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.


Good start to the racing calendar

Jeremy Tandy was racing this weekend, 44 miles from Lizard Point to Lands End along the South West Coast Path in the Endurance Life Classic Quarter ultra marathon in 8h16m58s of non-stop movement, 44.6 miles of which 2K were vertical, Jeremy finished in 8th place overall out of 186 finishers, 2nd in category MV45.
Hayden Bond won the Dartmoor trail half marathon in a time of 1.50.06 on Saturday. The course had views of Dartmoor while running through deeply rutted fields, woodland, and open moorland, with a lot of bogs and river crossings. The half marathon was a 2 lap course. With it not being a mass start no positions where known until the results came out. But huge congrats to Hayden for the surprise win!
On Saturday 5th September Chris Turner completed the Dartmoor 50 which didn’t officially go ahead this year but Chris completed the route or thereabouts in an impressive 11h47m.
Jo Bradford and Jackie Dawes set out at 3pm on Sunday to complete the Virtual Granite Way 20 mile run as there were medals to be claimed after the race was cancelled in March. Staying true to the race, they ran out and back for 5 miles twice. They were also accompanied by fellow ORC Mags Jarvis who cycled the full 20 miles with them.

Racing is back!

With racing back on the agenda, although with fewer numbers and staggered starts, some ORCs grabbed the opportunity to put their club colours on again and get out and race. Hayden Bond and Claudine Benstead had their first race since lockdown when they took part in City Run’s Turn and Burn 5k starting from Exeter Quay on Wednesday evening. To ensure social distancing was maintained, there was a staggered start with runners sent off in twos with a minute between each pair. Claudine headed off first with a great run finishing in exactly 20.00mins to win her age group. Hayden had an excellent run too finishing in 17.13 to set a new PB.

Saturday saw three ORCs racing down in Cornwall. Karen King started the day with the Tribe Pentewen Trail 10k, an out and back run along the wooded Pentewen Valley trail. Karen had a good run to finish the slightly under distance route in 50.46.


She then joined two other ORCs, Keeley Philips and Eirin Mc Daid running the Gecko Gathering Trail races at Scorrier House near Redruth. Here there was a choice of a 5k or 10k route over a fairly hilly course where the 10k ran two laps of the 5k route. This was the first opportunity for new members Keeley and Eirin to run in ORC colours and both did the club proud. Eirin finished in first place in the 10k with an impressive time of 37.41, while Keeley was first FV40 in the 5k in 28.43. Karen finished not far behind Keeley in a time of 28.50.


First events taking place

With the current restrictions due to the Corona Virus outbreak this year’s Chulmleigh Old Fair couldn’t go ahead in its usual format.  The fair is believed to be the longest running Charter Fair in England with 767 years without a break, including through 2 world wars so, determined to not break its continuity, it did go ahead in a reduced format. Included in this was the road race which became a virtual one with runners able to run the usual race route any time between last Tuesday and Friday. They recorded their times on the running Apps Strava or Garmin and sent them in to be assessed. Having won the race last year, Hayden Bond wanted to try and retain the trophy even if it was a virtual race, though running alone is very different to competing in a race with other runners. Karen King also ran this year and both ORCs did very well, Hayden completing the 2 mile course in 12min14sec to set a virtual course record and retain the Cup, while Karen’s time of 20.13 was enough to secure the first Ladies place.

On Sunday Karen was the first Okehampton runner to take part in a race held under restrictions due to the Corona Virus, running the Winding Paths 10k in the woodland of Grammarcombe woods near Ashcombe. It was a two lap race with challenging ground in places and a steep uphill at the end of both laps which Karen completed in 1.08.50 to claim her first trail race medal.

The last Lockdown ORC challenge

With further easing of Lockdown restrictions Okehampton Running Club held what it hopes will be its last weekend challenge. England Athletics has updated its guidance for running clubs to restart some club sessions with precautions in place for the safety of runners and the general public and while numbers of runners will be restricted, the club hopes that there won’t be the need for these virtual club challenges. This last challenge was to test runners fitness coming out of lockdown by running a 5k to see if they have improved during this period.

