Our men’s team produced another solid performance at this year’s “National”, finishing 16th in the main, 6-to-score, competition out of the 162 clubs who managed to field six men. We also finished 21st in the 9-to-score competition, in which 90 clubs succeeded in closing a team. But the day was really memorable for Ed Shepherd’s finishing position of 21st, which we place in its historic context below. And for a delightful cameo from Tom Phillips (below, photos by Terry McCarthy)!
The course was nowhere near as muddy as in many previous Parliament Hill editions, with plenty of fast running in between the sticky sections. Before the race Tom Phillips had mulled over a dastardly plan but was unsure whether to execute it or not. Happily he went for it. Reasoning that he was far off his best shape, he had little to lose by aiming to be first over the opening hill. And he used his fine track speed to carry it off, which resulted in a multitude of wonderful photos and videos showing our man arriving at the brow of the hill in his green-and-white hoops with the pack 10-15m behind and the Central London skyscrapers in the background. Job done, Tom faded back to 316th of the 2328 finishers.
The real race now got underway unencumbered by fun seekers. Our man was Ed Shepherd, who had run one of the club’s fastest-ever half marathons (65:37) in October. Around 40th over the hill, he dropped to around 50th over the next mile before then clawing his way through the field. With 800m to go he was on the shoulder of WGEL second-claimer Ashley Harrell (City of Norwich) in around 24th place (photo above, with lapped runner), but he finished strongly for 21st as Harrell closed 4” behind in 24th.
This was the club’s highest placing in the Men’s National since 1975 when Colin Moxsom, the club’s marathon record holder (2hrs 18mins 12secs) was 17th. Historically, we have probably fewer than 10 placings higher than 21st, notably Harry Payne’s 2nd place in 1928. Within living memory we had Tony Lewis (15, 1958) and Willy Heiberg (8, 1961). Charlie Crump was 27th in 1961.
Other notable runs in the last 40 years include: Matt Gunby (28, 2010); Mark Burgess (40, 2011); Hywel Care (45, 2008; 51, 2009); Phil Wardle (56, 1994) and Kevin Murphy (66, 2004 & 2007). Top road man David Wardle ran just one National for us and finished 120th.
Behind Ed, Tom Beedell and Angus Holford both had very good runs for 121 and 131, separated by 14 seconds. Tom has previously finished as high as 84 (2016), while Angus was slightly frustrated to be 1 outside his best placing of 130 back in 2011.
Our next two men were Josh Entwistle and Team Manager Darren Southcott, who were very closely matched for much of the race. Josh came out on top by 9 seconds but 14 places (250 to 264) as the runners poured in. And Tom Phillips closed the team as described above.
Our 6-to-score team position compared favourably with recent years. Since 2013 (21) we have consistently placed in the top 20: 15th in 2014; 10th in 2015; 14th in 2016; and 17th in 2017. We finished level on points with old rivals Newham & Essex Beagles but beat them by virtue of Tom Phillips finishing higher than their 6th man and skipper, Wayne Bell.
Tom Phillips had to work hard to maintain his place in our scoring 6, since Simon Beedell was chasing him relentlessly. In turn, Harold Wyber was chasing Simon. Beedell finished 20” behind Phillips (346), while Wyber (406) was around 40” further back. This was actually Beedell’s lowest placing for us, but it could be argued that the field was strong this year. Ditto Wyber who is, though, well off his best form.
The man to close our scoring 9 was Alistair Holford (1985), who is really just happy to get around these days, off little training. And we also had Tom Spanyol (2125). Our 9-to-score placing of 21st was our lowest since 2013, as we have since finished 13th, 8th, 11th and 17th. Something which one more man close to Wyber would have remedied, but other clubs can also talk of “What if…?”
We fielded three women in this race. Suzanne Turvey (above) had a very decent run indeed, finishing 104 out of over 1100. She has finished as high as 60th in this race, but in a weaker field. Rachel Lund was her usual consistent self in finishing 198th, around 2 minutes down on Suzanne. She usually finishes around 200th except for 2012, when she was 155. And former team manager Alex Wardle was 867th.
So a very solid day, rounded off in the Original Oak pub next to Gospel Oak station where most of our team and our supporters congregated for quite some time afterwards.