The 37th Stroud Half Marathon was probably blessed with some of the finest racing conditons in the race’s fine history. Autumn sunshine and a windless morning greeted an mightily impressive collection of eager Tewkesbury Running Club members. No less than 29 members lined up, providing one of the largest contingents from the county's running clubs.
After a short delay of 15 minutes, the anticipation was quickly gathering for the start of one of this county’s best races. Some TRC members were nervously shuffling around, panning the race out in their head. With this race being the last race in the Club Championship and the penultimate race in the County Road Race Series, performances had to be of the highest order.
The race itself was of one of the better quality line ups of recent years and was won by international quality runners. Commonwealth marathoner Andrew Davies from Stockport won in 68.02 and Rachel Felton of Shaftesbury Barnet won the ladies race in 77.11.
First home for the club was James Head in 1.23.00, however James did not have the race to himself. Just after entering the Stonehouse industrial estate at mile 9, James become aware of another Black and Yellow stripe vest steadily making ground. Indeed after another 400 metres Simon Meadows was quickly on his shoulder. The two club members worked together for the next 2 miles before a gap slowly appeared. A delighted Simon Meadows crossed the line in 1.23.35 - a well deserved Personal Best time for Simon by over a minute.
First female home for Tewkesbury was an injury hit Shona Crombie-Hicks in 1.27.20 and placing 6th female in the race. A fine time by anyone’s standards and although below par for Shona, provided great points for the current team competitions.
Showing TRC’s great current strength in female running, it wasn’t long before Tewkesbury’s next female racer crossed the line. Coming in just over the magic 90mins mark, Annabel Roberts clocked 1.30.32 to come in 11th female overall. Annabel raced well against the her competitors and was rewarded with a Personal Best, with talk, no doubt already turning towards a sub 90 minute Half Marathon.
Next to arrive on to the home straight was TRC’s 3rd man home, Nigel Tillott. Having had a busy morning performing ‘dad’s taxi duties’, Nigel arrived in Stroud fit and full of positive vibes for a great run. For much of Nigel’s race, a 89 minute result looked on the cards. However the clock slowly slipped away and Nigel finished only just outside his aim with 1.30.52. Today’s running showing Nigel that the return to sub 90 mins racing is now within reach with this impressive running.
Close behind Nigel, followed 7 Tewkesbury runners all producing great times for the club. Next in was Stuart Dudfield in 1.32.54 - a fine time, especially as this was Stuart’s 4th half in 4 weeks. A strong pack followed Stuart led by Mark Parker in 1.35.01. Again, as with Stuart, this was Mark’s 4th half in 4 weeks, yet Mark still posted up an improved strong, enviable time.
It wasn’t long before a returning to form Russell Steele made the final last effort to the finishing line, posting up a decent 1.35.52. Close behind Russell, appeared Tewkesbury’s 3rd lady across the line. Running hard all the way to the line Natalie Jenks was surprised how well she ran, considering her current focus has been on duathlon and was delighted with her shiny new PB of 1.36.29; finishing 21st lady in a high quality Half Marathon field.
30 seconds later, Neil Evans strode in stylishly with a 1.37.03 clocking, bettering his early season Half Marathon time by 4 minutes. The next TRC member, Chris Duckworth sprinted to the line in a well deserved new PB of 1.37.32. Chris has recently stepped up his training, and having knocked off 20 minutes off last year’s time, this will give him the inspiration required before he starts his winter training. Behind this flow of Tewkesbury runners, Nick Matthews appeared from the Cainscross roundabout and rounded off a solid run in 1.40.52.
After a short gap, the crowds were then greeted with another steady stream of TRC members arriving at the finish line. One of this season’s improvers, David Aguirre posted another solid 1.45 Half Marathon with 1.45.55. Cathy Dudfield, along with husband Stuart and Mark Parker were finishing ‘4 Halfs in 4 weeks’. Having excelled in the Cardiff Half Marathon, Cathy was then pleased to run her fastest Stroud half in 10 years with a 1.46.18. Caroline Mansfield followed with a 1.49.30, a creditable time considering she ran with groin and back niggles.
