Kenilworth Runners’ Phil Gould described it as “the best weekend of my running career” after mixing it with some of the region’s best athletes in the Midland Cross Country Championships on Saturday and then winning the fourth race of the Winter Threshold 10k Race Series the following day.
Men’s team captain Gould was the star Kenilworth Runner at the Saucony Midland Cross Country Championships at Stafford Common, making light work of terrible conditions to finish an outstanding 22nd.
After a week of snow and ice, race hosts Stafford AC did extremely well to stage the event at all.
Come Saturday, warmer temperatures meant competitors raced in the midst of a rapid thaw at Stafford Common.
This meant that while sections of the course, such as the long home straight, were partially snow-covered and very icy, by the time the senior men raced, the majority of the 10k course was ankle deep in mud.
Gould relished the tough conditions, though, and led home the senior men’s team in 36:06.
Such was the quality of his performance that he picked off at least one international scalp, and maybe as many as three, as he mixed company with runners who, on the road and track at least, have personal bests vastly superior to his.
He was followed by Jim Sawle, who was caught out tying his shoelaces as the race started but recovered excellently to finish 60th in 39:15.
The men’s team finished 12th out of 24 clubs with Stephen Page (107th, 41:57), Richard Steel (135th, 43:11), Mick Williams (149th, 44:03) and Roger Homes (163rd, 44:56) the other counters.
Andy Savery was Leamington C&AC’s first runner home, finishing just 20 seconds behind Gould in 26th place.
He was followed by Jamie Langley, who was 41st in 37:55.
Eoin O’Flynn had a excellent race, picking up places throughout, to close in at 84th (40:25) with Leamington C&AC masters athlete Craig Bower 120th (42:34).
Brian Miller (138th, 43:20) and Mike Denney (171st, 45:21) completed the scorers to lift Leamington to seventh in the team event.
The race, which had 307 finishers, was won by Conor Murphy of Leicester Triathlon Club in 33:38.
Other finishers (Leamington C&AC unless stated): 163, Tom Dable (Kenilworth Runners, 59:27); 181, Steve Roberts (46:05); 200, Paul Caruana (46:59), 218, Pete Taylor (48:14); 263, Graham Roberts (53:02)’ 300, Stef Shillington (Kenilworth Runners, 1:01:20).
In the ladies’ senior race, held over a shortened course of around 7k, Imogen Peace was the first Kenilworth Runner home in 65th position.
Her time of 30:48 was six minutes down on winner Juliet Doyle of Charnwood AC.
Peace was followed by Sara Habib, who ran well to finish 91st (33:25).
Sally Hicks was just over a minute behind Habib in 103rd, while Pauline Dable’s time of 44:03 included two minutes retrieving a shoe on the second lap.
Janet Mee was the only Leamington C&AC athlete taking part, coming home 128th in 37:54.
Other Kenilworth Runners finishers: 109, Sheela Kennedy (35:31); 130, Sara Monahan (38:41); 150, Nikki Atherton (42:21).
Leamington C&AC’s Callum Hanlon defied a foot injury to finish 24th (25:30) in the under-20 race on a course shortened to 7k.
Clubmate George Loveday was just 28 seconds back in 28th, with Paddy Roddy (Kenilworth Runners) splitting the Leamington duo to come 26th in 25:40.
A brilliant run from Leamington C&AC’s Isobel Davis netted her a silver medal in the under-15 event.
Davis produced a brave front run and despite being caught with 800m to go, showed resilience in the final 200m to claim silver in a time of 18:03.
Team-mate Rebecca Lord, in her first year of cross country, was 58th (22:40), with Asha Chakrabarti 72nd (24:43).
Leamington has a strong squad in the under-16 boys, with Dan Wilkinson (9th, 11:29), Keiren Chahal (14th, 11:42), Greg West (73rd, 13:36) and Toby Loveday (75th, 13:37) lifting the team to sixth overall.
Other results (Leamington C&AC unless stated): Under-15 boys: 45, Sam Wadsworth (18:12); 87, Freddie Loveday (20:45). Under-17 men: 53, Jack Savage (20:44); 59, Jonathon Brown (21:20); 64, Bryn Morgan (22:16); 65, Tristan Warren (22:31). Under-13 girls: 25, Molly Gibbons (12:54); 34, Catrin Treharne (13:08); 80, Georgia Clarke (14:07).
The following day, Gould showed no ill-effects from his sterling efforts at the Midlands Cross Country Championships as he led home a Kenilworth Runners 1-2-3 at the fourth race of the Threshold Winter Series 10k at Ilmington.
Snow drifts at the top of Larkstoke Hill meant the course was altered to take in multiple loops around Ilmington.
However, hopes the course would be less tough were dashed as they utilised an even steeper climb out of Ilmington, which led to an immediate descent once the hill finally plateaued.
Kenilworth Runners’ Paul Andrew led the race from the off, with Rich Simkiss and Gould in second and third, respectively.
Gould overhauled Simkiss at the hill before easing out a gap on Andrew by the bottom of the descent which he was able to maintain to the finish.
Clocking 36:29, he finished 24 seconds clear of Andrew, with Simkiss a further 27 second further back in third.
Also competing were Tom and Pauline Dable, with Tom finishing in 54:25 and Pauline claiming the V65 age category prize in 59:59.