After a chilly week, the season opener in the mighty Start Fitness Met League’s fiftieth year was a balmy 16 degrees, and after a sunny September, the ground at Claybury was dry and very hard. As in recent years, both senior races had strong showings, the Men a record 475 and the Women 180. Woodford’s top scorers, each 17th in their respective race, were newly signed second claimer Joe Townsend and Suzanne Turvey.
In a somewhat depleted state for our home fixture, WGEL’s squad was down to seven this time. Suzanne Turvey (17) was first home in a very strong run, appearing not unduly bothered by a niggling ITB following a month of heavy mileage. Next, just inside the top 20 was V40 Kat Gunderson, also taking the day’s third fastest Vet slot, delighted to be back on the country. Emily Moss (28), adjusting to a new, London-based working routine, made it 3 in 28. With the absence of three usual members in the Woodettes upper order, it was nearly 3 minutes until V45 Jenny Thomas (72) made it 4. Next was Kate Stockings (96), stronger, but admittedly needing more miles in her legs. Closing the A team was racing returnee V45 Alex Wardle (111) coming back to fitness after a summer of injury.
Closing the day in 5th place, 222 points behind leaders London Hearthside, leaves us in the same place we left off last season, but with a stronger squad anticipated for Stevenage, we are confident of moving further up the order. In the Vets competition we were 2nd in Division 2.
On Saturday 15th October the new Start Fitness Met League season started for the London clubs, as we welcomed in new player/manager Darren Southcott and we looked to try and regain the title off Highgate Harriers, who could now officially be called the best distance running team in the UK after they ended last season by winning the prestigious National 12 Stage Road Relay. The weather started off grey in the morning, but by the afternoon the sun had broken through and the race was held in excellent autumnal conditions for the runners.
First in for the team, and in his first race for the club, was new signing Joe Townsend in 17th. Joe had started steadily, no doubt caught out by the funnelling challenge that Claybury offers every runner at the start, but even on lap one his action looked smooth, and by lap two he had moved through the field and was closing well on those ahead. He looks a fantastic addition to our team and in a league race where he has a good start he looks like he could have single placing digits by his name. Second in for the team was Tom Beedell in 19th. Having competed in what sounded like a murderous Red Bull running challenge just the weekend before with his brother Simon, this ex-manager feared that Tom was down playing how much that event had taken out of him, but Tom is always honest with his appraisal of his fitness and his confident look beforehand suggested that he could go very well, which he did in just finishing behind Joe.
Third in for the team was Dan Steel in 34th. The last this ex-manager had heard was that after completing the Comrades run in SA, Dan had found getting back into pre-comrades form a bit tough, but how was he going now? The first lap Dan was way back and this ex-manager thought that training must still not have clicked for him, but then on lap two what was this? Dan had come storming through the field like a wolf on the chase of a tasty pork chop, he confessed after that he had been totally done in at the start by the funnelling and once into his running had made his attempt to get back to the top end of the field, which was great to see. 4th in was another new signing, Josh Entwistle in 36th. Josh had arrived with new manager Darren Southcott, and obviously was given some sound advice by the new manager to get out fast and avoid the funnelling as he was our first man on the first lap, but Claybury has a cruel hill and Josh found the early pace hard to maintain as some of our team made ground on him, but the fact he dug in as well as he did shows his undoubted quality and he will no doubt be delighted that he gets bragging rights over the new manager and friend Darren who he beat in on a sprint finish.
Darren just finishing a step behind in 37th looked good the whole way and coming on the back of setting the team's second fastest relay leg at the Southern Road Relays looks to be in excellent form, no mean feat when he has been getting used to life as a manager! In next was Gavin Lewis in 43rd. Gavin had had to miss the summer after getting what sounded like a very nasty infection, and had only been back training for 5 weeks. He took the first lap steady, but then tapping into his reservoir of talent started to move through the field, looking stronger each lap and he seemed very satisfied and a bit surprised how well it had gone at the end. In next was Bertie Powell in 48th. Coach Bertie, who is doing an excellent job on a Tuesday night with his training group at the club, has managed to enter this season in decent form and this was shown here, being our 7th scorer and once again being in the top 50 of a met race. Just behind in 52nd was Angus Holford. Angus has been in good form over the summer ,setting a PB of 15.28 at the 5k, but with birthday celebrations having taken place on Thursday he was still recovering, he confessed in the pub after, but it was still a very solid run from him and there is no doubt that a return to the top 25 will occur very soon if training continues well.
Just a stride behind was Ryan McKinlay in 53rd. Ryan had battled against the traffic and was just in time for the start, but was very happy and chatty as he got ready, although he was slightly ruing that extremely low mileage might make this race tough, he was about to double his weekly mileage with this one race! But Ryan in top form is a top 5 Met man and tapping into years of training he can still pull out performances beyond most people and 53rd was an excellent return here for the team. In next was Simon Beedell in 55th. Simon had also done the Red Bull Challenge mentioned earlier and had said that it had made coming down stairs this week a challenge, and he was not looking forward to the downhill sections. This ex-manager had taken up a vantage point on the top of a hill, and Simon's face of apprehension as he approached the down hill part showed that adrenaline had not unfortunately helped the problem. Taking this into account Simon did a great race as, where a runner hopes to recover on the downhill sections, they must have been the worst part for him, making it three very tough laps! In 11th for the team was Donatas Tumaitis in 65th. Donatas had a great summer winning a silver medal in the 10,000m at the World Deaf Championships in Bulgaria. And this has led him to go to the excellent coach Mick Woods. Donatas said that he was now in a very heavy period of training and last week felt light headed, and in this race for the first time the normally easy looking Donatas looked like he was working hard, so this ex-manager hopes that Donatas can get all the sleep and food required to make the training stick and so come post Christmas he will be setting new PBs at all races. Closing the team was Paul Scanlan in 66th. Paul is much more a track man, but he has happy memories of Claybury as he always seems to go well here, and at the finish he said that was his fastest time ever on the course and the first time under 6min miling in a race, which bodes well as if more endurance is added to his natural speed, the 800m man can look forward to a good winter ahead.
