It was a momentous occasion for the Gade Valley Harriers on Saturday when, for the first time in club history, they retained their position in the hotly contested Division One of the Chiltern Cross Country League for the third consecutive year.
The tough course at Milton Keynes’ Campbell Park saw Mark Crabtree first home for the men’s team in 30:09, followed by Rich Coles in 31:44, Matt Ashby in 33:00, Ed Price in 33:08, Guy Woollett in 33:15, Jon Roberts in 34:14, Bill Hawes in 34:42, Andy Wells in 35:00, Tom North in 35:42, Phil Robbins in 35:36, James Birnie in 35:42, Steve Newing in 35:48, Andy Norton in 35:55, Dean Porter in 36:50, Andy Cook in 37:40, Simon Geary in 38:14, Anthony Willcox in 38:43, Robert Bowler in 38:32, Dave Wise in 40:47, James Thomson in 41:20, Dean Kidd in 41:34 and Andy Newing in 48:06.
In the ladies’ race, Claire McDonnell completed a great season by taking third prize in the F45 category in arguably one of the hardest leagues in the country.
First home for the ladies was captain Gemma Bitaraf in 23:52, followed by McDonnell in 25:32, Kathleen Courtier in 25:50, Teresa Reason in 27:59 and Jacki Eskdale in 33:58.
The Harriers finished the season in 10th team place in Division One, with both the men’s and ladies’ teams placed 10th individually. In the vets category, the GVH men’s team took fourth place and the ladies a respectable sixth place.
Not content with their cross country success, Claire McDonnell and Teresa Reason also took on the 20-mile challenge of the Bramley 20 on Sunday. McDonnell continued her fine form to set a new PB of 2:44:45, while team-mate Reason crossed the line in a respectable 2:54:55.
Taking a back seat because of the cross country, the parkruns still had eight runners from GVH at four events on Saturday.
The Harriers’ home parkrun at Gadebridge had five runners flying the GVH flag, where Paul Reilly took seventh overall in 23:31. Reilly was followed by Gina Oliver in 30:26, Peter Tucker in 33:15, Luca Ramusino in 33:58 and Phil Robbins in 43:08.
There was one Harrier per race at the Black Park, Luton and Cassiobury parkruns, where Vince Ellerby completed in 19:49, James Thomson in 21:01 and Johnny Broom in 25:49.
There is no rest after their racing exertions, though, as the Harriers are preparing for the second of their Marathon Training Runs.
This time it’s the 17-mile route, taking place on Sunday, February 28. The route is open to all runners and is geared up to help people training for a spring marathon, regularly attracting 400-500 athletes from across the country.
Costing just £5, payable on the morning, the group meet at the GVH clubhouse, Boxmoor Cricket Club, St John’s Road, Hemel Hempstead, HP1 1PN. Full details can be found at http://www.gadevalleyharriers.co.uk/london-marathon-training-runs/