Factual Report of GBRR 2004 by Jim Desmond
GBR 2004 was widely acclaimed as the best yet. The spirit and support shown by all the teams throughout the weekend was magnificent and the racing was the closest we've seen. And for the first time we saw fancy dress in the race - is the Green Belt ready for this? They done great, and I believe it is. Good on them!
The overall winners were Flanders Running Club from Belgium in 22hrs 12mins 17secs with a comfortable margin of 54mins over Ranelagh Greyhounds, who themselves beat West 4 Wombats by 10mins. The time of Flanders was well down on previous years but this was partially accounted for by a navigation error on stage 3 that cost them approximately half an hour. They were however a very talented group of athletes with a superb attitude who made a lots of friends throughout the weekend. The also remarkably managed to navigate the London traffic to make all their starts in good time, which is something some home-grown teams struggle to achieve. Flanders also won the new category of King of the Mountains for the best cumulative performance on the 4 hilliest stages.
In the Ladies category Serpentine Ladies successfully defended their title and finished 14th overall in 25hrs 53mins 4secs in the second fastest time for the race (South London Harriers Ladies set the record of 25hs 25min 10sec in 2002. Second were Ranelagh Lassies 54 minutes behind and West 4 waifs in third. Not surprisingly Serpentine also collected the inaugural Queen of the Mountains title.
Millennium Group reclaimed the Veterans title from Ranelagh with a time of 23hrs 56mins 56secs finishing a very strong 5th overall. Stragglers Vets managed to get the host club on the honours list with a creditable second in this category finishing 7th overall. Bev Ali's Ranelagh Bloodhounds were yet again one of the most popular teams of the race and they successfully defended their coveted toilet prize as the for being the last team to complete the course although they were 20 minutes quicker than last year.
The race this year was characterised by the fact that no single club dominated as had happened in previous years. This made for very exciting racing with many changes in lead. The men's stage wins were shared amongst 7 clubs – Don Anderson’s New Malden Occasionals and Tony Hopkins West 4 had 5 wins each, Flanders 4, Dulwich 3, Frontrunners, Ranelagh and Serpentine won 1 each. Serpentine achieved greater dominance in the Ladies event with 11 wins, followed by Ranelagh with 4, New Malden Occasionals 2, Frontrunners 2 and Stragglers with a single stage.
The race saw some hugely impressive individual performances. Conditions were conducive to fast running with the temperature cool and little wind, but the recent wet weather made some of the off-road sections very difficult under-foot. Despite this 3 mens and 8 ladies stage records were broken.
It's a very difficult task to pick out the top performers of the race when there were so many, but there were a few that are especially worthy of highlighting. Barbara Yff of Serpentine produced two of the finest GBR runs in the history of the race. Fresh from her 29th place in London Marathon (2hrs 48mins) she finished 3rd overall on the two toughest stages of the whole race - 4 and 14 - beating some very good men by quite a margin. Not surprisingly she set a new record in each that I suspect will stand for a long time. Elinor Rest from Serpentine also achieved the same feat of 2 stage wins in new records by winning 3 and 13, and she now has 5 GBR wins in total putting her joint second in the overall list.
Emily Nelson from New Malden Occasionals won stage 6 and 15, but more significantly perhaps came the closest a lady has come to winning a stage outright when she finished second only 4 seconds behind the winner at St.Albans. Anna Verges of Frontrunners showed that this team in their first GBR are capable of putting in some big performances by securing victory in her two stages and smashing the previous records in both. Sarah Seal from Ranelagh was the other star lady - she won both days and breaking the course record for stage 20 and creating the record for the new first stage.
Three other Ladies won on both days - Sarah Edmunds and Candice McDonald from Serpentine and Liz Kipling from Ranelagh. Theresa Brady from Serpentine was unlucky to not be in this group; she won stage 9 and was leading stage 17 when she went off-course allowing Sandra Blenkinsop from Stragglers to come through to win.
In the Men's category there were 3 double winners - Will Clarke and David Symons New Malden Occassionals and Mark Critchlow of West 4. David achieved the distinction of breaking one of the toughest records - Hugh Jones mark set on stage 7 in 2002. He also won the hard stage 14 in a fast time which is creditable as it's a difficult route to navigate and it was his first time in the event.
Mark Critchlow now has a record of 8 wins from 8 runs in GBR and he sits alongside Hugh Jones at the top of the leader board. Despite the distractions of recently becoming a father for the first time Mark won stage 2 and 19 very comfortably. Things didn't go all his way however as he saw his stage 20 record fall by a single second to Shaun Whelan of Frontrunners who ran the fastest pace of the race averaging 5min 18 per mile over uneven towpath. Shaun was pushed most of the way by 3 times former Belgian 10,000metre champion Peter De Vocht but he drew out a lead of almost half a minute by the end. Also on stage 20 was the kiwi David McGregor who won the V45 category recently at London Marathon. Serpentine had another London Marathon 2004 winner competing in GBR this year - the ever-popular Sue Lambert who won the V60 category achieved a remarkable 3rd Lady in GBR stage 19.
Throughout the field there were so many performances that deserve a mention unfortunately there isn't space, but I have to make a couple of exceptions. Steve Endacott of Dulwich secured a gold, silver and bronze alone on the weekend – he finished first on stage 1, second on stage 13 and third on stage 19.
But last and by no means least is John Wallace of Olgboscorunners who, dressed as Superman, ran two 13 mile stages on Saturday (1 and 7) and also stage 20 on Sunday. As one would expect of a veteran of 226 marathons he managed it without trouble and brought a smile to everyone he met. His chief partner in this fund-raising team was Noel Sainsbury who ran dressed as a very convincing nun.
Let's hope that we see these guys and everyone else back next year for the special 10th anniversary GBR.