The stiff climb and descent in and around Ilmington is a challenge for runners of all standards, although Stratford’s best, led by Shephard, made it look easy.
More than 30 runners from Stratford-upon-Avon AC took part, with the black and yellow vest dominant in the podium and category places.
Shephard came home in 36.35 to secure the win, while Oscar Barbour maintained his high profile in the race with a third-place finish (38.41).
Kate Wright was imperious as ever, finishing as first lady again and fifth overall.
Johann Breytenbach (7th) was close behind, claiming the MV35 prize.
Many more SAC runners arrived in a procession: Fergus Allison 14th (42.31), just ahead of James Cusack, 18th (43.09), despite the latter throwing himself off the final hill as fast as he could go, and hitting the ground just over the finish line.
James Chorley (21st, 43.34), David Smyth, (24th, 43.57), Tim Tandy, (25th, 44.05), Malcolm Bowyer, (27th, 44.27) and Hannah Spriggs, (30th, 44.55) made up an impressive 12 out of the first 30 home.
Spriggs was justifiably thrilled with her first ever podium finish, finishing as third female home.
Ivan Sarti (36th, 45.42) and Sam Nicholson (45.58) were only just off the lead pace, and were both quietly satisfied with their efforts.
A winter-long battle among the middle order began to be resolved, with a strong run by Emma Vickers (61st, 48.38) putting her ahead of Luke Watkins (90th, 51.24) Anna Watson (95th 51.36), Lisa Dallison (96th, 51.45, and Sarah Odell (107th, 52.57), who overtook Phil Brennan (108th, 53.06) in the last few strides.
Maureen Birch (123rd, 55.36) continued to dominate the FV65 category, and can look forward to a series win next month.
Rebecca Pridham (140th, 55.36) was thrilled with her race taking over three minutes off her previous running of this loop — clearly all her training with the club is paying dividends.
Charlotte Potgieter (150th, 56.03), Alan Wright (160th, 56.40) and Allan Coldicott (165th, 56.55) all responded to the challenge by also finishing well inside the hour, with Oliver Spicer (234th, 1.03.17) just outside. Such is the reputation of this race that Beverley Brigden (247th, 1.05.44) still wasn’t sure she was going to run until just before the start.
Brigden said: “I’m so pleased to have finished: I know what to expect now, and can think about getting faster next time.”
The Stratford contingent continued to arrive, with brave efforts from Neil Robertson, (248th, 1:05:47), Emil Gudfinsson, (256th, 1.06.29), the inevitable John Butler, (274th, 1.09.05), and Karen Jackson, (318th, 1.25.13).
Natasha Watkins (320, 1.25.52) battled a knee injury throughout the race but determined not to give up she carried on and was rewarded by the biggest cheer of the morning from everyone gathered at the finish.
Another successful day for SAC, the finishers’ prize of sausages in the bag, and next month’s final race and the series prizes to fight for.
More athletics in this week’s Herald