Bumper turnout for virtual 2.6 miles mob match as Herne Hill claim local victory over Clapham Chasers

Last weekend was the original date of the London Marathon, now postponed until October due to the pandemic and instead athletes from Herne Hill Harriers turned out to run in isolation in big numbers as they took on local rivals Clapham Chasers in a hugely popular virtual relay event.The event was a virtual 2.6 miles time trial mob match between the two South London clubs with as many runners of all age groups running 2.6 miles alone and the fastest among them formed teams of 26 men and 26 women each per club as part of the wider national New Balance 2.6 challenge.

Both clubs were able to complete men’s A and B teams of 26 each plus well in excess of a full complement of women’s A teams per club. Herne Hill mustered 55 men and 41 women, a total of 96 runners, while Clapham Chasers turned out 52 men and 47 women giving a total of 99 runners.So a grand total of 195 were out around South London and indeed much further afield grinding out their 2.6 miles, an amazing overall participation figure.

Herne Hill claimed a clean sweep of team wins as the men’s A team total time of 6:06:43 (a 14:06 average run time) defeated Chasers’ A team time of 6:14:57 (a 14.25 average run time), while the women’s team result saw Harriers come home by bigger margin, 7:26:21 to 7:40:24. There was also a men’s B team contest for the next fastest 26 men from each club, which again Herne Hill won 7:02:44 to 7:31:43.

With so many men scoring per team, an 8 minutes difference isn’t as much as it might sound and at the very front end of the men’s field it was Chasers who set the pace as they boasted the two fastest men of the weekend, Nick Bowker and Johnny Van Deventer clocking 12:22 and 12:34 respectively

Comparing this to Harriers front two of Andrew Warburton and Marc Geraghty with times 12:37 and 13:00 that would be a near minute deficit, but Herne Hill comfortably turned this around thanks to the by now famous mid pack train, a sea of Red and Black runners in close formation even when running separately at different times and locations. From 6th Herne Hill man Carl Delaney to 16th Paul Calver the time difference was from 13:38 to 14:14, being ten scorers coming in on average 3.6 seconds apart. Then the next grouping in the A team results saw a second pack led by Matt Cartwright 17th to 26th man Richard Keeble running 14:36 to 15:02. 

Harriers dominated throughout the B team too, ledout by Gav Newsum in 15:09, the engine room of the club was in evidence with Club President Keith Newton rolling back the years with a sub 16minutes run and Rob Nagorski running his stint in Poland with a time of 17:31. Three young athletes also helped the men’s B team with Robin Bebbington 15:47, David Aisa Miller 18.13 and Kai Chatterjee 18:20, exciting to see up and coming runners mixing in with the clubs men’s teams.

As with the men, Clapham provided the fastest individual female as potential Great Britain Olympic marathon team contender Steph Davis recorded a fast 13:40, with Georgie Grgec and Steph McCall leading the Harriers females 14:36 and 15:13 respectively. Masters track champion Fiona De Mauny demonstrated a good summer aerobic base for her 800m racing with a strong time of 15:21. Herne Hill women’s captain Julia Wedmore set a fine example to her team with her 16:04. 

So despite some of the recent Virtual National Road Relay Championship winning women’s team opting to sit this one out the women still delivered an even more resounding win than their male counterparts. Twelve year old Sophia Sahai showed her extraordinary ability by being ninth fastest of the Herne Hill women’s team with !6:21, while Ruth Chalmers ran having recently given birth and mothers to be Gaby Reynolds and Jordan Foster also ran their 2.6 miles with inspirational efforts.

It was marvellous to see so many runners from both clubs running and posting their selfies and regardless of ability or current fitness over a weekend which illustrated the very strong appetite for local sport even during coronavirus lockdown and with its safety restrictions.

Geoff Jerwood