ESM’s long-standing traditional Boxing Day races continued for 2016 on a fine and sunny morning (writes Mark Kencroft). With the pavements and paths dry and just a light breeze, conditions were perfect for the runners.
As ever, the races had virtually no marshals and no directional signage other than the occasional temporary orange spray arrow marked out on the pavement by John and Fiona the day before. (Does this minimalist approach explain why someone goes off-course every year, or is it more to do with the Christmas excesses interfering with leg-brain co-ordination?)
As runners and supporters convened in the car park, (including the lesser-spotted John Blanchard), volunteers Sarah Richardson, Dorothy Johnstone and Steve Barrington were allocated their marshal points: Steve at his traditional spot at the corner of Costons Lane (scene of many a wrong turn in the past); Dorothy at the top of the track by the railway (scene of many an attempted short-cut in the past) and Sarah by the garage forecourt at Greenford roundabout.
As the clock ticked nearer to 10:45am, runners were invited to examine the route maps, John gave his pre-race brief (including an exhortation to stay on the pavements), Lynn and Martin turned up with cameras at the ready, and everything was set for a fun, festive race.
As the whistle blew, 30 runners charged down Stockdove Way together. Steve Cliff observed tartly that everyone was on the road, NOT on the pavement, while guest Ilona protested at the pace everyone set off at. (She caught many up in due course).
After the opening one mile loop, the seniors set off on the large loop while Under 13s Mikey Kouwiloyan and Finn Combe completed the small loop a second time, cheered on by their parents. Finn stuck with Mikey on the first lap but conceded in the second half of the race. Tracey Cliff also opted for the two-mile race.
Meanwhile, the 27 runners in the four-mile race were led round by Archie Allen who cruised home to win the cup, followed by the ever-improving Santosh Rai. Archie commented afterwards that he had sensed Santosh on his shoulder – and been slightly rattled when the sound of his footsteps did not become fainter as the race progressed! Mark Kencroft was also with them in the early part of the race but could not sustain the pace.
In-form Patricia Thomas was the first female home, completing a busy weekend of racing; she set a new VW50-54 age group record at Northala Fields parkrun on Christmas Eve and almost matched it on Christmas Day. This year’s star, (for it wouldn’t be Boxing Day without a wrong turn), was Sughra Mohammedi, who bore left instead of right after the turn into Costons Lane. Well done Sughra, one of the classic errors of years past.
Of course, this race is all about beating your handicap and this year’s winner was Davinder Singh Sohal (pictured right), so congratulations to him. The female handicap winner was Annette Galloway, who produced a storming sprint finish against her guest Catherine, with Liz Mann hot on their heels.
The presentation ceremony was a little lacking in ceremony. Fiona and John had not only forgotten the marshal bibs, they’d also left the trophy locked up in the pavilion, but Archie was gracious in accepting a photo of the cup for now. He has been second in the race several times but will now finally get his name engraved on that cup!
There were prizes aplenty, thanks to several kind donors, in particular Walid Fawaz who is generous to a fault.
Thanks to everyone who turned up to make this event as much fun as ever: runners, volunteers and supporters. There’s a proposal from Martin to move the event to a more congenial course next year, so let’s hope it’s bigger and better next year. Just don’t make the route too straightforward, Martin…
Results (all ESM unless stated)
1 Archie Allen 23:55; 2 Santosh Rai 23:59; 3 Mark Kencroft (M45) 24:48; 4 Dave Foley (M55) 27:06; 5 John Blanchard (M55) 28:04; 6 Jav Sondh 28:29; 7 Steve Plested (M65) 28:40; 8 Clive Richardson (M40) 28:48; 9 Patricia Thomas (W50) 29:16; 10 Fiona Kennedy (W55) 29:39; 11 Andy Leung (M40) 30:21; 12 Steve Cliff (M40) 30:26; 13 Nikki Baker (W45) 30:34; 14 Ilona Kriauzaite 30:41 (guest); 15 Iskander Mohammedi (M40) 31:02; 16 Walid Fawaz (M40) 31:14; 17 Davinder Singh Sohal (M55) 32:24; 18 Beverley Packwood (W45) 33:24; 19 Gary Stringer (M55) 33:48; 20 Annette Galloway (W45) 34:01; 21 Catherine Hanley 34:02 (guest); 22 Liz Mann (W50) 34:05; 23 Ian McNally 37:53; 24 Estelle McLaughlin 37:54; 25 Janice Newman (W70) 41:25; 26 Phil York (M50) 41:26; 27 Sughra Mohammedi 42:00