2017 Race Report and Results

Race Results 2017:

See the link below which will take you to the excel spreadsheet of provisional results

St Albans Stampede 2017 Final Results

Race Report:

St Albans Stampede 2017 .  Let’s start at the end:

Race HQ filled with happy runners in various degrees of elation and exhaustion, energetically refuelling with pizza and beer.  Some clutching trophies and prizes earned from taking podium positions, others overjoyed to have broken personal bests, running further and faster than ever before.  Teams of friends and friendly rivals swapping stories of hard-fought races, weary soloists amazed at the speed of the team runners and those in teams in awe of the relentless drive of the soloists.   Headlights piercing the darkness as marshals venture from the far corners of the forest into the race HQ to share in the excited chatter of the runners they have spent all day cheering on.  447 runners, 1616 laps, 6464 miles- impressive numbers, all laid out on results spreadsheets.  But what are the stories behind those numbers, those split times, those lap counts and miles?  Let’s go back and see what happened on that bright, sunny day in Heartwood Forest.

The stand-out performance of the day arguably came in the Men’s Solo category, where Jay Macdonald stormed through 19 laps to take the solo male course record in his first time running this event.  76 miles in 11.28 is a very impressive achievement and sets an interesting target for other fast soloists in future years.  Onlookers commented on how relaxed he seemed the whole way round, making it look easy.  We don’t think he stopped once to visit race HQ, instead staying out on the course and relentlessly moving forward at a steady, consistent pace which saw him finish two laps ahead of his closest competitors.  His emerged as the frontrunner before the race was half done, and towards the end his victory seemed, and indeed was assured. The second and third solo men were also newcomers to the event and both put in a creditable distance, both finishing with 17 laps (68 miles).  Peter Harvey completed the Stampede in 11.20, exactly 18 minutes ahead of third man Alan Clark in 11.38.  Both fantastic performances from two men who also looked fresh and relaxed whenever we saw them.  Alan was often only a few minutes behind Peter, who had to work hard to maintain his second place.  Notably, the difference between the three men’s fastest and average laps was less than 7 minutes- less than 3 in Alan’s case- a clear demonstration of the value of consistent pacing.  Well done to the three of them and indeed to all 55 male soloists; a number only one fewer than the total number of men and women in this category last year.

If the likely outcome of the men’s race took a few hours to become clear, the likely winner of the women’s solo category seemed certain from very early on- in so much as any outcome can be certain in a 12 hour race.  Laura Hicks won the race outright last year, and finished with 17 laps in 11.20; twenty minutes faster than her time last year over the same distance (68 miles).  Laura’s real race wasn’t so much against the others in her category; she was always some way ahead; but rather against the men, and she was pleased to finish 18 seconds ahead of Peter Harvey to take second place overall.  Laura once again ran a steady, well-paced race and shunned the race HQ (we won’t take it personally!), preferring to spend her time pushing forward on the course- a tactic which clearly paid off.  As with Jay, the mystery of how anyone could run so far, so fast, yet appear so relaxed and happy was asked; Laura was clearly enjoying this, her third Stampede.  If Laura’s victory was- if not a foregone conclusion then fairly likely- the same could not be said for the 2nd and 3rd positions in this category.  A three-way battle between Clair Drage, Alison Campbell and Jackie Downes saw frequent changing of positions, until the end of Clair’s 10th lap when her club mates gathered at the finishing line to offer some “gentle words of encouragement”- it seems to have worked as her final 4 laps were considerably faster than those preceding them.  Another fantastic performance, finishing 2nd with 14 laps; two more laps and four finish positions higher than last year.  Alison was overjoyed to finish in 3rd with 12 laps; one more lap than last year and also four places higher.  The news of Alison’s podium place was a shock to her as she was convinced she’d finished in 4th; a position taken by Jackie only six minutes behind.  A great, exciting race in a tough category that had almost 7 times the number of competitors as in 2015.  Congratulations to all.

Another outstanding performance came from the St Albans Striders Team 1 in the team of 4 category.  St Albans Striders have won the team race for 3 years in a row; the composition of the team changing each year but always containing a tried-and-tested combination of Steve Buckle and three other speedy Striders men.  This year, Simon Fraser returned after a year’s absence along with newcomers Joe Dunn and Tim Searle.   The team dominated from the start, ending up completing a fantastic 28 laps, 4 ahead of their closest rivals.  Steve set the tone from the start, running the fastest lap of anyone all day on the first lap (an incredible 21.54), and the team never let up after that, with all but their final lap taking less than 30 minutes to complete.  In between, they rested and relaxed at the campsite and finish line, encouraging and supporting other teams and soloists in the best Stampede style.  They were followed up by another team of Striders men in team ‘Run Forest Run,’ with Doug Hobson, Christopher Curran, David Holcroft and Mike Lancaster completing an excellent 24 laps and holding off Pizza Go-Rilla (Ben Harrold, Richard Harrold, Sophie Harney and Laurence Thraves) who finished with the same number of laps and an average lap time only six seconds behind the second place finishers.  A great performance by all three teams.  Four teams of 8 contested their category this year, with just one podium position up for grabs.  “Run Together Standalone” from North Herts Roadrunners took the prize and the glory with 20 laps, just 80 seconds ahead of “Mums on the Run” after being neck and neck all day.  Well done to them!

The pairs category prizes were fought out between 26 individuals in what was one of the most competitive categories of the day.  “Prefer to Run up a Bar Bill” (Paul and Kevin Brennan) and “Best Foot Forwards” (Samuel Kendall-Windless and Tom Davey) vied with each other all day for first place over 22 laps (88 miles), with the Brennans eventually taking victory by 9 minutes.  Harpenden Arrows’ Lyndon Hearn and David Barr’s “Agony in De Feet” may have had sore feet after running 21 laps (84 miles) between them, but no defeat for them- they were happy with a third place hard-fought against their challengers from Team Hosty, who took fourth place.  Our prize for fastest female lap came from the pairs category this year, with Ania Gabb storming 4 miles in 26.22 to claim the glory of being the fastest woman on the course all day- a win she was determined to win, and did in style.  Congratulations to her and the other victors.
Results spreadsheets filled with numbers of laps and mileage and split times can’t really tell the whole story of the race, or capture the magic which makes the Stampede so special.  It’s a magic that appears in the smiley face and encouraging slogans trodden into the gravel by marshals striving to support the runners every step of the way.  It sees a runner determinedly venture out onto the course with half an hour to go, knowing that finishing in time is unlikely but going for it anyway. It reflects in the smile of a runner returning from injury who has just run further than ever before.  A magic created by runners loaning headtorches to rival teams, cheering on their competitors and generating an atmosphere described by more than one person being more festival than race.  We’d like to thank all of you for helping make that magic.

We at St Albans Striders are so proud of our Stampede and of all of you who ran in it; thanks to all of you- we can’t wait to see you next year for more of the same!