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The GUCR 2004 Story
The GUCR 2004 Story
The official report of the 2004 GUCR
With a detour in the route it would be unlikely that we would see a new fastest time this year, but at least we had a record number of starters and, thankfully, a record number of volunteers too. As we congregated in Gas Street we were not to know that there would be a couple of new records set before the event was over, nor for that matter did I know that I would be visiting the famous Paddington Green Police Station, but more of all this later.
As always it was a great pleasure to greet the mix of new and familiar faces among competitors and their crews. Having arrived at the Start almost on time and with plenty of helpers on hand it was a slightly more relaxed registration this year. Indeed, so calm was the atmosphere that Mark Brunning was even allowed to escape un-penalised for asking where he might find the toilets. Tension did begin to mount though as time moved nearer to 6am and of course there was a film crew on hand to add some spice to the big moment. As always is the case, the competitors showed a marked reluctance to go to the line and, as ever, I made a mess of the Start. Oh well, perhaps I could be a star another day. In fact I had the chance almost immediately because the nice man from the BBC had been filming Glyn's departure and wanted a repeat, this time to camera. Many times in the past I have started latecomers after the bulk of the field has gone. This was the first time I'd repeated the embarrassment, complete with toot on the horn, for one person who had absolutely no intention of running off.
The first check was officially manned by one of our regular helpers (and GUCR finisher) Shane Wilkinson. Being now a family man, Shane was given a break from his usual nocturnal stints at Fenny Stratford/Bridge 99 and actually got to see the whole field. He was assisted/hindered at Catherine de Barnes by several of us from the HO transport and others with later duty times. All the runners passed through relatively quickly - there being no late starters or departures from the intended course - with Jack and Steve acting as sweepers marking the rear. These two arrived well before the leaders would reach Hatton, where Lucy Gettins, Susanne Enhard and Ian Hope were already waiting.
Chris Fanning was first to the second check, well up on his 2001 winning pace and indeed ahead of any previous finisher's pace. Mark Wittering and Glyn Marston were second and third while Alicja (seventh) led the ladies and was first of our unsupporteds. All the rest of the competitors passed in a steady stream so when Jack and Steve came in ten minutes up on last year everything seemed to be going pretty well. Along with timing runners and dispensing the usual drinks and encouragement, the three Hatton crew members were also offering details of the short diversion to be found lower down the flight. Some runners seemed remarkably reluctant to accept this advice so we were lucky to have Ramona Thevenet-Smith (GUCR winner 2002) and husband Andy on hand to help keep the field on course. Despite all our best efforts a few did stray briefly from the intended path, but thankfully nobody, in trail terms, got “big lost”. We were though to loose some competitors from the record sheet before the third check at Birdingbury. Because to list retirements in chronological order would mean switching forward and back between sites, I have chosen to use distance then time, as in the full result sheet. I will leave it to you to sort the time sequence for yourselves!
Katherine Hay-Heddle retired at bridge number 49 in Warwick; husband Tim reporting to Jan that she was being unwell - an affliction known only too well by many of us.
Barry Mason - yes he of 'Piece of Piss' T-shirt fame - was next to stop. Barry was reported as ‘cramping up' badly at bridge 31. Many suffer the cramp, but not many are prepared to tempt providence by wearing a shirt that suggests running 145 miles is easy!
'Death Valley' Jack Denness and Stephen Kerr only disappeared from the check sheets because they had dropped outside the cut-off schedule. They in fact continued acting as sweepers for us (and raising money for charity) until around the hundred mile point.
Mark was two minutes ahead of Chris at the third check, Birdingbury Bridge - the first proper feed station for the unsupported competitors. With more of these than ever before, my daughter Hannah, son Diccon, their uncle Phil Gadd and cousin Harriet Gadd, were kept fairly busy providing the hot meals and drinks required. Harriet, on her first 'Start to Finish' GUCR, did an excellent job logging the comings and goings. The fact that Gordon Knight's passing went unrecorded was more to do with my interference at the crucial time than any failing on her part.
