Sunday, 24 July 2022


Grantham Running Club had a bumper 33 athletes taking part in this year’s 24h Continental Thunder Run at its regular venue Catton Park, Walton-on-Trent. The Conti Thunder Run (affectionately known as “TR24”) is an off-road 10km relay race against the clock.  Renowned for being physically and mentally challenging to competitors whether they’re running solo, in pairs, team of five or large teams of up to eight. Continuously run around the technically demanding cross country route from noon on Saturday through to noon on Sunday.

Grantham Running Club’s Team A, the fastest of their TR24 mixed teams of 8 were hoping to improve on last year’s 5th position. Kicking off with a fast first lap of 43:05 from captain Sam Jepson, they gained a strong position.  He handed over to ultra and trail running specialist Jonny Palmer who was making his debut at TR24.  Jonny quickly realised how tough the relay event was going to be, clocking a team best time of 39:34. Following on were Andrew Pask, Sam Dodwell, Sarah High, Dean Riggall, Robin Atter and Rori Rodell.

As the team churned out the laps through the night, they were in 4th place, agonisingly close to the prestigious 3rd. In the handover pen early on Sunday morning Jonny Palmer noticed a rival team member from the team above about to start his lap. Setting off 3 mins before Jonny received the baton, there was clearly work to do. Thankfully this game of cat and mouse was something Jonny relished, hunting down and passing his rival with 2 km to go. Handing over to Andrew Pask, Jonny explained “we’re in 3rd, no pressure!”.  Running as hard as his tired legs would carry him, Andrew cemented the team’s position and was never passed during his lap.

As the 12:00 cut-off approached, the team began to get tactical. Realising there would be a handover at around 11:15, there was only one man who could guarantee to be back before 12:00. Step forward Jonny Palmer yet again. Now on his 5th lap he ran brilliantly to hand over to Sarah High for the crucial pre-cut off handover. With the team now guaranteed to be in 3rd, Sarah had a free run and was welcomed home by the team on the home straight waving the GRC flag all the way in.

The team’s 3rd place was the highest ever for GRC in its long history in this event.

GRC’s second mixed team of 8 with the simple name of Grantham Running Club 2 completed 25 laps over the 24 hour event. Richard Payne ran the team's first and final completing 4 laps for the team.

Rob Howbrook also completed 4 laps and secured the teams fastest lap in a fantastic 48:05. Peter Jennings, Phil Crowcroft and Marj Spendlow were all first timers at the event, putting in solid performances. Peter and Phil completed 3 speedy laps and Marj completed 2.  Following a nasty tumble at 4k on her night lap she made the sensible decision to not go out for a 3rd lap. 

Vicki Ball captained the team and was happy to complete 3 laps securing herself a course PB. Trail loving Dale Towning and seasoned Thunder Runner Martin Rodell were able to utilise their experience to produce impressive laps to help the team finish in an impressive 20th place.

GRC fielded another team of 8 which became 7 when Alison Clark was drafted into the D team to substitute for a lost member who had to withdraw before the event.

Captained by Sylv Hull, the team set out with the ambition to achieve 21 laps between them, with everyone hoping to manage 3 loops of the gruelling course.  The other main aim was to have as much fun as possible doing it.

First out in the atmospheric mass start at noon was Martin Carter who is coming back to fitness.  His next lap was in the evening then he had the delightful timeslot of 3am after which he could fully relax and bask in the glory of a job well done.

Wayne Baxter took the next lap and got better and better as the event went on, thoroughly enjoying the challenge of the night lap in the rain.  After struggling with his fitness lately, this was just the kick up the pants he needed, and he did the team proud with his 3 laps.

Naomi Rivers firmly banished any of the disappointment of the 2021 event when she was only able to run one lap due to injury.  She was determined to be a valuable team member and delivered in spades, not only racing round the team’s fastest lap but putting in an extra 4th lap at the end.  This gave the team the 21-lap target and also pushed their position to a creditable 63rd out of 129 teams.

