Autumn Handicap, 7th November 2022

A good attendance for Monday’s Autumn Handicap, pushed back by a week for Halloween, with 37 runners taking part on the night. Somewhat surprisingly, the wind proved less of a hindrance than expected, and with temperatures in the balmy lower teens, conditions were pretty favourable.

As usual, a handful of guests were involved, including regular Silvia Velastegui, Ben Hardy’s wife Hannah, and your friendly local Parkrun director, Dave Nolan. Tom Tinsley and Lena Webster-Costella were our selfless guide-runners this time out, though Lena bowed out around the halfway point after finding her charges were pushing on slightly faster than she was prepared for, having recently returned from illness and injury. A valiant effort nonetheless! Charlotte Johnston, Margaux Robin and Tara Hipwood merit a mention for powering through, barely 24 hours after their half and marathon stints on the Town Moor.

Continuing her sizzling return to form, and running her first competitive handicap in a while, María Dueñas came home in first place, managing to hold off the challenge of newcomer Kimberley Metson. Their impressive performances will no doubt see them handed a tougher handicap by the powers that be for the Winter race! Another runner currently hitting his straps, Ben Hardy crossed the line in third (leaving me stranded in the no-mans’ land of 4th place).

A testosterone-heavy Autumn Cup was contested by Kris Axon, Dave Roberts, Jamie Harding and Callum Whitehead, with Dave adding to his victory in the previous Winter Cup, finishing 13 seconds and 3 places ahead of Kris. Congratulations once again to Dave, most likely sitting munching his victory biscuits and admiring his trophy as you read this! Callum and Jamie will both get the chance to challenge again in January, with the final quartet being completed by myself and José Gallego Parilla.

Kris can take some solace in defeat, as he claimed both runner-up biscuits and his usual accolade of fastest performer on the night (21:53). After Kris’ recent transfer, none of the 3 fastest men were actually Claremont first-claimers, with Jonathan Gilroy (23:22) and Dave Nolan (25:37) making up the triumvirate. Nikoletta Szlovak carried over her serial parkrun-habit of being fastest lady (26:41), depriving María of a double-victory (27:48), and followed by Sarah Kerr (27:51).

A new venue for the social on this occasion, and despite it being a bit of a tight squeeze alongside a handful of presumably bemused regulars, I think most would agree that the Mean-Eyed Cat was a successful relocation. A good atmosphere and a seemingly endless supply of pizza (I was not alone in walking off with a whole one at the end of the evening) made for a satisfying post-run experience. Kudos to Cath for providing a marker pen for Gill to hastily label the avalanche of pizza boxes, making it easier for us to identify the different varieties! As well as her tireless work behind the scenes in helping the social be a success, Gill also went above and beyond, sourcing a gluten-free option from Pizza Express after one had failed to materialise.

Big thanks to Anna as ever for organising the venue and food, some may not be aware of how much thorough research and negotiation went into finding an alternative to the North Terrace. Thanks of course to Hazel and the team of volunteers. A well-drilled crew, and the encouragement of the marshal’s spread along the course helped ensure smooth running of the event (and smoother running from the runners!) Well done to Dave and Rose for their efforts in trialling the barcode system, and as always many thanks to Tom for his swift processing of the results. Thanks also to Izzy for reuniting me with my trainers, which I somehow managed to forget down at the Copthorne.

Provisional results here

Laurie Johnson -