After some shocking weather over the last few days it was cool, but dry and even sunny at times for our latest visit to the Green Man at Toppesfield.
The usual suspects again supported us and we also welcomed quite a few newcomers trying trail running Essex Trail Events style for the first time.
The course had evolved from a runnable route on great paths in the summer to a slog over the last few miles across ploughed fields although we took two further ploughed horrors out on the Friday.
As for the race it was a close run thing. Jackie Stretton (Springfield Striders) flew around the course in an impressive 51.47 to just pip Steve May of Halstead by two seconds. Two minutes further back was Jon Byford (Springfield).
Most finishers mentioned the fields, a lot mentioned the pink pants in the hedge (one even took a photo) and two surprised us by commenting on the number of footbridges. There’s nothing quite like trail running.
The Green Man was again very welcoming especially after you had all finished and we could get inside by the fire. We will definitely be back when we can as there are so many more paths and tracks to explore in this area.
*Turn Right at pink pants
A BLOW BY BLOW ACCOUNT
The day started badly as I drove through the drizzle thinking that the ploughed field sections would cut up. I was early but Howard was already there and we tried to put one of our flags up. The ground was hard and must have had a concrete layer below as we couldn’t get the flag in the ground (would probably have blown away anyway).
We parked in the main car park so had to transport all our gear the hundred metres to the bar with some much appreciated help from early arrival Nikki Woodyard. I carried the starting bollards upside down and promptly got a soaking down my trousers. Not a good look. We decided the only place we could set up was in the lee of the building, but even so it was a real struggle to put up the gazebo in the 30mph plus wind.
Despite our early start it was all a bit of a race against the clock but we were ready to receive the first six entrants on time even though the fact we were on a slope meant we had to stand up most of the day.
This was our third race since lockdown and using online entry and starting people in groups of six with five minute gaps has now become second nature both for us and the runners. Hardly anyone has been late and those that turn up early get sent back to their cars. We do need to get a sign though for our hand gel, as just as I go to say “It comes out very easily” the runner has already covered themselves in it.
The Bradwell area is famously flat and most people come to walk on the sea wall which stretches for mile after mile around the peninsular. Our race took an inland route and avoided the wall altogether. Probably just as well in this wind as at least there were places to shelter from it which would have been impossible on the wall.
We were surprised how fast people were starting but it became obvious why as we saw them fighting their way back against the wind.
All was going smoothly despite the constant buffeting we were getting from the wind until I got my foot caught in the laptop cable and brought it crashing to the ground with a dreadful cracking noise. The screen had frozen. People were finishing so we reverted to recording times with pen and paper. I used my top grade computing skills to solve the problem. I turned it off and back on again and hey presto we were back in business at the point of the last save which luckily had only been about four runners ago. This laptop affectionally known as “The Brick” is ridiculed on a regular basis by the runners but as it runs on Windows 1875 has never been infected by the internet and has proved very reliable. I don’t think if I had smashed a modern laptop into the ground it would have revived as quickly if at all.
Over 120 runners started (and finished) and not one spot of mud to be seen. The wind had at least dried the paths. The winner of the 14 mile event was Antony Goodall (Springfield Striders) in 1:34:48. Next to finish was Nikki Woodyard (Springfield) and Simon Bateson (Dengie 100 Runners) in 1:42:48 with Jackie Stretton (Springfield) next to finish just six seconds back.
The 7 miler saw Declan Evans of Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners storm to victory in 46:00, 11 minutes ahead of the next finisher, the winning lady Lynn Higgs (Mid Essex Casuals).
STAGGERED STARTS, STAGGERED FINISHES, PERFECT DAY
The change of date had no great effect on the Ridley Round as we experienced June weather. The parking was much improved and with very few exceptions everyone turned up at the right time. Thank you all for accepting that this is the only way we can carry on with the events and for the most part other than social distancing at the start and the finish the actual races are much the same as usual. It is actually much easier for us as there are no queues and we get five minutes to chat to everybody at the start.
We would also like to thank all the pubs involved who all offer something different to the experience. We asked everyone as they finished which pub was their favourite and it was pretty even between all of them with the Walnut Tree more popular with the men and the Windmill making a good impression after coming back into the fold after several years absence.
