Rob Bright's 2002-2003 Mid-Term Report

So here we are just past the halfway point of the season and time to reflect on what has happened so far, the highs and lows of the four completed races, to look ahead to what is still to come and to meet come of the personalities who take part. Once again, our races have managed to attract large fields – well over 200 runners a time with the Swanley fixture attracting 305 finishers in November. There are some new faces amongst them as well as the old regulars taking part.

Last year the Combined team contest produced a tie – the first time this had happened – and we awarded the title jointly to Invicta and Medway/Maidstone. There is just a chance that this event may be repeated this year as, with three races to go, there are three clubs at the top of the league separated by a single point. Last year’s joint winners have been joined this year by Dartford Roadrunners, having their best ever season since joining the league. Sevenoaks are now 4 points adrift of the leaders having started off well. Although they performed indifferently at Avery Hill Park, they could still claw back the difference.

The ladies’ team contest has Invicta as the clear leaders, thanks mainly to the consistent form of Liz Batty and Faye Roberts. Behind them is a stampede of clubs seemingly fighting it out for second place – New Eltham Joggers, Dartford Roadrunners, Sevenoaks AC and Istead/Ifield are all in contention and separated by just two points.

It is a longstanding tradition of this league that one newcomer to the game will turn up at the start of the season and proceed to win every race thus spoiling the fun for the others. This season has been no exception and has seen the advent of Tim Bailey (Thanet) as a force in cross country running. With four wins out of four so far, he needs only one more average run to take the title and probably earn himself a ban from the competition for the next two years at least. Nevertheless, he will no doubt want to go for the grand slam and win all seven – this was last achieved (I think) by Mark Greenwood about 3 years ago.

Ray Pearce currently leads the M40 championship, although he has to complete all three remaining races to retain his title – Michael Clark of Sevenoaks is chasing him hard along with Steve Hargreaves from Dartford Roadrunners. Mike Stacey (Maidstone H) is a strong favourite to add the M50 championship to his newly acquired Kent crown, but Paul Ross-Davies could still snatch it from him in the remaining fixtures.

Eddie Broad (Invicta) leads the over 60 classification but needs to finish all the remaining races. If he does’t, Brian Fincham of Bromley Vets looks the likely contender.

The ladies’ competition is headed by 18 year old Cathy Harvey (Medway & Maidstone) who has 2 wins and a 2nd place under her belt. Clubmate Sarah Simmons could come with a late challenge as could Debbie Percival (Istead) who showed evidence of a return to form at Avery Hill Park. Percival leads the over 40 competition, while Liz Batty is odds-on to retain her over 45 title and Sue James is well clear of the over 50’s.

There is always an award for the most improved runner, based on last season’s ratings. In this category, Kevin Murison (Gravesend) is currently the most improved man and Jill Richardson (Dartford RR) is the most improved lady.

The three remaining races could not be more different. On Sunday 12th January, we meet at Minnis Bay for a jog along the beach and a circuit of “Plum Pudding Island” – pretty well flat but very wet under foot with a few dykes to wade through. On Sunday 2nd February it’s back to South East London for the notoriously tough Oxleas Wood event – plenty of steep climbs and descents here through woodland tracks (about 6 miles in length). Finally on Sunday 9th February, we go to Mote Park, Maidstone for an undulating couple of laps around the park approximately 5 miles in length.

The final event of the season is the Presentation Evening in Maidstone on 28th February when all the winners will be rewarded for their efforts. There are plenty of battles still to be fought and scores to settle.

10 years ago ...
While looking through some old papers, I discovered the results of some old races - one of which was the Today’s Runner League fixture at Minnis Bay on 3rd January 1993 which I reproduce below in the hope that it may spring a few memories.

The report said that we had 179 taking part in sub-zero conditions around the "frozen arctic wastes" of North Kent. Waterlogged ditches (some having iced over), a concrete sea wall and beach shingle were included on that day. The race produced a fine contest between Garry McCall (Thanet RR) who had won two of the previous races and Phil Carstairs (Maidstone H) who had won the other one. The two were neck and neck for most of the race, but McCall managed to outsprint Carstairs in the 100 metres after the last "hummock". Bonny Appleby (Invicta) was winner of the ladies’ event ahead of Sarah Millett (Woodstock Runners). Invicta, with 27 entrants on the day, were winners in the team event.

