The club hosted its annual half-marathon on Sunday morning from Ashton Playing Fields. First run in around 1981, it is approaching its 40th birthday, and as the years go by and traffic has increased, it has called upon more and more club resources. However, thanks to organiser David Hollingworth's excellent network of relationships, club members and friends again rose to the occasion to ensure the runners remained safe - if not dry. The squally, wet morning meant that on-the-day entries were 30-40 down on the norm, but there were still 354 finishers.
42 marshalls were out on the course in fluorescent jackets, guiding the runners and placating any impatient motorists - this year, it must be said, there was more than one report of positive support coming from drivers. The runners, totally focused on their race, were more concerned with dodging the puddles, though that became pointless after a while.
The early pace-setter was Ian Visser, of Newham and Essex Beagles, who has a half-marathon best of 75 minutes from 2016. After 2 miles of the race, as it looped past the gates of the Playing Fields for the first time, he was being closed down by Blackheath and Bromley's Alex Gibbins who, though now an M40, has a best time of 72 minutes from 2013. And strikingly, in 5th place overall was a woman, Sara Bird of Ipswich Jaffa. Sara, in fact, ran for us for several years when she came to London to study, and has a fine pedigree, including a 2 hours 39 minutes marathon.
Out on the course the conditions grew windier, with some spots being particularly exposed, and chillier. Second time past the gates, at 7.5 miles, Gibbins had surged into a clear lead and he continued to run strongly. Unattached Liam O'Mahoney moved into second place, while Visser held on to third. Serpentine's Alexandra Baird was involved in a good battle with Jen Green of London Front Runners, eventually coming out on top by 30 seconds, as Bird won the women's race by a margin of 6 minutes. Gibbins' final margin was also a convincing 5 minutes.
Hot drinks and snacks were available in the clubhouse afterwards (courtesy of Christine Foy) and many runners opted to have a quick drink and then go off home quickly to get warm, dry and clean. Prize-giving followed. Club President Terry McCarthy awarded the individual prizes, and Charlotte Fuller, Marketing Manager at sponsors Haslers, the chartered accountants company in Loughton, awarded the team prize (won by East London Runners). Thanks go to Haslers and to Loughton Self-Drive for their support, as well as to the many club members and friends who made the race possible.