It was the running calendars highlight of the year again – the Great Bentley half marathon. Selling out within 24 hours the race entry list comprised those most determined of runners, all hoping that the flat course would result in a personal best.

The GBRC crew were out in force ensuring the race went off without a hitch. The day before the race much activity was witnessed as the scaffold for the baggage area was erected and signage was placed around the village hall. Friendly faces were also sent into the village to let residents know that the race was about to take place and encourage them to come out and support the runners.

Saturday afternoon also saw the Great Bentley Bake Off as the competitive nature of the club’s runners spilled into their kitchens and resulted in the clubs Facebook group changing from the usual pictures of medals to pictures of elaborate icing and layers of sponge.

[The Great Bentley Bake Off]

Sunday morning rolled round, marshals were in place along the course and Race director Russ Sharp was in his element as he readied the masses. A few safety announcements and with military precision he set the runners off at 10:30:00 and the surge up Plough Road commenced.

Conditions could not have been better, the temperature was cool but not too cold and there was hardly any wind. As such there was much excitement in the air as those at the finish waited for the first man home.

On cue James Connor of Kent Athletics Club appeared at the edge of the green on par with the course record. Unfortunately for the men, record smashing wasn’t on the cards; however with his time of 1:08:38 Connor came within 32 seconds of the course record that he himself had set back in 2010.

For the ladies that morning the course record did fall with Helen Davies of Ipswich Jaffa finishing in 1:16:07, her fastest time over the half marathon distance since 2012.

Ten lucky Great Bentley Running Club members had won entry in to the race in a ballot just before Christmas and were amongst the crowd. A further three also ran in blue vests, having joined the club after entering the race. With fellow club members on every corner cheering the runners with unparalleled enthusiasm, it is unsurprising that so many personal bests were ran.

For the GBRC gents, Dave Green, a long standing club member although living in a different part of the world at the moment, came home first, placing second in the race overall with a time of 1:12:58. He was followed by:

  • Michael Simmons, practising his pacing as part of Ironman training and wearing a go-pro for the whole way, in 1:30:41;
  • Tim Ballard, with his first attempt at the half marathon distance racing home in 1:34:01;
  • Lee Clarkson, running his second personal best of the weekend and making more progress towards a goal of 90 minutes. Clarkson crossed the line in 1:35:16;
  • Malcolm Jarvis who, choosing to focus on his 5000m and 5mile races, was running the 13.1mile distance for the first time in over two years and finished in 1:38:06;
  • Frank Gardiner, whose time of 1:46:12 was his fastest over the half marathon distance for over 10 years and saw him as the third fastest male over 60 on the day;
  • Mark Crittenden, having been ill all week with a cold managed to tough it round the course in 2:17:19, and on his birthday no less; and
  • John McKay who crossed the line in 2:26:45 in what looks to be his first attempt at the distance for two years.

[Happy birthday Mark Crittenden]


For the ladies, new to the club Hayley Munn was the first GBRC member home, and the second lady over all. She finished in a time of 1:18:43. She was followed by:

  • Meera Rajoo-Oakley who, on the third time of asking, finally broke the 1:38:00 barrier to finish in 1:37:24 a personal best by 52 seconds;
  • Geraldine Springett, with a personal best run of 1:56:37, her first time running the distance under two hours;
  • Gemma Colling, whose time of 2:00:38 was also a personal best; and
  • Louise Upston with a time of 2:14:41, a personal best by almost four minutes.

[Geraldine Springett breaks the 2 hour barrier]


The club received significant positive feedback after the race from runners and spectators. The results of the bake off competition were gladly received by both runners and spectators back at the village hall and Luke Groves’ bacon rolls were a sell-out hit!

Also in action on Sunday were John Bush, Benjamin Ficken and four of our GBRC juniors at junior parkrun.

Bush returned to the City of London to take on the London Winter Run: a 10,000meter jaunt from Trafalgar Square to St Pauls and back. Although slower than last year, Bush’s time of 1:04:54 is another landmark in his recovery from leg surgery and hints of an enjoyable spring of running to come.

[John Bush brings the bling home from the City]


Ficken took on the Mud N Madness 8km adventure race. With an impressive 7th place finish out of 318 adventurers, Ficken took on muddy trails interspersed with activities such as hitting archery targets, crossing rope bridges, carrying beer barrels and riding a space hopper down a hill – “weird but fun”. Ficken even had to kayak across a lake to complete the course showing his athletic versatility.

At junior parkrun in colchester on Sunday morning Harrison Leek achieved a first place finish in a time of 8:18. He was joined at the recreation ground by Angel Jasper who finished in 12:05; Isabella Jones in a time of 18:59 and George Jones who finished in 16:21.

On the day before the half marathon, a mass of GBRC members took the opportunity to turn their legs over at parkrun.

The run attracting the greatest number of blue vests was Clacton Seafront where three runners form the club ran personal bests for the course. Lee Clarkson ran the first of his two personal bests of the weekend in a time of 20:34, which was good enough for a 6th position finish; Claire Reynolds achieved a personal best of 29:06; and Claire Groves ran her best for the course in 29:32. There was also celebration as Chusa Bautista Fructuoso made a return to running after months out with an injury. Completion of the 5k in 26:43 and without pain marks a significant step on Fructuoso’s journey to the London Marathon.

Joining Clarkson in the top 10 finishers at Clacton that morning were David Goldsmith with a time of 19:32 (3rd); and Ray Baggs in 20:33 (5th). They were followed home by Patrick Reynolds in 25:05; and Jack Wicks who stopped the clock at 25:53. Kevin James completed his 5000m in 27:28; whilst Rebecca Conran enjoyed a mid-run play with her children and yet still achieved a finishing time of 29:24. Luke Groves ran with Claire Groves and finished just behind her in 29:34. The field was completed by Alison Clarke, Davina Swindell and Sandra James who crossed the line in 30:00, 32:49 and 43:18 respectively.

At Colchester Castle parkrun the GBRC representation was led by Craig Warriner who crossed the line in 18:44, a personal best time for the course. He was accompanied in his trips around the castle by the usual suspects: Richard Moor finished in 19:55; the inseparable pair of Paul Hollidge and Deborah Cubberley finished together in 27:42; Claudia Keitch ran with Scott Young, they arrived back at the bandstand in 29:17; Natalie Stewart completed her 5000m in 33:17; and another familiar face at Colchester Castle, Andy Stephens finished in 26:51.

Two club members travelled out to Mersea Island parkrun. John Bush ran the course in 31:51; and Bee Palmer-Barnes finished in a personal best time for the off-road 5k of 28:29.

Along the coast at Harwich parkrun: Antoinette Wilson finished as the fourth lady in a time of 23:45.

And inland at Valentines parkrun Samantha Godden was the first lady finisher with her first attempt at the course. With a time of 20:58, Godden ran her fastest 5k of the year.