Suzanne Tharme then followed with a familiar time of 1.51.01, this being Suzanne’s 3rd 1.51 clocking in the county’s 3 big Half’s (Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and now Stroud) Consistancy indeed!
Behind Suzanne, Ian Smith made the welcome journey down to Stroud to clock a hard fought 1.52.10. As Ian came into the last 2 miles, the sun had started to shine strongly on the runners, making the finish just that little bit harder. Julie Symonds was seen finishing with great determination as she ran with Ian in her sight and rewarded with a excellent 1.52.46.
After the briefest of gaps between Tewkesbury runners, Jude Rodrigues pleased the now gathering Tewkesbury crowds with his satisfying 1.56.01. Next in was one of this season’s finds for TRC: Sharon Lockley started with the club mid summer and after her Worcester 10K PB, she was again delighted to run a huge PB and crack the 2 hour barrier and bring home a time of 1.58.17. John Tharme was enjoying his first 6 miles of the Stroud Half, but had to work very hard over the final last 6 miles to be rewarded with 1.59.48 - a sub 2 hour clocking with time to spare ! Lindy Fouracre also made the welcome journey to Stroud and donned her Tewkesbury racing vest. Lindy was seen to be relishing the final mile as she approached the finish and happily finished in 2.05.22.
Laura Kent then began a charge of Tewkesbury runners from the Michael Younger training group. Laura has gone from strength to strength over the last few months with great half marathon times in a series of Halfs in Budapest and Cheltenham. She tackled the Stroud roads and was rewarded with 2.19.13, not far off her PB.
For the majority of the race 3 of Michael’s runners, Vicky Earls, Tonia Whitebeam and James Aubrey ran the race as a pack, helping each other to pace themselves over the course. The tactic was working very well and they all got to the 10 mile marker as a trio. The last 5K of Stroud has a slightly undulating and uphill profile and this saw James just fall off the consistent pace. Vicky and Tonia stuck together stride for stride until Vicky made a rare flourish for the line in a time of 2.21.04, with Tonia finishing in 2.21.21. James gallantly stuck to his task and made his dip for the line in a 2.26.21.
Just behind the above trio and no strangers to running together Samantha Robinson and Pete Davies were the next to the finish line. Sam mentioned she enjoyed the race apart from the long drag to the finish, especially in the heat. She championed home in 2.22.43. Pete was right on her shoulders five seconds later in 2.22.49. Pete is now mastering these halves in preparation for Newport marathon next year along with several members of the club.
There was then a large Tewkesbury Running Club throng who awaited the finish of Chris Nicholls, who finished in 2.31.43 to a cheer from his clubmates. This was Chris’ third half marathon in recent weeks and he has not only been battling the distances but also recent injuries.
Chip time Results
1:23:00 James Head
1:23:35 Simon Meadows
1:27:16 Shona Crombie-Hicks
1:30:32 Annabel Roberts
1:30:52 Nigel Tillott
1:32:54 Stuart Dudfield
1:35:01 Mark Parker
1:35:52 Russell Steele
1:36:29 Natalie Jenks
1:37:03 Neil Evans
1:37:32 Chris Duckworth
1:40:52 Nick Matthews
1:45:57 David Aquirre
1:46:18 Cathy Dudfield
1:49:30 Caroline Mansfield
1:51:01 Suzanne Tharme
1:52:10 Ian Smith
1:52:46 Julie Symonds
1:56:01 Jude Rodrigues
1:58:17 Sharon Lockley
1:59:46 John Tharme
2:05:22 Lindy Fouracre
2:19:13 Laura Kent
2:21:04 Vicky Earls
2:21:21 Tonia Whitebeam
2:22:43 Samantha Robinson
2:22:49 Pete Davies
2:26:21 James Aubury
2:31:43 Chris Nicholls