Hercules Wimbledon 5k Team Challenge

With the traditional April Southern/National road relays unable to take place this year, Hercules Wimbledon put on a fantastic team event on a hilly 5k course around Wimbledon Park.

Many of the top athletics clubs in London were competing and ESM did well to finish 8th in both the Senior Men’s and Women’s races.

Teams were made up of 10 runners in the Men’s and 6 runners in the Women’s race, all competing over the same course. Groups of one athlete from each club were set off in separate waves 60 seconds apart.

Senior Men

Unfortunately Chris Mason, ESM’s #2 runner in this race, had to pull out the night before with an achilles injury. Chris is building up towards the Cheshire Marathon on April 25th where he’s looking to improve on his PB of 2.25 and it certainly wasn’t worth taking any risks at this late stage in his build up.

U20 Seweryn Czapka was very willing to take his place with just 12 hours notice and having done a session the day before. Seweryn more than held his own on leg 2, running a PB of 16.04 despite the tough course showing how much he has improved in the last year. Huge thanks also to Sean Hanrahan who lent Seweryn his Nike Alphaflys for the race! Excellent teamwork there.

Fastest ESM runner on the day was Elias Ahmed (15.32), followed closely by Mohamed Hashi (15.34) and John Fielding (15.46). In just 2 weeks since full lockdown was lifted, 8 different ESM men have now run under 16 minutes for 5k.

All the times set on this course were particularly impressive given a very steep 400m hill at around 1 mile into the race having just run past Wimbledon’s Centre Court. Jamie T-C (16.04) was just under 30 seconds slower than his 5k the week before, Chris Hepworth (16.17) 14 seconds slower and Jonathan Horan (16.49) 51 seconds slower. Clearly everyone in both teams are capable of faster times on a flatter course, which bodes well for the rest of the season.

Stuart Ferguson (16.27), Dan Porter (16.37) and Tom Gifford (16.43) all made their debuts for the club in a road relay format.

With 500m to go the course re-entered the Hercules Wimbledon athletics stadium which made for an exciting finish around the track. When the start lists came out the day before the race, we anticipated a great battle between Dan and Mike Boucher, the Aldershot Team Manager who joins us each week on our Sunday long runs. And they certainly didn’t disappoint, locked together as they ran onto the track before Dan kicked away for the win – see picture below.

An overall team finish of 8th place was initially a bit disappointing as we had aspirations of a top 5 team placing. But looking at the results below, less than 3mins separated 3rd-8th place over 50km of running. These are also some of the top clubs in the country and shows ESM aren’t far from breaking through to this level.

A huge thanks also to Mark Kencroft who came along as a reserve in case of any last minute drop outs. He and his son Liam stayed to watch all the races, despite the freezing weather and took some of the great photos in this report.

Senior Women

The Women’s race started an hour after the Men and the in form Nicky Payne started the team off. She continued her streak of PBs in an ESM vest, now 4 out of 4, and broke the 20min barrier for the first time running 19.47.

Nicky said after the race “It was a really well organised event and ran smoothly. Nice to have support from the men who had run already and much needed at the top of that hill, which we did know about but it was much bigger than I anticipated so it was tough work. As the first leg it was great to be able to see everyone come in and run a lap around the track and support the team.”

On the next leg, U17 Lucy Henson (20.35) made her Senior debut for the club, “Tough hill and fast start but overall pleased”.

When entering the race all participants were asked for an estimate of their current 5k fitness and despite the tough course, Shona Cowper (20.46) and Sarah Harris (20.51) were both well under their predictions. Shona said afterwards “Nice, easy route that meant I could concentrate on running! The downhill section was a great opportunity to let the legs recover a bit before trying to push a bit harder in the last 2k”

U20s Angel Grimes-McTavish (21.25) and Katie Hay (21.37) completed the team. For Katie it was a “hard race but nice atmosphere and everyone was really supportive from the club”

Like the Men, the Women finished 8th overall and it’s great to see the club getting teams out to compete in these events. Covid permitting the Southern Road Relays will return in September and this event gave everyone some good experience of this type of racing.

Results – https://www.racetecresults.com/results.aspx?CId=16269&RId=1230
Men’s Race live stream (commentary from Chris Mason) – https://fb.watch/4R4YkXJKa7/