This closed our A team in 66, and got us second behind an excellent Highgate team. This was a very good result considering that we could have reasonably had Tom Phillips, Alex Cornwell, Canaan Solomon and U20 800m international Daniel Rowden all out on the day. It was fantastic to have two new runners in our first 5 and with us finishing 10 men in 32 places shows what an excellent squad we have got.
Opening our B team was Harold Wyber in 70th. Harold admitted that his fitness isn't quite where he wants it to be at the moment, but it is still testament to how good our 12 was that it kept Harold out - only 3 weeks ago he beat Dan Steel by a second at the 6k relays! But Harold is a determined man and if his ultra distance training allows him to train for only 8k, we could easily see Harold back in the top 25 of the Met this season. In 2nd for the team was Louis Clark in 87th. Louis had been aiming to run a 33min 10k at 33 years old but, after his last attempt in the summer had shown that he in fact needed a rest, he did as his body instructed and took one - but is now back on a good training routine as evidenced by this race. As Louis ran a 34min 10k at 33 he now should try to do a 33min 10k at 34 to complete the symmetry. In 3rd for the team was new man Paul Quinton in 118th, an East London Runner first claim but has enjoyed Bertie's sessions on a Tuesday so much he wanted to get involved in the finest local league race in the country, and it was great to have him. The start may have given Paul a couple of problems, as with his PBs and spirit he can definitely aim at Louis Clark and breaking the top 100 in the next Met, I hope he enjoyed his first taste of the race, it is the hardest racing in the country for a local league! Just behind was Jim Roche in 119th. It was a welcome sight to see Jim back and he said that running has been feeling much better since we entered autumn and with this run, just outside the top 100, bodes well with another month of training we could see Jim back in his usual position of well back inside the top 100.
In 5th for the team was Antonio Martin Romero in 145th. Antonio is also an East London Runner first claim who is enjoying Bertie's session on a Tuesday and it was great that he, like Paul, was keen to join us and try a Met League race. Over the years we have had many people who started as B teamers and over time progressed to the A team, and Antonio's fluid style indicates that if he keeps enjoying the training that he could well be challenging for these A team places post Christmas. In next it was great to see the return of Ray Dzikowski in 162nd. Ray was kept out all last season with a back injury which was a great shame as he is not only a good runner but a very good team person, always bringing good spirit to the team. Stepping back in almost exactly in the placing as where he left off two seasons ago, was a very good sign and if the training keeps going well Ray could get back to the low 100's again.
7th for the team was Pete Caton in 170th. After a summer where a hamstring injury kept him out for the latter part of the season, Pete is just back into training, all the while keeping an eye on his hamstrings. If he recovers and fully gets back into training then Pete could well see himself jump straight into the top 100. In just behind was one man marvel Dave Cox in 177th. Pete said ruefully at least he kept the V60 behind him, but this is not just any V60 but one of the finest in the country, if not the finest, with a race list of a length this year that any 20 year old would be pleased with, Dave keeps producing some excellent performances. In 9th for the team was Richard Holland in 221st. Richard is now living in Cambridgeshire so this home fixture is not as local for him as it once was, it is great to see him back and his 221st compares very favourably to his 236th last year and we hope to see Richard for some more Mets this season so he can get back into the top 200. Closing the team was Neil Ford in 248th. Neil had had to drop out of a recent half marathon due to an injury getting very tight, so it was very pleasing to see him out and run so well to close our B team in 248. This puts us 4th in division two and just over 150 points behind Highgate B team, so we hope that we can repeat the feat of two seasons ago and have the best B team in the league again.
Starting the C team was club man Paul Stockings in 348th. Last season Paul got far too near the 400+ for his comfort, so he would have been pleased to see himself in the lower half of the 300's but his true pleasure is derived from chalking another Met race up so he can keep reminding fellow club man Bertie Powell how far he has to go to catch him! In 2nd for the team was Tom Spanyol in 387th. Tom has had a long lay off with injury, so it was great to see him back in a Woodford vest as he admitted not a great deal of running had been done so he hopes to get fully back into his rhythm as the season progresses. Closing the team was Dr Trevor Powell in 437th, the good Doctor, now in the V65 category, will be keen to show that age is just a number and get back into the 300's as he was on multiple occasions last season.
This put our C team 22nd in division 3, but if we get a full team out, we will see our C team rocket up the league, this ex-manager may even challenge Dr Powell for the moniker C team captain this season. It was an excellent showing by our runners again at our home fixture and to get the season under way with some very solid results. It was great to see quite a few new faces and if we can get back some of our seasoned campaigners there is no doubt we will have some excellent teams out. A thank you has to go to all the club people who helped marshall and organise the day, without these club people no race would be held and as to do a local 10k it costs £10 and upwards to enter where we can just come and pull on a vest and run, it is as always very much appreciated. The next Met race is at Stevenage on 12th November.