Herne Hill women crowned Virtual National Road Relay Champions!

With the Coronavirus pandemic meaning no sport can take place in the sense that we are usually familiar with some new creative innovations using online systems and the Strava app saw the inauguration of last week’s Virtual National Road Relay Championship and the women’s team from Herne Hill Harriers scored a double victory to lift the crown of champions in both the six to score and twelve to score team results.

This virtual running event observing strict social distancing rules and government guidelines took place between Saturday 4th and Wednesday 8th April, the first day of this new form of competition being the day on which the actual National Road Relay Championship had been due to take place in Sutton Coldfield. This event could be considered a big success and potentially a forerunner of more virtual races as it attracted a total of more than 3,700 participants representing clubs from all over the country running time trials from their homes.

The racing format was pioneered by South London athletics clubs Herne Hill Harriers and Belgrave Harriers in a challenge match that took place two weekends earlier. Any number of athletes could enter online to run 5km alone from home and then upload their performance onto the results system with the fastest twelve men’s times and fastest six and twelve women’s times from each club team then captured and the total times form each club team competing against each other.

At the end of the five day window for people to log their runs and all results counted congratulations went to the Herne Hill women’s six to score team of Chloe Tighe (16:44), Steph McCall (16:58), Jessica Craig (17:04), Georgie Grgec (17:08), Saskia Millard (17:10) and Fiona de Mauny (18:16), winning by around one minute.

Such is the strength in depth of the Harriers women their fastest twelve were a very clear ten minutes ahead of the closest challenger, this team being completed by Liv Stillman (18:25), Helena Corbin 18:36), Sarah Grover (18:36), Zoe Tompkins (18:53), Lara Langston (19:32)and Julia Wedmore (19:47) as they claimed the inaugural VNRRC title. 

Overall there were 23 Herne Hill women participating and all played their part in this success with their backup and the strong mutual support demonstrated among everyone. The average 5km time recorded by the winning six was 17:27 and the average for the twelve was a very strong 18:06, a time that would win outright at many a parkrun around the country when such events can eventually be reopened. Individually Tighe was in the top dozen overall and Millard was the fastest under 20 female. More than 130 women’s teams of six finished their competition.

The Herne Hill men also competed in very high numbers with the A team of twelve finishing 32nd and the B team 67th of more than 100 complete men’s teams who submitted their results. The 24th Harriers man was faster than 18 minutes, with the A team being led home by Nick Bester who clocked a good 15:38 and Arlo Ludewick who ran 15:43, with Marc Geraghty recording a big personal best for the distance of 15:52, impressive solo running by everybody.

The race organisers had their work cut out to cope with the unexpectedly high level of entries and participants as they did extremely well to adapt a result system designed for a few hundred to produce results for thousands of runners in individual and team order in a number of categories. The event also has a link to make charity donations to the NHS which has so far raised more than £10,000 including Gift Aid.

The Team photo above is a year old now, long before our current restrictions, from left to right Steph McCall, Jessica Craig (our 2nd and 3rd fastest team members in the virtual race), Geoff Jerwood, Katie Snowden, Stacey Ormerod, Liv Stillman (7th fastest) and Georgie Grgec (4th fastest).

The individual pics are of Chloe Tighe (fastest HHH), Saskia Millard (5th fastest and top under 20 woman) and Fiona de Mauny (6th fastest).

The team pic reminds us that we achieved this latest team win without Katie who is on paper our fastest runner, now hopefully starting to return following months of injury issues and also without another international Stacey who 2 weeks ago gave birth to her first child.

Geoff Jerwood