Unusually for a pre entry race there were hardly any no shows so 147 people returned to the Compasses suitably refreshed and contributing to the £1100+ raised for Cancer Research.
The winner was Stuart Collett of Little Baddow Ridge Runners who just failed to beat two hours and ran so fast he finished with a nose bleed. We hope the stain comes out of the Writtle Wround T shirt as we wouldn’t want it to dim the brightness.
Ian Lawson of Grange Farm and Dunmow Runners was actually first home but was 13 minutes behind the winner in second place. Gary Chandler (Springfield Striders) was third a further 8 minutes back.
Julia Binstead (Mid Essex Casuals) claimed a surprise win just pipping the Springfield pair of Isobel Gowers and Sarah Hammond.
We enjoyed ourselves, we hope you did too.
First of all we’d like to thank everyone for coming and for all being sensible with the distancing etc. We are normally very informal but due to Covid we have had to change things a little. Hopefully it didn’t spoil it for any of you. In fact for us it gave us a chance to chat more to people at the start, which was nice after all this time with no races.
As for the race, the clue was in the title, but I think most of you enjoyed the hilly course (afterwards at least).
Ryan Prout (Brentwood) and Antony Goodall (Springfield) came home together in an excellent time of 1.42.57 to beat the Little Baddow pair of Chris Hargraves and Shay Joyce by nine minutes. Also under the two hour barrier were newcomer Oliver Mawer, Jon Byford (Springfield) and the first lady, Jackie Stretton (Springfield) who ran a superb 1.59.37. Her time would have been slightly quicker if her running partner had timed his visit to the toilet better at the start. 18 minutes back was the second lady Lynn Higgs (Mid Essex) with the Tiptree pairing of Vicky Knight and Tracy Harrington a further seven minutes behind sharing third spot.
We enjoyed the usual comparing of distances between runners at the end. The official distance was near as dammit 14 miles. We heard tales of 15.5 or even 16 and had someone go through the finish and continue for 10 metres to clock up 14 exactly. What wasn’t in doubt was that you all climbed at least 200 metres (700 feet).
Thunderbird 3 had to be called into action for only the second time when John McVelia (Mid Essex) alerted us to a faller. Hopefully Marion is not too badly shaken and will no doubt be out running as I write this.
Next up for us is the Ridley Round (entries open September 1) which will be limited to 150 entries over a 2 hour start period. Then at the end of next month is Don’t Hit the Wall for which entries are going well for both distances. All our events are on line entry until further notice.
The Huffer Puffer has been going since 2004 and this year went virtual. 51 participants took on the seven mile challenge having a one week window to run it in.
I ran it on a Tuesday morning in order to partake of the Eat Out to Help Out offer. A sausage huffer at half price is a great incentive at the end of a lovely run. When I say lovely run, my legs weren’t happy with the last mile on road, but I knew a pint and the huffer would be waiting.
Unsurprisingly the two winners were James Bosher (Grange Farm) and Nikki Woodyard (Springfield). In third was another Grange Farm runner Declan Evans. Jon Byford (Springfield) was third male. Second lady was Nichola Norman with Shikula and Keely Jordan equal third.
Thanks to Sue & John Clarke (Mid Essex) for keeping the race going in these difficult times.
ESCAPE FROM THE MUSEUM
The honour of hosting the first trail with a UKA permit since lockdown went to Dave Game and Mid Essex Casuals. Dave had been pestering the TRA for weeks as our form of trail running is ideally suited to staggered starts and social distancing.
The 10 miler was won outright by Nikki Woodyard (Springfield) in a dazzling 1.15.55, almost 14 minutes ahead of the first man Adam Hunter (Mid Essex). Third to finish was Lynn Higgs (Mid Essex) and to round off a great event for the ladies next home was Sue Clarke (Mid Essex). The Springfield duo of Richard Sirett and Julian Catmull had the distant honour of equal second in the men’s event.
The men fared somewhat better in the five mile route with Simon Morgan (Colchester Harriers) first home. Next home was Yan Stile of Mid Essex with clubmate John Carter just behind. The ladies event was won by Nadine Collins in exactly one hour. The Great Bentley trio of Eileen Shadford, Tonie Wilson and Tricia Stacey were equal second.
It was nice to see everyone again and it proved that social distancing and trail races are achievable.
