RICH Shephard achieved a stunning and convincing victory in the Warwick Half Marathon, leading for almost the entire race and coming home 51 seconds clear of his nearest rival, writes Danny Tolhurst.
The Stratford Athletic Club ace (1st, 1:13.40) continued his run of fabulous form across a wide range of events with a confident and classy piece of distance running.
Rich started on the front row and he was always at the head of affairs. After 2.5 miles he was clear of field with just the lead motorbike for company. Rich was in full flow and his supporters reported that victory was “never in doubt”.
Rich, who modestly talked of this being “a pretty good day”, has had a momentous debut cross-country season and has since added to his collection of top class results with a victory in the Peopleton Duathlon and 3rd place at the Dambuster Triathlon.
His time was a personal best and when the results were published Stratford AC officials were sent scampering for the club records file. Rich’s time beats previous record of 1:13:42 set by Graham Shand in 1992. The previous M35 record was 1:15:17 by Rob Minton in 2013.
Henry Morrison (48th, 1:25.00) is in the midst of training for the London Marathon once again. When he entered he planned to run at full tilt. However, his marathon training plan required a 24.5-mile run one week prior to the race, during which he damaged his quadricep muscle slightly, so he decided to be a little more cautious.
Henry paced himself to finish in 1 hour, 25 minutes and, after digging deep in the final 400 metres, he was very happy to meet his target precisely. He was also pleased his quad seemed to be fine.
James Cusack (152nd, 1:32.24) is running really well at the moment and it was no surprise that he ran a new personal best. He was comfortably inside the time he set in the Coventry Half Marathon three weeks previously.
After recording a gun time just over the two-hour mark in 2014, Ash Habel (511st, 1:45.02) showed just how much he has improved in the past twelve months with a remarkable run.
Ash thrived on the challenge offered by the undulations, although he did not anticipate any joy from this course while standing on the start line. With the “constant up and down hills” ahead of him, he feared the worst, having suffering from a succession of injuries which had brought his training to a standstill. To make matters worse, Ash had a stinking cold in the build up to the race!
Ash was not expecting a personal best but, after doing lots of stretches and self-physio, his legs were feeling better and they did a fine job once the gun sounded. Ash is looking forward to knocking a few minutes off this time in the Shakespeare Half on a slightly flatter course.
The “buzzing” atmosphere and amazing support helped Cadie Hibberd (883rd, 1:55.26) to have an enjoyable run and achieve a smashing time in her debut half-marathon.
Rachel Jones (932nd, 1:59.00) recently showed her quality when she qualified to run for the Warwickshire Schools cross country team. However, she was testing her endurance with a run of this distance and it was a test she passed with flying colours.
Rachel and Cadie ran much of the course together but Cadie sneaked ahead in the race’s latter stages.
The indefatigable Michael Oliver (1,147th, 2:05.55) made short work of this race, being a half marathon specialist and an expert judge of pace. He has been clocking up plenty of miles in training and pushing himself over a range of distances – a tactic which is paying off handsomely.
Runners started on Warwick Racecourse in Hampton Street, travelled along Coventry Road, past Guy’s Cliffe House and headed out to Leek Wootton.
The six-mile mark was located near Fernwood Farm and the course took Red House Farm Lane and Beausale Lane down to the ten-mile mark before visiting Budbrooke. The final water stop was at mile 12 in Hampton-on-the-Hill and runners then enjoyed a downhill run towards the finish at the racecourse.
Conditions were decent for running with some sunshine breaking through the clouds at the start and just a slight chill in the air.
Results: Rich Shephard (1st, 1:13.40); Henry Morrison (48th, 1:25.00); James Cusack (152nd, 1:32.24); Ash Habel (511st, 1:45.02); Cadie Hibberd (883rd, 1:55.26); Rachel Jones (932nd, 1:59.00); Michael Oliver (1,147th, 2:05.55).
THE BANBURY 15 race is undulating and challenging, with many people viewing it as an ideal warm-up race for spring marathons. A trio of Stratford AC’s strongest competitors were in top form and posted outstanding results.
