George proudly displays his England vest in Samoa

George proudly displays his England vest in Samoa

This has been a truly fantastic season for Harrogate Harriers junior athlete George Mills, we always knew he was pretty special and under the watchful eye of his coach Jo Day he has matured into a truly formidable runner and one of whom the club is particularly proud.   It’s going to be hard to do justice to his success this year, however we’ll give it a go:

The season started with Yorkshire Championships (always the first big event of the year), George was running well from the outset so the plan was to go for Peter Elliot’s U17 800M championship record (1.52.00), which had stood since the 1970s.  He really went for it and with no competition to push him along missed it by just 0.25sec, a superb result given he was running from the front.   He went on to run his next two 800M BMC races – which take place throughout the season – in a new PB of 1.51.73 and then, incredibly, yet another PB of 1.50.55!  This qualified George for the World Youth Games in Columbia and was a massive and unexpected bonus, however this last race had been designed to peak him for the English Schools two weeks later and this had been the goal for two years, so very reluctantly George and Jo took the decision not to go to Columbia and this decision was supported by UKA.  It was a big risk, but one that paid off.

George went to the English Schools Championships as planned and absolutely cruised it, winning both the heat and final convincingly and totally in control, much to everyone’s joy – it was a terrific result and one that will be written into the annals of English Schools athletics.  The training and race preparation had been perfect and the rewards were quick to come:  That victory and his 1.50.55 at the BMC races once again brought George to the attention of the UKA selectors and he was chosen to represent England at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa, his first international vest.  As you might imagine, he was absolutely over the moon with this and was ranked as the UK’s no.2 behind Scotland’s Ben Greenwood, who incidentally George beat at last year’s UK Sainsburys Games!

George in action at English Schools

George in action at English Schools

It was back down to earth with a bump, all this success had to be built upon and it was back into training with a goal of peaking in September, this was hard work and a challenge for both George and the Harrogate Harriers coaching staff.  Jo thought it would be a good idea to get another hard race in, so entered him in the Northern Championships at 400m, the goal being to generate some race sharpness.  What happened took everyone by surprise:  George took the field apart and ran a new PB of 49.09, ranking him 4th in the UK – and this wasn’t even his distance!  The following day he easily won the 800m in an “embarrassingly slow” 1.59.08.

So, after travelling for almost three days George finally made it to Samoa and discovered that in his qualifying heat he had a Kenyan capable of running 800m in 1.46.00 –  this was definitely taking things up a notch!  The plan always was to qualify for the final and although the heat was very hard, he put up a serious fight to finish second in 1.52.25, Jo and the rest of the coaching staff were very pleased and it meant he was in with a serious chance of a medal, although the gold and silver were likely to be a contest between the Kenyan and Jamaican qualifiers.  The final took place just 20 hours later and as they came in to the home straight, George was definitely in with a chance, but it wasn’t to be – he left it just a little bit late to come home 5th in a new PB of 1.50.89, Ben Greenwood taking bronze.

Throughout the season George has had to put in some seriously hard training and dedicate himself to his sport, plus do a lot of travel and acclimatise to different running environments – all this he handled fantastically well and he is a credit to his sport, his coach and the Club.  All of us at Harrogate Harriers are incredibly proud of him, WELL DONE GEORGE!!

Ben Takes World Masters Crown!

September 23, 2015


Ben powers to the finish …. (courtesy of Woodentops)

Ben Grant has put the finishing touch to a fantastic season by taking the MV65 Winner’s Crown at the recent World Masters Mountain Running championships, this year held on home turf in Betws-y-Coed.  Of course, Ben is no stranger to these championships; eleven years back he showed his class by winning the MV55 title in Sauze d’Oulx and since then has competed on a number of occasions, finishing 2nd in the 2013 event held in the Czech Republic.  He has been running really well this year – evidenced by his FRA English Championship win – and going into the World championships had to be favourite.    The course differed from the usual European formula insomuch as it featured some hefty descents (the World Masters are frequently uphill only) and in fact this race had a full 1450ft of climb – and that’s a lot in just 5.5 miles.  Ben’s fell-running experience was going to be the decisive factor.

Ben recce’d the course well in advance and in fact travelled down to Wales on the preceding Thursday in order to go over the route carefully, by the time of the race he had been round it no less than four times!  It rained heavily the night before the race and of course, British fell runners are used to wet, slippy conditions so he had good reason to be optimistic and elected to wear fell shoes for the race.  Right from the off it was hard work, his main Italian and German rivals pulling away on the first climbs.  Ben bided his time though, conserving his energy and catching up with them on the first long level section.  Coming in to the first serious descent, it was the old adage of “brain off, brakes off!” and they just didn’t stand a chance of keeping up with a man who honed his descending skills on the Lakeland Fells.  He held the lead over the next big climbs and coming in to the final hard and slippy descent, had a decent lead on them.   It must have been a hell of a descent, because Ben did that last mile in 5.02, further increasing his lead to cross the finish line in 43.43,  a full 42 seconds in front of the Italian Franco Valle (44.25) and then the German Reinhart Vogler (44.47) This was a fantastic result and showcased Ben as one of the world’s best off-road runners in his age group today.  Well done from all of us Ben, absolutely outstanding stuff!

