Monthly Archives: September 2019

Wet, Wet, Wet!!!

ORCs Claudine Benstead was first lady home today at Exeter park run on Saturday in a time of 19m56s

Jane Richardson ran in the very wet, hilly, Winchester half marathon this morning and was happy with finishing in 2.19 hrs. 1st in Vet 70 age category. With great support and marshalling in difficult weather conditions, it’s hilly, 3 miles up, 3 down, 3 up and 4 down.

Lanhydrock 10km race was completed on Saturday by three ORCS, Tracey Mills, Katy Speak and Carole Cornwall. Apparently, it’s a race that has quite a mixture of ups, downs, woodland trails, mud and road.

Four ORCS ran in the Swindon Half, Roger Voaden was first ORC home in 1.25.45, Geoff Hill finished in 1.26.07, Michelle Ody ran her first half marathon in 2.20.37 and close behind her was Liam Keen finishing in 2.20.57

Eight ORCs ran in the Warhorse 10k on Sunday. First ORC home was David Bates finishing 13th overall in 49.29. Lucinda Walsh was first ORC lady home in 1.00.16, Other ORC times were; Carron Holmes 1.03.11, Jane Jones 1.04.25. Katy Speak 1.04.26, Jacqueline Rice 1.05.40, Michelle Luddington 1.10.49 and Janet White 1.16.36.

Four Okehampton runners and their support crews had a weekend away in Scotland to take part in the Skyline Scotland Running Festival. This is a set of four skyrunning races and three trail races taking place on consecutive days in the mountains around Kinlochleven. Three ORCs, Gill and Phil Spinney and Christine Fritsch, took on the extremely tough Ring of Steall Skyrace with over 8,000 ft of ascent along the 18mile course, while Jane Jackson, with an upcoming ultra, just ran the 5k Grey Mares Tail race. With very untypical clear skies and warm sunshine the runners had spectacular views of the Mamores range of mountains making the huge effort of this race worthwhile. The course starts at near sea level in Kinlochleven and immediately climbs to nearly 3,500ft, including some scrambling on the way. There is then a relentless steep downhill to be followed by another massive climb to nearly the same elevation with a ridge section of more ascents, culminating in a climb to the second highest point on the course. From there it is downhill all the way, but with the hugely technical terrain this doesn’t make for easy running either. Gill had run this race last year and with a bit more training in her legs she knocked 5 mins off her previous time to finish in 7.58.47. Christine found the ascents tough but was happy to complete in 8.44.15
being announced across the line as the first Austrian lady! Unfortunately Phil aggravated an old injury in the week before the race but, determined to try, he completed over half the course, clearing the only cut off checkpoint sadly being forced to retire on the second ascent which meant a 2 hour walk retracing his steps to be taken by vehicle to the finish.
Jane Jackson ran in one of the trail races the same day. The organisers had stressed this was not a parkrun or an easy route and is possibly the toughest 5k in the UK. The Grey Mare’s Tail refers to the waterfall that the route takes the runners up past on the way out, where the steepness of the path and mix of technical terrain and bog made for a slow first mile. The second mile is less steep but still uphill followed by a a descent once more over ground that took a great deal of concentration. Jane was a bit daunted by the 90mins cut off, but enjoyed her race to come home in a respectable 49.21.

Various distances & races in a busy week for ORC.