Our first visit to Mersea attracted a very reasonable turnout considering other attractions and distractions. It was again another welcoming venue and we have already been asked to return.
We had checked the courses out in a variety of conditions and you probably got the best of the underfoot and the worst of the wind. Nobody reported any red squirrel sightings (probably all been blown into the sea).
The day started well with the Wheatsheaf being ready for us and nice and warm with excellent facilities including hand sanitisers at the doors. The day then took a turn for the worse when Howard’s “new” laptop threw a wobbler and lost the race file for the 8.5 miler. Bring on the “Brick”. Never having been tainted by the internet and running on Windows 1875 the day was saved by the faithful Toshiba. It receives abuse at every event but carries on rewardless.
Unaware of our problems you came and went as usual in a seamless manner. The 8.5 miler saw Roy Read make a rare appearance to claim victory from Gary Freear of Halstead and Lyn Higgs of Mid Essex. Lyn has been nagging us for ages to put a race on in her neck of the woods and the six minute journey was obviously not too tiring. Running with Lyn was third man Gary Abbott of Mid Essex. Kirsty Williams of Springfield and Julia Binstead of Mid Essex were second and third respectively.
In the 5.8 miler Jon Byford competed in the Essex Relays at Colchester then popped over to Mersea to win in 43.24. Second equal were Joe and Will Ferguson who beat dad Simon by 20 seconds. Shannon Mason was first lady ahead of Sam Bearman of Mid Essex and the Tiptree duo of Jo Roblin and Tina Clarke.
Our next race was due to be the Pop Up Trail but this has been cancelled by the venue. So hopefully see you at Burnham for Mid Essex Casuals’ Smugglers Trail and again hoping Easter goes ahead as planned.
Over 80 turned up to the Prince of Wales, Broxted on a surprisingly sunny day. Unfortunately the wind was still blowing a hoolie.
Howard had managed to find a completely different course to last year which was interesting and varied and included one of the muddiest paths through a wood that I have ever travelled along. Quite a few of you mentioned this. Thanks to the owners we were able to run through their lovely garden to reach the second church instead of quite a long detour.
Allen Smalls (CHAC) and long time running buddy Sean Ketteridge (TRA) cantered around the 7.5 miles in a speedy 54.07. Jon Byford (Springfield) trotted in five minutes back and was the only other runner under the hour. Lyn Higgs (MEC) proved she could run solo and won the ladies race by seven minutes ahead of Lorraine Baker (Tiptree) and Sarah Colbert (MEC).
The four miler attracted a small field and was won by Ian Foskew (MEC) and late entrant Sharon Hardwicke (Tiptree).
Beat About The Bush
Well Howard and I enjoyed the return to the Roundbush and thanks to Dave and Anne for making us very welcome. It was a good turnout considering the weather and traffic conditions. We thought the roaring fire might tempt people to stay indoors, but well done to the 64 intrepid souls who ventured out into the depths of Purleigh.
As with our previous night trail the Hart to Hart, we were surprised to attract people doing their first ever trail race. If you enjoyed that I can assure you that it is a beautiful run to do in daylight with some good distance views over the Blackwater. We’ve seen a few photos of your runs and there certainly seemed a fascination with the graveyard and of course your drinking habits at the pub.
The winner in a very impressive time of 39.15 was Andrew Lager of Witham. In fact Witham featured very well with all four of their runners in the top eight. Second man was Gary Abbott of Mid Essex and Bill Smythe of Witham was third.
Equal second overall was Lyn Higgs of Mid Essex who has won more bottles of wine from us than any other competitor. Her time of 45.06 is again an excellent time over a muddy, slippery and hilly five mile course even without having to navigate and in the dark. Second lady was Lorraine Baker of Tiptree with Hilda O’Kelly of Springfield in third.
All of our newcomers returned and seemed to enjoy their excursion. People are always telling us how much they enjoy these runs and thanks for all the compliments. A bit cheeky but could we ask you to hit the recommend button on our Facebook page if you feel we deserve it.
Next up is Charlie’s Trail at Broxted on March 1st.
VERY STICKY WICKET
We were invited to organise a race from the Cricketers last year and when Howard contacted them the then landlord had moved on, however the new management were still keen to see what it was all about and I think we have found another winner. A great pub with good beer and food, good parking and bang in the middle of some great running country we haven’t explored before.
