MORE than 60 members of Stratford AC were in action at Stratford’s Big 10k on Sunday and cheered on by a home crowd, many of them set lifetime bests.
The 11th edition of the race reached its maximum 2,000 entries quickly, a sign of its increasing popularity.
From the runners’ point of view, it combines being a model of good organisation with a varied and scenic course, and has a well-deserved part in Stratford’s programme of festivities.
This year in particular, the exceptionally fine autumn weather helped generate a feel-good factor which resulted in many exceptional performances, as no fewer than 19 PBs and seven season’s bests were recorded by the Stratford AC contingent.
Whatever they achieved, almost every Stratford runner seemed to manage a smile as they crossed the line.
One Stratford runner described it as “amazing and inspirational” to see so many in black and yellow.
For the first time, the event also served as a selection race for this winter’s England masters cross-country team, meaning many of the age categories were more fiercely contested than usual.
The course started on the Recreation Ground, followed public roads out to Milcote, and returned to Stratford via the Greenway, winding through the Old Town past the church and theatres and finished by the bandstand on the Rec.
Stratford AC were well represented at the sharp end, with Josh Newman, 16th overall in 34:30, leading the way, and the next 11 Stratford runners finishing inside 40 minutes.
Matt Burdus-Cook, 20th, 35:21, stayed clear of the bunch behind, with Darren Nash, Ryan Bakewell, Chris Cond, John Raby, James Cusack, Seth Turner, Dan Lynch, Owen Goschen, James Coy and Malcolm Bowyer all finishing within two minutes of each other.
Newman was fourth in the senior men’s category, while veteran Bowyer was sixth in the M55 age group. Newcomer Mark Hateley, 96th, 40:33, just missed the 40-minute cut, while behind him, the next 15 for Stratford were under the 50-minute mark.
Among these were U17 Thomas Mayes, outstanding in 146th, 41:53. Cara Reynolds was the first Stratford woman to finish, and was 28th woman overall, setting a huge PB of 44:46.
She was followed by Liuba Pasa, who clocked 45:24 and was second in the W55 category, and Phil Brennan, who placed third in the M75 category with 47:15.
David Maundrell (50:07), Beverley Brigden (50:14) and Louise Stewart (50:38) were all just outside 50 minutes, but the latter two were nevertheless delighted to set big PBs.
They were followed by another excellent U17, James Bexson (50:54).
A further 17 Stratford runners finished inside 60 minutes, with eight of them recording PBs.
Another U17, Hope Lawton, ran 52:28, just in front of father-and-daughter team Tim and Edie Hutchinson (52:29 and 52:28 respectively).
Stalwarts Kate Sergent (55:34) and Ruth Calderbank (55:46) were fourth and fifth in the W65 category, while Jean Hill enjoyed a well-deserved PB in 58:39, finishing just ahead of Jane Fradgeley (58:49) and Sue Mothershaw (58:30).
Paul Hawkins race-walked his way to an unofficial second-best time ever for the distance of 62:33.
The PBs continued to arrive via Angela McLean and Linda Mazey, while John Butler and Gemma Smith, although bringing up the rear, enjoyed their day in the sun.