Last Tuesday saw the sixth and final race of the Exe 5K Summer Series where eight ORCs took part. The evening was warm but there was a fairly strong headwind along the canal making section of the course a bit more challenging. Team ORC were in good form with Jeremy Tandy first home and 2nd in the M45 category, running a PB of 17.54, gaining his first Platinum award. Stephen Sincock ran a seasons PB of 18:50 placing 2nd in the M55 category and setting a new club record for his age category. Jo Page finished 1st senior lady in a diamond award time of 19:58 and Claudine Benstead finished in 20:08 to be placed second in the F55 category. Paul Evison also ran a new PB of 22:23 to set a new club record for the MV65 age category. Jo Bradford ran a seasons PB of 23:07while Jackie Dawes ran a PB of 24:07 winning the F50 category. Jane Richardson finished in 27:15 winning the F70 category. The calculations were then all done to work out the final series standings, where the best 4 race results are counted, with runners competing in the age category they start the season in. Three ORCs made the podium for the series with Claudine Benstead winning the F55 category, even though she ran all but the first race after her 60th birthday, her final score meant she was ahead of the second place finisher by a comfortable 5 minutes. Jo Bradford finished 3rd in the series in the very closely fought F45 category that went down to the final race, where Jo’s time saw her hold on to third place by a narrow margin of 8 seconds. Paul Evison finished third in the M65 category also with a comfortable 5 minutes over the 4th place competitor in the series. All in all a good showing by Team ORC in a series that is highly competitive and very well attended by the local running clubs.

Having run a 5k time close to her PB last Tuesday at the Run Exe Series, Jane Richardson was thrilled to run a new PB at Exeter Riverside parkrun on Saturday where she broke into the 26 minute zone, with a new platinum PB of 26.48. When she started parkrun 5 years ago her goal had been to one day, run it under 30 mins and with the support of the members of ORC she continues to improve and inspire at the age of 70.

Robert Kelly tested how his marathon training was going with a run at the Exmouth Parkrun on Saturday. Here he ran alongside the highest ranked 13yr old in the country over this distance and whether it was the company or the fact that his marathon training was going well, Robert ran a superb PB of 16.54 to set a new age group club record.

With blue skies and sunshine, the weekend’s races were enjoyable if a bit warm. Saturday saw the re-scheduled Trail Events Dartmoor selection of races where there were four distance options from a 31mile Ultra to a 12k event. These had been postponed from February when snow made access to the start even impossible and the contrast with the summer-like temperatures of Saturday couldn’t have been greater. The day started with a chilly mist but the mist slowly burned off through the morning and by the mid afternoon the sun was high in the sky exposing the beauty of the Dartmoor surroundings. The route started at Holwell Farm a couple of miles from Widecombe in the Moor and took the runners anti-clockwise towards the Bovey river then through Lustleigh woods before turning west towards Manaton. The route continued in an anti-clockwise loop taking in Hayne Down, Heathercombe woods, Challacombe and on to the finish via Widecombe. Robert Richards was the only ORC representative in the ultra marathon distance. Having had problems with nausea in recent races Rob had changed his nutrition strategy and did thankfully feel better in this one, completing in a good time of 8hrs 20. Claire Sprague and Jessica Corcoran tackled the 12k course and though they found the heat and hills tough they enjoyed their race, despite a detour when spectators covered a direction marker, finishing together in 2hrs 8min.

There was also a selection of distances and combinations at the Flying Fox organised series of races on Saturday afternoon and evening. These set out from Bicton College and took the runners over the heathland of Woodbury Common with the late afternoon 5k or 10k What Came Before and the 5 mile or 9.25 Nightjar races being held when darkness had fallen. Runners could do just one race or any combination of the two races they wished. Three ORCs, Angus Farrelly Jane Jackson and Derek Jackson, took on two races with all three opting for the 5k, where unfortunately the route twice passed alongside a hornet’s nest that had been disturbed making the hornets angry and ready to attack anyone. Runners were advised to sprint past but this did not prevent a large proportion of them, including Derek, from getting stung, some several times. Angus was the first back in 27.35 while Jane and Derek, both having their first runs in a while due to injury, were happy to just have a steady run round to finish in 33.23. While the clear skies and sunshine made the afternoon races very hot, the clear evening with a glorious orange moon rising over the sea made for a beautiful night run where six ORCs ran the 5 miler while Angus and Hayden Bond ran the longer distance. Hayden had won the 5miler here last year and had another excellent race this time, against some fast opposition, coming home in 1.04.04 to take third place overall. Angus was happy with his finish time of 1.33.27. In the 5 miler Tom Andrews was the first home for the club in 40.55 with Phil Read close behind. Jo and Phil Turner had been struggling to get training in too and ran most of the race in the company of Jane and Derek, with a fast finish just bringing them in ahead in 54.15 with Jane and Derek in 54.19.

