Broadway 'off-road Marathons'

The first 2017/18 big winter running challenge took place in the North Cotswold village of Broadway. The events were filled to capacity many months ago – so long ago that some of the Tewkesbury runners couldn’t remember whether they had entered the half-marathon or the marathon? And so long ago that those who had entered the marathon, much preferred to do the half distance and vice versa!

Now an established occasion, these Broadway runs are not for the faint-hearted. Although saying that, they are not as tough-going as first believed – well, not compared to clambering the Tibetan Plateau with a Yak strapped to one’s shoulders. The autumn weather had changed to winter just in time and a rain-filled Saturday made way for a truly glorious sunny Sunday with beautiful blue heavens.

The 26.8 mile marathon event started first and for Tewkesbury it featured veteran Cotswold off-road runners, Angie Sadler and Nigel Tillott.

Angie ran strongly and within herself to return in after 4 hrs 32 minutes. She was one place behind the 2016 female winner from Pershore but the quality of the overall field left her in 6th female position and 35th overall. Nigel was the first in overall for Tewkesbury in 13th place after 4:10 hrs.

Nigel ran strong too but had some issues during the last 20 minutes – he fell in a particularly testing wood section near Buckland and found his legs in the air and both in spasms! Nigel is not known for exaggerating so one can imagine an incredible scene.

Always good to attempt your first marathon on a relatively easy course so Mark Parker did the opposite and started the figure of 8 Broadway event. Conditions underfoot could not have been more atrocious. Huge kudos for Mark, he completed the course in 18th place after a testing 4:13 hrs – he looked a shadow of his former self, completely drained. He said in the days after the race that he had “never experienced pain for so long during a run”. Incredible achievement.

In total contrast, Stuart Dudfield followed a minute later unruffled! It looked like he had just walked back from the beach – hardly broken sweat, an incredible sight. Stuart worked well with Mark and his top 20 placing is excellent considering he has been held back with niggles during the summer.

Cathy Dudfield powered back to Broadway in 4:52 hrs, just 20 minutes behind Angie. Cathy had hoped for sub5 and was overjoyed to have an eight minute cushion.

One of the hardest sections for Cathy was towards the Winchcombe side of the figure 8 where runners took on a sticky muddy field – something the half-marathoners would have sadly missed-out on. Nigel concurred.

Only just making the event after a hamstring injury, club captain Roy Northcott, could have made a switch to the ‘half’, only he didn’t! Roy is often drawn to tough events and he took on the 27 miler with firstly, a lung-bursting climb to his favourite tower on Broadway hill and then some exhilarating trails to Snowshill, Stanway and then towards Winchcombe with the highlight passing Sudeley Castle and the remains of Queen Katherine. Finishing the day in 57th, he couldn’t match Cathy’s sub5 however, Roy will be looking to rebuild himself after his hammy setback as he was in top form.

Finishing 1st V70 for Tewkesbury, Phillip Howells crossed the line in 7:04 hrs. Credit to Phillip, 7 hours negotiating slippery surfaces is no easy task. Placing 103rd from the 104 that actually completed the full course equals a truly deserved Sunday roast.

The Broadway Half-Marathon took the runners over a 13.2 mile loop from Broadway, through the Bridget Jones setting of Snowshill, heading due south along the escapement before descending down to Stanway. Then re-joining the homeward bound marathon course through Stanton and Buckland. The last half mile is along lanes giving the runners an opportunity to let the mud fly off their shoes.

The first runner to finish was Tewkesbury’s Fran Osborne. In quite unusual circumstances, Fran had originally entered the marathon however decided to best run in the ‘half’ event but instead of starting 45 minutes later with the half-marathon, she started with the marathon runners. For Fran this meant she needed to be at her most observant for the tiny pink direction arrows as she was heading back ahead of everyone. Once the results had been finalised, Fran had finished 61st from the 132 that completed the ‘half’. The last runner timed 4:03 hrs so Fran’s time of 2:29 hrs is rather noteworthy considering she had completed little in the way of training for such an event.

The start line for both events was on the Broadway High street. Little did Jon Mansfield know that the route then joined the fearsome lung-bursting club that features in May’s Broadway Tower Charity race. Any thoughts of Jon catching Fran or the dozen or so runners who left him walking skywards were soon forgotten about.

Following Jon to the tower were the Bushley trio of Alec and Elaine Vincent and Gary Duxbury.

Gary (seen above jumping the final stile) was tremendous and went on to win the V60 category (and he would have the V55 too).

Gary runs lightly across trails and was happy with his performance – in a brand new pair of shoes, but a tiny bit disappointed not to break the 2 hr mark.

Alec found his form and ran well to keep ahead of the winning woman. Securing 15th place with a five minute lead on Gary, Alec’s 1:55 hr shows an almost 7 minute improvement on his 2016 result and 6 places higher in a more competitive year.

After passing Broadway Tower, Jon spent the next 12 miles trying to catch the runners who left him puffed-out ascending. He passed several runners before descending down through Lord Neidpath’s Stanway wood; noticing his backpack become loose, he turned back to find the contents had escaped and was forced to retrieve and carry them the rest of the route. He finished 5th in 1:43 hr.

Having to withdraw from running in the Guy Fawkes Five, Elaine put her health to the test and added to her impressive medal collection for 2017.

With a finish time of 2:28 hrs and placing of 58th from 132 finishers, she performed well but there was no hiding post-race that she was far from 100% fit and easily she falls into the collective of brave souls who were victorious in their respective battles.

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