Captain Tom Lockdown Challenge

[The title image is a photograph of the portrait of Capt Sir Tom Moore painted by Alex Chamberlin and currently hanging in the National Army Museum.]

Another weekend of dreadful weather greeted the runners taking part in the third challenge of this lockdown for Okehampton Running Club members. This one was in memory of Captain Sir Tom Moore, and used the statistics of him walking the 25m round his garden 100 times which gave a total distance of 2.5k. Runners were therefore asked to run 2.5k run or more, but dedicating a 2.5k section of it to the memory of the national hero who so sadly died from Covid after raising £32million for the NHS. A target of 100 runners was set, being the link to his 100 laps in this tribute to him. This seemed like a small ask to people who normally run greater distances, but the bitter cold and wind on Saturday, which was replaced by a milder but equally strong wind and rain on Sunday meant venturing out at all was quite a challenge. Without a doubt many wouldn’t have pulled on their running shoes on such weekend if it hadn’t been for joining in with club mates to honour Captain Tom.

The bitterly cold conditions on Saturday weren’t very inviting but a total of 33 members made the effort to do their runs along with 7 non members. Runs varied  from specific 2.5k’s to some long runs but with a dedication of part of it to the challenge. The original idea for this challenge came from new member Mike Saywell and not only did he complete a 2.5k run but then went on to “write” the name Tom using what’s known as Strava art, where the lines of your run on the Strava app make a picture or word, resulting in a total of 12 miles run, and having passed the same man digging in his garden four times!

One runner had a special reason to take part in this tribute. Sadly Joe Lane’s grandfather had passed away on the same day as the Captain, so Joe dedicated his 2.5k not only to Sir Tom, but also to the memory of his grandfather John.

Karen Vallance and Abby Metherall chose to start their run from a point on the New Road where the “Thank you NHS” rainbow sign was still in place from the first lockdown, although somewhat battered having not stood up to the wind as well as the runners.

Unfortunately the conditions on Sunday were no more appealing with rain adding to the misery of the wind, but once again everyone rose to the challenge. Throughout the day there was a steady flow of runs being posted on the ORC Facebook page, mostly accompanied by pictures of wet and windswept runners. One member, Debs Crome had encouraged several of her friends who, although not members, had taken part in the original lockdown challenges, to join in once again, giving the numbers big boost.

By the late afternoon there began to be a feeling that it was going to take a big collective effort get the total number of runners up to the target of 100. It wasn’t quite a case of pulling people from their sick beds, but there was definitely a feeling that there was no excuse to not get out and make a contribution in support all those who had already made the effort. Head torches were put on, ORC juniors were encouraged to do their bit, and challenge organiser, Rob Richards was motivating everyone with updates on Facebook, the last one saying they were only 7 runners short of the target.

Gill Spinney had completed her tribute as part of a much longer run she had done, but now her husband Phil and their two children Kiera and Aiden put their shoes on and each did 2.5k making it just four to go. By now though the word was out and a sudden flurry of late posts saw the final total come in at an amazing 117!

Many had found the hardest part was to actually get out there and run in such uninviting weather, but the inspiration of the challenge and the camaraderie of the members, knowing that each contribution took the club nearer to the target, made the difference. Having had two challenges held in dreadful weather there is hope that the next one in a fortnight might have more favourable conditions.


Hamlets and Villages Lockdown Challenge

On a weekend of weather that did nothing to inspire anyone to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, Okehampton Running Club members took their inspiration to run from another source – the fortnightly ORC Lockdown Challenge. This one was titled Hamlets and Villages, with the aim to try and get people to run a route they don’t usually run, perhaps using roads they might avoid or footpaths they haven’t explored while trying to visit as many hamlets and villages as they could, all within the rules of running during this lockdown.

The response for this one was amazing considering the depressingly cold and wet weather with a total of 53 runners taking part. First to take it on were Kathryn Volkelt-Igoe and Janet White who, having the advantage of being retired did their run in the mild and sunny conditions that prevailed on Friday, enjoying 8 miles of chat together. The other 51 who took part did so in varying amounts of rain but this didn’t deter them from completing some long runs, the longest being by Rob Hicks and Jo Dymond. They devised a route that followed the Okehampton Parish boundary as much as they could, linking roads with footpaths where possible and following the line of the boundary where it went up onto the moors, over the highest point High Willhays, round the edge of East Okement farm and back down into the town via Ball Hill. This all amounted to a run of 24miles with over 3,000ft of elevation!