The fourth check used to be at Buckby Lock. We decided to change the location to Weedon to even out the distances as it had previously been a long drag from Buckby onwards to Navigation Bridge. The Buckby site has always been popular with crews and usually sees some retirements - perhaps the proximity of The New Inn has some bearing on this. Two runners succumbed there this time.
Alan Kiff's son reported dad's retirement at around 8pm. Alan is one of our regulars (both as competitor and helper) and has been known on occasions to state that he will not be back. He has expressed this intention again this time as he may be moving abroad - we'll see......
Mark Reynolds gave 'not enough training' as the simple reason for his failure. I trust that means we'll see him again then, as he will now have had another year to prepare.
Chris was back in front of Mark and Gary Wale had moved up from eighth at Hatton to hold third spot at the Heart of England. Jonathon and Liz Lee are well established as part of the GUCR team. They report that, although they were a little cramped for space on the towpath at Weedon, the new site is satisfactory. With the pub close by for relief/refreshment and a bridge for shelter should the weather require it, the site is better than most. Another advantage, that I hope will never be needed in future, is that in the canal cutting they were blissfully unaware of the drama that took place in the car park above. Paramedics were called by the pub management for one of the support crew for Peter Johnson and John Poole. The poor chap was suffering severe pain right outside the main entrance. We were fortunate that Ramona and Andy were on hand to take over crewinq for Peter and John while the rest of their party left for the hospital. (The young man was OK and rejoined the event later.) I was aware of what was going on at the time and did the most helpful thing I could under the circumstance - I skulked off to Navigation Bridge to grow a few more grey hairs.
Mark Brunning was the only retiree at Weedon. 'Hamstring' is listed as the reason for Mark's departure, but as he has suffered pretty well every injury known to man - mainly as a result of taking part in this race - it was probably a combination of problems. I think it was Gary Barnes and his family who were on hand, well ahead of their 'duty hours' at Southall, to give Mark a lift. Mark must now be quite near the top of the "Must Finish It" list.
Bob Jones reported having stopped at Bugbrooke. 'Problems with his feet' were preventing him repeating his 1999 success.
Stan Dolan also stopped at Bugbrooke suffering 'pain in the leg'. In reporting to Jan he also said that he didn't think he would be trying again. How many times have I heard before?
Shirley Thompson's crew gave 'blisters' as the reason for, and 59 miles as the point of, her withdrawal. On my map that puts her somewhere between Bugbrooke and Gayton Junction.
Paul Shields first reported his withdrawal to Simon at Navigation Bridge. Simon asked him to phone Jan who has logged that he stopped at 60 miles, was OK, but very tired. The delay has produced a very late call log time.
Malcolm Croft's crew called in to say that he had been forced to stop having twisted his ankle crossing Stoke Bruerne bottom lock. This has caused me to reflect that perhaps we should warn competitors of crossing at locks and the very real possibility of failing in, but does the world need another warning? I think we all know that living is dangerous and irrefutably causes death. Let's leave it at that.
Joan and Ian Clarke were with us at Gas Street, indeed Joan took over the job of registration on seeing my inadequate faffing, and had been on hand all day. They, and Simon Bolton who had driven up from Didcot, were to have the HQ truck at Navigation Bridge while the other crew had a rest. It would be fair to say that this year these three definitely pulled the short straw. This check sees a lot of action as runners prepare for the long night ahead. Unsupporteds need access to their bags and need feeding. Many other runners and some crews require hot drinks and, of course, the comings and goings need recording as do the retirements.
This year the job was harder than most. Because of parking problems when the lorry arrived, it was left facing the wrong way and thus the crew were not able to see arrivals. Because of the weather it was difficult to keep kit bags dry and have them ready as the crew did not always know who had arrived. Perhaps because of the weather, some supported runners' crews parked inappropriately and caused complaints from the public as well as, in one case, actually blocking the runners' route onto the bridge! There was also a lot of crossing to and fro on the road with apparent disregard for other traffic. It would be nice for me to be blasé and let people get run over if they so wish. Unfortunately, if anything did happen, the responsibility would be mine - ¬there will have to be changes.
