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Bolton and Wicks lead Stratford AC’s herculean marathon efforts

Alan Dwyer is all smiles after completing the Southampton Marathon.
Alan Dwyer is all smiles after completing the Southampton Marathon.

SEVEN Stratford AC members took to the streets of the capital for the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday.

The marathon can be unpredictable at the best of times, but with the race being held in unseasonably warm conditions, it made the 26.2-mile challenge just that bit harder.

Nevertheless, all seven members of Stratford AC completed the full distance.

Simon Bolton was the club’s top finisher, crossing the line in 3.35.45 to take three minutes off the PB he set in New York last year.

“I felt great most of the way,” said Bolton, who maintained a remarkably even pace throughout his run.

“I tired a little after 20 miles, but I finished just about dead on my plan, so I’m delighted.”

Waleed Agabani was next to finish. He had been on course for a finishing time inside four hours, but he suffered with cramps from the eighth mile onwards and eventually finished in 4.19.18.

Carl James followed soon after in 4.19.59. After a strong start, Andrew Cox was reduced to a slow jog in the second half but still completed the distance in 4.27.13.

Ryan Bakewell was the next Stratford AC athlete to cross the finish line, clocking 4.52.51. He was followed by Nicola Reynolds (4.59.30) and Sophie Hewitt (5.17.28).

Kenyan duo Eliud Kipchoge (2.04.17) and Vivian Cheruiyot (2.18.30) claimed the top honours.

Earlier in the day, two of Stratford AC’s leading young talents took part in the London Mini Marathon, a three-mile race for three different age groups: under-13, under-15 and under-17.

Georgie Campbell placed 26th in the under-15 girls’ race in 18.08, making her the second-fastest finisher on the West Midlands team.

Competing in the under-13 boys’ race, Alex Adams recorded the same time, 18.08, to finish 63rd overall in his category.

He was the fourth finisher for the West Midlands, helping his team to a sixth-place finish in the team standings.

London wasn’t the only British city to host a big marathon last weekend; two other Stratford AC athletes headed to opposite ends of the country to compete over 26.2 miles.

At the Blackpool Marathon, Neil Wicks produced a clocking of 2.46.59 to finish a highly commendable second out of nearly 600 runners in a race won by Richard Swindlehurst (2.41.45).

Wicks’s time was just a few minutes shy of his PB and one of the fastest ever times by a Stratford AC member.

“It’s not the time I was after, but it was still a good race,” said Wicks, who has a lifetime best of 2.43.14.

“The weather and course made it tougher than I expected.”

Some 270 miles south of Blackpool, Alan Dwyer lined up for the Southampton Marathon and crossed the line 3.58.57 later to set a personal best, finishing 288th overall in a field of more than 1,000 runners in a race won by Richard Waldron (2.40.46).

For the second year in a row, Sam Weaving was Stratford AC’s top finisher at the Monty 5k in Leamington.

In a field of 236 runners, many of whom were from local clubs, 20-year-old Weaving finished 33rd overall in 19.03. Paul Jefferies also finished within 20 minutes, clocking 19.39.

Peter Sugden was the next Stratford AC athlete to cross the line; his time of 20.25 took 82 seconds off the PB he set at last year’s edition of this race.

Luke Watkins followed less than two minutes later in 22.21, his fastest 5km time for four years.

Roger Wilson and Phil Brennan filled the top two spots in the M75 category, clocking 23.17 and 23.27 respectively.

Jan McLure was Stratford AC’s top woman finisher, recording a big PB of 25.14, while Ruth Calderbank won the W65 age group with her finishing time of 25.51.

The other Stratford AC finishers were David Maundrell (25.09), Daniel Whittington (25.34), Beverley Brigden (26.27), Philippa Abrams (28.21), Lisa Whittington (28.53) and Natasha Watkins (30.24).

Leamington’s Callum Hanlon won in 15.55, while club-mate Laura Fuller was the top woman, finishing in 19.47.

After competing in the Storm the Castle Duathlon — billed as the UK’s toughest-standard distance duathlon — Stratford AC’s Seanin Gilmore and Fern Hordern say that the event certainly lived up to its reputation.

Held on Sunday in Ludlow, Shropshire, the run sections (10km and 5km) include brutal hills with names such as ‘Lactic Ladder’ and ‘The Wall’.

The bike section, held over 33km, is hilly but more manageable than the running sections. The event finishes inside the grounds of Ludlow Castle.

Gilmore and Hordern set off in the last wave of racers and raced pretty much together for most of the way. Hordern won her age group with Gilmore taking second place, both finishing among the top ten women to beat many younger competitors.

“With only one Storm the Castle completion under our belts, we became ‘peasants’,” explained Hordern.

“Those with multiple completions over the years become knights/barons/baronesses.

“It is a great friendly event and good for spectators as you have to do so many laps up those daunting hills,” she added.

“If you have the strength or time to gaze around while you are racing, the views on the course are amazing.”

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