RUNNERS converged on a beautiful country pub on the Essex and Suffolk borders for the second running of the Lamarsh Lionheart five-mile trail race on Sunday, February 9th.
The race was made particularly challenging as it took place just as Storm Ciara was starting to sweep across the UK – a scenario that had led the organisers Company of Runners to take additional steps to ensure competitor safety.
Run Director John Stoneman explained: “We were aware that the forecast was for strong winds on Sunday morning and so had been preparing for it all week.
“We consulted with weather agencies to acquire a very specific local forecast for the area around the Lamarsh Lion pub which suggested to us that there would be a weather window up until midday during which the wind would be classified as a “strong breeze” rather than a “high wind” on the Beaufort scale.
“We also consulted with other race organisers and the Trail Running Association to ensure that we made a fully informed decision on going ahead with the event, and we arrived on site two hours before the start to complete a full recce of the route and to make sure that driving conditions to and from the event were acceptable.
“We had informed participants of this course of action and were fully prepared to postpone the event if we thought that competitor safety would be compromised – however it was clear when we were on site that although the wind would add to the challenge, it was perfectly safe to proceed.”
One runner who made light of the efforts of Storm Ciara to impede her progress was eventual race winner Jackie Stretton who set a new course record of 38:55 for the near five-mile course. Having headed the rest of the field home she promptly set out on a second lap as she was on a “long run” day and actually clocked an even faster unofficial time for her second stint.
The course takes in the rolling hills and beautiful woodland around the villages of Lamarsh and Alphamstone and in its second year of existence is the first of the eight races that Company of Runners will be organising in 2020.
The format of the event allows runners to leave at any time in a start window of 30 minutes – at which point their individual clock starts – and then self navigate around the predominantly trail course.
Second placed runner Malcolm Statham was also second back in a time of 41:04 while the third placed runner Doug O’Neil was actually one of the last to set off on the course, eventually completing in a time of 42:36.
Stoneman added: “Everyone commented on how beautiful the route was and how pleased they were that we were able to complete the event despite the weather conditions.
“It was great to see some familiar faces who are regulars at our races, but also nice to meet some new competitors, particularly people who were brand new to self-navigation trail races. We had runners from as far afield as Brentwood, Ipswich and Newmarket all travel to take part.
The race is becoming a firm favourite with competitors as it takes in local landmarks like Clees Hall, and the impressive Holy Innocents Church which is Grade 1 listed by English Heritage.
It starts and finished at the Lamarsh Lion pub which in itself is something of a local landmark as it was frequented by celebrated painters Thomas Gainsborough and John Wainwright.
Stoneman said: “We would like to thank the landlord and staff for being such amazing hosts on Sunday morning – ensuring our comeptitors and the hardy spectators that turned out to support them were kept well supplied in hot drinks, cake and biscuits.”
Next up for Company of Runners is the ever-popular Chilly Chappel Chase – a five-mile navigation trail race which starts and ends at the Chappel Winter Beer Festival on Saturday February 29th.
Race entry includes free entry into the beer festival and a complimentary beer glass. Showers and toilets are available for use after the race-so competitors can change and enjoy the festival.