There were further problems as some 'unsupporteds' seemed to have crews who were collecting kit on their behalf, thus making it very difficult to keep track of what was going on. Likewise there seemed to be some supported runners taking advantage of the facilities intended for unsupporteds. All in all it was, at times, pretty chaotic and Ian, Joan and Simon did extremely well to cope.
I accept full responsibility for the failings listed above. Loathe as I am to introduce more rules I promise to improve things next time. The most likely action will be to ban all other vehicles from the bridge and the road either side of it. Crews could leave vehicles in the pub car park and walk, or meet their runners elsewhere. Perhaps the problem is that there are just too many competitors, perhaps we should limit entries further, who knows? In any case I will be giving this a lot of thought, but for now, let's get on with the tale of those who made it to seventy miles and beyond.
Chris held the lead but now Gary was second and Mark third to the cut-off check. Hanno Nickau was next, closely followed by brothers Kevin and Craig McMillan. Then came Glyn, Alicja, Graham Baker and Stephane Thery making up the top ten. Not all of these would reach the Finish and, of course, many others would fall from the field.
Bryan Jones finished this event in 98. He said then that he would never try again. The next year he satisfied the urge to squander a weekend by coming along as helper and since then has never been able to let it lie, always becoming a welcome member of the crew upon withdrawal. He assured me this time that enough is enough, he would not be trying again - we'll see your envelope soon then Bryan.
Tim Welch like Bryan arrived at the check outside the cut off time. In the fatigue induced confusion at the end of the stint, no reason for his late arrival or stopping was logged. Therefore I can only assume that he is one of very few forced to pull out for being outside the 19 hour limit.
Paul Taylor caused quite a stir at the bridge. Having doused his feet in iodine he then set about his baked spud and promptly passed out. On returning to the land of the living he began a mammoth up-chucking bout that was certainly a record for this event. In fact things got so bad that an ambulance was called- (This was the second time the emergency services had been called to the GUCR 2004 - and thus another new record set) Paul eventually discharged himself from hospital on the Monday, was absolutely OK and has expressed his intention of having another bash. Good on him.
Chris Terry retired at the check and his arrival time is recorded on the list. Phil Gadd (who was by now helping out again) actually reported the news of withdrawal much later, at the same time as that for Denise. This was obviously during a difficult period for the checkpoint crew and there is some confusion over the running, or should that be stopping, order. I can only apologise if some names are out of sequence, but this does illustrate why we ask all competitors to report to the home number.
Denise Pickering's listed arrival time at Navigation Bridge is well out of sequence with those either side of it. Jan has the retirement message logged at 01:01. Amidst all the confusion we can only say for sure is that this is where her race ended.
Spencer Summers is another whose name appears out of sequence on the list. He is given a logged arrival time and a time of retirement, I hope these are correct. I also hope that we shall see the likeable Mr. Summer's name on our lists in future.
Andy Ives is another popular member of the regular entrants' club. In this case I can say that we can almost certainly took forward to Andy's company next time as he has already applied for his form.
Anke Molkenthin is very firmly in the 'Best never to have finished' category. Unfortunately the date of the race does not fit the program of medication that she has to adhere to. Immediately after the race she had decided to give it best, but I am delighted to say that she has since relented and is up for 'one last try'. (I expect most of you know that Anke was first lady in the MoB this August, but for those who didn't - you do now.)
Martin Ilott continued beyond the check to Wolverton Bridge, New Bradwell. His crew reported to Jan 'He's throwing up'. Jan gets all the good news! Actually Jan has since heard from Martin via the wonders of e-mither at work, and he too is ready to try again.
