Week Ending - 2023/02/26
SUPER START TO THE 2023 SEASON
BADGERS of the WEEK
Badgers kicked off their 2023 Leicestershire Road Running League season with a super showing at the Stilton 7 curtain-raiser near Melton Mowbray. The popular race sold out in a matter of hours but some 50 Badgers made the start line, more than any other club. Consequently, there were a host of excellent individual performances, an array of new personal bests and even a new club record, all pretty impressive feats considering the undulating course and cold windy weather were far from conducive to record-breaking.
The Badgers men began the defence of their County Champions title, aiming to make it four in a row and they could not have asked for a better start. Seven of their runners made the top twenty, an unprecedented achievement in the club’s eleven-year history. Leading the way once more was last year’s winner, the fleet-footed Matt Scarsbrook. Despite enduring harsher conditions than in 2022, the Baddesley man incredibly ran almost half a minute quicker, beaten only by the current county champion, the imperious Mo Hussein of Roadhoggs. His time of 36:32 was a new personal best and the duo were the only runners to go below 37 minutes on the seven-mile, two-lap course. Due to the fact that his first-claim club is Birchfield Harriers, Scarsbrook is ineligible for club records at Badgers, although he still holds a fistful that are likely to stand the test of time more than any others. The club record to fall now belongs to the enduring Dave Hill, who cashed in the fitness gained on an exemplary block of marathon training to take nearly two minutes off Ryan Bennett’s hitherto outstanding best. His time of 37:53 was good enough to earn the Polesworth man a career-high fourth place finish as well as taking his wava rating into the 80% bracket for the first time, superb achievements in abundance. Also making the top ten with a quality PB time of 39:11 was Ashley Baldwin who was one of just four runners from the club to bag a diamond standard or better on the day. The Tamworth AC star who runs for Badgers as second claim has never been out of the top ten at an LRRL event.
There was plenty of backup for the top performers as first of all, Ryan Preece (39:54) hammered his way home at the head of the pack in another sub-40 time in 13th place. Prior to this race, only Bennett and Scarsbrook had ever broken forty minutes for the distance, now there were five. It almost became six as in-form Danny Warren went up through the gears after a cautious start to finish in 40:00, another personal best from the experience Baddesley man who had his young daughter Orlagh helping out on the captain’s table pre-race. The occasion was also Warren’s 100th league race representing Badgers, the first person in the club to reach this milestone. Chris Horton (41:11) and Dave McGowan (41:14) ran much of the race in tandem taking 17th and 18th places three seconds apart. Skipper Mark Cox (42:11) showed his class as he shuffled his dirty diesel engine home in 24th place, a two-minute PB for the hard-hitting, floor-fitting, show-stopping Stoke Golding stormer, carrying on from where he left off last season. When Badgers first tackled this race in 2014, their highest-placed finisher was 26th - here they had eight men back in the top 24!
Chris Tweed is a key man among key men these days. The Dordon veteran has worked incredibly hard during his marathon training block and is another reaping the rewards as he scooped another big PB in 43:37. Mark Repton has parked his marathon ambitions until the autumn to concentrate on recapturing his very best league form. The soon-to-be veteran, like team-mate Adrian Payne both made the top fifty before Sam Starkey dipped under 45 minutes to help the vets team secure second spot in the first race. Cameron Barnes ran 45:44, Dave Jackson defied searing ankle pain, not that he would ever mention the fact, to clock 47:40 before Ashley Taylor became the final Badger to break 50 minutes.
There was plenty of action to follow. Long-striding Matt Green toiled hard in 51:36 with Bill Gutheridge helping himself to a PB in 51:51 despite being the wrong side of 40. Multi-sport Goliath Jimmy Dewis looked like death warmed up as he crossed the line after a sustained period away from running. Colin Lees, Robert Boland, Daniel Hiscoke and Andy Altoft (53:13 – PB) all followed through before an epic tussle between V55 stars David Craig and Rob Crow. Craig won an exhilarating sprint finish, by a single second, although Crow had the last laugh, beating Craig on chip time by five seconds! Wayne Repton, Dave Purvis (his distance debut) and Peter Coogan all ran well before in-form Adam McElhone ran another PB, this time of 58:16, a terrific effort. Adrian Parkes, Mick Bailey, Baggie boys Lee Millership and Paul Grubb, Paul Restall and finally Paul Cooper rounded up a bumper turnout for the club, the latter adding to the celebration of his hundredth parkrun the day before with a PB on race day in 70:07.
Sixteen ladies made the event for Badgers and they were led home by the impressive Laura Starkey in 56:39, again, a day after celebrating a parkrun milestone as it was her 50th volunteer stint on the Saturday. Starkey continued her excellent league form from 2022 and was backed up this time by the likes of Megan Griffiths who excelled in 57:56. The third-scoring female was new signing Liberty Underhill who cruised home in 58:47, a minute or so ahead of the experienced Emma Masser who finished a second over the hour mark. Vice-captain Sharon Jackson was next back in 60:34 leading the B-team home including a welcome return to league racing from Rachael Shelton. New recruit Beth Woodward followed her in with Judy Parkes rolling back the years in 64:48. Hannah Coogan ran well in 65:52 before Jo Davies crossed the line, and in doing so becoming only the fourth female in Badgers history to reach 50 league appearances, a marvellous achievement.
And yet there was still more to come, firstly as Averil Caton achieved her copper standard in 71:22 and hardworking committee members Ann-Marie Currier and Clare Whetton crossed the line together ahead of new-girl Vicki Brunsdon and the determined duo of Kate Rathbone and Sara Hawkins.
At parkrun there were a number of top ten finishes with Dave Hill winning at Uttoxeter in 17:43 with teammate Glyn Broadhurst 3rd. Neil Clemons took 2nd at Maryport Prom, Cumbria in 18:44 with Matt Green bagging a tenth-place finish for his troubles at St Mary’s. Rachael Shelton was 5th at East Park, Pip Weston 3rd at Millenium Country Park, Nicki Bowman was 6th at Hafon Pwllheli, Holly Smith 8th at Market Rasen and Nivette Chester 9th at Market Bosworth. There was a large turnout at Woollaton Hall where former men’s captain Simon Currier smoked all but two of his teammates on his return to action.
Elsewhere, Eamon Thawley ran 56:39 at the Walton Wobble 10K while Gemma Spencer ran 2:59:00 in the Daytona 2 Beach half marathon in Florida.