Zoe Wragg also performed brilliantly, delivering 3 laps and big improvements on the previous year – even though the hills never got any easier.

Kate Marshall employed her ultra-marathon experience to good effect, running two great laps.  Unfortunately, a nasty tumble on her night lap in the woods left her with a big knee and some spectacularly appropriate green and black bruises so it was decided caution was the better part of valour and Sylv Hull would take her slot on the Sunday morning.

Sylv massively enjoyed the event, though she was slightly slower than in 2021.  The night lap and chasing the ice cream down van were possibly her greatest achievements.

Fraser Marshall set out with the intention to improve on his 2021 performance, and he certainly surpassed himself.  Even his 3rd lap, where pace typically slows, was five minutes faster than his fastest 2021 lap, despite being rather battered after stumbling on the notorious tree roots in the woodland section.

The GRC Tigers had a less than ideal start, losing 2 members who had to withdraw before the event.  First timer Alison Clark stepped into the breach, moving across from the Pace Cadets.  A further disaster befell them on the morning of the event when captain CJ Walker-Lees was called away to o a family emergency.  She handed over the responsibility to TR24 novice Julia Hallam who stepped up to the mark, rejigged the running order and rallied the team who were determined to do their best.

Alison Clark, Helen Hillson and Julia Hallam took the reins of the team to organise themselves and to get out to those hills and get running  The course was tough from the outset, the first corner presenting a steep trail climb.  With GRC club mates encouraging them round at every opportunity, the girls smashed out a lap each; Julia 1:20 mins, Alison 1:13 mins and Helen 1:4 mins. Mark Hillson stepped in, finding his running shoes and running a lap for the depleted but enthusiastic team. Gordon Geach then took to the field to take a lap. Sophie High also joined the effort, going from spectating to running a lap in for the team’s total. Later the girls returned into the darkness for another lap that each found challenging with a few stumbles and trips along the route.

Following the early morning’s rain, the girls once again organised themselves to complete a third lap each. Determined to complete another lap in whatever time it took, they were not going to give in and headed out.  With 15 minutes left on the clock, Gordon headed out for his second lap to complete the team’s effort, pushing them up several positions.

The GRC 5 were a small mixed team in a very tough category.  Matthew Williamson set them on a course for a good result with an opening lap time of 45:40 which was the team’s fastest lap.

Matt then passed the baton to Catherine Payne who belted round the course in a swift time of 51:33, her first of an impressive 5 laps. Team captain Robert McArdle was up next and completed his first lap in 52 minutes dead and went on to run an awesome 6 laps.

Ben Hatherley and Ben Mason were the next to go round and both ran 5 impressive laps.

The relentless running and consistently strong laps meant that the team racked up an amazing 26 laps between them, resulting in a magnificent 4th place out of 65 teams, a best ever placing for this team.

The weekend was a spectacular success for the club, with amazing camaraderie, banter, team spirit and performances.  It’s a firm favourite with members and we can’t wait to go back next year.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

Hardwick 10k

Caroline finished in 54:54

 Nestling on the Derbyshire/ Nottinghamshire border is Hardwick Hall, sitting atop a hill, overlooking the surrounding countryside (and the M1 these days).  The fact it sits on top of a hill provides the challenge of the Hardwick 10k where GRC member Caroline Davis started out at Pilsley village. At the very beginning is an incline to get the heart pumping to settle competitors into the run. Being an out and back course, this turns into a pleasant downhill to the finish. 

Reaching Hardstoft it is then a descent towards Hardwick Inn and 'that hill'. Caroline was enjoying the scenery and pacing herself for 'that hill 'when the front runners started to pass by at 3.5km. At this point she could see Hardwick Hall up ahead and soldiered on towards what she had been waiting for all day - the challenge of the Hardwick Hill. Once upon a time this would have been her local race and she had spent many a Saturday evening in the summer sunshine at the Hardwick Inn and walking in the grounds. It has been a very long time since she’d been up the hill and she’d certainly not attempted to run it before. 