Trevor Leigh is, like Barry, the proud owner of a PoP T-shirt. This year wasn't a piece of piss. Having pushed on past the check Trevor fell into the “Why am I doing this? - I've done it before - I've nothing to prove - trap” at New Bradwell. We all know about the deep troughs when ultra running, but this time Trevor just didn't have the mental strength to climb up the other side. Not wanting to leave it with a DNF, he's up for another go in 2005.
Craig & Kevin McMillan had been well up in the field, occupying fifth and sixth places throughout. I had expected that there would be some sibling rivalry and that they would be racing each other, but presumably if they were sharing a crew, running together would make good sense. Jan's log states 'Not feeling well' as the reason for both pulling out at 75 miles. I had the pleasure of running with Kevin at Steve and Kathy's wonderful Thames Meander (for details go to www.thamesmeander.com) last February and look forward to perhaps seeing the brothers there next year.
Ray Willett has nothing to prove as far as the GUCR is concerned. He has a long association with the race from the early days as support crew for Gary Barnes, to very successful competitor. He dropped out at the Proud Perch this time, but then went on to the Hamborough Tavern to help there. It was he, by the way, who provided those smart flashing bands for the night-time finishers.
Nick Folbigg reported to Jan at 03:40 hours that he had 'seized up' at Bridge 79. The map thus puts him at Brickyard Bridge in the darkest depths of Milton Keynes, what a place for a seizure!
All others not so far listed were able to continue to the Bridge 99 check where Ian Hope, Lucy Gettins and Susanne Enhard were on their second tour of duty. They were joined here by Cliff Cox who had driven all the way up from Exeter to find out what it is all about. First through was Chris then came Gary, Mark, Hanno, Alicja, Glyn, Graham and Rob Carr with Stephane Thery being the last of those to make this check before midnight.
Hannah and I also spent some time here on our way back to Navigation after delivering the tent and supplies to GJA. Having introduced ourselves to Cliff we were able have some rest. During our time there two unique events took place. The first was the arrival of two lads making their way home from a club on a motorised shopping trolley. I kid you not. This thing was powered by a three speed Honda step-thru unit driving garden tractor wheels. The pilot sat high in the basket while his companion, who seemed to provide most of the braking effort via the soles of his trainers, rode on a trailer behind. They reckoned on a top speed of about 50 miles per hour ¬jolly good luck to them! The other event was a bit more relevant to this race.
Two runners (who will remain unnamed) kipped down here and were stopped much longer than the permitted forty minutes. Susanne reported this infringement to me at the time, but I'm afraid I forgot to notify the GJA crew ahead. Indeed I forgot until Susanne reminded me at the Finish, when one of the miscreants - the other retired - had already been presented with his medal and was on his way home. As these two were mid fielders and did not cause any delay for our crews (the reason for introducing this rule) I am happy to let it pass. In future the rule will be applied and the pre-race info will stress that it is not our helpers' responsibility to wake sleeping runners!
Steve Broadbent first announced his retirement at Bridge 99, while I was on site. After a chat, he set off for GJA looking comfortable and at a fair rate. I drove off imagining how grateful he would be, as I hung the medal round his neck, for my encouragement in his hour of need. I was horrified, later, to hear that he'd turned back and become the only runner to retire twice at the same spot.
Jackson Griffith reported to Jan that he was 'totally exhausted and stopped South of Leighton Buzzard near Grove Lock'. Ian Hope was duly despatched to collect him but I have no record of what happened after that.
Ian Webber was having trouble with his feet at Slapton. These rebellious leg ends eventually required hospital treatment. Ian later appeared at Little Venice, feet heavily bandaged and wearing lovely blue plastic overshoes that almost matched his shirt - very fetching.
Chris Fanning had been looking strong, was up on his previous time and seemed to be well set for a second win. The Blackwater Valley crew gave a 'damaged knee' as the cause of his failure at Marsworth just short of the magic 100 mile mark. I hope the damage is not permanent and that we will see Chris on the trail again.
