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UK Inter-Counties Cross Championships, Polruan Shuffle, Blackyard Ultra, Granite Way 10 and 20 miles, Bideford Half Marathon & Couch to 50k Half Marathon Challenge

UK Inter-Counties Cross Championships 2024

On Saturday 9th March, Luke Stannus, representing Devon, travelled to Wollaton Park in Nottingham to take part in the UK Inter-Counties Cross Championships. Luke was part of an 8 strong Devon team of under-17 men running in a highly competitive field of 290 runners over a 5.6km cross country course. Luke finished strongly in 20:35 neck and neck with a fellow Devon team mate. Luke commented the event was a great experience and was pleased his performance was a big improvement on last year. Great running Luke!

Polruan Shuffle

On Saturday 9th March, Kathryn Volkelt-Igoe travelled over the border to Cornwall to take part in the first stage of Purple Gecko Events Saints & Smugglers 100 Mile Challenge. This comprises of four unique supported, self-navigation challenges of differing distances on four different dates. Stage one, the Polruan Shuffle, takes in a scenic 12 mile section of the Cornish South West Coast Path between Looe to Polruan. Kathryn reported that it was a well organised event with a super route though it was very muddy and slippery with steep climbs and descents and plenty of steps! Kathryn was pleased to finish in a time of 4hrs 6mins earning her an awesome finishers medal.

Blackyard Ultra

Also on Saturday 9th March, Rob Hicks and Charlie Temperley ran the “Blackyard Ultra”, the second creative format trail event hosted by Rob Gooding over in Black Dog. This year the format was a last-one-standing ultramarathon race where competitors must run a 6.7km loop every hour, on the hour; with the race only finishing when one runner remained.

Charlie commented that the course, whilst awesome, was in places very muddy and a little soul crushing! It was a small event and after the first few loops runners started dropping like flies! Rob and Charlie were in the final 4 who completed 6 loops. Unfortunately, Rob rolled an ankle and was forced to retire having completed 40kms leaving Charlie to force himself around once more with one other runner so completing 7 loops in 7 hours totalling 46.7kms. At this point he called it day and accepted 2nd place forcing the remaining runner out for a final lap to secure the win. Both Rob and Charlie said it was a brilliant event and a lot of muddy fun!

Granite Way 10 and 20 miles

Sunday 10th March saw the return of the popular Granite Way 10 and 20 mile running event which takes runners along the Granite Way footpath and cycleway through Devon with fantastic views of Dartmoor and the surrounding countryside. The event is ideal for runners training for a spring Marathon or Half Marathon, offering either a 10 mile (one lap) or 20 mile (two lap) race option to test your training progress. After some initial rain, the runners were treated to some lovely running conditions. Three ORCs joined a large field of 232 runners for the 10 miler with Chris Turner finishing 3rd overall in 1:00:19; Stephen Sincock in 1:09:37 (1st MV60), and Paul Evison in 1:24:34 (2nd MV70). Tom Poland was the only ORC joining a smaller field of 136 runners taking on the 20 miler finishing in 2:20:26 (2nd MV40). Great running everyone!

Bideford Half Marathon

Another popular long running race, the Bideford half marathon also took place on Sunday 10th March. The race starts and finishes close to Bideford Amateur Athletic Club and takes in beautiful countryside alongside the River Torridge between Bideford and Great Torrington. Known as ‘the swift half’ the moderately flat course is run half on roads and then joins the Tarka Trail and is a popular event for those aiming for a personal best. The rain held off and the runners enjoyed some sunshine. Eight ORCs took up the challenge with some great results: Paul Carter was first ORC home in 1:28:15; closely followed by Andrew Vernon in 1:29:22; Claudine Benstead in 1:30:28 (1st FV60); right behind her was Jo Page in 1:30:58; followed by Mike Davies achieving a personal best of 1:33:09; Chris Fulford-Brown in 2:12:46; Lucy Gooding in 2:15:01; and Sarah Fast in 2:17:42. Well done all!

Couch to 50k Half Marathon Challenge

Last but not least, Sunday 10th March also saw the conclusion of phase three of the Couch to 50k programme with the group completing their trail half marathon challenge. Starting in drizzle from Okehampton, the hilly course climbed up onto Dartmoor and passed over six tors on route to the final challengingly slippery descent from Cosdon Hill. Whilst Dartmoor then served up some unexpectedly lovely Spring weather with blue skies, some sunshine and little wind, the underfoot conditions were tricky throughout with standing water and boggy, rocky and slippery technical terrain to contend with. There were a few spills with accompanying squeals along the way! Wet feet were guaranteed with two river crossings to make including the precipitous descent of the Steeperton Gorge to the River Taw crossing and the steep climb back up to Steeperton Tor.

With almost 700m of ascent it was a challenging course and for many in the group, this was the longest they have ever run and the furthest they had run on Dartmoor. Everyone finished smiling having had a thoroughly enjoyable Dartmoor outing! Big thank you to coach Rob Richards and a massive well done to all!

Phase four of the Couch to 50k programme begins next week with the group progressing to marathon training. If there are any runners who are not currently members of the club and would like to join in the training for the Marathon (and beyond) please contact Rob at