Powerhouse Phil Howell (18th, 1:35.11) ran almost seven minutes faster than he did in the 2014 edition of this race. Phil tore away from the start line and settled into a rhythm early on. His experience of the course stood him in good stead and he knew exactly when to push on and when to keep an even pace.
Kate Wright (20th, 1:36.55 – 2nd woman) found the conditions to be perfect, with no wind and lots of sun and she did everything right on her way to another prize-winning run.
Kate’s aim was to run 6:30-minute miles which would equal her 2011 time. She ended up three seconds per mile faster and achieved a 75-second PB.
For Pete Evans (45th, 1:44.43) the race was part of his London Marathon training and came at the end of a training block with Draycote 10 and Raceways Half Marathon within three weeks. Pete aimed to run at half marathon pace and it went well in that he ran a negative split and almost exactly at target pace despite it being a hilly course.
Pete feels he might have started slightly cautiously but he made up several places in the second half so he was delighted.
Results: Phil Howell (18th, 1:35.11); Kate Wright (20th, 1:36.55 – 2nd woman); Pete Evans (45th, 1:44.43).
A QUARTET of Stratford AC runners had a very enjoyable time at the Ashby 20 in Leicestershire. The race starts and finishes in Ashby-de-la-Zouch and the course consists of two laps through scenic countryside and the surrounding villages. After a straight first mile to Packington the course heads clockwise and passes Measham Hall, Swepstone, Heather and Normanton le Heath.
Malcolm Bowyer (64th, 2:15.12) knows this course like the back of his hand and he is always comfortable over this distance at this time of the year when he is on track for the London Marathon.
Malcolm felt the “weather was spot on” and he was able to stick to his desired pace throughout the race. His time was 6.46 faster than he ran in last year’s race, which will certainly give him food for thought during his last month of London Marathon training.
Graham Black (180th, 2:29.28) only decided 36 hours before this race that he fancied taking part. He took advantage of a late withdrawal to pick up a spare number and made the most of his opportunity by producing a run of which he can be very proud.
Graham is evidently in terrific shape and his intelligent training is helping to build his confidence over long distances. This race made it 75 miles of running for the week and if he continues in this manner he will be a force to be reckoned with in the Shakespeare Marathon.
Graham described the course as “a deceptively rolling 20 miles, with nothing too steep, but with some hills that sap a bit of energy – especially on the second lap”.
Despite not feeling overly perky at the start of the race, Graham found his pace over the first ten miles was very much to his liking and he was running like a well-oiled machine.
He was pleased he managed to pick the pace up during the last 8 miles and steer his average mile time back to that which would lead to a 3:15 marathon – his target for this year. Graham finished strongly and he now just needs to focus on getting his preparation right for Sunday, April 26.
This time last year David Jones (350th, 2:50.17) opted to run in the Banbury 15 (time – 2:05.46), however this year he plumped for an extra five miles at Ashby and was jumping for joy at the finish. David felt he had “a great race” and he was 6.55 faster than in 2012 and 10.29 faster than 2013.
His increasing stamina was demonstrated by the fact his five quickest miles were the last five. David ran the second ten miles 2.28 quicker than the first ten and his time also gives him an impressive 6th place V65 in the UK rankings for 20 miles.
Kate Sergent (868th, 3:26.56) found the race to be a wonderful experience overall. She was ecstatic with her time as it was bang on that required as part of her Manchester Marathon training plan.
Kate was cock-a-hoop that the water stations which popped up every 2.5 miles were stocked with energy gels and jelly babies. It was quite possible that Kate finished the race with more gels than she started!
She paid tribute to the marshals and the supporters on the side of the course for contributing to the superb race atmosphere.
Results: Malcolm Bowyer (64th, 2:15.12); Graham Black (180th, 2:29.28); David Jones (350th, 2:50.17); Kate Sergent (868th, 3:26.56).
Winner Rich Shephard crossing the finish line in the Warwick Half Marathon. (s)
Kate Wright in action at the Banbury 15. Picture by Barry Cornelius. (oxonraces.com). (s)
Phil Howell at the Banbury 15. Picture by Barry Cornelius. (oxonraces.com). (s)