AFTER the fourth event of the Southern League cross-countries, Farnham Runners ranked fifth of the 24 clubs going into the final race in Alice Holt Forest.

They were three points adrift from the third club with four clubs within three points behind them – so a lot was at stake on the day.

The men, with some unable to make this race, came ninth. The ladies were also missing a key player through illness, but clinched an excellent second place.

This was enough for the combined team to come joint second along with two clubs above them and to move up to a very creditable fourth in the final standings.

Farnham Runners’ race director Craig Tate-Grimes had pulled out all the stops to make this a memorable event and recent rain meant it didn’t disappoint those who enjoy lots of mud!

There were a few interludes on the gravel but most was on narrower woodland tracks, with even a stream to cross. Very little could be described as flat and the route favoured strong cross-country runners.

As Farnham Runners had already hosted a race this season, other clubs provided many of the helpers and volunteers needed to marshal and help. Winners Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC took on the task of sorting the results.

Forestry England kindly agreed to the race taking place in the forest.

As the last part of a 16-mile marathon training run, Nik Darlington finished a fine 15th, which gave a huge boost to the club position. Bob Brimicombe was delighted with his 55th place to count second for the club. Colin Addison came 65th, with Harvey Wickham in 77th and Justin Clarke in 79th completing the score.

Ivan Chunnett in 88th, Luke Smith in 93rd and Tony Jones in his first race for the club in 97th made the top 100.

Kayleigh Copeland had an inspiring run to reach fifth, her highest place to date, and Emma Pearson wasn’t far back in seventh.

Giving her all was Sue Taylor in 36th to complete the score.

The place for each of these ladies was critical as if one of them had been one further back Farnham Runners would not have achieved fourth place for the series.

Stalwart Lindsay Bamford was next to finish in 37th. Kay Copeland in 46th just held off Jane Georghiou in 47th, who had finished fourth F65 in the British Masters Cross-Country Championship at Tonbridge the previous day. Catherine Timson made the top 50 (50th).

Other placings – Men: James Goodwin 118, Mike Carter 121, Terry Copeland 124, Peter Callow 153, Clive Frostick 170, Andy Brown 187, Howard Inns 188, Andy Clegg 199, Stewart Richardson 200.

Ladies: Bridget Naylor 54, Rebecca Lloyd 71, Debbie Moorcroft 85, Tori Shaw 89, Sally Lawrence 95, Colette Grist 96, Jenny Binks 97, Sarah Britnell 101, Julia Jones 121, Alison Lamb 122, Jackie Wilkinson 129, Julia Tagg 133, Rachel Morris 142, Kate Townsend 143, Vicky Goodluck 144, Carolyn Wickham 145.

The following Sunday was the Fleet half-marathon and under the leadership of race director Penny Abbott, Fleet and Crookham AC put on a superb event. Huge numbers of marshals gave up their time and there were hundreds of enthusiastic cheering spectators.

Eight of the 17 Farnham Runners gained new personal-best times, from just two seconds to a whopping tenminutes! There were four age-group prize-winners from the club too.

Stuart Taylor was the fastest back in 1:25.14 in 116th place of almost 1,500 finishers. He chopped two seconds from his previous best time. Neil Ambrose, who equalled his PB of 1:28.37 in the Surrey half marathon just two weeks before, was 200th in 1:29.35.

Matthew Wernham joined Farnham Runners that very day and had an amazing start to his time with the club. He won the first M65 prize by an amazing eight minutes, and chopped more than six and a half minutes from his previous best, crossing the line in 1:32.05. This is a new M65 club record by 16 minutes.

James Morrish was next in 1:33.43 while Richard Denby was delighted to deduct five minutes from his PB in 1:36.54. Ivan Chunnett took another PB by three minutes in 1:39.20, Ali Falkiner clocked a PB by five minutes in 1:40.56 while Linda Tyler was the second F60 in a fine 1:41.11.

James Goodwin, who was slowed by an injury after the first ten miles, recorded 1:43.05. Peter Callow, another prize winner, was third M65 in1:43.21, while Jane Georghiou took the first F65 prize in 1:51.12.

Craig Tate-Grimes (1:53.46) helped pace Rebecca Martin to 1:53.47 with Kate Townsend following in 1:57.17. Rebecca Lloyd and Jenny Binks raced this distance for the first time and were pleased to finish in 1:56.42 and 2:07.13 respectively while Stephen Collings recorded 2:08.42.

Two weeks later 24 Farnham Runners travelled to the Salisbury ten-mile road race where 15 achieved personal-best times.

Nik Darlington sped round to a new PB of 56.36 that placed him an excellent sixth of the 746 finishers. His time was within striking distance of the club’s senior men’s club record, set by Richard Ferris at Alton in 1990.

He said: “The Salisbury 10 has to be one of the most idyllic race routes around. It has its little pinch points in terms of undulations, but it is a total fox of a course with chocolate-box villages, steep-sided vales, verdant farmland, the riverside and that framing of the cathedral spire on the horizon as you approach the end.

“In my first Hampshire Road Race League season, it’s definitely my favourite event so far!”

Returning after injury, James Clarke was pleased with his 59.20 that put him in 24th. The next seven Farnham Runners all clinched new PBs – Neil Ambrose (tenth M45) in 1:06. 46, Kayleigh Copeland (16th lady, fifth senior lady) in 1:08.37, Justin Clarke (third M60) in 1:09.49, Chris Raby (fourth M60) in 1:11.51, Richard Denby in 1:11.52, Louise Granell (sixth F35) in 1:12.37 and Ivan Chunnett in 1:13.59.

Next came Steve Bailey in 1:14.25, Terry Copeland (eighth M60) in 1:15.33 and Chris Cramp in his first actual race in more than two years in 1:16.31.

Linda Tyler was third F60 in a splendid 1:16.48 followed by eighth M65 Peter Callow in 1:20.57 (PB). Bella Weetch and Bridget Naylor (seventh F55) both ran their first ten-miler together in 1:21.44 and 1:21.49 respectively. Jane Georghiou was second F65 in 1:22.49 with Geoff Brown in 1:27.51 and Clair Bailey in 1:34.01 (PB).

Clive Frostick (1:29.42) Debbie Moorcroft (1:37.34) and Carol Dare (1:39.57) were also new to racing ten miles. Julia Tagg clocked 1:53.12 and Sue MacKenzie 1:54.53.

By Jane Georghiou