Globe-trotting for Okehampton club

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

There was a big weekend of races for Okehampton Running Club members who took part in events as far apart as Scotland and Paris, as well as many
local races.

The type of races encompassed just about everything from road races to fell races, multi-terrain runs and an extremely challenging ultramarathon.

Nearest to home was the Barnstaple Marathon and Half Marathon. This race is now in its fourth year, and following feedback from previous years, the marathon course has been changed so that the runners complete the somewhat lonely Chivenor section of the race in the first half meaning they can benefit from the support of the spectators in the later stages.

The course is a fast, flat route around the Taw estuary with lovely coastal scenery, but this also means it can be a bit exposed to the elements. Conditions though were good this year where Roger Voaden was the only ORC to run the full marathon, finishing in a slightly below par 3 hours 30 minutes 20 seconds. In the half marathon fortunes were mixed, with Graham Bryant first ORC home, finishing in a great time of 1.34.59, while Tracey Mills was first lady ORC, running an impressive PB to finish in 1.57.06.

Jo Bradford had trained well for this as it was her first half marathon, but had been ill in the run up to it and finished in 2.08.02, a good time but outside her sub two hour target. Viki Heyer and Rachel Holland were also slightly disappointed with their runs, finishing in 2.04.00, and 2.15.49 respectively. Geoff Hill was one to travel a long way for a race, venturing up to Loch Ness for his second go at the stunningly beautiful Loch Ness Marathon. Geoff ran this race last year but had been injured and had been disappointed with his run. Unfortunately, he had suffered injury again and his training had been far from ideal, so he was pleased to knock 10 minutes off last years’ time, finishing in a good 3.31.59.

Two ORC’s, Caroline Wilson and Nicola Leach, made an even longer journey, but
the rewards were high for their trip. They took part in the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend, where they started with a 5k race, followed by a 10k and finishing with a half marathon on the final day. Here they ran through the Disney Parks and the surrounding countryside with Disney characters to cheer them on.

For each of the races they received impressive bespoke medals, with an extra medal for completing the whole series of runs. Caroline also received another award, the Castle to Chateaux medal given to runners who have run a half marathon in Disneyland Paris and America in the same years.

Nearer home, four lady ORC’s represented the club at the Bovey Beauty, a tough 10-mile fell race across some of the most rugged and remote areas of the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve. The reputation of the Bovey Beauty as a challenging route in spectacular scenery attracts athletes from all corners of Devon and this year there was a record entry.

First home for the club was Jo-Anne Turner, running a good time of 2.00.30, not far ahead of Gill Spinney in 2.02.15. Christine Fritsch was running this as her last taper run before taking on the Glencoe Mountain Marathon next weekend, so took this at a steady pace, running with Jane Jackson and finishing together in 2.19.27, with Jane winning the FV60 category.

There was another tough and hilly off roader not many miles away at Killerton where again there were four ladies from the club running. Here there was a choice of a half marathon or a 10k organised by Relish Running. Always preferring off-road races, Sarah Marvin chose this as her first half marathon, and, despite it being very muddy and hilly, she ran extremely well to finish in 2.09.26 to be fifth lady home and win her age category. In the 10k, Abi Colton was the first ORC home in a good time given the testing course of 1.03.39. She was followed by Catherine Walker who only joined the club a month ago and had never done a race of this sort before. She did well to finish in 1.23.11 while Debbie Miller, who had started the race with a slight problem in her calf and was forced to walk most of the last mile, was pleased to have completed at all coming home in 1.28.58.

Tough races do not come much harder however than the ultramarathon, the Cotswold Century, that Okehampton’s Rob Hicks took on this weekend. This extremely challenging race, with more than 12,500ft of ascent follows the Cotswold Way from north to south, starting in Chipping Camden and finishing at Bath Abbey, 102 miles later.

With a midday start Rob had to run a greater portion of the race in the dark than in the light. Thankfully the conditions were good with the ground firm and dry and Rob ran a brilliant race, moving gradually up the field to finish in fifth place in an impressive but mind-boggling time of 22hrs 28mins, well inside the 30 hour completion limit.