Newsdesk 2004

 Editor: Steve Rowland
 mailto: steverowland@ranelagh-harriers.com
 *  Surrey Road Relay gold medals for our men's over 40 and women's teams
 *  Relay course record for Jo Ronaldson
 *  37.33 10km by Ed Whitlock - new world age 73 best

 The fixture list for the 2004/05 winter season, can be found on our web site.
 More details of the following from
 Andy Bickerstaff (07966 552302 / mailto: andy@norris-hobs.co.uk ) or 
 Phil Aiken (07739 035189 / mailto: phil.aiken@rnid.org.uk ) or 
 Anna McLaughlin (07971 606521 / mailto: anna.mclaughlin@itv.com ).

 Saturday September 18th        124th Season Opening Run and Thomas Cup 3.8
 miles handicap at 3pm , preceded at 2.30pm by the annual club photograph.
 All members welcome - just turn up and enter on the day in the clubhouse.
 But PLEASE NOTE - if you haven't yet paid your subs for 2004/2005 you may
 not be permitted to take part - so bring a cheque! See our web site for more
 details about the race including the history of the Thomas Cup itself, and
 see below for details of the evening's party.

 Saturday September 25th        Men's Southern 6 stage relay (also 4 stage
 relay for veterans) at Rushmoor Arena, Aldershot. 12.30pm start.

 Sunday September 26th          Women's Southern 4 stage relay at Rushmoor
 Arena, Aldershot. 3.30pm start.

 Saturday October 2nd             Page Cup 5 miles handicap in Richmond Park.
 All members welcome - enter on the day in the clubhouse. 3pm start.

 Saturday October 9th             Surrey Women's Cross-Country League on
 Wimbledon Common starting at 12.30pm (seniors, followed by junior races)
                                              Surrey Men's Cross-Country
 League in Brockwell Park starting at 2.30pm (juniors, followed by seniors at

 Saturday October 16th           Surrey Veterans' Cross-Country Championships
 in Richmond Park (women 6km at 2.30pm, men 8km at 3pm)
                                             Invitation match v Oxford
 University and others at Shotover, Oxford. See below

 SOCIAL - OPENING RUN PARTY  Saturday 18th September
 This is being generously hosted by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, and all members and
 friends are welcome to attend. Joint Social Sec Marina Quayle writes:
 "It will begin at 7pm and we are asking people to bring food and wine. We
 hope it will be fine so that we can enjoy the garden and we hope to have a
 big turnout. The address is 13 Holmes Road, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham and
 people should contact either Jo Turner or myself on our mobiles should they
 have any queries. Jo's number is 07976 055856 and mine 07951 292379".

 Robin Drummond writes:
 "I am giving 4 x 15 minute coaching talks on Thursdays at 7pm, starting on
 the 23rd September. They are entitled 'Lose weight, get rich and knock ten
 minutes off your 10km pb' and subtitled 'How much do you want to improve?'
 All are welcome".

 ...has restarted on Saturday mornings at 10am. Training schedules should
 shortly appear on our web site, but in the meantime contact Frances
 Ratchford for more details (mailto:grapevineproductions@compuserve.com).

 Phil Aiken writes:
 "On Sunday September 26th our all-conquering women are competing in the
 South of England Road Relay Championships in Aldershot. I'm sure they'd
 appreciate some support but is anyone interested in running a race on the
 way as well? In the morning the Julian Farrell Memorial 10k takes place in
 Camberley and it is but a short journey from there to Aldershot. I'll
 investigate transport for those without cars but more details of the race
 can be found at www.camberleyathletics.org.uk".

 We've been invited back to a race that used to be a regular feature on our
 fixture list, thanks to Alice Beverly who is the University cross-country
 captain. Although it clashes with the Surrey veterans championships Andy
 Bickerstaff is keen to support this event, where there will be both men's
 and women's races. All are welcome to take part - contact Andy (details
 above) if interested.

 CABBAGE PATCH 10 miles road race  Sunday 17th October at Twickenham
 Note that entries are now closed.

 FOUNDERS' CHALLENGE  Sunday 17th October from Peaslake
 Peter Saw writes:
 "This is a 26 miles ramble through the Surrey Hills that will provide
 excellent training for all endurance athletes. You can run or walk as you
 please. Food at each of the checkpoints and a meal at the finish is included
 in the entry fee of 5.00 (less for LDWA members and entries received before
 the day). Entry forms in the clubhouse or see http://www.dasha.demon.co.uk.

 ...in the clubhouse on Tuesday 28th September starting at 8.30pm.