The Simply Health Great Bristol Half Marathon was the choice on Sunday 15th September for just two ORC club members who were amongst more than 12,000 runners. Dave Bates, a new club member, and Jackie Dawes ran the 13.1 miler, which starts alongside Millennium Square in the centre of the city from Hotwells through the Avon Gorge and under the Clifton Suspension Bridge and back for 6-7 miles and then takes you around the winding roads, parks, harbourside and attractions of the city centre for the second half finishing back where it starts. The runners start in waves and Dave set off at 9.31am in the first wave for the fastest of club runners, Jackie followed at 9.41am in the second wave of four. With temperatures forecast of 20+ degrees and a gentle breeze, the conditions were a little warm and the race organisers decided to cancel the Strava fastest last mile competition, warning the runners to be wary of the heat and look after their health. Despite the heat Dave put in an excellent performance to finish in a time of 1 hour 37 minutes and 20 seconds going straight in with his first platinum award for the club. Despite this he said he slowed down with the heat at the back end of the race. Jackie ran a PB pace for the first 10 miles, but then slowed with the heat for the last 3 and was pleased to achieve a gold award with a time of 1 hour 53 minutes and 29 seconds.

Why are pirates, pirates? – Because they aaaaaaarrrrrrrr!!!

There was a return to summer on Sunday when the warm sunshine made the coast look at its best for those taking part in the Bude Pirate Run.

The tough 8 mile course starts near Crooklets Beach and heads uphill immediately onto the coast path. The short downhill to Northcote Mouth is followed by a long, steep set of steps up and soon after the course heads inland where, after a pleasant mile through Coombe Woods and a short stretch of road, the runners regain the coast path at Duckpool. Here they are faced with the steepest section of the course with two lung-bursting ascents, where all but the strongest runners are reduced to a walk. The stunning scenery of the coastline can be enjoyed on the return back to Bude with a short downhill on tarmac before a 50metre sprint on the flat to the finish line. Okehampton had six runners competing, all new to the race except Mags Jarvis who likes it enough to return for the third time. Jeremy Tandy was the first ORC home in a very fast and competitive race, coming 8th overall in 58.47 and  2nd in his age category.  Despite her hard race on Friday Jo Page still put in a good enough performance to be 3rd Lady in 1.07.51. Lu Walsh was the next ORC home, finishing strongly in 1.31.48, followed by Mags Jarvis in her first race since coming back from an injury in 1.33.56. Rachel Hayden has limited experience of off-road running and ran with club mate Katie Sherjan who who has never tackled a race of this distance, never mind the degree of difficulty the course poses, Rachael finishing in 1.58.12 and Katie in 1.59.03.


The Sourton Tors race marks the end of the Okehampton Running Club summer series each year, treating the Devon fell running community to a short and very sharp ascent of one of Dartmoor’s most recognisable tors. It’s probably the race that best epitomises the ORC summer series ethos – low-key, no-frills, friendly races in keeping with British fell racing traditions. You park in a farmers field, register in a pub car park and run (or maybe walk) up and down a big rocky, hill with limited if any route marking …oh, and the runners who come in at the back of the field get bigger cheers than the winner.

The 2.6 mile route starts from the Bearslake Inn car park, follows the stream up to the moor passing under the fine, stone built Lake Viaduct before heading up a fiendishly steep track to Sourton Tors. The extreme gradient of the climb gets it a grade ‘A’ rating from the Fell Runners Association classifications. From there the runners loop back around the other side of the valley and descend as quickly as their nerves allow down a good grassy track, with sheep droppings acting like ball bearings, back to the viaduct and home to the Inn.

