BAC’s Dave Parsons returned to tackle the four races in four days challenge of the Easter Running Festival in Guernsey and this time, was joined by youngster Jud Kirk (M65-69). Dave was going for the 23rd successive time since 1999 (only missing the two ‘covid’ years when travel to the island wasn’t possible) whereas Jud was making his debut at the festival. Although they were accompanied by club veteran Ian Graham, sadly Ian wasn’t able to compete this year due to a recent illness.
Dave and Jud were accompanied by our old friend Geoff Scott from Poole Runners making his 26th appearance at the festival and two other Poole Runners, husband and wife Dale and Angela Holland who were returning for the second successive year.
The weather forecast was encouraging and indeed, the first three races were held in sunny conditions although, as usual, there was some wind to contend with.
The first race on Good Friday was the 5k road race which is a point to point course and is ideal for good times if there is the usual prevailing wind. This year, however, there was a headwind although it wasn’t too strong, so times were still quite good. Numbers were up on last year with 182 completing the course. Dale was the first of our Dorset group to finish, in 86th place in 21:38. Jud was next coming 101st in an excellent time of 22:27 placing 1st in the V65-69 category and setting the tone for the rest of the weekend. Angela was 154th in 27:39 for 3rd FV50-54. This was a good deal quicker than last year and she was to continue to produce quicker times than 2022 throughout the weekend. Dave was our next runner home in 28:41 for 1st MV70+ and whilst this was a little slower than last year, it was significantly quicker than he has been producing recently. Geoff was our final runner home in 31:52 for 4th MV70+
In the festival, all the athletes over 60 are placed in a ‘super vet’ category based on age graded results. When these results were published, Jud was 3rd (male category) with 73.87%, Dave 7th with 63.34% and Geoff 12th with 61.19%. Leading the way for the men was 60 year old Graham Merfield of Guernsey with an incredible 18:11 and 87.26%, (this was the only time he raced!) and for the ladies Jenny Morgan (I’m too charitable to divulge her age) ran 22:10 for 91.28%. She was to remain top of the standings throughout.
Saturday was another sunny but breezy day, so conditions were reasonable for the ‘Full Course’ cross country 4.75 mile race. This course is a traditional one and has been used every year of the festival since the very beginning although some of the paths have been improved over the years. Dale was again the first of the Dorset based runners to finish in 48th place (100 finishers) in 35:11 but Jud was closer, finishing 53rd (1st V65-69) in 35:23. Angela had another vastly improved performance on last year, this time in 85th place in 44:30. After a difficult race last year, Dave took things a little more cautiously and was 92nd in 48:12 (48 secs up on 2022) and 2nd MV70+. Geoff Scott was just two places further back in 94th with a time of 49:44. In the super vet category, Jud was first male (76.92%) and with the two runners who finished ahead of him in the 5k standings not running the cross country, he was now in pole position for overall male super vet for the weekend. Geoff was 5th on the day (63.97%) and Dave 8th (61.71%). Jenny Morgan was again way ahead in the lady’s super vet category with 90.22% and it’s also worth mentioning that she had run the Guernsey parkrun earlier in the day before jogging to the start of the cross country!!!!!
Photos courtesy of Georgie’s Guernsey
Sunday was yet another fine day for the Cross-Country Relay which for the second year was held at Delancey Park over what can be described as an undulating and twisty one mile course. That description though, doesn’t quite do it justice in that, there are no less than 18 turns over the 1 mile route with adverse cambers, tree roots and rabbit holes to negotiate. A course much better suited to the younger, nimble athlete than some of our Dorset veterans. In recent years, Dave, Ian and Geoff have been joined by our lovely Welsh ‘dragon’ Lisa Evans who lives in Guernsey, however, when Jud announced his intentions to go this year, we were due to have a full four person team so when Lisa asked if we were going this year, she agreed it would be better for her to join another team. Now, of course, with Ian unable to run, we needed another runner. Lisa found us Daniel Brehaut and the first task was to decide on a team name. At the moment in Guernsey, there are 60 ‘puffin’ statues spread around the island, all individually painted and named for people to find and ‘bag’. With one immediately outside the entrance of our hotel (The Peninsula) and the age of the team members, ‘Daniel and the Peninsula Puffins’ was deemed appropriate! Angela and Dale were allocated two lady runners, Harriet Gowen and Carol Le Carpentier, and became the ‘Guernsey Sandwich’ team.