Runners reaching the Grand Junction Arms checkpoint were greeted by a wealth of GUCR experience, Rod and Margo Palmer and Penny and Ian Elliott being the duty crew here. Anxious not to delay runners unduly (and no doubt keen for a bit of training) Rod would run up the path until he met a runner, then race back to report their requirements to the others.
Into view first, the position he was to hold until the finish, came Gary Wale. Behind him, in positions that were to change considerably, came Mark, Alicja, Hanno, Graham, Rob, Glyn Stephane, Stuart Shipley and, equal tenth, John Poole with Peter Johnson.
John Hogg first came to the GUCR as part of the Blackwater Valley support crew. Indeed he almost crossed the line ahead of Chris Fanning on his winning run in 2001. Liking the experience, John decided to have a bash himself, but blisters meant that the medal would have to wait for another year.
Graham Baker is well known to anyone receiving the RRC newsletter. His ever smiling face is a magnet for race photographers. That smile probably disappeared for a while on this course, but he seemed cheerful enough when I met him later at GJA, giving 'I'm just a whimp' as reason to stop.
Wayne (Simo) Simpson was not happy with his finishing time in 2003 vowing to come back and better it. Suffering from a painful bruised heel he was forced to throw in the towel this year. I have since seen him back on the trail at Buxton so I hope we'll see him on the towpath again.
As mentioned earlier, positions other than first changed a bit beyond GJA. My sister Kerry Chiverton and John Mason, on duty in what is now their regular spot at Springwell, were there to see Alicja in second then Mark, Rob, Glyn, Stephane, Hanno, Stuart, George Payne, Peter and John fill the lead places. Another fourteen made it this far making a total of 25 reaching the 120 mile mark.
Peter Crossman was the only one to end his race at Springwell. He did continue all the way to Paddington, but had a bit of help from Ian in the race transport, to get there. While sifting in Delamere Terrace recovering, he was offered cash by a passer by who mistook him for one of London's homeless.
Gordon Knight took off the cloak of invisibility that had prevented his progress being recorded at both Birdingbury and Bridge 99, to pass through Springwell. Unfortunately he was not seen at Hamborough or beyond, having stopped, 'exhausted', near Wide Water Lock, South Harefield.
It very seldom happens, that runners who reach the Hamborough Tavern fail to make it all the way to Little Venice. In fact it has become a sort of tradition, established by the Cambridge Harriers crew here, that runners will not be allowed to retire! This year Gary Barnes and his family along with Joan and Ian Clarke and Ray Willett, after his withdrawal, were at Southall to give all competitors that final push to Paddington. Gary and Ray must have been particularly pleased to see their Riverside team-mate Gary Wale rush through the check with a forty minute lead over Mark who took a longer rest. In fact Mark's pause at the check (8 minutes or so) was one of the longer breaks at this point - most runners seeming keen to get it over with, or perhaps not wishing to risk a painful re-start after too long a stop. Through third, Alicja even considered finishing her race here, but Joan's offer to accompany her to the end was sufficient encouragement to push on further. Glyn passed straight through only a minute behind Alicja to be followed later by Rob and Stephane making five, all within about two hours of the leader - in our terms a very close race. Seventeen others made it to this check, the highest number ever to get so far.
At Little Venice, Harriet, Phil, Hannah, Diccon and I were, for once, ready in plenty of time for the leader's arrival. With the prospect of a film crew recording the proceedings, much thought was given to the siting of the Finish line and banner, but in the end weary minds could come up with nothing better than the usual place - by the boaters' bogs and refuse point!
As well as those mentioned above, other checkpoint crews joined us at the Finish from time to time, so finishers were greeted by a crowd of varying size, depending on who was available. Andy and Ramona, Susanne, Ian, Joan and Ian, as well as Lucy (who stayed to the very end) were all in attendance at some time or other to see our heroes and heroines in. It was fortunate that Andy and Ramona were on hand. They were able to drive one finisher back to meet his wife who (understandably when very tired) had had quite enough of driving into town and refused to come beyond their last meeting point.