With a field of 22 runners, the 2019 race remained one for the devotees. Winning the race with a clear lead was local Rhys Byrne, who had only moved back home to Devon last week, in 21:03. First lady home was the ever impressive Robin Carter in 26:52 who also won the FV50 category as part of the deal (a fact she made sure to inform male winner Rhys of!).

ORCs were out in numbers with Matthew Richards impressing by taking 7th overall and 1st MU15 (22:35); Paul Crease was 3rd overall and won the MV40 (21:34); Christine Fritsch was 1stFV40 (30:01); Merv Rice took the MV60 win (26:13) and role model Janet White received the biggest cheers of the night on the finishing straight of anyone coming home (39:55).

Thanks to the volunteer team who worked brilliantly and got some great photos out on the course. Tracey Mills, Rob Richards, Abby Williams, Karen Vallance, Mags Jarvis, Ed Dumpleton, Dave Best, Angus Farrelly and Jeremy Tandy – you were all brilliant!


Freedom Racing’s 2019 Summer Sessions race series concluded on the evening of Friday 6th September with the Porthtowan 10k – also known as “the beast”. ORCs Jo Page and Jeremy Tandy made the trip to Cornwall for the series finale and their fourth race in the five-race series. Having driven through heavy rain they were greeted by evening sunshine and a yet another stunning coastal location. Race registration was efficient as ever, allowing time for a quick look at the series standings. With 100 points still left on the table Jeremy, in third place overall, was 103 points adrift of the top spot making a series victory impossible. But Jo, in second place, was a mere 14 points down on the series leader. All to play for!

So to the race! Named “the Beast” for good reason – the route has almost 400m of elevation and winks cheekily at the “10k” label having a distance of over 11km! Hard from the word go, the runners set off from the sand at Porthtowan beach and straight onto a steep rocky incline which only got steeper and more technical as they approached the top. No time to catch breath before a steep decent to Chapel Porth beach and resumption of climbing – 180m up to the top of St Agnes Beacon. Coastal path became tarmac and then to trail as runners wound their way up the climb. Lungs heaving at the top, the quick blast down the Beacon was very welcome. Another short road section brought runners back to the coastal path once again. The view was stunning in the light of the setting sun: surf crashing against the shore below, purple heather and yellow gorse blanketing the cliff tops. Runners picked their way at various speeds along the rocky path, once more enjoying the dip down to Chapel Porth and up the other side. A final super fast, super steep, super technical descent brought runners to the finish back on Porth Towan beach. Wow – it was breath taking (in more ways than one).

Jeremy finished in 7th place (49min 41sec) and Jo finished in 24th place (55min 45sec). With the overall race series in her mind, and no control over how the the series leader ran, she knew she had to put in her best effort, overhauling a 20-second deficit at the top of St Agnes Beacon to arrive at the finish as first-placed Lady and securing a maximum 100 points. But would that be enough? Jo had to wait … Once the last runners finished twilight had arrived and it was finally time for the prize-giving ceremony. With her first place trophy already in hand, Jo’s name was announced again – this time as the series victor and Freedom Racing’s Queen of Summer 2019!

Summer Sessions 2019 has been brilliant fun. A return is definitely on the list for 2020!


A very busy Bank Holiday weekend for ORC.

