Marie Shirley romps to Halstead Marathon win in course best
Marie Shirley, of Colchester Harriers, was crowned first lady in a course record time as Halstead Road Runners hosted the 23rd staging of the Halstead & Essex Marathon last Sunday.
For several years now the race has also served as the Essex County Marathon Championships, and conditions were just about perfect last weekend, as opposed to many previous years when runners have had to cope with some energy-sapping heat.
And the result was that both the male and female course records were broken, with Shirley enjoying a big margin of victory in the ladies’ race.
Shirley was 14 minutes clear of her closest rivals, scooping an Essex county senior and veteran gold into the bargain despite suffering from a back injury earlier in the week.
She stopped the clock at 3hrs 12mins 31secs, having only two weeks previously recorded a swift 3:06.24 at the London Marathon.
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It was actually a hat trick of gold medals for Shirley at Halstead, because she was joined in the winning ladies’ team by Harriers club-mates Becky Cooke, who ran her debut marathon in a superb 3:32.11 to finish as Essex runner-up to Shirley (silver medal) and also Steph Horner, who was third Essex lady to take the bronze in 3:35.06.
Horner also struck gold in the over-45 age group, as well as the team section.
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Away from the Essex Championships, Vicky Bird was actually second overall in 3:26.38, with Julie Balaam in third spot (3:30.57)
In the men’s race, Tristan Steed, who runs for the Army, finished first overall in a fantastic time of 2:34.56. Steed had powered to an impressive 2:29.32 at the London Marathon only a fortnight earlier.
Second place went to Harry Smith in 2:42.21, closely followed by Allen Smalls, from Colchester Harriers AC, who registered 2.43.00.
Smalls was also crowned Essex senior and veteran champion, retaining his county title because the top two did not have Essex qualification.
Smalls also spearheaded the Harriers to team glory alongside Ged McMillan (seventh in 2:47.43) and Sean Ketteridge (10th in 2:54.53), even though Ketteridge never actually does any of his training on the roads.
Clive Thomas, also of Colchester Harriers, was another gold medallist, taking first spot in the over-50 category in 2:59.19 for a top-15 placing, and club-mate Malcolm Statham duly completed his 198th marathon and his 10th Halstead event in 3:26.
The Halstead race sees many runners returning time-and-time again, including an ever present contingent from the 100 Marathon Club.
And Bob Parmenter, a member of the 100 Marathon Club and a former Halstead Road Runner, celebrated his 200th marathon on Sunday, a notable achievement.
East London Runners had also chosen the race as a focus for members of their club who had been unsuccessful in the London Marathon ballot this year. Their purple club colours were visible both on the course and on their large group of supporters.
Pete Robinson, from Springfield Striders, was the first runner resident in the Braintree District Council area in fourth place overall. He registered 2:43.22.
Robinson also came away with a male silver county medal and was part of the winning men’s open and county team together with Springfield club-mates James Smith (2:45.24) and James Wright (2:48.58).
For members of the host club Halstead Road Runners, it was an opportunity to race on home turf with friendly faces at every turn of the course.
Richard Candler was the first runner back for Halstead in a time of 3:01.46, while Wesley Atkins, running his first road marathon, finished in 3.08.47 with Andy Owen setting a PB 3:17.01. This Halstead RR trio won the Essex county bronze team medals.
Other Halstead RR finishers included Nathan Roulson (impressive PB by 11 minutes in 3:24), Ashley Hood (PB of 3:42), club debutant Michael Longman (3:46), Steve May (3:57), Rosie Atkins (PB pf 4:02), Sam Wolton (4:05) and Dan Smith (PB of 4:10).
Andy Wilmot ran his 712th marathon in 4:14 to win the over-70 awards, Mike Grealy won an Essex county bronze in the over-60s with 4:17, Heidi Worf finished her first marathon in 4.28 and Adam Buckle also ran his first marathon in 4:48.
Meanwhile, Witham’s Kevin Rooney was 24th in 3:06.40 and Stowmarket Striders’ Chris Seymour clocked 3:09.04 in 28th. Richard Smith, from Sudbury Joggers, was 44th in 3:20.03 followed by club-mate Jem Smith (51st in 3:22.35).