Some club members have actually taken advantage of having more time to run whilst on furlough while others have struggled with continuing to work, possibly from home, and having children at home too giving them less time to get out and run. Others found it difficult to stay motivated without the regular club sessions or the company of friends in the early days and enjoyed the virtual support of others during the challenges.

Amazingly the club has actually had several new members join despite lockdown, enjoying the opportunity to familiarise themselves with present members through the Facebook posts and feeling part of the club with the challenges.

It turned out not to be the best weather for running fast times with some torrential rain and hot humid periods in between, but this didn’t stop people having a go at the challenge. There was a broad spectrum of routes, downhill, flat, or quite hilly, but it didn’t really matter, with the taking part more important than the result.  Having said that, there were some great times recorded with unofficial PB’s from Robert Richards, Ian Ripper, Charlotte Lynch and Jodie Monnox, while new members Adam Bussell and Jules  Lewis-Thompson did their first recorded 5k’s so now have a time to beat in future. It was also the first timed 5k run on tarmac for off-road runner Joe Lane who found it harder than expected and has a new respect for the road runners now. For Duncan Nicol it was the first land-based challenge he has been able to take part in, having joined in the previous ones while onboard a cargo ship in the Pacific. New member Eirin Mc Daid was one of the runners to get a drenching when he did his 5k round Burrator Reservoir, but he still knocked 5secs off his previous best round that route.

Above all, this was about people getting out there and enjoying taking part, no matter what the result. These challenges have certainly inspired ORCs to keep going while the club was unable to operate during the worst of this pandemic. Hopefully we will really get back to normal sometime, running together as before, but for now there is the prospect of a nearer normal experience when limited sessions start again. As before, a big thank you to Robert Richards for coming up with the ideas and getting people motivated.

Thanks to Jane for the reporting.

I am proud because…

Another Okehampton Running Club Challenge rolled round last weekend, this time with the theme of “Pride”as its inspiration. These challenges have played an enormous part in keeping the club members together and helping to retain the feeling that they are all still part of a club, not just individual runners despite the restrictions of the Covid Pandemic. This became evident by the fact that overwhelmingly most people did runs saying that they were proud to wear the club colours and proud to be a member of such an inspiring and supportive club.

One member, Nicola Leach was proud on this occasion though to wear an NHS rainbow vest for her run with Lora Medland, having bought it to wear at the Edinburgh Half Marathon, but been denied the chance. As a trainee nurse she had every reason to be proud of being part of the NHS through these times.

Robert Richards also dedicated his run to the key workers in the club and beyond by doing a route linking sights where they have been working throughout lockdown such as the police and fire stations, the hospital and the supermarkets.


Some were deservedly proud of themselves, and others of them. At the age of 70 Janet White’s return to running since breaking her ankle on a moor run last year has proved difficult, especially through lockdown, but this weekend she did two runs. The first was with two club mates on the Tarka Trail, running a mile and a half further than she has been with the reward of tea and cake at the end of it. The second was a short moor run with two other friends, giving her the confidence to get back out on the moors she so loves. All her co-runners were proud to be running with this inspiring lady.

Debs Crome celebrated her wedding Anniversary by doing a 6mile walk on Dartmoor, proudly wearing her ORC vest and reflecting on all the places she’s become familiar with through running with friends on the moors. Her husband surprised her with a bottle of home brew to mark the day while siting in the sun on Belstone Tor.

The person who has the most reason to feel proud is Andy Vallance. It was his idea to set up a running club in Okehampton and his run was the route he did when he first started running in 1998 in order to take part in the London Marathon. Without him taking up running ORC would never have happened, but the club has grown way beyond what he ever envisaged, changing and enriching people’s lives through making friendships that go beyond just running together, and by the fitness and confidence it has given members. People have met new partners and many have found a new passion for being outdoors and exercise, for running on the moors or for racing competitively. The club developed with an ethos of being inclusive, supportive and equal, where everyone’s achievements were acknowledged on whatever level, a club that all members are proud to be part of.

