What a race that was!
The battle for the top places in the Solo category was one of the highlights of the day. Early indications were that Fabio Rizzo Cascio would take home the prize. Having dropped out early in 2015 after putting in some blisteringly fast laps, it was unclear how far he would go this time. The first- and indeed majority of his laps- were at a speedy pace but then he dropped out of sight. Had he left for the day? Rumours flew around like the rain-soaked wind above our heads. He reappeared for a final 3.5 hour lap, having stopped at 15 laps with 3 and a half hours to go to save himself for an upcoming 12 hour track race and then run/walking with his wife for one last lap. Meanwhile, St Albans Striders’ Andrew Mckillop, who had been in 2nd place among the men, pushed on through the rain to take a well deserved and hard earned 1st place trophy in the solo male category, with both men completing 16 laps.
A great performance by both, but the class act of the day was Laura Hicks of Harpenden Arrows, who came into the race having completed 40 miles as part of a pair last year and was aiming for 16 laps this year. In the end she triumphed with 17; making her not only first lady but overall champion of all the soloists. An outright female winner is more common in ultramarathons than other distances but is still a rare achievement in running and it was wonderful to see Laura claim her prize. We barely saw her all day inside the Scout Hut and any trips she may have made must have been quick ones- her lap times were very consistent given the duration of the event; going to show that limiting time off course is key to a successful performance. Laura’s victory was hard earned and the result of sustained, controlled, intelligent effort. Nick Steel finished as 3rd man after putting a strong performance, finishing in 16 laps, just 3 seconds behind Fabio- with all 3 men having covered the same distance. The battle for the remaining solo spots in the ladies competition was played out between Jan Strachan and Julie Calkins, with both finishing within 8 minutes of eachother to claim 2nd and 3rd places with the same distance of 14 laps covered. Great efforts by all our soloists.
In the team of 4 category, there is perhaps less to write about but that’s an indication of the lack of plot twists rather than any lack of grit and iron will demonstrated on the course. The action was played out between two groups of St Albans Striders men (Fearful Foursome and Runsketeers) and one from Stopsley Striders. All three teams were clearly gunning for the podium positions but it was the Fearful Foursome (Steve Buckle, Gary Warren, Peter Crowdell and last-minute addition Nick Pattison) who made their intentions clearest from the start, laying down a 21 minute first lap. Team champions in 2015 as the ‘Awesome Foursome,’ it was difficult to know what the ‘Fearful’ Foursome were scared of- their performance was more Fearsome and Fearless. (The Stopsley men (Nathan Scott, Paul Davies, Gez Fallon and Mark Sains) and Runsketeers (Mike Martin, Seb Rowe, Jim King and Gareth Beavis) could never quite keep up but were never too far behind. With 12 hours to play with, there are few if any foregone conclusions, and the story which played out was of 12 men pushing hard for glory for themselves and their clubs. In the end, Stopsley finished with 26 laps, Runsketeers 27 and the Striders Foursome an amazing 29 laps- a new course record and beating their previous year’s performance by one lap. In fact, they were the last runners in any category to cross the line within the time limit, showing again that staying out on the course pays dividends. The four crossed the line as one, having run the last lap together- as did the Runsketeers, who will surely be delighted with their second place. The overall winners of the new team of 8 category were the Magnificent Stag Seven who completed 28 fast laps between them, taking home both the prizes for Fastest Male and Female Lap. Congtratulations to Alex Lepretre and Joanne Kent. It would be interesting to know what outcome a split in this team might have had on the 4 category!
Running for 12 hours is hard and we make it harder by strictly imposing a 12 hour cut off time. A lap must be finished by 9pm to count. Soon after the winning team of 4 had crossed the line, we knew that there was at least one more runner left out on the course. At 8.58, we saw headtorches down in the carpark. Would that light, and the wet, cold, weary runner to whom it was attached make it across the line in time? Sadly it was not to be. St Albans’ Richard Olney crossed the line only 22 seconds too late, in a heartbreaking finish. In a pair with Stephen Elkan, Richard had run as a soloist for hours due to Stephen retiring with injury. This just made those 22 second seem even more bitter. There was a silver lining though- a 3rd place trophy in the Pairs category after 17 laps. Second place went to Brighton Buses Go Round and Round- with Julie Drake and Richard Sansom bringing their delightful dog with them on a trip up from the coast- taking in turns dog-sitting while the other ran and not really seeing much of eachother the whole day except at the changeover point. They matched St Albans Striders’ Carol Ransom and Michael Brady for distance (19 laps) but couldn’t quite get to the finish in time. The Striders duo finished 7 minutes ahead to take the title of First Pair.
We celebrate our winners and are in awe of their achievements, but the Stampede isn’t just about them. It’s about everyone who puts in time on the course, who starts on that path facing up that hill and makes their way towards the finish. Some dropped due to unfortunate injury while the sun was still shining, others did their marathon (+2 miles) and then left contented. Many pushed on as the rain came down and darkness settled across the fields, surprising themselves by running further and faster than they had thought possible. Cohesive teams supported eachother but cheered on the maverick soloists; some with faces grim and fraught with tension, others relaxed and smiling. Fast and slow ran together through the forest, supported by the ever-cheerful and enthusiastic band of St Albans Striders marshals. Moments were created and memories made.
Amy and I would like to thank all the runners for your determined efforts to excel while having fun on what was definitely not the easiest of days to run. So many comments about the incredible atmosphere on the day- an atmosphere created by you, the runners- each and every one. Congratulations to you all. We’d love to see you again next year.
Full results can be seen here: copy-of-full-results-inc-laps