She steadily made it up the hill feeling well chuffed and enjoyed the much quicker run back down. Then there was the next challenge of 3km of a steady climb back up to Hardstoft.  She gritted my teeth, thought of the T-shirt and kept going to be greeted by gentle applause at the pub before the last 1km back into Pilsley and the finish line. Caroline is proud to say that 'I beat the Hardwick Hill '.

Friday, 8 July 2022

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Grantham Running Club members were out in force on Friday, 8th of July when 26 runners tackled the Whissendine 6ix. The race follows a six-mile circuit of country lanes from the village out to the borders of Stapleford Park and back. It has been an annual fixture in the racing calendar since 1985 and is known as a tough course due to the 93 metres of elevation. Add into the equation 23 degrees of heat (73 degrees F), and there was never any doubt that the 2022 race would be a challenge.

However, as many of the runners would later mention, the rousing support from the locals, the prize of a beer and decorated glass from race sponsors Grainstore Brewery in Oakham, plus the excellent sausage sizzle organised by the Brownies at the finish more than made up for the punishment from the course itself.

Starting on the outskirts of town, runners climbed through the village to the highest part of the course, then headed north on a long descent to the boundary of Stapleford Park. A sign on the verge announced "Lowest Point", which, anticipating the punishing climbs ahead, many competitors interpreted philosophically rather than geographically. The hill at the halfway point was particularly gruelling, involving an approximately 40 metre (131 ft) climb in just 0.7 km (nearly half a mile). After a final climb back into the village, the runners enjoyed the downhill to the finish by the river.

First home for GRC was Samuel Jepson who turned in an impressive performance of 34:11, 45 seconds behind the winner, despite injuring his foot in the first two miles. Russel Whittaker was just 50 seconds behind him, taking a very pleasing 10th place overall in 36:01 in his first attempt at the 6ix.

Andrew Pask and Peter Bonner came in 22nd and 23rd in 40:31 and 40:33 respectively, with Stef Latter in 40:51. He commented, "If you can liken races to amusement rides, this was definitely the roller coaster!"

Next was Rob Howbrook who put in an impressive time of 42:29 despite having run a cracking 5k at Stamford 48 hours earlier.

David Summers crossed the line in 45:41, closely followed by the first GRC woman finisher, Hannah Whittaker in 45:46, to grab 57th place overall. Michelle Parczuk finished her first 6 mile race in 46:38 and declared herself super pleased with her time, observing that it seemed that two glasses of wine at lunch time was very effective race preparation. A shade under two minutes later, Stuart Baty crossed the line for a time of 48:03 and was overheard six miles too late recalling that he'd said after the last time he wouldn't be entering again.  Paul Jepson was delighted with a 25 second PB for a time of 50:22. “Not bad for a man that’s just retired!”

Caroline Davis was the 101st finished in 51:20, with Thomas Napier 20 seconds behind her, and Caroline's husband Paul 30 seconds behind that for 52:11. Sylv Hull declared was very pleased with a four minute improvement since she last ran the 6ix in 2019, observing the hills were 'brutal'. Sinead McDonnell followed in 53:08, Naomi Rivers in 53:12 with Sara High completing a trio of GRC women in 53:35.

Fraser Marshall wasn't too unhappy with 55:19, considering he was nursing a slightly sore hip, but is hopeful of doing better the next time he enters. Richard Urquart came in 56:10 seconds later followed by Kate Marshall in 56:24, which was impressive given her legs were still recovering from running 108 km in 24 hours just two weeks previously.

Ros Sadler, finishing her debut 6ix in 57:29, claimed to have enjoyed the brutality of the course, but said she was glad to have kept her lunch down crossing the line! Tracy Webb crossed the line in 01:06:18 followed by Julia Hallam, who was very satisfied with her time of 01:06:30, describing it as a "good training run with good running friends". Yvonne Buckley, who received the same time as Julia struggled with the combination of heat and hills but enjoyed the support from the villagers.

Husband Brendon Buckley was the last of the GRC runners home in 01:14:03 to a great round of applause from his club mates. Only recently returning to running after a prolonged absence due to injury, he was just looking to get more miles in his legs rather than having any expectations of a fast time, and described it as a "great little race despite the hills!"