The iconic Severn Bridge was the destination for three Okehampton Running Club members to tackle the Half Marathon on Sunday 25th. The event, first held in 2014, is a challenging undulating course with one steep hill at mile 7 and the very hot temperatures that day made for demanding race conditions. In a unique experience for the runners, the old Severn Bridge and part of the M48 was closed for the morning to allow the racers to use it traffic free. The participants walked out on to the bridge to start on the western carriageway, over the point between the River Wye and the River Severn. Amid much fanfare, with hot air balloons and helicopter fly pasts, the race got underway at 9am. Running east over the bridge towards England in a welcome gentle breeze, the runners soon reached land, where they then ran along the M48 motorway for a while before leaving via a slip road and heading into the countryside, taking in lanes, hamlets and villages along the way. The race was very well supported, with steel bands, bag pipers, town bands, and kindly residents in the villages who sprayed the runners with garden hosepipes to cool them down. Runners finally glimpsed the white masts of the bridge and began to make their way back with relief over the bridge to the finish line in Chepstow on the South Wales side. Although this was definitely not a PB course, the ORCs all gave a good account of themselves all finishing in the top 25% of runners. Hayden Bond finished in 25th place out of 1335 finishers, in a time of 1.26.17. Graham Bryant was next ORC home to finish in a time of 1.39.53 and Jo Bradford finished strongly in 1.51.44, placing 5th in her age category.

 Not far away in Bristol the King family of ORCs were taking part in the Portishead Festival of Running, raising money for the 401 Foundation. With mum Karen still sidelined with an ankle injury it was down to the two junior members of the family, Harrison and Ollie, to fly the flag for ORC there. Harrison ran the 5k finishing in a fast time of 22.26 to come home first Junior Male and 10th overall, while his younger brother came 5th in the 500m sprint and also ran well against much older boys in the Mile Challenge.  

The scorching temperatures were still surprisingly in place for the Bank Holiday Monday when the Peter Tavy Plod took place. This lovely 4.5 mile race is run over moorland tracks and woodland trails with some stunning panoramic views and is always held on the Bank Holiday in conjunction with the traditional village fair.

Three ORCs ran here, Merv Rice, Ian Page and Karen Gear and on a hot day the 1.00pm start made for an uncomfortably hot run with the first two miles entirely uphill. Merv was first home for the club in a time of 40.04, followed by Ian in 42.30 and Karen in 43.50. 

By this weekend the heat was a thing of the past and there was a return to the more autumnal feel with showers and a cool wind for those taking part in Freedom Racing’s Dartmoor Highground races on Saturday. There are three distance options here with an Ultra Marathon, a Marathon and a 10 mile “sprint” up to the top of Yes Tor and back for the Yes Tor Race. This year Okehampton’s interest was focused solely on the marathon distance with two seasoned, long distance off-road runners and two competing in their very first marathon of any sort. Starting at the OCRA Pavillion in Simmons Park, the route follows the River Okement out to Chapel Ford and onto the moors, taking in many high points along the way including High Willhayes and Yes Tor. With some climbs being followed by open hillside and sheep track descents, this has a more wild, fell running feel than many trail races, although the route is well marked and has four well stocked checkpoints. First ORC home was club Chairman Jeremy Tandy with a great run at an excellent pace, finishing 6th overall in 4.07.42. He was followed by Robert Richards, pleased to have finished feeling well, unlike some of his recent runs in a time of 5.55.36. Hot on his heels was marathon rookie Katherine Murray, very happy to have completed in under 6hours, her excellent run bringing her home in 5.58.19. Angus Farrely has completed this distance and more in walking events, but this was his first running marathon and he was happy to finish in 6.14.12.  

Sunday saw two Okehampton runners take part in Launceston Road Runners Treggy 7. Launceston Town Square is the starting point of this 7 mile circular race. The first mile heads mostly down hill out of the town and onto undulating rural roads until the first water station at the 2.5 mile point it’s then a half mile climb to the village of Tregadillett after leaving the village at 4 miles the last 3 miles are mainly downhill with the second water station at 5.5miles and a finish line in the grounds of Launceston Castle. Andrew Vernon was the first home having a good run to finish in 30th place overall and 2nd Vet 50 in a time of 47.07. Jane Richardson is really running well and put in another excellent performance here to be placed 1st FV 70 in a time of 1.11.53. 

