Rooke and Davies happy with their runs at Simplyhealth Great East Run

Helen Davies crosses the finish-line as the leading lady at Sunday's Simplyhealth Great East Run, in

Helen Davies crosses the finish-line as the leading lady at Sunday's Simplyhealth Great East Run, in her home town of Ipswich. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Two of Suffolk’s leading lights, on the road running circuit, both enjoyed strong runs over the half-marathon distance at Sunday’s bumper Simplyhealth Great East Run.

Andrew Rooke, left, is shoulder-to-shoulder with Henry Pearce during the early stages of the Simplyh

Andrew Rooke, left, is shoulder-to-shoulder with Henry Pearce during the early stages of the Simplyhealth Great East Run. Rooke finished second to Pearce in a big personal best time. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Andrew Rooke set a cracking time on his way to second spot, from an entry of 3,500, while Helen Davies continued her build-up to another international appearance by winning the ladies’ race and finishing seventh overall.

Rooke’s long-term target is next year’s London Marathon, and Sunday’s display suggests that he should be in for a successful debut at the distance. The 28-year-old clocked a massive personal best of 1hr 07mins 31secs over the 13.1-mile course in Ipswich.

Likewise, Davies has her sights set on a marathon, after coasting around her home course in 1:17:10 as part of her build-up to next month’s trip to Canada, where she will be representing England at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

I spoke to both runners, following their terrific efforts on Suffolk soil over the weekend.

Rooke, of Framlingham Flyers, was understandably “ecstatic” with his run over the challenging 13.1-mile course around Ipswich and out to Freston.

“If I had the choice between getting a good time, or winning the race in a slower time, then I would have chosen the former. “I’m delighted. I’m ecstatic,” said Rooke.

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“I didn’t know what to expect, because I didn’t know what sort of shape I was in, and it’s not a distance I run very often.

“I guess I had a time of 1hr 12mins in my mind, so I’m really happy to run 1:07.

“My first half-marathon had just been a case of me turning up to take part (1:19:03 at the Ipswich Half in 2009). I think I was about 10 kilograms heavier than I am today. My only other half-marathon had been at Bungay (1:14:23 in 2016), when I just about hung on to win in a county championship race.

“But Sunday was incredible.

“I recognised Henry (Pearce) on the start-line, so I knew he would be the one to watch. I managed to sit on his shoulder for the first five miles, having decided to give it a go. We were five-minute miling and yet I felt really good, which was odd!

“He began to pull away along Wherstead Road, before the hill into Freston, but I knew I was on for a good time.

“Hopefully, that has earned me a championship start at next year’s London Marathon – that has been my main target.

“I was planning to try and achieve this at the Peterborough Half-Marathon in a few weeks time, because that course is a lot faster and the competition is very strong. I’m running for the East at this event against the University of Cambridge and the Army.

“But I’ve ended up effectively running five minutes faster than I thought, at Ipswich, so I’m ahead of schedule.

“The atmosphere was great, with spectators shouting your name. It was incredible.

“It was a great day for the town.

“I want to run London next year, after running some cross country this winter, and perhaps the Essex 20. I am then planning to quit competitive running, if I run a good London, because I have applied for teacher training next year, and I want to dedicate my time and energy towards that,” added Rooke.

Davies, meanwhile, ran a conservative race through the streets of her home town, and the surrounding countryside, finishing just over a minute behind her 1:15:51 effort from the Great Bentley Half-Marathon in early February.

The Ipswich JAFFA runner has a PB of 1:12:35 from the Bath Half-Marathon of six years ago, when she was in tip-top form before taking a break from competitive running to start a family.

“I felt really emotional out there, because the atmosphere was terrific, especially following the turnaround at Freston and the run back into town,” explained Davies. “All the support along the way was fantastic. This was the first Great Run event I had ever done, and it was nice to get to run in my home town.

“I didn’t try and run blistering fast, because I knew that conditions would be tough with the direction of the wind, which was in our faces going up the hill to Freston. I didn’t quite realise how tough and long that hill is!

“I basically ran a consolidation race. I really enjoyed it, running at my marathon pace.

“After the race, I ran back home, to Rushmere St Andrew, which was about 3.8 miles, as a warm-down. I couldn’t stay for the prize giving, which was annoying, because my son Kingsley had a birthday party to attend.

“It’s now five weeks until Toronto, and I’m feeling in good shape. Training has been going well,” added Davies.

- To help people get the most out of life, everyday healthcare provider Simplyhealth has launched a train and prepare section at

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