fran was just a couple of minutes behind having ran a very respectable stage.
Stage No4: The longest stage on paper, No4 measures 20.4 km, just shy of 13 miles. No4 is also the second of the three ‘harder’ stages. Rather bravely, Cathy and Stuart Dudfield requested to run the stage even before we had our entry accepted. With Cathy preferring long, tough races of late and Stuart unruffled, the pair joined the other 100 runners for the 10:30am start. Competing for the Army Ants team (Nb. Army Ants are the strongest living creatures – they can lift 50 times their own bodyweight), Stuart ran strongly but the course is relentless with at least 10 climbs to tackle. By 7 miles Stu’s energy levels were depleting and wisely, he took on some sports nutrition to keep him on course. As it transpired he did run a good time and kept the AA on course.
With the 10 or so climbs from Seven Springs to Cranham, consequentially there will be descents and for some runners, Cathy included, this means shuddering discomfort through the torso. Cathy had the advantage of practicing the stage beforehand and so was forgiven for not stopping to absorb some of the stunning views from the Devil’s Chimney and Birdlip. She did alas, go off course following others towards the infamous Crickley hill viewpoint, until she realized that was a sight for another day. It was 4 miles into the event that Cathy felt her legs flowing freely and finished at Cranham Corner in good shape
Stage No5: Having just three or four climbs of note, this is another pleasant tour over parts of the Cotswold escarpment. Running down through Painswick high street, taking in the panoramic views from Haresfield Beacon and tracing through ancient woodland dating back to 1297, Jon Mansfield and Jude Rodrigues were very much looking forward to it. Jon failed to squeeze in a recce run in the weeks before however, he targeted certain runners to hang on to – that was fine until the race thinned-out and his regular Cheltenham Harrier running rival started to misfire. Pushing on into the said ancient woods, directional errors were made and time-wasting indecisions at the numerous junctions became all part of the fun of the Cotswold Way Relay. His saviors were a couple of the early leaders appearing from behind (after going off-course) who he was able to stick to and gratefully dispatch of over the last half mile along the canal path to Ebley Mill. Jude, on the other hand, for the Perpetual Motion Squad, had recced key sections after taking in some sound advice from Nigel. Making his Cotswold Way debut, Jude used his good form to run a controlled stage – that was until he neared the end; with just a couple of technical miles to cover down into Stroud, a section which didn’t get blessed with a recce, Jude found herself off course and splendidly lost! Having resorted to asking locals where he was and how to get where he needed to be, Jude lost 10 minutes or so. However and just by chance, he found his way to the canal path having inadvertently sliced a section off and regaining the 10 minutes he previously lost! It was, no less, a remarkable performance by the first-timer. Jude was naturally disappointed with himself and he who epitomises fine manners, was soon wanting to apologize to those who he may have leaped ahead of.
Stage No6: Starting from the Stroud valley, the runners on No6 have 3 significant climbs to tackle; the first to Selsley Common is in full view from the starting point and is a daunting sight! With the gun sounding at 13:00 hrs you would expect the sun to warm the air to an uncomfortable level however, this stage takes the runners through some glorious miles of wooded shade. In contrast, the final few meters involve trekking the streets of Dursley. Tewkesbury had a pair debutants covering this section – Mark Parker and Mark Gardiner, both capable runners with some impressive results in their 2017 diaries already. Coincidently, they have both been hampered by niggles with Mr Gardiner suffering the week before and Mr Parker, pretty much having a niggle of some kind ever since he started running! Mr Parker found the run tough however, he set himself a target time and when he arrived in Dursley he was half a mile in front of his ETA. It wasn’t until days later when the facts and figures were being confirmed that we found he broke the club’s record for the stage! Mr Gardiner followed 8 minutes later with both hamstrings in good working order.
