It is not often that the internet lets one down, but today was perhaps the day: search for Great Bentley on Wikipedia and you discover it to be the home of the second largest village green in the country and the winner of village of the year in both 2009 and 2010. What you don’t see is that the village is the home of a fantastically friendly running club and annually plays host to the Great Bentley half marathon, a race that loops in and around Great Bentley and enjoys a finish on that famous village green.

Although not as renowned as perhaps it should be, the Great Bentley half marathon is a highlight for many local runners and sells out months in advance. The flat course is perfect for attempting personal best runs and the February date provides a good opportunity for those training for the London Marathon to test their legs.

This year the winds howled and made the race tough for all. Nevertheless, success was still on the cards and several Great Bentley Running Club members achieved their fastest times over the half marathon distance. Representing GBRC out on the course were:

Charlie Keitch, whose time of 1:28:22 shows a return to form and promise for the rest of the season;
Simon Miller, who completed the course in 1:33:48, a personal best (PB) run;
Richard Moor, also with a PB in 1:35:02;
Andy Stephens, running the distance in 1:37:16 and knocking five and a half minutes off of his previous PB;
Matthew Jones, again with a PB, coming home in 1:43:21;
Jenny Aylen, the first GBRC lady home in 1:46:05, a PB;
Maria (Chusa) Bautista-Fructuoso, another to bag a PB with a time of 1:49:04;
Barry Jarvis, who had a strong first race of the year, completing the course in 1:49:23;
Jonathan Tither, achieving a PB in 1:49:41;
Tricia Stacey, who enjoyed a sub two-hour run finishing in 1:54:21;
Debbie Cubberley, whose 2:04:37 run was a PB by almost three minutes;
Keith Oakley, whose time of 2:14:42 was less than 120 seconds away from his previous half marathon time; and
Mark Crittenden, whose time of 2:21:16 demonstrates a strong return from a winter beset by injury.

The race also allowed for an attempt at breaking a world record: the fastest half marathon pushing a wheelchair. The previous world record was over 2 hours 15 minutes and with the poor conditions the members of Hadleigh Hares Running Club attempting the feat may have been worried. Christopher Stewart, pushed by Andrew Stewart and accompanied by Robert Jeeves, Elizabeth Jeeves and Leon Hayward finished the course in 1:54:50, absolutely smashing the previous record. The team now plan to run Brighton Marathon later in the year.

With winds being particularly strong in the last tough mile, it was perhaps a surprising number of personal bests that were clocked. It seemed like all 706 finishers commented “it was very windy out there” however it would appear that the adverse conditions bring out the fight in runners, with many also remarking “a PB!” The winner of the race was Mark Newton of Springfield Striders, who completed the course in 1:12:36, his second fastest time over the distance. The first female over the line was Helen Davies (Ipswich Jaffa RC) in 1:20:03.

As the host club, members of GBRC provided support throughout the race, manning bag drop stations, organising runner registration, marshalling the route and filling the village green with cheers as they welcomed the runners home. Those wearing Bentley blue once again made the event a success and a race that looks to remain popular in years to come.

Back in the village hall, race finishers and spectators were treated to a spectacular spread of cakes and savoury snacks, with near crisis being averted when Sharon Metcalfe’s car, which contained many cakes, broke down a few miles from the village. A quick tow from the AA resolved the issue.

The day before, whilst club chairman Russ and his band of happy helpers were preparing for the half marathon, other members of the club were waking up to their regular Saturday 5k at parkrun.

Representing the GBRC men at Colchester Castle parkrun were Richard Moor (20:06); Kevin Stevens (22:08) a personal best over the 5000m distance; Scott Young (26:17); and Luke Groves (40:42).

Leading the GBRC ladies home was Anna Mills in 22:43, a run just 4 seconds away from her course PB. Anna was 3rd lady home overall. She was followed by Meera Rajoo-Oakley (23:40); Helene Tyler (30:42); Belinda Palmer-Barnes (31:46); Ruth Metcalfe (36:29); and Caroline Searle (51:14) who volunteered as tail runner.

The GBRC youth were also represented at Colchester Castle. Harrison Leek ran in the under 11’s category and achieved a personal best run of 25:15, over 10 seconds faster than his previous time for the course. Shawn Leek accompanied Harrison, finishing just behind him in 25:18.

Over at Harwich parkrun; blue vests were worn by Malcolm Jarvis, who completed his 5k in 22:14 and Jonathan Tither, who decided to warm his legs up for the half on Sunday with a first attempt at the Harwich course. He finished in 24:25.

Matthew Knowles completed this week’s GBRC representation at parkrun, completing the course at Maldon Prom in 20:11.

Elsewhere Paul Blackwell continued his campaign towards the 100 Marathon Club participating in the third day of the Enigma Quadzilla four-day event. Runners can choose to enter as many or as few of the four marathons held over the four days. Each marathon requires competitors to complete 7 and a 1/2 laps of Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes. Paul completed his run in 5:09:28.