Kevin Henry virtual 5K Ely: Malcolm Osbourn storms into the lead in Men’s Grand Prix

KEVIN HENRY VIRTUAL RESULTS:  The results of the Kevin Henry Virtual 5K Ely are now out. There was a very good virtual turnout of 505 participants from the 8 clubs represented in the League: Haverhill RC (113 participants), Ely Runners (100), Cambridge & Coleridge AC (64), Histon & Impington Runners (64), Saffron Striders (58), Newmarket Joggers (53), Cambridge Tri Club (46) and Royston Runners (7). That would probably be more than would have happened in reality. Cambridge & Coleridge are well ahead in this first official virtual fixture, as would be expected from their elite team, which included world class wheelchair athlete Claire Connon. Newmarket Joggers are in 6th position in both the men’s and women’s competitions but 7th of the 8 teams in the combined, so a rather shaky start.

Newmarket Joggers fielded 33 women and 20 men. Our top 5 scoring women were: Troi Baxter 21:27, 23rd; Hannah Parsons 22:03, 26th; Sarah Boneham 22:50, 32ndClaire Acklam 24:04, 45th; Ellie Bithell 24:49, 53rd. The top 5 men were: Jimmy Smith 16:45, 5th; Paul Holley 17:38, 14th; Bertie Tweed 18:56, 33rd; Jamie Rule 19:52, 53rd; Marc Drury 20:04, 60th. Congratulations to those fastest runners for the club. Well done also to those achieving top age grades. The top 3 women according to age grade were Claire Acklam 75.81%; Sarah Boneham 70.80%; Hannah Parsons 70.67%. The top 3 men: Paul Holley 86.29%; Jimmy Smith 81.89%; Marc Drury 70.84%. There were many other excellent performances from individual Newmarket Joggers and thanks to all our runners for turning out to help increase our total points total. For the full results please see:

Full Results

NJ GRAND PRIX:  This virtual Kevin Henry fixture counts towards the NJ Grand Prix. As a result, Malcolm Osbourn has stormed to the top of the Men’s Grand Prix table with 249 points, ahead of Paul Holley, who has forged into second place on 238 points. It was an excellent performance by Osbourn, who clocked 26:24 with an age grade of  68.81%. The previous long-time leader Neville Clarke missed this race and now stands third on 199 points. In the Women’s Grand Prix, Sianie Painter has maintained her lead on 225 points from Jenny Osbourn on 166 points and Christine Windsor on 165. Well done to them all.

Malcolm Osbourn, shown with head visor and blue top in the final Suffolk Winter league fixture at Woodton, near Bungay, on March 8th, two weeks before lockdown,

Just in case it has put some members off, it might be worth mentioning that a GPS watch, although very convenient, is not essential to take part in these Kevin Henry virtual races. They are open to all paid up members of the club and do not have to be shown on Strava. All that is needed is a means of timing oneself over a known distance of 5K, such as the NJ 5K Handicap course, the NJ 5K Kevin Henry course on Newmarket Heath or perhaps a familiar parkrun or GRL course where you know the start and finish points. A stopwatch or an ordinary watch with a second hand would do the job if necessary. As a guideline, the course should start and finish at about the same elevation and be completed in one session, with any stops included in the time.

CLUB VIRTUAL CHALLENGES: Club Secretary Sianie Painter has kept us all busy and entertained during May with two very popular virtual challenges on Strava. These did need to be uploaded from a GPS watch or iPhone to Strava! First, the whole of the month was the ‘Climb a Mountain’ challenge, where all members were invited to join in and pretend they had climbed various hills and mountains, mostly in the UK, according to the accumulated elevation gained from their runs during May. The highest mountain in British Territory is actually Mount Hope in Antarctica at some 10,000 ft. At the last update, this had been reached by Jimmy Smith and Henry Hamilton-Gould with Ruth Eberhardt in hot pursuit. The final mountain after Mount Hope was Everest at 29,000 ft. Jimmy Smith was getting high enough for an oxygen cylinder but probably ran out of time!

