September 6th, 2016

Stratford AC duo rise to the toughest of challenges

Updated: 4:02 pm, May 07, 2015

KATE Wright and Sarah Wheeler took on the Red Bull Steeplechase, which the organisers describe as ‘a back-breaking 21-mile knockout race through the heart of the Peak District’.

Both Stratford Athletic Club representatives ran superbly – Kate finishing 6th woman and Sarah finishing 8th woman – and this experience will stand them in good stead for any running challenges they face in the future.

A field of 500 started the four-stage race in Castleton before the backmarkers were eliminated at the end of each stage. In the women’s race this meant just ten athletes completed all four stages.

Stage one follows an 8-mile route from Castleton to Bamford, before a 4-mile second stage to Hope. Stage three includes a six-mile climb to Edale before the final stage (3 miles) which returns to Castleton.

The race includes sections through fields and woodland and on trails with some fantastic views of the Peak District.

Kate (6th, 3:36.58) reported she had a fabulous time: “It was an amazing race with some awesome hills. I loved it. I felt pretty good all the way round until mile 19 when it turned into a rock climbing event! I did, however, maintain 6th place from the first check-point until the end so I’m really pleased.”

Kate’s stage times: Stage 1 (8 miles) – 1:20.38; Stage 2 (4 miles) – 39.19′ Stage 3 (6 miles) – 1:04.03; Stage 4 (3 miles) – 33.00.

Sarah (8th, 3:41.33) also spoke highly of this challenging event: “I have never done anything as tough as that before. The climbs were so steep you had to hold on to the scrub not to fall backwards and the downhill sections were even worse. The views were stunning, but the terrain meant that much of the time you were looking at the ground in front of you.

“The field really thinned out from the second check-point. I was passing men who due to the knockout nature knew they were not going to make it through the next check-point, so were pretty much walking.

“At that point I had to work hard to keep motivated and keep running! I could see Kate in the distance and that kept me going. Kate, myself and another female runner were pretty much together going up most of the final hill.”

Sarah’s stage times: Stage 1 – 1:21.01; Stage 2 – 42.12; Stage 3 – 1:02.47; Stage 4 – 35.36.

THE RUGBY 10 – the final race in the 2014 Warwickshire Road Race League season – attracted a small but select group of Stratford AC runners on a perfect day for running.

The tough, undulating course is entirely on public roads commencing and finishing in the village of Barby, near Rugby. The most notable challenge of this undulating course is Cart Hill, which is negotiated after six miles.

First of the SAC quintet to finish was Luke Watkins (113rd, 1:13.14) who was really pleased with his run. He achieved a new 10-mile PB and paid tribute to his new racing shoes for their part in his success.

Luke’s previous times in this race were 1:21.52 in 2012 and 1:15.22 in 2013. He heads into the cross-country season in smashing form.

Another man to set a PB was Mark Newman (116th, 1:13.50). He was able to chip 27 seconds off the time he set in this race last year. Mark approached the event in a relaxed manner and was delighted with how he performed.

Yvonne Caswell (159th, 1:19.03) had set herself an 80-minute target time and she was ecstatic when she saw the race clock at the finish. Yvonne reported she felt comfortable throughout, apart from a stitch at 7.5 miles. The race was excellent preparation for her marathon debut in December.

Phil Brennan (166th, 1:19.44) had not run this course before and apparently ‘didn’t do the research properly’. Despite hearing all the conversations about the second half being hillier than the first, he set off rapidly and tried to hang on to the eventual M70 winner.

Phil went through the 5-mile mark slightly faster than he had run that distance in any race this year. When he reached the hills, Phil was forced to take his foot off the gas or in his words ‘slowed to a crawl’.

He was overtaken by Mark Newman at halfway, the 2nd place M70 runner and Yvonne Caswell towards the end. Phil picked up a bronze medal in the Midland Masters Championship which was being run as part of this race.

An intelligently paced run from John Butler (260th, 1:47.25) meant he ran his best 10-mile time of 2014 by almost two minutes.

Stratford AC athletes in the Warwickshire Road Race League 2014 standings (based on a minimum of three races): Men: 18th Graham Taylor; 54th Mark Newman; 71st David Jones; 97th Luke Watkins; 167th Phil Brennan; 178th Larry Coltman; 188th John Butler; 192nd Dave Maundrell.

Women: 33rd Kate Wright; 35th Sarah Wheeler; 43rd Sarah Odell; 47th Emily Adams.

Sarah Wheeler finished in eighth place in the women’s event in the Peak District. Picture courtesy of Dean Atkins (deanatkinsphotography.co.uk). (s)

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