Link to WMRC website and official results.

The Leeds City A.C. Winning Team (Daniel Oxtoby Photograpy)

The Leeds City A.C. Winning Team – L-R Mike Burrett, Tesfaye Debele & Jonathan Wills
(Daniel Oxtoby Photograpy)

The annual Harrogate Town Centre 10K proved to be a fantastic occasion with over 622 runners crossing the finish line in Crescent Gardens.  We enjoyed superb conditions for racing, a very light breeze and not too hot, it was always destined to be a good one.  And what a day it turned out for Leeds City A.C. – they dispatched a formidable team and claimed the first three places and with it the overall mens’ team prize.  First across the line in a superb 31:28 was Tesfaye Debele, followed by Jonathan Wills in 32:20.  Harrogate local Mike Burrett was third in 32:41.

The ladies race was claimed by Wetherby’s Pauline Munroe in a speedy 36:51 and 12th place overall, while last year’s winner Sharon Barlow finished second in 37:51.  Charlotte Wills of Leeds City A.C. added to their overall haul by taking third spot in 38:07.

First Harrogate Harrier across the line was MV65 Ben Grant in a stunning 38:10, this result places Ben at the top of the UK rankings for his age group, over a minute ahead of his nearest rival.  This is some achievement and confirms what we’ve known for years – Ben is a seriously talented runner!

Pictures from the race are available on the Harrogate Harriers Flickr page courtesy of Daniel Oxtoby Photography and are free to download.  If you enjoy the pictures, please consider making a donation to our supported charity Bowel Cancer UK via Dan’s Just Giving web page.  The 2015 race was held in memory of one of our founding members, Ken Fozard, who sadly passed away late last year as a result of this terrible disease.

Electronic chip timing was provided by our friends at Sports Entry Solutions.  Results here.

A Brilliant Bob

June 3, 2015

Helen celebrates success at the Moot Hall!

Helen celebrates success at the Moot Hall!

We’ve got used to Helen Price achieving some pretty spectacular results in ultra-distance events over the past few years – her fantastic runs at last year’s Lakeland 50 and Grand Tour of Skiddaw being good examples – but she has really come up with the goods this time:  Since late last year Helen has been training hard in order to make an attempt on the notorious Bob Graham Round, a circuit of 42 Lake District Mountains that you have to complete within 24 hours, starting and finishing at the Moot Hall in Keswick’s Town Square.   Does that sound easy?  It’s not.  The route covers around 66 miles of steep, rocky and difficult terrain, with a cumulative ascent of over 27,000ft –  that’s about the same as climbing Everest from sea level and it’s phenomenally tough.  For those that succeed, membership of the elite Bob Graham 24-hour Club awaits.

Helen made her attempt on Friday 22nd May, leaving Keswick at 7.00pm.  She was supported by a team of over 25 fell runners, drawn from a variety of clubs and with strong representation from Harrogate Harriers and Nidd Valley Runners.  Very fortunately, she had a perfect weather window and was able to make great progress overnight, in fact by the time she came off Leg 2 (the bulk of the Helvellyn range) she was over 30 minutes ahead of schedule and it was clear that she meant business.

Helen on the West Wall Traverse onto Scafell

Helen on the West Wall Traverse onto Scafell

Leg 3 was dealt with in less than 6 hours and at Wasdale she was joined by husband Martyn who would navigate Leg 4 and aim to keep the pace moving along.  As is common, by this point Helen was struggling to take on food and the phenomenal effort required was beginning to take its toll, however she continued to gain time on her schedule – climbing Yewbarrow in a very fast 42 minutes –  and along the way picked up some support from legendary fell runner Steve Birkinshaw.  By the time she was on the fifth and final leg, everyone knew she was on for a fast time and she was joined by a whole posse of friends and supporters for the final push home, not least of whom was Harriers Chairman Tony Essex.

She came off the final mountain (Robinson) looking very strong, all that stood between her and success was the final five-mile road section to Keswick.  A quick change into road shoes and she was off, realising very quickly that if she could maintain a decent pace a rare sub-22hr BGR was on the cards.  A huge effort followed and she reached the famous green door of the Moot Hall at 4.51pm precisely, meaning she had completed the Bob Graham Round in an awesome 21.51, the fastest “new” female round of the last three years.

This was an amazing achievement  – well done Helen.