During the afternoon, some low-life smashed the van window and made off with my bag. We noticed the crime within a few minutes and Diccon went off on his bike to see if he could find anything. He duly returned after a short while with all my kit - naturally minus some cash and credit cards - more or less intact. Unfortunately I had to report the van damage to the police to obtain a crime reference number for the hirers. Having waited several hours for them to come, I eventually phoned again and was told that if I went to the station I could have a number "straight away". This straight away actually translated into well over an hour of inputting mostly irrelevant data, but I was ultimately rewarded with my number. The upshot of all this, and the fact that I then had to take the van to collect our trailer from Springwell, was that I missed the arrival of the middle part of our field. I would like to apologise to all those runners. I deeply regret not seeing their triumphs - the most rewarding part of the whole venture for me. Of course in my absence Phil and the others had everything under control and probably made a better job of things anyway.
As all the runners below made the full distance they are listed in finishing order.
Gary Wale as a Riverside member would no doubt have heard much about the event from Gary Barnes and Ray Willett. For sure I had heard from these two that Gary would not go into this half heartedly and that he was a very determined and tough character. The predictions proved correct and he certainly did not disappoint. From the 'unlucky' thirteenth position at C de B he was fourth by Birdingbury and second at Navigation Bridge. With Chris's demise Gary was able to extend his margin before the GJA check and sustain the effort to the Finish - a very worthy winner.
Glyn Marston has now become the second person (Simon Laporte being the other) to complete four GUCRS, an impressive achievement in anyone's book, Showing steady improvement on each occasion he has moved up our rankings and is in fact the only runner to complete 4 in a row. He also successfully completed The Spartathlon this September, well done Glyn.
Mark Wittering was never lower than third place and held second and first throughout much of the event. Having survived Alicja's strong charge between GJA and Hamborough, he could not maintain his pace to keep the strong finishing Glyn at bay.
Rob Carr put on a bit of a show by gently keeling over a few minutes after finishing. After some gentle laying-on of hands from me, and a quick prayer from ultra legend Pam Storey no less, he soon recovered. (Pam, incidentally, was paying a social visit along with rising star on the ultra scene Siri Terjeson.)
Stephane Thery had been concerned that he might have difficulty following the route. At the Start he had been somewhat tense. During the race he appeared more relaxed (although when I had last seen him getting underway again at Springwell he looked a bit wooden) and at the Finish looked quite pleased with himself. He has since written and confirmed that he did enjoy the event. We certainly enjoyed having him there.
Alicja Barahona struggled from Hamborough Tavern. Despite an acute list to port she made all the way. She was disappointed not to beat last year's time, but has become the only lady to have won the race twice. She will be taking part in the epic Route de Sel or Trans 555 in November this year, we wish her the very best of luck in that.
Hanno Nickau felt that he had been a little hasty in withdrawing at Bridge 99 in 2003. This year there was to be no repeat. Despite the blisters he held it together and has already intimated that he feels able to complete the distance quicker.
John Tyszkiewicz although listed as an unsupported runner, was very well attended by his own supporters for much of the race. In fact the biggest problem he posed our crews was that we could neither pronounce nor spell his name.
Stuart Shipley knocked approximately 2½ hours off last year's time. Despite this he is credited with a finish four places lower, there is no justice.
Peter Johnson survived the drama of seeing his daughter's boyfriend's agony and the consequent change to his crewing arrangement. Alongside his running-mate.........
John Poole there was an improvement on last year's performance by one position in the placings and over 3 hours in time.
George Payne began his attempt fairly near the back of the pack. Illustrating nicely the Tortoise and Hare effect often seen in ultra races, all the finishers behind George at Little Venice had been in front of him at Catherine de Barnes. Also, no less than 31 runners who were ahead of him at 10.7 miles did not make it to the Finish!