Stage No7: The shortest stage along to Wotton-under-Edge starts like Stage No5 with a ‘hand-brake start’ but No7’s climb up to Stinchcombe hill is relentless. Once the hill is conquered, it’s a fast dash along the escarpment with breathtaking views across the Severn valley towards the Forest of Dean, a few technical twists and turns and then a final climb before a swift descent down to Wotton. Debutant Liz Spires was paired with Natalie Jenks for the 2pm start. Drama often follows Natalie and sure enough there was drama approaching the start time – Liz was unable to get away from home in time to do the requisite car exchange and only arrived at the start with seconds to spare (30 seconds to be precise). With Liz’s laces untied and Natalie’s heartrate in the red zone, the girls quickly got themselves together for a pre-race selfie and away they went. Despite having concerns about loved ones at home, Liz ran well and had a CWR debut to remember. Her finish time was missed by the time-keeper and has yet to be corrected so we are using Liz’s stop watch. Natalie cut along the course in impressive style and clocked a good time just outside the club’s stage record.
Stage No8: Regarded as the toughest stage, No8 starts with a one km jog alongside a stream before ascending hands and knees style up to the Cotswolds hills. The 3pm start time has in the past allowed the sun to toast the runners though this year’s weather wasn’t too bad, in fact for the end of June, it was good running weather and firm under foot after a long dry spell. It’s only fair that the club’s strongest runner is rewarded with Stage No8 and Jon Mansfield was relieved to enter Ed Hardy for the Army Ants and Michael Jackson for the PMS. Nick Matthews was originally planned to take on the stage but a family accident forced him to withdraw. Michael was a natural replacement having run the stage back in 2015 – he did great in 2017 by knocking almost 10 minutes off his 2015 time. Ed recced the course with Jon and was almost overwhelmed with the detail of the route. However, Ed didn’t disappoint with strong performance – starting a little pacey, he found good rhythm and only missed one turn near the end.
Stage No9: Setting off from Old Sodbury, as the crow flies, Bath isn’t that far away but the Cotswold Way is never about the shortest A-B route – it is in fact a purposely designed path along the Cotswold escarpment put in place in the 1950’s by keen ramblers. Designed in a way to incorporate the splendid views and points of interest. Ironically, the CWR race doesn’t really allow for sight-seeing! The club’s Paul Mason is striving to run all of the sections and for this year it was No9. Switched from the PMS to AA due to Elliott Parsons failing a late fitness test, Paul found the challenge just right and went on to record a respectable time on his arrival in Cold Ashton. Stage No9 crosses some major roads and also the M4 via a bridge. For the 9.2 mile stage a late replacement was called-in in the shape of Chris Duckworth. Chris having achieved various running goals this year and with the Tewkesbury Half Marathon under his belt, this stage fitted his ability nicely. Chris found his way along the course very well and it was only when a lady ran under some trees for a ‘call of nature’, that he went off the course.
Stage No10: The glory leg – a stage with a little of everything from grand parks, air fields, civil war sites and possibly the greatest views. The finish into Bath and to the Abbey itself is a surreal experience. Angie Sadler has raced No10 before for Tewkesbury several years ago and more recently ran the whole 102 mile route as an individual competing in the Cotswold Way Challenge. Running for the Army Ants, she completed the day for the team with a fine run and, of course, was ready for another run the next day. The PMS had the disappointment of losing Michael Younger to injury. However, Linda Younger has been the fastest runner in the Younger household this year and with gentle coaxing, she was installed alongside Angie at the start of the final 10 mile section. The stage is described as ‘easier’ but it’s more ‘less hard’ as there are sections that can make ears pop and there are also some eye opening descents. Linda set herself a target time as she is familiar with this particular stage and also she was more confident with her form of late. When she turned off Stall Street towards the Abbey she had a comfortable 5 minute cushion over her expected time. Linda’s completion for the Perpetual Motion Squad rounded-off another great Cotswold Way day for the club.
Thanks to all involved – not just for running but also sorting your own transport out and arranging practice runs. To Amanda Martin who helped on the Water Station and assisted the girls on Stage No7. Thank you to the club for paying the entries. The organisers have held their hands-up and blamed the souvenir tee shirt hullabaloo on their suppliers – we are all disappointed! The event is all-set for next June so mark your dairies and think about which stage you would like to get lost on!
Ps. Julie Symonds ran Stage No10 as a loose horse and kept the pressure on Linda - next year then Julie?