We were up against the Great Bentley Half which attracted quite a few of our regular customers so were pleasantly surprised to attract over 70 runners to this unknown (to most of us) quiet corner of Essex.
James Bosher (GFDR) who, like many hadn’t been quick enough on the keyboard to get a Bentley place, came straight from his shift firefighting to race. I say came straight from work, but he actually came via the Cricketers at Clavering where after a few minutes he realised he might be at the wrong pub.
Winning the Cold Christmas 50Km last week seemed to have no effect on his legs as he stormed to victory by almost 10 minutes from Jon Byford (SS) and Peter de Koning, who cycled to and from the event from Saffron Walden. Gary Freear (Halstead) clocked the same time as Peter.
Also on the same time was the winning lady Lyn Higgs (MEC). I think the three of them might have joined forces possibly by the moving sheep pens that thwarted a few of you (ewe).
Second lady was Melissa Dowell (CHAC) and the MEC duo of Lucy Ferguson & Keely Jordan were third.
We thought the slippery decking test we set you to register would prepare you for the underfoot conditions.
We again attracted a few newcomers and there was a fair bit of interest in the village about the goings on.
The pub liked you all and have invited us back in the summer some time when they will put on a BBQ. We will let you know as soon as the date is sorted.
Next up is MEC’s night trail from Silver End next week and our own night trail is from The Roundbush, near Maldon the week after.
MEANDERINGS IN THE MUD AND MIST
Possibly the worst diversion direction signed route of all time meant a few of you didn’t make it, but a huge thanks to those of you that did. When we arrived at the White Hart we were the first there: this is a first, there is always an early bird or flock waiting for us, so we were a bit worried we might just be having a quiet drink on our own in the pub for the evening. We really didn’t need to worry about spending the night drinking as the Bishop Nick Vision was an excellent pint.
Apart from a few people who didn’t TsharpR most of you got round without too much trouble, with only an extra caravan and the tall thin tree in the mist causing some confusion.
It is always an anxious wait for the first one to return, but we didn’t have to wait long as mostly smiling faces appeared at the back door.
Darren Coates (still Harlow) was first back and chuffed to bits to have completed a run without injury. He was leader in the clubhouse for a while until local resident Gerard Geurts (GFDR) flew in to take the lead. He in turn was knocked off his perch eventually by Adam Hunter (MEC).
Lyn Higgs (MEC) did better navigating the course than she did finding the pub and her driver John Carter (MEC) afterwards and took the bottle of wine for first lady. Melissa Dowell (CHAC) was second with Nichola Norman (Springfield) third.
Most people opted for the 6-ish including the three winners of the 4-ish who changed their collective mind before leaving the warmth of the pub. A good decision by the MEC trio of Rachel Abbott, Natalie Launder and Ian “one i, not one eye” Launder who claimed the two bottles of wine between them.
Bravo to the Harlow ladies who decided to do a night race for their first ever trail. They were still in the pub when we left. I think they may have discovered our secret.
Next up for us is Sticky Wicket on 2nd February followed by another night adventure from the Roundbush near Maldon on 19th February.
HAIR OF THE DOG
Even with double parkruns and the obvious morning after the night before excuses the Hair of the Dog attracted another large entry to the salubrious Good Easter sports pavilion. All profits raised will go to making it even more so. Yan always makes full use of the excellent highways and byways of the area and took us through the back gardens of the local landed gentry.
54 took on the challenge of the 6.8 miler, 47 more did the 4.4 miler and a phalanx of cronies also made an appearance led round by Snig.
Melissa Dowell (CHAC) and Lyn Higgs (MEC) ran to victory in the long race with the race results showing Justine Ruggles (MEC) third. Justine however is Justin so Sarah Colbert (MEC) rightfully claimed third spot. Paul Broome (SS) had an excellent run winning by over four minutes from Matt Bainbridge (GFDR) and Miles Coulson (MEC).
Shannon Mason won the shorter race outright without dad’s help ahead of Donna Fisher (SS), Diane Knight (MEC) and Sue Aves (SS). Richard Rule (SS) who had double parkrunned and run between Billericay and Chelmsford to do it. Was the only man in the top six. Phil Jeffries (Halstead) and Dave Game (MEC) also made the podium.
A great way to start the new year.
Sean & Alan, enjoying a pint after their win !