Familiar faces out in front in City of Norwich half marathon
Colchester AC pair Adrian Mussett and Sarah Stradling both recorded their fourth victories in the City of Norwich Half marathon yesterday - while at the same time striking a blow for thirty-something runners.
Mussett, who will be 40 next year, followed up his wins in 1998, 1999 and 2007 with an impressive display on a windswept morning, keeping challenger Andrew Inskip at arm's length to break the tape in a respectable time of 1:12.44.
And Stradling, 36, went on to complete an impressive double when she powered to victory in the women's event. She finished in 1:19.44, which put her nearly a minute ahead of second placed Sue Harrison of Leamington AC and was good enough for 21st position overall.
Mussett's time was some three minutes down on the mark he set when third behind Lincoln's Ian Kimpton back in March but was a decent effort on a morning when the 2,274 competitiors were given a real battering by the elements.
Thankfully there was no repeat of the snow and ice which caused last November's race to be postponed and re-arranged – but conditions were still far from ideal for distance running, even though the heavy showers had passed through by the time the event got under way.
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'That was one of the hardest half marathons I have run in a long, long time,' said Mussett, who like Stradling picked up a cheque for �250. 'The wind was really violent at times and it was extremely tough when you were running straight into it.
'I just worked my way through it and tried to relax a bit when I was out of the wind or it was behind me. It was quite a close finish in the end – but I always thought I had enough in the tank to stay ahead.'
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He added: 'I'm happy enough with the time when you consider how tough it was out there.
'It's very pleasing to still be winning these at my age – but there are plenty of young guys hard on my heels and that is what keeps me training so hard. I'll be a veteran next year so that's another big incentive for me to keep this up.'
Inskip, from Bedford AC, was only two seconds adrift in the end and there was then a sizeable gap back to third placed Matthew Bidwell, the former City of Norwich runner, competing unattached, who finished in 1.14.07.
Stradling, who is coached by the men's champion, was delighted to maintain her recent domination of the women's event.
'Once you start competing in a race on a regular basis you always want to win it – and obviously going for a fourth victory on the trot gave me an added incentive,' she said. 'It was hard work out there today – sometimes the gusts were so strong it made your legs go wobbly – but I made it through and I am thrilled to bits to win it again.
'I love this event. It's always well organised, there's always a good field and I certainly intend to be back next year to defend my title again.'
As is always the case in the Larking Gowen sponsored event, there were hundreds of runners for whom this was all about taking part rather than trying to win – and among that category was former Norwich City footballer Iwan Roberts, who performed with credit in his first half marathon to finish 181st overall in a time of 1.32.38. The run brought back memories of his early days as a professional at Watford, when long distance runs were part of the strict fitness regime under then manager Graham Taylor.
'Graham liked his pre-season runs – but I've never run as far as that before and it was really tough,' said the ex-Canary. 'Being a former professional footballer certainly doesn't prepare you for it.
'After seven miles I felt ok but then the wind was in my face, there were some hills, and eight, nine and 10 were really hard. Fortunately I had some good people around me and they kept pushing me on.
'I'm delighted with the time. I was aiming for something between 1:30 and 1:40 and this will certainly stand me in good stead when I run my first marathon next April.'
First local club finisher in the big race was Reepham Runners' Dominic Blake, who was 10th in 1:16.06, while Becky Schofield of Tri-Anglia (4th, 1:31.32) and Julia Parsley of City of Norwich (5th, 1;32.01) led the women's challenge.
Race director Hugh McGill was left to reflect on another successful event – even though the elements had once again threatened to intervene.
'This time last year conditions were impossible – this time they were just challenging,' he said. 'It was tough for the competitors and tough for us as well at times with the wind blowing over signs and things like that. It also took a lot of hard work from a lot of people to arrange two races in such a short space of time after last year's postponement. But it went off very well.'
• LARKING GOWEN CITY OF NORWICH HALF MARATHON: THE TOP 50
1 Adrian Mussett Colchester Harriers 1:12:44
2 Andrew Inskip Bedford & County 1:12:46
3 Matthew Bidwell 1:14:07
4 Neil Aitken Clapham Chasers 1:14:15
5 Mike Burrett Leeds City AC 1:14:35
6 Bryn Reynolds Clapham Chasers 1:14:54
7 James Ellis Clapham Chasers 1:15:33
8 Richard Henderson Bedford & County 1:15:37
9 Duncan Coombs Cambridge & Coleridge 1:15:45
10 Dominic Blake Reepham Runners 1:16:05
11 Rick Weston Serpentine RC 1:16:17
12 Simon Millett Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow 1:16:30
13 Michael Causer Thames Hare and Hounds 1:17:21
14 Darren Tanner Clapham Chasers RC 1:17:23
15 Stephen Whiting Highgate Harriers 1:17:27
16 Jamie White Clapham Chasers 1:18:46
17 Matthew Ellis Tri-Anglia 1:19:14
18 Fernando Silva 1:19:23
19 John Murray Pactrac 1:19:26
20 Martin Gray 1:19:40
21 Sarah Stradling Colchester Harriers 1:19:44
22 Charles Wartnaby Cambridge & Coleridge AC 1:20:02
23 James Godber Dulwich 1:20:16
24 Piers Arnold City Of Norwich 1:20:20
25 Damian Rogers City Of Norwich 1:20:37
26 Robert Fryer University Of Warwick 1:20:41
27 Alan Darby 1:20:43
28 Sue Harrison Leamington C&AC 1:20:46
29 Chris Spurling 1:20:52
30 Spencer Goodall Wymondham AC 1:21:01
31 Mark Clayton 1:21:18
32 Kevin Rooney Tri-Anglia 1:21:36
33 Stephen Pettit Ely Runners 1:21:36
34 Andy Kett North Norfolk Beach Runners 1:21:42
35 Joe Hawes 1:22:05
36 Glen Hill Havering Mayesbrook 1:22:04
37 Antony James-Orekogbe Dereham Runners 1:22:14
38 9 Olly Slater Nene Valley 1:22:16
39 Graeme Buscke Clapham 1:22:32
40 P J Muffett North Norfolk BR 1:22:34
41 Richard Hanson Tri-Anglia 1:22:33
42 Ben Jimson 1:22:37
43 Tony Robinson Tri-Anglia 1:22.38
44 Sean Beard Nene Valley 1:22:53
45 Ian Galt 1:23:01
46 Mick Yaxley Norwich RR 1:23:07
47 Steve Darby Barnsley 1:23:21
48 Wilfred Campbell Ipswich Jaffa 1:23:22
49 Benjamin Moon Cardiff Harlequins 1:23:26
50 Mathew Horrocks 1:23:23.