STRATFORD Athletic Club’s Emma Bexson proved her credentials at Sunday’s seventh staging of the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon, writes David Jones.
This unique multi-terrain marathon features some fantastic views across Langstone Harbour and is run in aid of the RNLI.
It was a case of mixed fortunes for the two lady members of Stratford AC as they lined up on the start line.
Unfortunately for Lesley Kirk, having trained hard for this event, she felt really unwell, having come down with a nasty cold just a few days before.
This is every marathon runner’s worst nightmare but, despite this, Lesley was determined to give it a go and, having completed the Cheltenham Challenge marathon in June in normal circumstances, she would have expected to do well.
However, her illness took its toll. Despite this, she managed to complete half of the race, before sensibly deciding to drop out.
For the other Stratford runner, it was a completely different story. It is hard to believe that less than 12 months ago Emma Bexson was still in Coventry Hospital having undergone painful back surgery.
Her stay in hospital lasted several months, during which time she was confined to lying flat on her back, for pretty much the whole time.
Following her discharge from hospital, she had to wear a body brace for a lengthy period of time. For most people, that experience would have been enough to prevent them running, cycling or swimming ever again but Emma is made of sterner, much sterner, stuff.
She has spent 2016 returning to her formidable best, competing in park runs, triathlons, cross country races, track and field events and she even managed to complete the Marlow Half Marathon in November in a time of 1:36.43.
This, however, was her first full road marathon since competing in the London Marathon in 2009.
Amazingly, even more so when you consider what she has been through, her time at Portsmouth of 3:20.58 was 15 minutes quicker than in 2009.
In achieving this superb time, she finished 69th out of 1,014 finishers, was sixth lady to finish and third in her age group, a mere 15 seconds off second place.
Emma said it was a great race but she thought it was tough having to change terrain frequently and very slippery in places. It was also challenging running on the beach, especially at 21 miles when her legs were tired.
The race was won by Jonathan Albon in 2:31.14. First lady to finish, in 16th place, was Sarah Hill.
THE ANNUAL Hooky Christmas Canter cross country race took place over a picturesque 7(ish)-mile course.
Starting from the Hook Norton Sports & Social Club, the course takes runners through the beautiful Cotswold countryside.
For Stratford AC runner Sarah Wheeler, the name of the race would appear to be something of a misnomer as one thing Sarah does not do in a race is canter!
She is gradually returning to her formidable best after, by her standards, a year of relative inactivity as far as competitive running is concerned.
Sarah ran a superb race to record a time of 49.29 and in doing so finished 29th out of 230 runners and was second lady to finish.
Phillips Abrams of Stratford also competed the race in a satisfying 1:17.31, finishing 215th out of 230 runners who completed the race.
It was won by Stephen Naylor in 38.27 and the first lady to finish was Charlotte Everard in 48.18.
A TRIO of Stratford AC runners starred in the longer 20k version of the Raceways Christmas Cracker based at Warwickshire College in Moreton Morrell.
First to finish for the club and fifth overall was the talented Kate Wright in a time of 1:20.25, which placed her second lady overall.
Kate professed herself more than happy with the result, especially as she has only recently recovered from injury.
Next was James Cusack in 12th place in a time of 1:25.39. James has had a tough and demanding calendar of events in 2016 and, with a couple of marathons already pencilled in for 2017, he should be delighted with this performance.
The final Stratford runner to finish was Tim Tandy, delighted to be competing again after twisting his ankle in a recent cross country race on Clopton Fields.
Tim finished in 22nd place in a time of 1:33.31 as 97 runners completed the race, which was won by Michael Hallas in a time of 1:14.22. First lady to finish was Kelsey Wiberley in 1:18.55.
The shorter 10k race also saw three Stratford runners competing and first to finish in a magnificent time of 46.22 was 75-year-old Roger Wilson.
Needless to say, Roger was also first in his age category, even though it was for runners aged 65-plus.
Next to finish was the ubiquitous John Butler in 106th place in a time of 1:02.57. John was also third in his age group. Finally, Karen Jackson finished in 128th place in a time of 1:06.42 which was a very satisfactory result.