Barnett-coached duo stay on track for success at Railway Ultra

Melissa Venables on her way to first female in the 28-mile Railway Ultra Race.
Melissa Venables on her way to first female in the 28-mile Railway Ultra Race.

Two Les Barnett-coached athletes dominated proceedings at the Railway Ultra Race near Coalport in Shropshire.

The race gave athletes the choice of running either 28 miles or 38 miles on an out and back course of approximately 9.5 miles along the former line of the Severn Valley Railway.

Spa Striders’ Mel Venables chose the 28-mile race as her first venture into a single race challenge beyond the marathon distance while Leamington C&AC’s Sue Harrison elected to run the longer distance as part of her preparations for the World 100k Championships in September.

Barnett asked both athletes to run the first half of their events in a controlled manner before gently picking up the pace over the second half and they followed the instructions to the letter.

Venables ran the first half of her race in 1hr 57min 11sec to lie 12th overall, with two other women in front of her.

As the race progressed she continued to pick up places, running the second half nearly four minutes quicker to be rewarded with a superb sixth place overall and victory in the ladies’ race.

Venables said: “I felt strong and controlled throughout.”

Harrison was equally controlled, with her four separate nine-mile splits at 69:06, 69:40, 69:20 and 68:42.

At the midpoint of her race she was in sixth place, progressing through the field to finish first lady and second overall, just under two minutes behind winner Thomas Coney (Avon Valley Runners).

Her time of 4:51:20 was almost 25 minutes quicker than the previous fastest mark by a lady over the course.

“I was set a target by our coach of running 7:45-miling and I actually ran just inside 7:40 per mile,” said Harrison.