South of Thames Cross Country medals for Herne Hill in the Aldershot snow

On a weekend when freezing weather saw sporting events being cancelled wholesale, some club athletics events would not be deterred and went ahead in safety. These included the old traditional South of Thames Cross Country Association “Senior” Championship over 7.5 miles in Wellesley Woods, Aldershot on Saturday afternoon and the Friday Under the Lights 5 mile road race in Battersea Park on a very cold previous evening.

At Aldershot there were six Herne Hill Harriers men and six women beating the weather and train strikes to race, which was just about a quorum for a complete scoring team for each gender. The women brought home what are this season becoming almost customary team medals as they finished in second place on the day.

The silver medal women’s team was led by almost ever present Jenny Nandi in eighth, backed up by Karen Ellison tenth, Suzanne Swaine 12th, Annabelle Acres 17th, Jessica Winfield 33rd and W60 Gillian Wheeldon 35th. Swaine also claimed the medal for first W40 finisher, while Ellison was first W35, but this age group was not a medal category.

The men’s team placed sixth and comprised Jeff Cunningham 29th, John Franklin 32nd, Ben Paviour 34th, James Brown 51st, Andrew Georgeson 57th and M55 Rob Nagorski 67th. There was also Masters age group medal success among the males, as Cunningham won M40 gold and the previous weekend’s Southern M50 champion Paviour took home the gold for this category.

Incredibly the Under the Lights race in Battersea took place on Friday against all odds. Despite temperatures being well under zero, the athletes wanted to play their sport and the race organisers spent all of the day making sure that the paths they ran on were clear of any ice or snow to put on a very good quality event in the circumstances.

George Withers ran a big breakthrough PB of 25:28 in 30th place in a strong field, followed by Robin Jones who was fourth M45 in 29:25 and Jonathan Ratcliffe first M55 in 29:41.

Further afield the Harriers women continue to make their mark with two very notable road race performances over 10km on Saturday. Neither ran their fastest time, but both took important steps forward.

Australian star Chloe Tighe, currently teaching in Dubai, placed second in the ADNOC Abu Dhabi 10km on their big Marathon weekend. Most people have heard of the only female to beat Tighe on the day as top Scottish athlete Eilish McColgan scored a big win, clocking 31:44. Tighe’s 35:31 seems a long way behind but is still quite quick and represents a promising outing as she returns from recent injury. 

In the north east of England where she has now made her home, Sophie Pikett embraced the notion that not every race has to be a PB attempt when finishing an excellent first female at the Saltwell 10km road race in Gateshead. Her time of 35:58 nevertheless was a very strong run over a three lap course with plenty of elevation and encouraging form going into the new year.

Geoff Jerwood