Although the individual performances no longer count as part of the overall festival, there are some amazing performances from the younger athletes in particular. The Puffins were led off by Daniel and his excellent time of 6:21put them in a very creditable 13th place. Jud took over and his impressive 7:05 lifted the team to the lofty heights of 11th. Unsurprisingly, this was the highest they got to and Dave struggled to get into any rhythm, and despite an initial burst, quickly settled for getting around safely and lost several places with his sedate 10:11 (although this was a slight improvement over last year) before handing over to Geoff for the ‘glory’ leg. His attempts at settling for safety came a bit of a cropper quite early on when he tripped on a tree root and fell. Very sensibly, with another day’s racing to follow, he took it carefully around the rest of the course and his time of 11:26 meant that the Puffins eventually finished 32nd of the 35 teams. Meanwhile, Angela had led off the Guernsey Sandwich team and had a good run (much improved again over 2022) with 9:48. Harriet 9:01 and Carol 10:17 then handed over to Dale who ran an excellent 6:51 leg to lift the team to 33rd, just one place behind the Puffins!! Just for interest, the winning team, Lister’s Lads finished in the amazing time of 21:27 (an average of 5:22 each) to prove that fast times are possible despite the course.
Photos courtesy of Rob Elliott
Photos courtesy of Georgie’s Guernsey
Easter Monday came and the weather as forecast, took a real turn for the worse. The 10k race is another point to point route which means that to have a car at the finish, it requires at least one person to drive to the finish, leave the car there and catch the ‘courtesy bus’ to the start. Dave and Sue did this (Angela and Dale also did the same) and whilst waiting for the bus to arrive, it was quite intimidating to be sitting in the car watching the rain pouring down and listening to the wind buffeting the car. The bus arrived and took the runners to the start arriving close to an hour before the race was due to begin. As the 8 runners from the bus settled into the bus shelter to keep out of the awful weather, they did wonder just how many would be able to take advantage of this limited shelter!
Amazingly though, the rain started to ease and by the time the race began, it had actually stopped. The other good piece of news was that rather surprisingly, we realised that there was actually going to be a tailwind for most of the race before having to turn straight into it for the last 2k. It was quite a relief when the gun went and we were off. After initially getting a bit blocked at the start, Jud moved wide and settled in to a good rhythm and pace and, this time, he was the first of the Dorset runners home in 66th place (119 finished – a good increase on recent years) in an excellent time of 45:26 and was 1st MV65-69. Dale had to give way to Jud this time but still ran well to finish 75th in 46:58. Angela finished off her weekend with 103rd place in 57:06, again much improved on last year and a very satisfactory performance. Dave won the battle of the MV70’s and was on target to break the hour until the strong headwind in the last 2k took over, but he was still pleased with a finish time of 60:29. Geoff was our last man in with a solid 65:38 in 116th place and has now completed 26 Guernsey Easter Festivals so an eye watering 104 races over that period. Surely a record – certainly for a non- Guernsey runner.
The super vet gradings have not been published for this race but we headed off to the Presentation later that day with the hope that some prizes would be heading Jud’s way.
And so it proved with Jud picking up three prizes:- 1st Super Vet in the Full Course XC, the 10k and the overall series. An excellent performance marking his debut at the Easter Festival. It was also really good to catch up with one of BAC’s ‘adopted’ runners, Steph Twell making a welcome return to Guernsey after a lengthy absence. Steph and husband Joe Morwood were the overall series winners.
So, that was it for yet another year and we all headed off back home promising ourselves that, if at all possible, we would be back in 2024 to revisit old friends, see more of the wonderful island of Guernsey and try to complete another Guernsey Easter Running Festival.
1st June 2023