There were some other good length runs where even members who for various reasons haven’t been able to do much running recently, pushed themselves to put in the mile and complete a new route or include more villages. Two of last year’s couch to 5k group, Beverly Dennis and Natalie Uglow, really became inspired running 10k, their furthest distance ever. This was a great achievement for runners whose original beginners course was interrupted by Lockdown 2 and who have had little opportunity to run with the support of club sessions. Emily Currie, Kathryn Vile and Victoria Evison were also couch to 5k runners who took part in the challenge.

Even amongst the seasoned runners many found new routes or roads to explore. Jo Turner has always avoided running through the village of Corscombe because of the fearsome hill on the way out so she took it on for the sake of the challenge but says she won’t be repeating it too soon! The same hill was visited for the first time by Rob Richards and Wendy Walters in their run who seconded Jo’s opinion of it.

One thing they all had in common was that they came back with wet feet, even those running on the roads were faced with stretches of underwater tarmac that had to be waded through, while those who took footpaths across farmland or moors were glad of the chance to wash the mud off their shoes on these flooded sections. Everyone is hoping the weather is kinder for the next challenge in two weeks time.


Return of the Lockdown Challenges – Bingo!

With the return of Lockdown came the return of the Okehampton Running Club’s challenges designed to keep the members motivated and enjoy the feeling of still being connected and part of the club while not actually able to run in groups. Last weekend’s challenge was a running form of bingo, where runners were asked to photograph four different signs they came across, four different types of surface they ran on and four scenic pictures from their run. These were to be posted on the club’s Facebook page where everyone could enjoy seeing each others runs. Everyone followed the latest Covid rules, staying local to their homes and only running with one other socially distanced person.

Even those doing a short run managed to achieve a “Full House” bingo card with not much difficulty with tarmac and mud being the most popular surfaces to include. Living in such a beautiful part of the world made for plenty of lovely scenic photos and a couple of nice days meant they weren’t all taken through a mist of rain. Signs were also in plentiful supply even for those who’s runs were largely on the moors since members had to run up there from the town. It is quite surprising how we are surrounded by signs but don’t really notice how many there are until we are asked to photo them.

Over 50 runners took part, some of them having been struggling with a lack of motivation recently and finally finding a purpose to get out and run. There were also several juniors who took part and enjoyed the challenge with a parent. There will be another new challenge set for the weekend of the 30th/31st January with non members and past members welcome to join in.


Okehampton RC successes in City Runs Virtual Lockdown 2 Challenge

City Runs Exeter put on a virtual running challenge during the recent Lockdown 2, with the aim of keeping the running community motivated. The challenge was for athletes to run any of the distances below between 5th November and 2nd December:

1Mile – 2Mile – 5km – 5Mile – 10km – 10Mile – 13.1Mile – 26.2Mile

The runners submitted their times and the organisers then produced a set of results ranked on the age graded score for the distance run in each “race”. In all there were 118 entries, including a total of 6 by three members of Okehampton RC.

The Prize Winners were both from Okehampton RC.

1st Female: Claudine Benstead – with 3 runs all gaining 90%+ age graded, which is outstanding. She ran 5k in 20:13, 5 miles in 33:44 and 10 miles in 1:10:10.

1st Male: Geoff Hill – with an excellent 89% age grading for his 2 mile run in 9:52. Many congratulations to both Claudine and Geoff.

Mags Jarvis entered 2 runs, a half marathon which she ran in 1:59:22 (77% age grading) and a 5k in 25:35. She came out near the top of the leaderboard in 13th place with her 5k run for which she gained 80% age grading. Mags has Parkinson’s Disease, which is an incurable neurological condition. One of the main symptoms is slowness of movement. She finds that the motivation she gains from the support of her fellow club members and events such as these are vital to keep her positive and actually slows down the progression of her symptoms.


Lockdown Bridge Challenge

The fortnightly Okehampton Running Club Challenge this weekend was just one word – “bridges”. This was left open to the members to interpret in whatever way they chose, all complying with the Lockdown rules of only running with one other socially distanced runner.

It kicked off on Saturday with runners clocking up more and more bridges and those who included Simmons Park in their run were spoilt for choice of bridges. There were some who’s tally were well into the 20’s but these were dwarfed by Karen King and Jo Page’s run where they clocked a staggering 54 bridges in a 16mile run around Okehampton and parts of the moors.

Robert Richards, who set the challenge, had planned his run around some of the beautiful and ancient clapper bridges on the moors. Running with Wendy Walters, they claimed 5 clapper bridges in their 12mile run, but there was one place where the absence of a bridge was keenly felt by Wendy who ended up thigh deep in boggy water!

Also out on the moors was Joe Lane who grabbed the chance of a moor run with a simple solution to the challenge, running from Bridestowe to Two Bridges.