 ...to new members Monica Ayliffe, Diane Wilson, Kate Roberts, Margaret Fehn,
 Tanya Wolken, Valerie Witzel, Sian Tingley, Beverly Walsh, Louise Neville,
 Aileen Cahill, Kerry McLoughlin, Leanne Miles, Lucy Stevens, Lauren Shelley,
 Crispin Willis, Tim Nash, Peter Weir, Seb Jones.

 SURREY ROAD RELAY CHAMPIONSHIPS  Saturday 11th September at Wimbledon Park
 Until last year the Ranelagh women's team had placed in the medals twelve
 times since 1984 but never won golds. In 2003 the team of  Sarah Seal, Alice
 Beverly, Liz Kipling and Sara Grosvenor broke the duck and in 2004 Alice and
 Sara joined Jo Ronaldson and Estelle Damant to try to repeat the trick.

 On the opening stage, Jo gave us the best possible start by setting a
 marvellous new course record of 16.30. This was a great run and once again
 underlines the fantastic improvement that Jo has made over the past twelve
 months. She handed over to Estelle with the best part of a minute advantage
 over our main rivals. Estelle followed by Sara ran strong well-judged laps
 to maintain the lead but both South London and surprise packages Wimbledon
 Windmilers closed the gap, so that when Alice set off for the anchor stage
 she had just 15 seconds in hand over South London with the Windmilers a
 further 9 seconds back. The stage was set for a grandstand finish and we
 were not to be disappointed.

 South London's experienced Gill O'Connor set off with a will in pursuit of
 Alice, and Alice reports having been caught and passed within a couple of
 minutes. On pressed O'Connor, up the steep hill to Wimbledon village and
 back down to the Park. Alice wasn't panicking but at the park gates with
 less than a mile to run O'Connor held a lead of some 50 metres. But the
 finish here is deceptively tough. Before the run in to the stadium for the
 final lap of the track there's a long slightly uphill drag and this year it
 was into a stiff headwind too. O'Connor, suffering from her early efforts,
 began to buckle while Alice, still looking strong, inexorably reeled her in.
 Alice swept by with 600 metres remaining and O'Connor was immediately
 looking back over her shoulder. Defending the silvers was all she could do
 now - the race for the golds was over. Alice sprinted home to much
 jubilation from her team-mates a good 17 seconds clear. You can see a photo
 of the delighted quartet on our web site.

 A few figures for the statsheads: our winning time was 81 seconds faster
 than last year: Jo, who was in the vets team last time, improved by no less
 than 2 mins 20 secs! Alice was over a minute and Sara more than half a
 minute faster. Estelle, who didn't run in 2003, was over two minutes quicker
 than in 2002.

 The first team wasn't the end of the story. We had a record four senior and
 two vets teams in the race, and the B and C teams finished 5th and 10th.
 Sarah Seal, just back to training after injury, ran a solid 18.12 anchoring
 the Bs, for whom we had already seen sub-19 minute runs from Anna McLaughlin
 and Clare Gutch and a promising debut from Kerry McLoughlin. Fastest for the
 Cs was another newcomer, Leanne Miles.

 With some of our faster seniors unavailable for the men's race, it was
 decided to go for glory in the Over 40s category, the team bolstered not
 inconsiderably by the just-turned-40 Julian Smith. Marcus Gohar demonstrated
 that he's right back in shape by running a close second on the opening
 stage, a position consolidated by Andy Bickerstaff and Mick Lane on two and
 three. Julian on the anchor set off with 25 seconds to make up on South
 London but he was well up to the task. Sweeping imperiously into the lead
 before the half distance he went on to cross the line with almost a minute
 in hand, and set the day's second fastest vets time of 15.10. Marcus's 15.25
 was 4th fastest.

 Our Over 50s were contesting the medals early on too, thanks largely to
 Chris Owens's opening 16.52, the third fastest of the day in that category.
 Unfortunately Clive Beauvais, in his first race back as a Ranelagh
 first-claimer and taking over in 3rd place on the penultimate stage, found
 that he'd brought his injuries back with him too and was forced to jog the
 last mile of his lap. But as it turned out, Reigate Priory were saving their
 trump card for the final stage and we clearly could not have finished higher
 than the 4th place we finally occupied.

 We ran two senior teams and not surprisingly they were never in contention
 for the medals but there were some encouraging performances. John Kipps ran
 a solid opener and Ed Barker showed some good pace to set the team's fastest
 time of 16.30. Rob Stillwell and newcomer Seb Jones were both inside 17
 minutes and Neil Walford and Gareth Davies brought the team home in 12th
 place. For the B team David Powell was fastest and it was good to see Niels
 Andersen and Darren Wood back in action.