Thank you Jane for preparing the report.

Quarterly Acheivement Award

Despite not being able to run as a club for some time, some of Okehampton Running Club’s business is carrying on as usual. Included in this was the presentation of the ORC Cup, a quarterly trophy awarded to a member for outstanding effort and achievement in the previous three months. On Thursday Mags Jarvis presented Joseph Lynch with the cup in recognition of his enthusiastic participation in the ORC challenges that have taken place fortnightly since lockdown. Joseph, who has Downes Syndrome, together with his mum Charlotte and Mags made up the Step By Step team for the Half Marathon Challenge, with Joseph coming up with the team name and organising the distances each would run. He also took it upon himself to start up an online fundraising page to raise £100 for Parkinsons UK aware that Mags, who has Parkinson’s, wasn’t going to be able to raise money for them with the London Marathon being cancelled. In a very short time he exceeded his target, eventually raising £655. Joseph was very proud and pleased to win the cup, already engraved with his name.

Special event weekend

Okehampton Running Club’s fortnightly Challenge this weekend was to complete a run that was “special”. This could be a route that is special, running with someone special or anything that makes it a special run. As always social distancing had to be maintained between runners and a picture posted on the club’s Facebook page as evidence of the run.

For many the special thing about their runs was the company they shared it with and about the support and encouragement they gave.  Paul Evison ran with his daughter Karen and grandson, Karen having been the one to encourage Paul to take up running. Hannah Ramsey and Debs Crome enjoyed each others company for the first time since March with a wild, wet and windy run on the moors. Claire Sprague, Jackie Dawes, Jessica Corcoran, Sarah Bell and Katie Sherjan met up for an early run in Fingle Woods on Saturday morning enjoying a post run picnic breakfast together after.

Once again this was open to ex-members, some of whom have rejoined the club having enjoyed the support of club members through Lockdown. Cathy Carey was one such ex-member, who had lost the love of running slightly, but through these challenges and the company of others, both virtual and real, has embraced running once more, rejoining the club. Her special run with friends saw her hit her target of running 200k in a month for the first time.

Two of ORC’s senior members Jane Richardson and Jane Jackson shared their first runs with a fellow ORC since Lockdown. Jane Richardson had self isolated completely until 2 weeks ago doing all her running round her garden and wearing a deep groove in the ground in the process. She’s entered virtual races to keep her motivated and in March she decided to take up the Run Every Day Challenge. Sunday saw her 99th day of the challenge, just one day off her 100 day target, most of which was completed in the limited space of laps of her garden and having run over 200miles in the process. Jane is a true inspiration to all in the club.

When it came to special routes these varied from Christine Fritsch running the route of one of her favourite races, the Haytor Heller to Jodie Monnox and Gemma Lawson running on the Granite Way, where they completed their first 5k time trial after “graduating” from the Couch to 5k course. Anne and John Binns went to their local Parkrun course, the Tamar Lakes as like many other members they are missing their weekly Parkruns. Lucy Brint took to Simmons Park to run the route of the monthly Run in the Park which was her first run after finding she’d got a London Marathon place and Danniella Tansley returned to where she first wore a race bib and where she did her first Parkrun at Exeter Riverside.

For Karen King Lockdown has been tough as a key worker and coping with a family. Despite living in Okehampton for several years Karen had hardly ever been onto the moors until recently when she started going for walks up there with fellow ORC Jo Page and has grown to love Dartmoor, enjoying the time to escape all the stresses of lockdown. Fittingly her special run was on the moors with Jo and Hayden Bond.

Katy Graves and Carole Cornwall made their run special by dedicating it to their friend Kath Bolt who has passed away. They had all started running with the Women’s Running Network, long before ORC existed, all doing their coaching course together and will always have Kath in their hearts.

Two runners, Stuart Page and Robert Richards celebrated their birthdays at the weekend so their runs were on a special day.