5 ORCs went to Bridgwater for their event combined half marathon, 10k and 5k. Rob, Andy and Paul set off in the half marathon around country lanes on a mostly flat course with a few gentle undulations. Warm and breezy conditions made for hard work at various parts of the course but respectable times were achieved by all with Rob in 1:20 (platinum), Andy in 1:23 (diamond) and Paul 1:26 (platinum) (official times not yet available).

Starting shortly afterwards, Claudine Benstead and Geoff went in the 10k. Geoff defied the conditions continuing his great form and stormed home in a PB of 36:36. Claudine had to leave immediately after the race but was believed to have come home in an impressive time at around 40 mins.

‘Moor’ fun for ORC members.

The last Fell race in the series organised by Tavistock AC in conjunction with Tamar Trails took place last Wednesday. Starting at the Fox and Hound pub near Lydford, The Great Links Tor race was over a slightly longer distance than the previous ones at 6.25 miles and took the runners steadily uphill for the first 4 miles over Great Nodden, Great Links Tor and Brat Tor before a fast descent to run beside the river Lyd before crossing it for a sprint back to the pub. Okehampton had a good turnout with 9 adult runners and three juniors. In the junior race Aiden Spinney continued his winning streak, having won the Under 11’s at the previous race he repeated his success here, while Ollie King ran the same course and was third overall and first in the Under 9’s with Kiera Spinney second in this age group. In the adult race Jeremy Tandy was the first ORC home in 46.02 for 6th place and first M40, followed by Mike Baker in 55.29 and Merv Rice in 58.29 to take the first M60 prize. Katherine Murray finishing in 1.01.29 was the first of the ORC ladies, having only decided to enter at the last minute. She was followed by Gill Spinney in 1.06.10, Christine Fritsch in 1.09.18 and Lu Walsh, who enjoyed the race having done a recce run with the club the week before, finishing well in 1.10.36. Michelle Luddington found the route a little tougher than expected but ran well to come home in 1.24.48 and Janet White finished in 1.27.58 with her usual big smile, always enjoying her runs over the moors.

 The fourth instalment of Freedom Racing’s 2019 Summer Sessions race series was held on Friday 23rd August at Godolphin Hill in the far reaches of Cornwall. With sunglasses on to dim the glare from the uncharacteristic bank holiday weekend sunshine, ORCs Jo Page and Jeremy Tandy lined up for the 7pm start. Heading up and out from the grounds of Godolphin House, the route twists and winds its way up Godolphin Hill itself before taking a rapid descent down the other side. A short road section brings runners to the base of Tregonning Hill and 110 metres of climbing to reach the top. Runner’s burning legs are soon forgotten as they are greeted by one of the best the views in West Cornwall. To the left, the purple shadows of dusk consumed the horizon, while on the right the setting sun glittered on the sea – its light picking out the purple heather and bright yellow gorse. With no time to stop, runners head back down and onto another road section before a final race up and over Godolphin Hill once again. A fast and technical downhill dash to the finish line completes the route. Jeremy Tandy finished in 6th place overall (39 min 53 sec). Jo Page was 1st Lady and 19th overall (45 min 31 sec). Sunshine, a great route, breathtaking views (and climbs!), friendly atmosphere and cake from the Godolphin House National Trust cafe made for a perfect start to the long weekend. 

The Bank Holiday weekend brought welcome sunshine and a return to summer for most people, but it made for uncomfortable running conditions for those taking part in Puretrail’s Big Day Out. This comprises two races, The Crossing, a 36mile ultra marathon traversing Dartmoor from north to south, starting at Belstone on the northern edge to Ivybridge on its southern flank, and The Great Escape, which takes in the last 15miles of the ultra from Princetown to Ivybridge. With no shade out on the moors the heat took its toll, despite a refreshing breeze over the higher parts, with only 91 of the 120 starters finishing the Crossing in which Okehampton’s Chris Turner was taking part. He had completed this race two years ago but has had injuries almost ever since then that have kept him sidelined. Having slowly worked his way back to fitness, particularly targeting this race, he was pleased to complete in a very good time of 7.35.58.