PUT simply: there is no ‘easy’ stage in the Hilly 100.
But the 100-mile relay race around the Cotswolds was made even tougher by demanding weather conditions on Sunday.
Hosted by Stratford Athletic Club, the annual 10-stage relay starts at the iconic American Fountain in Stratford before heading on a circuit into the Cotswolds before heading back to finish at Stratford Sports Club.
The first leg runners benefit from the flattest stage but also have to set off in the early hours of the morning.
The runners covering the middle parts of the race were this year confronted with a torrential downpour.
The athletes in the latter stages, meanwhile, had to contend with temperatures ranging from 24 degrees C to 27C.
In addition to hosting and organising the event, Stratford AC fielded three squads for this year’s race: an all-men’s team plus two mixed teams.
Kenilworth won the men’s race in 10:16:14 while Leamington was the only other team to finish inside 11 hours, taking second place in 10:33:09.
Stratford AC’s men’s team completed the 100 miles in a highly respectable 11:38:05.
One month after his runner-up finish at the Blackpool Marathon, Neil Wicks got Stratford AC off to a flying start by covering the opening stage in 58:38 to hand over to Kieran Tursner.
After a fast opening mile, Tursner had to work hard to maintain his pace but he produced a solid 1:10:21 clocking on what’s considered to be one of the toughest stages of the race.
Club stalwart Rob Minton, who was also helping to coordinate the men’s team, covered the third stage in 1:11:04 before handing over to Drew Sambridge, who recorded 1:10:44 on stage four, another of the more hilly legs.
James Coy took up the running on stage five, just as the heavens opened.
He clocked 1:12:02 for his leg and then handed on to Chris Cond as the midday temperatures and humidity continued to rise.
“That was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever done,” said Cond, who covered his stage in 1:10:23.
Richard Shephard produced Stratford AC’s second sub-60-minute stage of the day on leg seven and made up ground in the overall standings.
Sam Nicholson was on duty for the eighth stage, which stretched from Moreton in Marsh to Chipping Campden, and completed it in 1:25:57.
Dan Lynch blitzed the penultimate stage in roughly 66 minutes before handing on to Alex Hill, the youngest member of the team, who anchored Stratford AC with a 1:13:12 clocking on the final stage.
Stratford AC’s A and B mixed teams finished in 14:15:11 and 14:43:01 respectively.
The A team comprised Emma Bexson, Kaz Cookes, Ben Twyman, Emma Donnelly, Rebecca Wass, Stuart Griffiths, Ashley Habel, Tara Lambert, Gavin Lambert and Nic Reynolds, while the B team featured Lynne Hinson, Alan Caldicott, Rebecca Pridham, Spesh Maloney, Ryan Bakewell, Alan Dwyer, Tim Owrid, Phil Brennan, Peter Sugden and Robin Kindersley.