The 2015 Berkhamsted Half Marathon and Five Mile Fun Run was the biggest and best yet for the Rotary Club of Berkhamsted Bulbourne – organisers of the annual fund-raising event that draws runners from all over the country to the spectacular but challenging course.
This year, the Berkhamsted races broke new boundaries, posting a record 2,089 entries, with women and girls making up fully 30 per cent of all runners. The races produced some remarkably fast times, with close finishes in the two men’s races and a clear leader in both ladies’ events.
In the half marathon, four-time men’s winner Ed Banks came back to race in Berkhamsted for the 10th time, but was denied a record fifth win by St Albans Striders star Paul Adams.
Graceful in defeat, Banks said: “Adams just got away from me in the last couple of miles – he had a good race. It was quite windy, a tough day for racing but a great event and very well run as in previous years.
“We were quite quick today – we both ran around 71 minutes, faster than the last couple of years”.
Adams posted a time of 71:10, his fastest over the distance since 2009. He said: “I’m local so I know the course and I’ve done raced here twice before, which helps a lot as you know where the hills are.”
His fast time anchored the Striders team of Andy Auld (eighth), Richard Harry (13th) and Graham Foster (23rd) to the trophy for top men’s team on the day.
On the women’s side, there was no doubt who the winner would be as the race progressed: Nadine Lewycky of Marshall Milton Keynes was the clear victor, posting a new PB of 1:21.55 – more than five and a half minutes ahead of second-place finisher Anna Ward of St Albans Striders.
Lewycky, who looked as if she could run the whole race again when she crossed the line, said: “The event was very hilly and very windy, but it’s a beautiful course and it was great fun.
“I was always wondering if I was going to get caught from behind, but I was running with some of the men up at the front and we were pushing each other and that was really useful. I really enjoyed it – I’ll definitely come back!”
The ladies’ team prize was won by Dacorum & Tring AC Road Runners, led by Ania Gabb and Kelly Du Buisson, who finished seventh and eight respectively, and rounded off by strong runs from twin sisters Sam and Becky Fawcett, 13th and 38th overall.
Team captain Sam said: “The girls couldn’t be happier – it’s a great achievement, especially on such a hard windy course.”
In the Five Mile Fun Run, entries were boosted by the huge numbers of young runners from Ashlyns School, which was using the event as a fund-raiser for its new sports hall, as well as by Berkhamsted Raiders FC.
On the men’s side, defending champion Ben Rochford, 19, of Shaftesbury Barnet, had to work hard to hold off a concerted challenge from Veterans AC runner Ian Johnston – winning by a margin of only 10 seconds to finish in 27:13 – while Julian Critchlow of Watford Harriers finished in third.
St Albans Strider Wendy Walsh took the women’s race in a very fast 32:09, followed by U20 runner Chloe Dearman of Watford Harriers in second in 33:20 and Dacorum & Tring AC’s Catherine Davies in third in 35:44.
With the five miler doubling as the Herts Vets Five Mile Championships, Johnston was the overall male vets winner, taking gold in the VM40 age group, with Critchlow winning the VM50 title, Steve Button of the Garden City Runners crowned V60 champion and Stewart Boucher toping the VM70 group.
Walsh took the women’s vets title and gold in VF35, with Davies first in VF45, Linda Aird of North Herts Road Runners top of the VF55 age group, and Kathy Scruton of Watford Running Sisters winning in the VF65 category.
Two prizes were also awarded to the top U16 runners in the five mile race; these were won by Dacorum & Tring’s Joshua van Heiningen, 14, who finished sixth overall in the men’s race in 29:55, and Lucy Johnson, fifth in the ladies race in 36.37.
For the second consecutive year, the Rotary Club organised the popular Schools Challenge, which awarded a £250 prize to the top boys and girls schools teams.
And just like last year, Ashlyns School took the girls’ prize, with a strong team formed by Emily Alderson, twin sisters Amy and Maddie Perry and Molly Jarvis.
Berkhamsted School also successfully defend the boys’ title, thanks to strong runs from Ben Howell, Toby Smith, James Rayner and Morgan Dupont.
John Simpson, chair of the Rotary organising committee, extended his thanks to the many people who contributed to the race, not just fellow Rotarians but the ladies of the Inner Wheel and the many others from the community, particularly the sponsors, who helped make the event such a huge success.
“We’ve had tremendous positive feedback,” he said. “There are always things to improve upon to make the race even better – and planning starts now for the 2016 event!”