The race was won by Jason Barton of the Stilton Striders in a time of 33:25. The first woman home was unafilliated runner Helen Pape in a time of 38:00.


Holme Pierrepont RC Grand Prix Series race report

Two runners from Grantham Running Club made their way to Nottingham for 4 races that were included in the GP series organised by Holme Pierrepont Running Club.  For Robin Atter and Marj Spendlow, this was their first time competing in the Notts GP series and the daunting task of running four races in two weeks.


Race 1 was held at Rushcliffe country park on 28th June over a 4-mile multi terrain course of grass and gravel paths.  The 246 Competitors ran two laps and Robin completed the race in 23:58. Marj put in a time of 33:21 on what was a sunny but breezy day.


Race 2 at Home Pierrepont was a 10k on a flat course around the lake and roads.  The day was overcast with a tail wind during the first mile which turned into a headwind when runners changed direction.  GRC chairman Andrew Pask joined the race as a last-minute impulsive entry after feeling good the previous week.  He was first back for GRC in 40.48 which was where he was hoping to be.

Marj took on the course for the first time was very happy with a time of 51:12, beating her Skegness 10k time by over a minute.


Robin was a little deflated with his time of 43:35 but hasn’t long completed the Edinburgh marathon, so was still building the pace back up in his legs.


Race 3 was a 5k along the Victoria embankment where runners ran towards Trent Bridge, then doubled back on themselves to run towards the Wilford Toll Bridge then back again.  Weather conditions were lovely with only a slight breeze and the sun shone to make the temperature ideal. A total of 263 runners took on the very flat riverside circuit and GRC member Gav Meadows came home first for the club in 20:06, followed by Robin who crossed the line in 20:48. then Marj in a time of 25:43. 


Race 4 was the University of Nottingham 5 miler.  The final leg of the series saw 242 runners racing around the university campus, a tough 2 lap course comprising many hills before finishing on grass. Robin set out to treat it as a fun run due to tired legs, completed it in an impressive time of 37:51.  He really enjoyed this event and felt good with the legs slowly coming back to pace form.

Marj had never done a 5 miler before finished in an impressive time of 44:53, which she was especially pleased with given the hilly nature of the course.


The overall winners of the series were Dan Nugent and Caitlin Bradbury.

Robin took 31st place in the overall standings out of 147 competitors.

Marj was 77th out of 147and 6th in her age category.


Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Peterborough GP Series 2022 (Race 2)

 On Wednesday 6th July, 7 members of Grantham Running Club headed southbound down the A1 to partake in the second race of the Peterborough GP Series, hosted by the Stamford Striders at Stamford Rugby Club.

There were 219 participants taking part in the 2-lap course which took them through a housing estate to start, then onto a stretch of downhill along Tinwell Road, followed by a tough incline back up Roman Bank.

First home for GRC, and coming second in his age category, was Robert Howbrook in an impressive time of 20:37.

Second back was Richard Payne, who was pleased with his progress since the recent GRC 5k event, coming in at 21:43, a 12 second improvement on his previous 5k time.

Third in, and the first GRC female to cross the line, was Catherine Payne who finished in 22:24, also taking second in her age category.

Next was Robert McArdle who achieved a time of 22:52. A 3 second improvement on the previous GP series race a fortnight before.

Sylv Hull was next back for the green army in a time of 25:24, an impressive 1 minute 30 second improvement on her same performance in 2019, giving her a course PB.

Vicki Ball was pleased to take 56 seconds off her previous GP race time 2 weeks prior, finishing in a time of 25:52. The final member of GRC was Zoe Wragg who finished in 26:37, a 13 second improvement on her last 5k race at Grimsthorpe Castle.

First male back was Stuart Haw from PANVAC in a time of 15:41 and first female was Sarah Caskey also from PANVAC, in 18:51.

The next race in the series is on the 20th of July and is being hosted by PANVAC at Nene Park (Ferry Meadows).