Andrew Rooke eyes up county races after win at Woodbridge 10K

Andrew Rooke (No. 210) during the early stages of last Sunday's Woodbridge 10K. He won the race, fin

Andrew Rooke (No. 210) during the early stages of last Sunday's Woodbridge 10K. He won the race, finishing ahead of runner-up Ricky Challinor (No. 5). Picture: BEN POOLEY - Credit: Archant

Andrew Rooke is bang in form, and he means business this summer.

After a winter decimated by injuries, you would have forgiven the 26-year-old member of Ipswich JAFFA for feeling a little rusty, in terms of racing, and a little conservative in his ambitions for 2017.

But none of it.

Rooke blasted to victory at the annual Woodbridge 10K road race last Sunday, conquering the traditionally tough two-lap challenge in a personal best time of 32mins 05secs, so eclipsing his 32:50 effort from last year, when he finished a runner-up to speed merchant Aaron Scott.

There was no Scott on the start-line last weekend – the former Woodbridge Shuffler had other priorities, having posted a blistering 2hrs 17mins 46secs at last month’s London Marathon, where he finished a fantastic 24th overall.

Back at Woodbridge, Rooke proved that he was fresh, rather than rusty, and hungry for more success, including an attempt on the Suffolk County AA five-mile record next month.

And in a few years time, he might also have a crack at the marathon.

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“I want to win all the county titles, so maybe one day I will run a marathon,” explained Rooke, following his weekend success on Market Hill at Woodbridge.

“But I’ll have to step up the miles. My long runs in training are already up to 16 miles, so I need to step those up to 20.

“My girlfriend (Emma Mortimer) did the London Marathon this year (in 3:30.39) so I now fully appreciate what it entails, and how long it takes to recover! She had been suffering from sciatica from about 13 miles, so ran the second half in pain.”

Of his own recent achievement, Rooke said: “I’m glad to win this year, having finished second to Aaron Scott last year.

“I’m a big cycling fan, and the atmosphere coming up the hill was very similar to cycling crowds, cheering you on.”

Rooke finished 55 seconds clear of runner-up Ricky Challinor (33:10), with James McNally (33:57) in third. He continued: “Ricky (Challinor) and I go back a few years! We were on the same training camp at St Mary’s (in Twickenham).

“He led it off, and there was a bit of a head-wind for a lot of the way around, so I tucked in behind him on the first lap. Ricky started going backwards up the steep hill and I ran hard off the top of the hill. I knew I had the speed, but didn’t know about the distance, because my winter training had been ruined by injury.

“I got a toe injury, which led to plantar (fasciitis) and also Achilles heel problems, so I didn’t do any cross country.

“But for the last four weeks I have got in some solid training, with 50 miles per week, and it’s all come together very quickly.”

In past weeks, Rooke warmed up with a couple of appearances at the Kesgrave Parkrun, his local event – he lives in Kesgrave and is a teaching assistant at the Britannia Primary School.

His debut run of 15mins 52secs was a course record, and a week later he returned to blitz his own 5K course best with a scorching 15:26, just eight days before his Woodbridge triumph.

Rooke was crowned the overall champion at last summer’s Friday Five Series, after wins at Kirton, Framlingham, Bury St Edmunds and Great Bentley, all over the five-mile distance.

In fact, he set a new Ipswich JAFFA club record for five miles at Kirton last June, beating the 28-year-old landmark set by John O’Brien (25:01 in 1988).

Rooke’s 24:55 at Kirton was soon broken – he achieved that himself at the Great Bentley five-miler with 24:40, just four weeks later.

In terms of the Suffolk county AA titles (senior men), over various distances, Rooke told me: “I’m going to target the Suffolk five-mile record, at Framlingham (June 16). I’d also like to get under 25 minutes for five miles.”

The Suffolk championship races are incorporated within main events, with not every distance held each year.

Rooke is the current holder of the Suffolk 10K title (33:17 at Framlingham) and the five-mile (26:31 at Ipswich in 2015).

As far as the other distances are concerned, Josh Entwistle has the 10-mile accolade for his win at the Felixstowe Coastal (57:04 in 2015), while Waveney Valley’s Lee Cook won the county half-marathon title at the Stowmarket Half earlier this year (1:15.11).

Matt Jeffries was the last winner of the county marathon (2016), and you have to go back through the mists of time for the 15-mile and 20-mile events.

Howard Beasley was the last 15-mile winner in 1999 and, as far as I can gauge, the last 20-mile winner was the author of this very column, in a decidedly pedestrian time in 2006.

Competition was thin on the ground that year!

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