Paul Crease has for some time been on a mission to “bag” every Tor on Dartmoor on his runs. This has led to some convoluted run routes, often with barely a path to follow and many hours out running on the remote areas of the moors. Sunday was indeed a special run for him as he finally completed his mission, having bagged 415 Tors, 55 Hills, covering 615 miles with 100,487ft ascent over 52 runs. That definitely qualifies as a special achievement.

Once again thanks to Robert Richards for setting the challenge and collating the results.

The “BIG” challenge event

Another running challenge was set for Okehampton Running Club members to tackle last weekend. This time it was just a one word challenge – BIG, leaving the members to put their own interpretation on it. Luckily, despite a bad forecast both days turned out to be pretty good weather conditions for running and many headed out to the moors to make their runs BIG on elevation.


High Willhays was the most popular spot, being the highest point in the south of England and with a total of 12 ORCs choosing to run up this big hill, some taking in Yes Tor too. Robert Richards didn’t visit High Willhays, as three times up and down Yes Tor from different directions was sufficient for his BIG run with an elevation of over 1,000m. With the easing of lockdown guidelines it was now possible for groups of up to 6 people to run together while maintaining a social distance so a group of 5 visited these two high points early Saturday morning when the run was best described as windy, foggy and boggy – Dartmoor at its best!

Just running on the moors was a BIG challenge for some of the confirmed road runners in the club, so moor runner Ali Holiday guided a group out to one of her favourite high places on the moors, Hangingstone Hill.

Joe Lane enjoyed a misty run early on Saturday when he based his route on the letters B.I.G being the first letter of places visited. These were Belstone Tor, Ivy Tor and much further away, Garteven Ford, though the inclusion of this was probably just an excuse for a long run on the moors!

There were some inspiring runs from members who used the challenge to take on runs of a bigger distance than they’d ever done. Gemma Lawson and Jodie Monnox were completely new to running when they took part in the club’s Couch to 5k course and gradually they have increased the distance of their runs until this weekend when they both did their BIGGEST runs ever, completing a half marathon.

Robert Kelly took the biggest run theme to another level. Having had his favourite race, the 32mile Dartmoor Discovery, cancelled this year, and having just turned 40 he decided to do a 40 mile run, his BIGGEST run ever. Running repeated out and back loops on the Granite Way, he stopped only to take on board food and talk to his family who had come out to support him. 

BIG became a relative word for runners coming back from injury. One of the club’s most senior runners, Janet White, broke her ankle last year while running on the moors. The timing was bad with first Christmas, then bad weather and finally Lockdown making it hard for her to get back into some sort of running routine. Recently she started a return to running program so 5 times 4minute runs was a Big mark in her comeback and the club members look forward to seeing her out on the moors once more. BIG was also relative for ORC’s most senior runner, Jane Richardson who has spent the last 12weeks in complete lockdown, only running round her garden, so a 3k run certainly felt BIG.

There were several attempts at “Strava art” by members to “write” the words BIG with their route showing on their Strava running app. Ricky Davies’ was the best of these, with a well planned and very readable BIG-on-a-stick!

Sunday saw some very BIG runs too. Jo Page and Jo Turner had a lovely morning running the Dartmoor 600’s, a 19 mile self chosen route covering all of Dartmoor’s peaks over 600m.

The word BIG didn’t really begin to describe the run taken on by three ORCs and a friend who followed the route of the Dartmoor Perambulation. This is an ancient route dating back to 1240 when King Henry III decreed that the Sheriff of Devon and 12 lawful knights of the country” should confirm the boundary of the Forest of Dartmoor. 780 years ago this was completed on horseback, and the runner’s route visited all the points listed in the original boundary perambulation, resulting in a run of 48miles across rough terrain with an ascent of over 2,200m.

Five ORC ladies made up a virtual relay team over the weekend, taking part in the V55 category of the Eikden Relays, a virtual race with the runners total distance covering a full marathon, 42k. With a few last-minute reshuffles of the team due to injury and one team member thinking she was older than she was, Claudine Benstead ran two legs and Michelle Luddington stepped in to take the other vacant leg. They, together with Mags Jarvis, Jaqueline Rice and Jane Jackson were pleased to find their team had come third.