 RIVER RELAY  Sunday 12th September
 We also ran a couple of teams in this charity event along the Thames from
 Windsor to Ham. More details to follow.

 More news of Ed's amazing exploits in Canada. This comes via Julian Smith
 from the Runner's World web site at
 http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/daily_news/0,,s6-0-0-0-0,00.html. Follow the
 links to see a photo of Ed in action and sporting his Ranelagh vest!

 "Ed Whitlock, 73, Sets Age Group World Record With 37:33 10K at Toronto
 Island race.

 In addition to his amazingly fast running performances, Whitlock could win
 Great Hair contests with his full dome of strikingly white locks. He's the
 Canadian who ran a 2:59:10 marathon last fall in the ScotiaBank Toronto
 Waterfront Marathon, and apparently he's going to take another crack at it
 on Sept. 26. He's the oldest runner ever to break 3 hours. The previous
 fastest 10K for his age group was 38:04, also run by Whitlock.

 Whitlock Runs To Race, Loves To Joke About Cemetery Running
 On his favorite training course, in a cemetery: 'I don't have to show off in
 here. You don't like to shuffle along when you're out on the roads, whereas
 in the cemetery there's not so many people watching'. Why he runs: 'The main
 reason I run is to race. I suppose there are health benefits, but like
 anything it's not 100 per cent good or 100 per cent bad. I don't know what
 all this is doing to my body'. We know what it's doing: it's making him
 faster than any other 70+ runner".

 PROMENADE 10km  Sunday 12th September at Portsmouth
 Mike Marshall was the leading veteran in 36.24.

 SPIRE 10 miles (incl Derbyshire championships)  Sunday 5th September at
 Phil Aiken reports:
 "Funny thing county eligibility. I qualify for Warwickshire on the basis of
 2 years at the start of my life that I don't remember, yet being resident
 in Chesterfield for more than ten times that length counts for nothing.
 Hence the unchecked Derbyshire Qualified box on the entry form. Not that I
 was ever going to be County Champion mind.

 Still, I was afforded the opportunity to enjoy some long overdue hospitality
 at the expense of my parents, catch up briefly with former clubmates and
 assess whether I was actually quicker this year than last, as I believed.
 Oh, and realise that South West Trains doesn't hold a monopoly on cocking up
 train journeys; never before have I been asked to change onto a defective

 At last there was the welcoming sight of the Crooked Spire, that most
 striking sight and the thing that makes Chesterfield different from
 everywhere else. Well, not quite. Apparently there is a society of towns
 with crooked spires. I'm not a member. 

 So to the morning of the race. At 8 a haze lay on the hills. An hour later
 the sun was out and by 10, race time, it was a touch warm.

 The start was in Holmebrook Valley Country Park, a couple of miles out of
 town, the science fiction mining planet landscape of the days when it was
 being opencasted now nothing more than a distant memory. The first three
 miles are almost all uphill, 500 feet of climbing into Cutthorpe, past the
 Three Merry Lads, the Peacock, the S bends which offered a deceptive change
 of gradient and the Gate, preceding the steepest section, a half mile helter
 skelter of ups and false flats to the top of Grange Hill.

 Last year the third mile took me 9 minutes; this year it was 9 minutes 45.
 Already a minute down and thoughts of improvement were disappearing fast.
 But there was still another seven miles.

 From here the route ran along the edge of the Peak District National Park,
 down and up to mile 4. Turning left back towards Chesterfield brought
 another short sharp climb to the top of Pudding Pie Hill where the four
 miles of descent began. The legs weren't quite ready, threatening to run
 away from the body down the initial and steepest section. But the gradient
 levels off and control returned. Here I began to claw back places, claw back
 time and by 8 miles I was now only 30 seconds adrift. There was still a
 final climb up to 9 miles, unforgiving for tired legs.

 The last mile was a gentle uphill. I was passed but followed the tempo of
 the runners in front. Turning onto the service road I had 90 seconds, but
 the finish is always further away than you think. Through the gate into the
 park, double back into the car park and there's the finish. Stop the watch:
 76.20, a ten second improvement.

 It hardly seems a lot to get excited about and it was my second slowest ten
 miles ever, but an improvement is an improvement. Maybe there's something in
 this short hair lark after all".