Joanne Baker Teixeira set herself the task of finding the biggest and smallest bridges in the area, covering 8 miles to establish Meldon Viaduct is the biggest and a tiny bridge on the Golf Course is the smallest.

Sunday produced some different takes on the bridges theme. Ian Ripper burned his bridges with an extra pint Saturday night and struggling to get out for a run Sunday! Andy Vallance and Paul Crease decided on a “no bridges” run on the moors, trying to cross the rivers by fords marked on the OS25 map. A great 19mile run resulted in 12 named fords crossed and very wet feet. Jane Jackson only crossed one bridge, at Sheepwash, but did so 60 times, doing it once in both directions for every year she has lived in the village.

Some more traditional bridge-bagging runs were undertaken with Jackie Dawes running with Kate Wilson. This time last year they were both running across the Ponte Vecchio during the Florence Marathon, but got together to run 10miles taking in 28 bridges in the lanes around South Zeal, Sticklepath and South Tawton.

Coach Sarah Bell did 3 separate runs to accompany three “couch to 5k” runners on what is quite a hard stage of their course, having to do a continuous 25min run. Congratulations to Natalie Uglow, Emily Currie, Nick Marvin, Helen Picarella, Charlotte Williams, Kathryn Vile and Beverley Dennis for getting out to take part and to Sarah for her dedicated support.

Some other runners are struggling with motivation, time or coming back from Injury without the club sessions, and Jodie Monnox, Sophie Fletcher and Kerry Morashti found the biggest bridge to cross was actually getting out and running.

Another great challenge was enjoyed by all who took part and one thing became obvious during the course of the challenge – there are more bridges than anyone imagined in and around Okehampton!


Feel the Burn lockdown 2.0 challenge

The implementation of the second lockdown put a stop to Okehampton Running Club’s group runs, all races and the newly set-up Couch to 5k programme. Not to be discouraged at the prospect of returning to running with little motivation, Robert Richards once more set up the fortnightly ORC challenges, giving runners a sense of achievement for completing a run and sharing it on the club’s Facebook page. This kicked off with a challenge to “feel the burn” during a run over the weekend, either by putting a real effort in for the last km of the run, or pushing hard on an uphill section.

Once again ORCs rose to the challenge, with runners either going out on their own or with one socially distanced other runner. First to log in was Bernadette Blackman with a 6.8m run on the moors where her last km was faster despite an uphill finish.

Several headed out to the moors where unfortunately they were enveloped in a thick mist on Saturday, but Rob Hicks managed to put in a fast last km on a tour of the ring road putting him in the lead for the fastest male, only to be overtaken soon after by Joe Lane. He’d narrowly missed a sub 20min 5k on a previous challenge but by running the same route the other way round he achieved his goal in 19.46 with his last km the fastest.

It wasn’t all about speed though, just about putting some effort in to feel the burn in the legs, something Beki Simmons and Hannah Woods felt when they had to divert their route which made their last and fastest km uphill which certainly made their legs burn.

It was very encouraging to see how some of the Couch to 5k runners embraced the challenge incorporating the “feel the burn” into their programme for this week. It’s particularly hard for them as they have only just started running and the support of others is really needed to keep their motivation up so a big well done to Bev Dennis, Charlotte Williams, Natalie Uglow, Vicky Evison, Emily Curry and Jayne Pleace.

Sunday saw  much better day for those who did their challenge on the moors where Phil Turner was the first up there enjoying the beautiful early morning sun and clocking a fast last km albeit a bit downhill.

Joseph Lynch loves these challenges and took part on both days and Carron Holmes also went out for a second try on Sunday. Having narrowly failed to make her last km the fastest on Saturday, she made sure she really made her legs burn this time!

The overall fastest 5k of the challenge was clocked by Robert Kelly on the Granite Way, making it hard for himself by running 20k with each km progressively faster than the previous one, his last being an impressive 3.36.

Anne Binns put in the fastest km for a lady, clocking a 4.11 last km while running with her husband John.

It wasn’t a race to clock the fastest time though. The real aim of this challenge was just to get people out there running and enjoying seeing how fellow club mates did too and in this it was very successful. 76 club runners took part and 5 non-club runners with 56 ladies, 20 men and 4 juniors. All are looking forward to the next challenge.

Twilight Halloween

On Thursday night three Okehampton Running Club members made their way to Scorrier House  in Cornwall for the Purple Gecko Halloween Twilight Run. This was a well organised event that followed all the Covid rules and regulations, while still putting on a fantastically fun and entertaining event, with plenty of mud, hills and Zombies included!

