Pearl Fay wins Winter 5k Handicap; Newmarket Joggers triumph in inter-club challenge

NJ Virtual 5k Handicap: Joggers’ longtime member Pearl Fay was a surprise, and deserving, winner of this month’s virtual 5k Winter Handicap, the penultimate fixture of the series. She had done well to finish third the month before, yet still managed to take 3 minutes 32 seconds off her previous time to finish in 30:46, her fastest 5k for the club since she clocked 29:16 in 2015, according to our archived records. Not far behind, in 2nd place, came Alison Mckenzie, 2 min 36 sec ahead of her previous time, followed by Wayne Hargreaves in 3rd, 1 minute 51 seconds quicker than last time. Mckenzie and Hargreaves are both clearly on the upgrade and improving all the time. Members were invited to take part from March 1st to 7th, by timing themselves around a local 5km route of their choice, following strict Covid-19 lockdown rules.

NJ Time Trial: Concomitant with the handicap race above is a challenge to find the fastest male and female runner of the series; also the opportunity for all runners to assess their progress and, if possible, post their best times of the season. There is currently a ding-dong battle for the fastest men’s time of the series, between Jimmy Smith and Chris Gay. This month, Gay initially posted the lowest time of 16:35, an all-time unofficial PB, until Smith undercut him a few days later with his own all-time unofficial PB of 16:23, which now stands as the fastest men’s time, with just one more fixture to go in April. Third quickest male runner was James Thomson (19:43), showing he’s right back in business. For the women, Hannah Parsons returned, after a few months on the sidelines, to put in the fastest time of the month at 22:01. Next came Danielle Jones (23:50), in top form for her first run of the series, followed by the redoubtable Claire Acklam (25:10). Hannah Parsons’ time of 21:32, recorded last November, still stands as the fastest female time of the series so far.

Time Trial Age Graders: In terms of age graded performance, the top three women runners were: Claire Acklam (72.78%), Hannah Parsons (71.39%) and Jan Holmes (62.20%). Great performances by Claire Acklam and Hannah Parsons. Also nice to see Jan Holmes doing so well, despite being dogged by injury problems. For the men, the leading age grade runners were: Jimmy Smith (84.23%), Chris Gay (80.40%) and Stuart Sowerby (71.02%). This effort pushed Jimmy Smith up to the highest age grade performance posted in the club so far in 2021. It’s also the first time Chris Gay has ever achieved over 80% while at the club (since records began in 2018), so he’s in great form too. Stuart Sowerby continues to run to a very high standard.

Another of Richard Jones’ classic collection: Early morning sky, near Cheveley

Inter Club Mileage Challenge: Newmarket Joggers entered a lockdown challenge with four other local running clubs, to see who could post the most running distance per club member over the week from Monday March 1st to Sunday March 7th 2021. The gauntlet was thrown down by Haverhill Running Club, and it was soon picked up by Newmarket Joggers, St Edmund Pacers (Bury St Edmunds), Saffron Striders (Saffron Walden) and Sudbury Joggers. During the week of the challenge, no one but the organisers knew who was in the lead. So it was a very welcome surprise when the results were announced on March 9th, with Newmarket Joggers found to be clear leaders, with a total of 1,517 miles at an average 11.5 miles per club member (132 current members).  Haverhill RC were top on total mileage (2,215 miles, 240 members, 9.2 miles/member) but were just pipped by Saffron Striders for second place (1898 miles, 204 members, 9.3 miles/member). St Edmund Pacers were a close 4th (1683 miles, 187 members, 9.0 miles/member) with Sudbury Joggers in 5th (413 miles, 79 members, 5.2 miles per member). So, a welcome piece of good news for the Joggers, against the backdrop of a rather bleak running scene caused by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past year. Well done to all the contributors!

A wintry dusk in Dullingham.

Appalachian Trail Challenge: The Joggers’ Blue and White teams (chosen by the club secretary Sianie Painter to be balanced teams from all those who wished to take part) completed the virtual 2,193 mile distance challenge of the Appalachian Trail (up the eastern side of the USA from Georgia to Maine), with Blue Team arriving in Maine two days ahead of White Team. All the running mileage of each team member was totaled up from February 1st until the challenge was completed during the first week of March. It was another of the virtual events which Sianie Painter has been organising for the Joggers throughout the Covid-19 crisis, to help keep club members motivated and entertained.

The next challenge will be in April, when members have to try to accrue the amount of running elevation gain equivalent to climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland, Mount Snowdon in Wales, and Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain in the Lake District. Still ongoing, of course, is the 2021 ‘Champagne Challenge’, in which the total running distance of each NJ Strava Club member is added up over the year and awards earned according to a scale based on the size of Champagne bottles in litres. See NJ Strava Club for details.