 1 C Shelton (Chesterfield) 55.59
 102 Phil Aiken 76.20
 386 finished

 MEDOC MARATHON  Sunday 12th September
 Paul Sinton-Hewitt reports:
 "Three months ago, at a time when I was vulnerable and half asleep and
 hardly knew our newly appointed social secretary twins, I was invited to
 accompany some runners on an expedition unknown to most runners. Billed as a
 42.2 km fancy-dress party where the wine flows directly from the taps of the
 world's most famous vats directly to the runners' dusty throats, I was
 intrigued. My running had taken a serious decline and all the research I had
 conducted led me to one conclusion - there must be a secret potion
 undiscovered amongst the majority runners and after having tried most things
 I figured this could be it. So I booked my ticket and waited for the miracle
 to begin.

 A miracle it turned out to be. It's a miracle that anyone can run this
 particular marathon. 42.2 blistering kilometres with 10,000 other runners
 all competing for the same single track path and fighting with the
 supporting crowds who had decided this was the day to take the family for a
 ride on the bicycle. I'm not joking when I say that the cyclists have as
 much priority and sometimes even more than the runners.

 The UK contingent, checking in with the Quayles: Simon and Marina, Steve
 McClune, Joanne Turner and myself, arrived faultlessly at Gatwick airport
 with time to spare. A good start, which belied the events that were to
 follow. It's a small and finely closeted world that Marina lives in! How was
 she to know that taking knives on board a plane might cause a stir?
 Nevertheless, cheese knives, even when they are wrapped in gift paper still
 constitute a breach of the law and after much pleading with the airport
 officials they decided it was a safer option to have Marina in France and
 they let her go.

 A quick coffee, a bite to eat and cutting it finely we headed off to the
 only 13:15 Bordeaux flight on the departure board at gate 48. Had we walked
 any further we might have been in Southampton. Arriving with minutes to
 spare the Air France ground staff rudely informed us we were flying with
 British Airways and that we had better run as they were diametrically
 opposite across the apron. Hence our warm up began.

 However, this was only the start of our problems. Just settling into our
 seats, breathing a sigh of relief and closing our eyes to catch some well
 earned rest when the captain announced that we shouldn't be alarmed at the
 presence of the fire trucks surrounding the plane and that yes it was true
 that they had fire alarms going off in the cockpit but that he was sure we
 weren't on fire. Much to our disappointment he wouldn't let us use the
 escape slides but instead taxied back to the airport where we disembarked
 for a few hours. In the end, they decided to fly without the Auxiliary Power
 Unit because the plane had a history of failed alarms and the captain was
 sure he could deal with any emergency that presented itself. As there was no
 other plane available this was our only hope of reaching France before the

 Arriving safe but late, our friends and hosts for the weekend chaperoned us
 to the race HQ for the runners to get their numbers. The race is
 headquartered in the town of Pauillac on the shores of the Gironde. This is
 also the start and finish of the race and is nestled in the centre of the
 Medoc wine region. Expecting slightly cooler weather we were surprised by
 the humidity even this late in the day.

 Our hosts, Martin and Ann-Marie, an Anglo/French couple whose chateau is in
 the neighbouring village of Sainte-Estephe, had arranged for the local hotel
 to open their modest dining room and serve dinner to an enlarged group
 including the neighbours who were part of the Medoc Marathon organisation
 team and who also provided us with accommodation for the weekend. The
 miracle was about to begin. The red wine came out and I never remember it
 being put away for the rest of the weekend. There might have been a moment
 when it was replaced with rum punch and another when the Remy Martin made
 the rounds.

 After dinner, it was off to bed for the runners who had an early start as
 the marathon started at 9:30. The race was compulsory fancy-dress and you
 know how long it takes the girls to get ready in the morning.

 My host loaned me his bicycle, a smallish mountain bike with flat tyres, a
 very low saddle and covered in years of dust. After the tyres were pumped I
 headed off to catch the start some 5km away, only to be overtaken shortly
 after by a couple of hysterical females on their way to the start causing me
 to veer off into the bushes. Halfway to the start, and cramping badly from
 the unusual cycling position, I stopped a local cyclist and asked him to
 adjust my saddle. This saved my day as I was able to complete the course and
 some. Steve helped himself to a hearty breakfast and then went with our
 hosts to the 31km mark where they sponsored and ran a revitalisation and
 entertainment station. I have it on good authority that Steve surprised many
 a French athlete with his 'keep on going, not far now, you're looking great'
 comments. What was an Englishman doing running a water station in the Medoc?
 It was Steve who noticed Formula 1 racing driver Alain Prost come through -
 nice one my son!