Invicta went on to win the team championship that year; Phil Carstairs and Bonny Appleby were winners of the individual championships. There have been a few changes since then - a number of the Invicta members split the following year to become Canterbury Harriers; Woodstock Runners folded some years after with the demise of the Shell Research Station. Carstairs went on to run for Belgrave Harriers (and appeared in the recent Kent Vets XC Champs). Of the others in the top 20, Tony Culshaw, Ian Stokes and Ivon Whitmore are still regular competitors, but very few of the others are seen these days. Have they all moved out of the area? Have they just given up on running and taken up another sport? If you are still in touch why not let us know what these people are now doing. We can do an "after they were famous" piece in a future publication. Also, let me have any memories you may have of that race if you took part.

Leading men ... 1. G McCall (Thanet) 25.27; 2. P Carstairs (Maidstone) 25.29; 3. K Mitchell (Invicta) 26.37; 4. J Grix (Graves) 26.49; 5. J Bent (Graves) 27.14; 6. R Clark (Padd Wd) 27.15; 7. M Lindsey (Padd Wd) 27.17; 8. S Hay (Istead) 27.19; 9. N Kirkness (Invicta) 27.25; 10. M Kay 27.38 (Invicta); 11. I Stokes (Invicta); 27.39; 12. T Culshaw (Invicta) 28.02; 13. S Hammond (Woodstock) 28.08; 14. N Vaughan (Deal) 28.11; 15. A Howlett (Invicta) 28.18; 16. I Whitmore (Guest) 28.21; 17. P Cole (Sitt) 28.23; 18. W Leaney (Padd Wd) 28.28; 19 M White (Padd Wd) 28.30; 20. T Janes (Invicta) 28.31; 21. M Drewitt (Deal) 28.48; 22. J Smit (Woodstock) 28.52; 23, B Pearce (Invicta) 28.53; 24. K Mallam (Deal) 29.01; 25. T Merrington (Thanet) 29.03; 26. Bill Learmonth (Invicta); 29.10; 27. M Osborn (Guest) 29.14; 28. T Stewart (Maidstone) 29.19; 29. B Reeves (Invicta) 29.24; 30. N Cook (Guest) 29.28; 31. P Brown (Graves) 29.42; 32. J Heggarty (Guest) 29.54; 33. S Reynolds (Deal) 29.55; 34. C Nash (Sitt) 29.57; 35. L Bradford (Deal) 29.59; 36. T Barross (Thanet) 30.01; 37. M Charlton (Istead) 30.05; 38. M Gambrill (Thanet) 30.07; 39. D Lappage (Graves) 30.09; 40. M Boelens (Woodstock) 30.11; 41. R Bridges (Invicta) 30.13; 42. A Fletcher (Padd Wd) 30.15; 43. M Gill (Deal) 30.25; 44. M Brown (Thanet) 30.40; 45. R Goodwin (Thanet) 30.47; 46. J McGowan (Woodstock) 30.57; 47. R Bright (Maidstone) 31.03; 48. I Broad (Inivcta) 31.04; 49. G Ramsey (Istead) 31.05; 50. P Burchett (Sitt) 31.06; ..........

Leading women ... 1. B Appleby (Invicta) 31.15; 2, S Millett (Woodstock) 31.27; 3. C Houghton (Istead) 33.20; 4. T Ramsey (Istead) 34.33; 5. J Bright (Maidstone) 35.01; 6. E Dartnell (Padd Wd) 35.07; 7. M Garrett (Thanet) 36.34; 8. S Pearce (Invicta) 37.06; 9. C Smy (Maidstone) 37.42; 10. P Marsh (Invicta) 37.44; 11. J Smith (Thanet) 38.07 12. V Lindsey (Padd Wd) 38.28; 13. R Kay (Invicta) 39.46; 14. S McGowan (Woodstock) 39.50; 15. M Drewitt (Deal) 41.13; 16. P Hall (Thanet) 41.18; 17. P Pearce (Thanet) 41.19; 18. S Proudlove (Woodstock) 41.51; 19. J Webster (Woodstock) 42.16; 20. R Godfrey (Istead) 42.25......