After a slow start, the LRRL 2021 reunion league came to a thrilling conclusion with a staggering amount of talking points in what was a relatively modest-sized field, not just in terms of Badgers own participation but the race overall. It was the newly established Rotherby 8 race that wrapped up the league season, an unusual distance which explains in part why so many club records were set on the day, but even so, there were some incredible performances from many of the team. With at least 20 more runners taking part in the Cathedral to Castle 10-mile race, it made it all the more remarkable that nine new records were either set or broken with two Badgers also picking up individual honours in the race itself.
As has been the case all season, Matt Scarsbrook led the club home. One of half a dozen Badger ever-presents in this five-race campaign, he spent the first half of the race duking it out with hitherto unbeaten series winner Tom Mahon before the latter edged away to take his fourth win in as many races. Scarsbrook dug in well and was a comfortable second, 24 seconds adrift of first. The first time the pair met, the gap between them was more than a minute and a half over a shorter distance, which is a credit to the Baddesley man for his improvement over the summer. When he crossed the line, he set a new club record of 44:28, taking over a minute off Danny Warren’s previous mark set in 2018. As well as picking up some prize money, this feat adds to his records set at 5 miles, 6 miles and 10K in 2021, capping a phenomenal year for him.
It was far from a one-man show however as Chris Horton also finished in the top ten with his time of 47:15. He too collected some winnings as the first veteran athlete back in the field and the only runner from the club to achieve a platinum standard in the race. Danny Warren has endured an indifferent season by his own high standards but still managed to regularly score points for the team as he almost always does. Here, he saved his best until last with a high-quality run reminiscent of some of his very best days to bag 14th place in a fine time of 47:50. Dave McGowan is another on his way back. His progress over the last few seasons has been superb and a setback in August proved only to be temporary as he rolled out another excellent run-in 18th place (48:23). Adrian Payne and Glyn Broadhurst are two key men who have improved dramatically in the last season. Stalwarts of the club’s road and cross-country sides, they finished 21st and 27th respectively to end a terrific season which saw Payne winning a marathon last week and Broadhurst highly likely to take 2nd place in the league’s individual V45 standings once the race results are officially completed and finalised.
Outgoing vice-captain Mark Repton has his eyes on a bigger prize with his forthcoming marathon attempt at Dorney Lake. With four male scorers already safely back in the tent, he was able to tempo around the undulating course without pressure or expectation, yet such is his improvement of late, this resulted in him setting a new distance PB in 52:18! Newcomer Chris Tweed is running the London marathon next weekend and here he made his club debut with a superb performance which should stand him in good stead confidence-wise ahead of the big one. He clocked an impressive time of 54:30, another personal best.
The return of Becky Harris has probably had the most significant effect on the club’s fortunes in the league this season. She was pivotal in getting the club through to the final with a tough run at Desford earlier in the month and here she led the ladies home once more in a magnificent time of 59:26, the first female to break one hour for the distance in the club’s ten-year history. This gave her another club record to add to her three others, with surely many more to come if she can stay fit and motivated. Ashley Taylor ran a big PB in 60:20 as his new found form bears fruit. Cheryl Dewis managed to eclipse Judy Parkes’s V50 record following her run of 63:12 in 25th position. Ever-present Wayne Repton ran a massive PB by almost 8 minutes before Rob Crow and Andy Smith came back, each more than capable of securing the vacant V50 club record. In the end, it was the determined Birmingham City fan Crow who took the spoils, despite rushing back to action after a hernia operation. His time of 66:39 was just 16 seconds ahead of Smith who himself had a fine race.
Next through was ladies vice-captain Nicki Bowman who ran a courageous 67:30 and with it setting a new V40 club record for the ladies as well as a personal best. Liz Peel showed no signs of fatigue, either physically or mentally, after concluding her 100 marathons recently. She put in a hugely determined effort to get in the points, lopping a mammoth 6 plus minutes off her previous best to end in 69:15 at the age of 46 no less! Pip Weston was next back in 70:32, second in her age group and the setter of the penultimate club record of the day before John Shade, already individual champion in the V75 age group across the league, finished in style by setting the V70 club record at 70:43. To illustrate just how good this run was, Shade was awarded a Gold standard time which takes into account age as well as pace. Of his teammates, only Scarsbrook, Warren and Broadhurst achieved the same level.
Leesa Dennis took a whopping four minutes off her previous best with a super run of 74:33. Caroline Smith (78:44) and Mandy Stain (79:53) both enjoyed excellent races before Monika Lampart rounded up the action for the side with a run that epitomised the spirit of the club. With road closures thwarting her way to the start area, Lampart, returning from injury had to run two miles to collect her race number then start the race late and a long way behind the back of the field. She clawed her way through many of the backmarkers and finished in a very respectable 76:07, when most would have simply given up. The race was effectively the league title playoff decider and clubs will have to wait until later in the week to see who will be crowned Champions. Early calculations suggest that Badgers will have reached the giddy heights of second place having been run out of the top spot by Huncote Harriers, but all the results and timing chips have to be verified first before an official announcement can be made. If the club can take second place, it will represent a quite incredible recovery after what was a pretty tepid start to proceedings, with the team mid-table and looking unlikely to get out of their group.
The popular Lichfield to Tamworth ten-mile Cathedral to Castle race was held simultaneously at the weekend and a host of Badgers had already committed to the event prior to the release of the league fixtures. Tim Gould (79:54) and Bill Gutheridge (79:55) were first back, a second ahead of the formerly retired yet consistently inspirational Rachel Crump who took second in her age category. Rachael Shelton ran well in 84:35 with Andy Altoft (86:10), Russell Lomas (89:01) and Paul Grubb all going sub 90 and veteran Paul Restall just the other side.
When it comes to bravery, few can match the credentials of Ann-Marie Currier who took a terrible tumble mid-race. Rather than wait for an ambulance, the plucky former vice-captain, picked herself up, dusted herself down and ploughed on dispiritedly to the finish despite a badly bloodied gash. Her time of 1:40:30 was a remarkable effort in the circumstances and she was rewarded at the end with a 99 plus flake, care of part-time ice-cream vendor husband Simon.
Paul Cooper, Dave Bailey, Steph Attenborough, Sarah O’Donoghue, Fiona Hutton all got back within two hours. Other runners to get around safely included Sue Wilson, Terry Argyle, Peter Mann, Fiona Reidy, Vikki Smith, Christine Morris, Averil Williams and Nicola Stanley.
In other events, Carl Savage (95:19) and Harvey Allen (92:49) both ran the Robin Hood half marathon in Nottingham. Cameron Barnes finished 13th in the 17-mile Maverick Peak District Trail run, while Holly and Andy Smith completed the Guardians of the CODRC Galaxy marathon near Telford in six and a half hours apiece. David Grant and Yvonne Faulkner ran 13 and 10 miles respectively at the Big Bear Events Woodpecker Challenge.
At parkrun, Matt Scarsbrook made his debut taking on the new Kingsbury Water Park course and came out on top with a rip-roaring run of 16:57. Mark Repton (4th), Carl Savage (9th) and Sam Starkey (11th) all made the top twenty as did Austen Puleston (13th) Matt Green (19th) and Ashley Taylor (20th). Suzy Farrell made her long-awaited debut. Colin Lees took 10th place at Babs Mill in 21:50. Katy Clemons managed 7th with a buggy run at Oaklands parkrun while Liz Peel was the sole Badger at Coventry.