With all three wearing fancy dress, the first off was Keeley Philips in the 5k event, setting off into the darkness at 5.30pm to run her first night race. Taking it steady to enjoy the new experience, Keeley finished in 30.37 having avoided being eaten by Zombies!


The 10k event set off at 7pm, with Erin McDaid having a brilliant run to come home in 1st place in a time of 37.00mins, nine minutes ahead of the second placed runner. Jo Page also had a great race, her time of 47.34 securing her 1st Lady and coming 4th overall.

Run to the Sea

Jane Jackson and Robert Richards took part in the inaugural Run to the Sea Ultra Marathon takes place on Saturday.

The 50km multi terrain route is from Ringwood to Hengistbury Head; absolutely stunning and extremely flat! The first 30km uses the Castleman Trail, a disused railway path,  through lush forestry and tranquil woodlands, to reach Holes Bay and Poole Harbour. Followed by the amazing views over Brownsea Island and Sandbanks before you join the legendary coastal promenade for the final 15km, through Bournemouth, to the most beautiful finish of them all, at Hengistbury Head.

Jane said that although it was a bit too much tarmac on the route for her taste, she surprised herself by enjoying the experience.  As she is still recovering from injury she went with a plan to run sections with brief walking interludes, seeing her finish second lady in her age group in 6h26m.  Robert said that despite it being flat, and without his usual preferences for mud, wind and rain he still enjoyed doing it, and completed in 5h48m.

Virtual London Marathon

With even the postponed London Marathon not being able to go ahead due to the pandemic, Sunday saw nine ORCs take part in the Virtual London Marathon in several different locations. This was going to be a memorable marathon for all of them, but it was the weather conditions that  made it one that they’d never forget. The runners could complete the 26.2miles wherever they wanted with their times being uploaded via the official VLM app or by sending in their times from a running app.

In the appalling conditions on Sunday, the earliest group to start benefitted from slightly better weather, though even they had a headwind on the second half. Robert Kelly, Paul Carter and Graham Bryant ran from Exwick along the Exe valley Way to Dawlish and back, with Robert the fastest of the three, finishing in an excellent 3.02.09. Graham Bryant had trained hard for this marathon and despite the conditions ran an impressive 2min PB to finish in 3.08.58, while Paul Carter finished in 3.30.52.

Several ORCs set off from Meeth on the Tarka Trail to run the full length in a straight line to Barnstaple and they perhaps had some of the worst of the weather in the closing stages where they felt the full force of the 50mph winds and horizontal rain out on the estuary. Jo Page ran this route, having a really great run despite the conditions to finish in 3.32.31, less than 3months after a stress fracture in her foot. Jo Bradford had been plagued by a hamstring injury so, running with Jackie Dawes, her aim was really just to complete. They finished together in 4.13.36, having had to stop for a change of clothes as they were so cold and wet. Jules Lewis-Thompson ran this route solo, overcoming these terrible conditions to complete her first marathon in a very creditable 4.55.04.

Karen King chose to run on the Camel Trail from Camelford to Padstow. Karen’s preparation hadn’t been great but her aim was to complete and raise money for Veterans With Dogs, which she achieved in 4.55.49.

Mel Priday stuck to familiar ground around Okehampton, running on lanes, the Granite Way and even some on the moors. As if this wasn’t hard enough, a miscalculation of the marathon app meant she completed 28.6miles, finally finishing in 6.00.57.

All the runners were very grateful for the much needed support from friends and family along the route.

Two races this weekend

A gloriously sunny autumn day greeted Okehampton Running Club runners taking part in the two local races on Sunday, however both were coastal courses and susceptible to the blustery wind. There were three ORCs representing the club at the Bradly’s 10k held on a flat, two lap, out and back course along the Exmouth sea front. The men’s race set off first with Hayden Bond being the first ORC back in an impressive time of 36.06 to come third overall, while Paul Evison finished in a great time of 49.04. Claudine Benstead was the only female ORC there and, despite the blustery conditions, ran an excellent race to finish in 42.49 to be 2nd Female and first FV60. Unfortunately the course was 300m over distance so times could not be used for PB’s and club records.


In Cornwall three more ORCs took to the coast to run Purple Geko’s Man Up & Down race. Starting at Portreath and following the coast path to Perranporth, this 12 mile race had typical coast path terrain and nearly 2,000ft of elevation making for a tough route, but Eirin Mc Daid took it on at an incredible speed, finishing in 1.31.04 to come first overall. Jo Page was very happy to run her first race since her recent injury, while Keeley Philips, still fresh to trail running, enjoyed the stunning coastal scenery.