 None of us were prepared for what we were presented with at the start of the
 race. The first spectacle we encountered was a large group of runners all
 dressed in French maids outfits marching to the start under the musical
 accompaniment of a Scottish bagpipe player, closely followed by an equally
 large group of ladybirds. Marina and Joanne, dressed in English schoolgirl
 outfits were accompanied by Simon in a beret and cravat and Marina's
 brother-in-law, Gerard, running his first ever race (of any distance),
 dressed as a pirate. The pandemonium continued to escalate as thousands of
 runners, all of them dressed in fancy dress for the occasion, the 20th
 Running of the Medoc Marathon, made their way to the start of the race. We
 saw French maids & prostitutes, Maya the Bee, Airbus A360 and Concorde
 aircraft, snails and other French delicacies, Arab Sheiks, cannibals and
 Vikings, pom-pom cheerleaders, bottles of wine, bunches of grapes and Ray &
 Sue Cockle from our neighbouring club, the Stragglers, dressed as cockles &
 mussels. The three musketeers, many babies and an awful number of
 bare-bottomed French men and a number of newly married couples in full garb
 too. The costumes were too numerous and inventive to do justice to the
 exhibition in this article.

 As the start-gun fired I made my way out of Pauillac towards the first major
 chateau: a majestic building on the main road to Saint-Lambert and housing
 Chateau Latour. The runners were forced to make their first of many
 excursions through the chateau and then back out onto the main road where
 they were offered their first glass of wine. The congestion caused by an
 excess of runners and floats on the small roads meant that Marina and Joanne
 came through the 5km mark after about 50 minutes. It was then that I
 realised I had signed up for a six hour bike ride. My backside was already
 complaining. How inconsiderate of the girls!

 And so it went on. Kilometre after kilometre, chateau after chateau, winding
 their way between the vineyards towards their final goal. Marina had
 surveyed the course in advance with local experts and had a number of 'must
 stop' chateaus where the wine was reputed to be of a high quality. Included
 in this list were Chateaux Lafitte Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Marquis
 de St-Estephe. All in all there were 21 official refreshment stops, most
 with musical accompaniment. I do not exaggerate when I say that the runners
 were forced to stop at each of these for between half a minute and two
 minutes to navigate the drinkers and floats etc. Perhaps that goes some way
 to explain the slow times. In typical French fashion the food being served
 at these stops ranged from oysters to oranges. I have never seen anything
 like it.

 Simon stopped fairly early to indulge in the local fare and was about 3
 minutes estranged from his wife by the halfway mark. He blames tiredness and
 muscle fatigue for his poor performance but I suspect he couldn't extricate
 himself from the better vintages. A beautiful Bordeaux day, the heat played
 its part as the girls discarded their costumes before long. Our virgin
 runner was showing dogged determination as he ran past 2 hours for the first
 time in his short 55 years.

 Gerard went on to finish in 5:59, an amazing feat considering. Joanne and
 Marina, hand-in-hand, crossed the finish line in 5:24 and Simon beat the
 cut-off time of 6:30 by a handful of minutes. Relief, gratitude, elation,
 surprise and delight. Each finisher received a beautiful medal along with a
 bottle of local wine, a t-shirt and fleece all packaged in a special Medoc
 marathon haversack.

 As mentioned before, the wine didn't stop flowing. Our hosts seemed to have
 a never-ending supply which was only interrupted to fill our mouths with
 even more delicate cuisine. The 'canard-du-confite' was the highlight of our
 culinary experience closely followed by the tarts, cakes and champagne.

 You are probably wondering about the title of this rather long expose. Well,
 its has its roots in a comment Simon made to me the day after the marathon
 when we were walking through the vineyards towards the Gironde and I
 encouraged the group to carry on walking through the fields as there was a
 gap in the hedge at the end which could lead us to our destination. I had no
 problem hurdling this rather insignificant obstacle and couldn't understand
 why Simon, Marina and Jo had so much trouble with it. I don't think Simon
 trusts me anymore. Steve is now serious about running three marathons in the
 next year. His commitment to this task is undeniably determined as he was
 caught on camera smoking a fat cigar and drinking Remy Martin.

 In a previous article about a triathlon we completed in the summer, I
 referred to Marina as a 'bossy tart'. After much harassment from Marina I
 started to think I might have been unfair with my comments. I will leave you
 to decide if this is true. I have two closing statements. The first is that
 after lunch on Sunday, Marina had secured another 4 people to run next year's
 race, two of whom are novices. My second observation refers a comment I
 heard Marina make after the race. 'How come the men in England don't lift
 our dresses while we are running to see what we are wearing underneath'?"

 Jo, Estelle, Sara and Alice have yet to see their relay gold medals - they
 were found to be engraved with "men's champions"...