The Hercules Wimbledon running duo of Felix Allen and James Runnicles clearly enjoy challenges.
Just weeks after they competed in the Polar Marathon in sub-zero temperatures in Greenland, the pair went to the other temperature extreme and undertook a 7,000-mile round trip to compete in sweltering near-40C heat in Dakar, Senegal, writes Tom Pollak.
Reaching Senegal’s capital involved an eight-hour journey with a change in Lisbon. Both were due to run in the full marathon but Runnicles had to change his plans due to various flight delays and only arrived three hours before the start of the race – not much time, without a night’s sleep, to acclimatise to the 38C heat – so he opted to run in the half-marathon.
Allen, 45, who had won the Polar marathon in Greenland, said: “The travelling wasn’t so bad for me but a bit of a disaster for James, who got stuck in Lisbon for an extra 24 hours. Mind you, the taxi from Dakar airport at 3am was quite a ride. The car looked like it had just left the banger racing at Wimbledon Stadium.”
As for the marathon itself, Allen finished sixth in 3:11:27.
“I cope quite well in the heat but there is no doubt that it slows you down,” said Allen. “Thankfully there was plenty of water – a lot of which I was pouring over my head. Quite a few runners dropped out too. There was a very long climb during the race which also explains the slower than usual finishing time.
“If you aren’t prepared to do a bit travel time you don’t get to see these amazing places.”
Runnicles was 20th in the half-marathon in a time of around one hour 52 minutes. They made history by becoming the first Hercules Wimbledon runners to compete in Senegal.
Jonny Cornish won two races in the space of a couple of hours on Wimbledon Common.
First, he headed home a 364-strong field to win the Wimbledon Common 5km parkrun by more than a minute in a personal best of 15:36 and then he turned out in an inter-club five miles match which incorporated the Boro’ News Cup and the East Surrey League and again won comfortably by half-a-minute in 26:03. H
Belal Ahmed was fourth in 27:31, Finn Johnson eighth in 28:35, Joe Toomey ninth in 28:46 and Neil Fraser 10th in 29:06. Ben Tatters was second in the 2.5 miles race and Johanna Tofte first under-15 girl to finish.
A trio of Hercules Wimbledon runners turned out for Surrey in the senior women’s inter-counties match at Oxford where Surrey took the team honours. Claire Grima was 24th, Alex Binley 52nd and Eileen Brandley 65th.
Richard McDowell headed home the field in the Buggy Run three-miles race in Alice Holt Forest, Farnham, pushing his son Wilfred round the course in 21:53. Over-40 veteran Kieran White won the Nice Work Christmas 5km race in Richmond Park in 17:47, winning by more than four minutes. Matt Sharp was second in the Dulwich Park 5km parkrun in 16:17, five second behind the winner.
HERNE HILL HARRIERS
Saturday saw a quite stunning second place for Herne Hill Harrier’s Chloe Tighe at the Southern Inter Counties Cross Country Championship at a frozen Horspath, near Oxford in what was her last race in the UK before she returns to her native Australia.
She helped her Surrey senior women’s team to a dominating victory, writes Geoff Jerwood.
Stacey Ward was back racing for the first time in just over a year and finished 29th, representing Essex.
Karen Ellison (Surrey) was the third of the Herne Hill women racing for their county teams, placing 56th.
In the South of England Cross Country Masters Championships at the same venue Gary Ironmonger set off quickly in his first lap in the opening race for age groups older than 50 years that kicked off the proceedings. He finished as the sixth M55.
Just one second behind over the 10km course was Jonathan Ratcliffe, who placed 15th among the M50s. Despite a heavy fall, Andrew Simms rallied to finish 50th M50. Victor Maughn (M55) was 26th. Ironmonger, Ratcliffe and Maughn combined to place sixth of the M50-59 teams.
Ben Paviour sprinted past Simon Coombes along the final straight as they placed second and third respectively of the M45s,.
Deron Fagan and Robin Jones were 23d and 25th of the M40 finishers. Trevor Chilton (24th M45) and James Ward (49th M40) were also sporting the red and black club colours. Club president Valdis Pauzers was 16th M60. Helen Hadjam was sixth W40. The Herne Hill M40-49 team of Paviour, Coombes and Fagan placed fifth, with a B team of Jones, Chilton and Ward 15th.
There were also young athletes all representing Surrey at the Southern Inter Counties Championship races at Horspath. Phoebe Bowen was sixth in the under-13 girls race, Eva Holland finished in the same position among the under-15 girls, Jacob Taylor was 14th and Christo Chliton 18th in the under-13 boys race and Charlie Krammer 15th under-15 boy. Holland was a prominent scorer in the Surrey gold medal under-15 girls team.
The club was also represented in the East Surrey League 5 miles cross country race on Wimbledon Common on Saturday morning. Good runs from Andrew Clarke in sixth place, Jeff Cunningham seventh, Bryn Reynolds 11th and Chris de Mauny 19th saw them collectively finish as second team behind the host club, with further backup from John Foxall (59th) and Tony Harran (68th).
In the younger age groups on Wimbledon Common, the Herne Hill girls team placed second and the boys finished fifth. Hebe Hunter was an individual winner as first under-13 girl to cross the line as all runners raced together. Joe Roberts and Jacob Alley were second and third under-15 boys.