Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
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Festival of 5k’s (August 2016)

The second, annual, Hercules Wimbledon Festival, 5000m track races,  were successfully managed, again by Ex-International cross country runner, Ben Noad, on the 17th of August 2016. I think only his great friend Ben Pochee, put on anything like, such a great atmosphere of genuine, amateur athletics in the UK. In Pochee’s case it was with the Night of the 10k ‘PB’s meeting, at Parliament Hill Fields, with glamour, music and food, and a tunnel to run through (This year it was a 10k Olympic trial that sparkled).It appeared, in both cases as something brought to the events that to me appeared a renaissance of the virtues that used to be of true amateur athletics, where money was not the criteria, as it so often is in sport at the highest level these days, with all the commercial outlets involved.

The 5k graded races started with modest club times and added momentum as the races improved time-wise up to race 5 right at the end of the evening, where all the runners achieved a ‘Good club’ time inside 16 minutes.
      In order of priority, one must talk about the fastest to begin with, all trying for personal bests, as they obviously were in Ben Pochee’s Highgate Harriers event in May.
The ‘Elite Race 5’ had 20 competitors. It was obvious that, for the last seven laps the battle would be between Pete Chambers of Highgate and John Sanderson of Guildford & Godalming, who had run a 3:48.6/1500 on the 30th of July. Danny Russell, the tri-athlete, held third position for awhile till Chris Smith, the International mountain runner, came through.
Sanderson led till Pete Cambers put his strong finish in for the last lap. Chambers previously ran 15:08.12 so, easily improved with 14.37.2 clocking. However, Chambers fame had been by running in the Under 20 team in the European cross country championships of 2014.
His current aim would be to make the British team in the Under 23’s in the European cross, much later in the year.
Chambers remarked to me afterwards “He let me through on the inside with 450 to go, rather than close me off. I guess that was because we were here to run times and not championship races. He was nice enough to let me through’
Chambers added ‘I have finished my studies at UCL with a physics BA/MA. I am thinking about going for a possible athletics scholarship next year in September 2017. I need to look into that’
‘As I train at Parliament Hill, I have to travel from South London, with all the troubles on the rail recently and, I leave home at 5.30 and get to Parliament Hill and then, afterwards, get home at 9.30 on a Tuesday. I lose 4 hours of my evening but with quality sessions I get; I think it is worth it.’
‘For me the Six stage will be like a stepping stone to do well there and, go to Liverpool for the Liverpool cross country’

It was interesting to note that out of 109 finishers in the day, over the five races, there were 60 Personal Bests and 24 Season’s bests. What more can one say for the success of the meeting that, will be jazzed up even more next year, according to Ben Noad the Managing Director of the event.

Race 5:- First 8 out of 20. 1 Pete Chambers (PB, Highgate) 14:37.62; 2 John Sanderson (Guilford and Godalming) 14:43.26; 3 Chris Smith (PB, TVH) 14:45.96; 4 Robel Bahelbi (SB, Highgate), 14:54.37; 5 James Hoad (Bedford & County) 14:54. 6 Frederick Siemeck (SB, Hercules Wimbledon), 14:54.84; 7 Danny Russell (SB, Highgate) 15:02.67 & 8 Ben Cole (Tunbridge) 15:07.43.

Race 4 Ben Toomer of the local Hercules & Wimbledon club, who works in Finance in the City, was pleased to make the Surrey cross country team said “I love training down with the group at Wimbledon.”

First 3 of 22 1 Ben Toomer (PB Hercules Wimbledon ); 15:12.49.; 2 Neil Phillips from Kent AC and, coached by Ken Pike, SB 15:27.51; 3 Mark Worringham (PB, Reading Road Runners) 15:28.30.

Race 3 Patrick Chesser won in a (UK PB) of 16.01.89 but did tell me that he had run 15:26 in a high quality race in Ireland. He is from County Clare but runs for Newham & Essex Beagles in England but his club in Ireland is Nissen track club. “I am one of five brothers and three of us are runners. My hero is Eamonn Coghlan and his 20 year old son is one of the best for his age in Ireland.‘
He added “It was nice to win a race today as I don’t win that much.’

Race 2 Matthew Kuert won race 2 out of 23 finishers in 16:16.53.
He stressed “It was all about times to night to be honest.‘
‘I come from the German speaking part of Switzerland-Zurich and came over a year ago.’
He must be pleased to have joined a friendly club like Serpentine?
‘They are friendly but there a lot of very fast guys, who have been running a long time. I have only been running seriously for 2 or 3 years.
‘I have had other races this year but I kind of prepared myself for this one. I was very lucky because there was a guy from Clapham, Martin Rutter who helped out with the pace. I took more than 30 seconds off my best time”

Race 2. 1 Matthias Kuert (PB Serpentine) 16:16.53; 2 Martin Rutter (PB Clapham Chasers) 16:19.71; 3 Axel Manzano (PB Good Gym/France) 16:28.36.

Race 1. Tom Conlon of Herne Hill Harriers was the first out of 20. ‘I have been running very slow times. 3 miles run in the Wimbledon Park run over 3 miles in 18:52 so, I would expect to do 18:20. The race was very enjoyable today. The man who was the pacemaker Ben Noad, was running 18:20 pace which was perfect for me” Conlan won in 17:53.18.
Now for some interesting facts about Tom Conlon, who is now 55 years old. He won the AAA’s Junior steeplechase in 1980 and, as an Under 23 ran 8:47.07 for the 3000m steeplechase. He won the Surrey Senior cross country when he was 20 years old.

He remarked “I still want to come back and do some vets competition”

Alastair Aitken

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