The other challenge was the Land’s End to John O’ Groats battle between the White Team and the Blue Team, which started in the middle of May. Those in the ‘Newmarket Joggers in Exile’ Strava club were split into two teams according to the first letters of their forenames and all their uploaded run distances counted towards their team’s progress to John O’ Groats. It was an exciting contest and Sianie kept us all regularly updated with a large map of the UK, showing us which towns we had reached. At first, Blue Team were ahead but they were eventually overhauled by White Team, who reached John O’ Groats on May 30th, with just one day to go, 22 miles ahead of Blue Team (see file below).

Land’s End to John O’ Groats

Thanks to Sianie for all the effort she put in to keep us all amused and clocking up the runs. Looking to the near future, it should be the next Kevin Henry Virtual 5K soon, which would have been our own June event and taken place on Newmarket Heath behind the Rowley Mile racecourse. There is also a virtual Ekiden Relay in the planning but that will not be until July. These can be the immediate focus of our attention and motivation.

NOTES ON THE KEVIN HENRY SCORING SYSTEM:  There is quite a complicated scoring system in the Kevin Henry League making it opaque or confusing to many participants. At present, the first 5 women and first 5 men in each club score points according to their finishing position within their own gender, with the lowest total points counting top. So if a club’s first 5 men or women came 2nd, 9th, 11st, 15th and 26th in their gender, their score would be 63. These leading runners in each club and gender used to be the only ones counting towards the results. Everybody else was an also-ran. There was a good reason for this. It gave all teams, regardless of size, a fair chance to compete at the top level. So a small high class club could compete on equal terms with a much larger club. This basic system is still used in most national and county championships in order to showcase the most talented road, track and cross country runners who may one day represent team GB.

Back to the Kevin Henry League scoring method. If using the lowest position scoring method for all the club’s runners, such as all the finishing positions added together, the ones with the most participants would come near the bottom every time with the highest total, due to all the slower runners’ positions adding up. If on the other hand they converted the finishing positions to positive points by subtracting from a certain number higher than the total runners, a larger team would have a big advantage over a smaller team. For example, they might subtract the finishing positions from 301, giving the overall leading runner 300 points. So, in the example above, the 2nd, 9th, 11th, 15th and 26th man or woman in the club would score 299, 292, 290, 286 and 275 points respectively. Fine for the top 5. However, if they continued to score every runner like this, their points would soon rack up to a large amount for the larger teams, giving them the clear advantage over smaller teams.

So there was a dilemma in trying to give all the runners in a club a feeling that they were contributing to the result and not simply also-rans, without favouring either the smallest clubs or the largest clubs. They came up with the idea of giving everybody outside the top 5, one point towards the team’s total score. They could have chosen to convert the top 5 position points to a positive high-scoring system by subtracting from a fixed amount, such as the 301 mentioned above. Then the single point for every runners outside the top 5 would have simply added on to the total….much easier to understand and no negative values for team points. However, they chose instead to keep the lowest points system for the top 5, so it had to be a negative point for the ‘also-rans’ to reduce the total further, often into below zero territory. This is where the most confusion arises. So to get the men’s and women’s team points, they take the total of the first 5 finishing positions and subtract one point for every runner fielded. It does give everyone a sense that they are contributing to the result and also encourages clubs to put out the largest fields they can. It tends to favour the larger clubs who can field large turnouts but does make it more inclusive for all club members.

The scoring system doesn’t stop there. The next stage is to take all the combined scores for the 8 clubs and put them in order of total points, say from -56 points through to +302. Then the points are reallocated as 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 according to the finishing order of the clubs from 1st to 8th. So now we are back in positive territory again with 8 points being top. All the detailed points vanish and are replaced by a simple positive score from 8 down to 1. It has probably been done to keep the league more competitively even and stop the best teams running away with a big points score which cannot be caught later in the season. So even if a club were 500 position points in the lead after one fixture, the most points they would earn would be 1 point over the second placed team, i.e. 8 points compared to 7. Hopefully, that has made the scoring a little clearer!