Tony Vout must surely have experienced the wonderful phenomenon known as 'Runner's High'. His time of 1:54 for the 12½ miles from Southall being by far the quickest over that final stage. I wish I had been there to see him in.
Keith Pritchard as another Riverside Runner was well aware of what he was 'letting himself in for' when he entered. Perhaps this was an advantage as his split times and mid-pack placing throughout would indicate a well planned and well paced campaign.
Mimi Anderson & Rob Cousins seem to have run the whole event together. Their numbers on most of the checkpoint sheets are given the same time. The exception occurs at Navigation Bridge where they arrived during the most hectic period (and the beginning of Paul's nightmare). They were certainly together at Hamborough, where, perhaps encouraged by their fairly large entourage, they began the second fastest running of the final section this year.
Mark Pierce was determined to lay the ghost of his DNF last year when a hamstring injury put paid to his race at Milton Keynes. He obviously succeeded and was also able to improve on his 2002 time by well over an hour.
Robert Cameron Wood looked pleased with himself when he arrived at Little Venice. Having completed Britain's Longest Race he had good enough reason; having also raised £3,200 for a hospice in the process, he had every reason to be very pleased indeed.
Keith Curwood was here to redeem a DNF last year. On both occasions he has been a model unsupported competitor and has endeared himself to our crews through being cheerful, undemanding and appreciative of their efforts. We are all extremely pleased that he achieved his goal.
Kathy Hearn is another model competitor. Quietly determined, there never seemed to be any doubt that she would get the job done. She, like Keith, was even brave enough to spend the rest of the night with us in the HQ van. In the morning their cheerful acceptance of our squalid facilities was much appreciated. We wished we could have done more than dump them both at Paddington Station, but they really didn't seem to mind.
Rupert Chesmore suffered very badly from blistered feet and was consequently slowest on the last leg from Southall. Despite blaming me for all the troubles of the world at the Finish, we are still on good terms. 'Rupert the fish', as he is affectionately known, has written an account of his run which may well appear on the GUCR web-site that Phil is preparing.
Anthony Taylor is The GUCR's most regular competitor having taken part in all but the 1996 try-out. He was determined, after finishing in 48 hours last year, to complete within the official time limit. When he coasted in with twenty minutes to spare, he became the oldest ever finisher.
Allan Pollock was top of our must do it this time list, so we were delighted to see him cross the Finish line. We decided to ignore the fact that he was slightly outside the limit. In view of the extra distance incurred on the detour at Hatton, it would take a very hard man to deny his success.
The Grand Union Canal 145mile Race simply would not take place were it not for the commitment of its volunteers. At risk of over labouring the point I would like to stress that the event is non profit making and that everyone involved does so at their own expense. Many travel long distances to be there, often bringing their own equipment and extra supplies to supplement those provided. Indeed I sometimes feel that we have more food left afterwards than we had to begin with!
I am extremely grateful for the support of the people listed below and trust that all competitors are too.
Gary Barnes and Family, provided all the kit at Hamborough Tavern and did such a good job that all the runners who made it to their site also made it to the finish. Of course, with experience of no less than five (or is it six?) GUCRS, Gary should know what is required.
Simon Bolton is well known on ultra trails for wearing the legend "The runner in front smokes Superkings" on the back of his vest. He is a long time helper at this race and keeps threatening to run it one day. If/when he does, he can count on plenty of support, but will be missed at Navigation Bridge.
Kerry Chiverton and John Mason have virtually made Springwell Lock their own. Despite their busy social calendar they have managed to keep this weekend free since 2001. Formerly known as Mave, my sister Kerry and her, "new" bloke John have become regular fixtures and are already booked for 2005. (Mave, by the by, first crewed here in 1998.)
Joan & Ian Clarke are another pair of long standing GUCR supporters since Joan's first attempt in 2000. Always in it for the long haul they have the knack of being in the right place at the right time and able to respond to whatever needs doing. Booked officially for Navigation and Hamborough they were actually 'on hand' from registration right through to the end.
Cliff Cox first thought about competing this year. On receiving the race info he decided that he was not yet ready to race but wished to come and see what goes on. Armed with a mountain of very tasty pastries (if you didn't have one you missed a treat) he came all the way up from Exeter to enjoy the graveyard turn at Bridge 99. He has applied to run next year.
Penny & Ian Elliott half the GJA check team, have much experience of the GUCR as competitor and support crew respectively. At her third attempt Penny was successful last year and immediately volunteered their services for the Compton Forty as well as this event. They also kindly donated the paper that much of our race business is printed on.
Susanne Enhard is a Compton Harrier well liked for her enthusiastic and determined attitude. This was her first GUCR. As well as duties at Hatton and Bridge 99 she provided the transport car for Ian when collecting retirees. Susanne intends to run her first marathon next year and already has plans for an ultra in 2006.
Phil Gadd and Harriet Gadd were part of the HQ van team throughout. Phil is, without doubt, one of the pillars on which this race is built. He has been an active participant before, during, and after every one of ‘our’ nine GUCRS. As a bonus he is even planning a web-site for next year. His daughter Harriet has helped at the old Fenny check in the past, but this was her first "full" race. She did an excellent job recording the comings and goings, producing check-sheets much tidier than we've managed previously.
Lucy Gettins is another harrier having her first taste of GUCR life. She opted for the full monty, being part of the convoy that left early on Saturday and returned on Monday. Having comfortably completed two marathons in six days recently and with her Compton Forty entry already accepted, I have a feeling we may see her name on the 145 entry-list before too long.
Ian Hope has, like Phil, been part of nine GUCRs - only in his case it was first as a competitor in the original 1993 event. Since then he has somehow resisted the temptation to run again, taking the more difficult option of manning checkpoints and collecting half dead runners from wherever they may find themselves. His ability to find these (often lost) souls, is something for which many have reason to be grateful.
Jonathon & Liz Lee are now recognised officially as canal race veterans. Jonathon has done 3 stints at Bulboume, two with Liz and both have a turn at The New Inn, Buckby to their credit. This time they had charge of the new Heart of England site at Weedon. Things must be pretty well OK there as Jonathon has already mentioned at work that they will be up for it again - I wonder if Liz knows.
Janet Kearn, Hannah Kearn and Diccon Kearn are (for the sake of convenience only) here listed in descending age sequence. It obviously being inappropriate for me to list them in any other order of importance or value with regard to this race. Having said that, it would be fair, in a chicken and egg sort of way, to give Jan top billing. She is for sure the rock on which this family is founded and has, with very little input from me, produced two wonderful offspring.
Rod & Margo Palmer were the other half of the crew at the 100 mile check. With two wins and title of former record holder to his credit there was never going to be a shortage of experience at this site. Naturally we would all like to see Rod return as competitor, but I have heard it rumoured that Margo enjoyed the crew atmosphere so much, she would rather be at GJA than support him!
Ramona & Andy Smith marshalled the Hatton detour, moved bags and people, and coped with a bit of crewing on the side. It is not surprising that this was handled with a minimum of fuss as they are very experienced in the ways of ultra at the highest level. (if you have the chance, do read Andy's interesting report of Ramona's third place [llth overall] representing GB at the Apeldoorn 24hr Race in the RRC newsletter) We were extr
emely fortunate to have them available to cover our race.
Shane Wilkinson appears last on the list only by virtue of the surname. If I remember rightly, he first ran and finished thel998 GUCR as part of an Army team that had just done the MdS. Next year he had a DNF, but came back to improve his time and place in 2000. Since then he has looked after the Fenny Stratford and Bridge 99 night-time spots, so a short stint in daylight at Catherine de Barnes was a bit of a treat for him this year.
The Grand Union Canal Race 2004 was held with the kind permission of the British Waterways Board and the assistance of Denise Troughton at their Milton Keynes office.