South of England Cross Country Championships 2017

For the first time since Robbie started running I missed the Southerns, but Robbie didn’t, with Anna and I celebrating our friends birthday in France both the Southern XC and the Southern Inter-County Schools would pass without our presence.

Robbie headed in to London with Anna’s Mum and Dad with hopes of a high finish, targeting top 5 which seemed possible given current form. Unfortunately on the day, things simply didn’t go to plan.

A strong start saw Robbie running half the race just inside the top 10, a great place to build from, but a quick trip in to face plant heaven left him feeling a little dispondent when he regained his feet, and despite pushing hard the fire was gone and he ultimately finished in 17th place (in 20.16) . All in all it was a good run, it wasn’t a reflection of his current form but 17th at Parliament Hill is still a great placing. Robbie was 2nd AFD runner on the day, the 1st runner in for AFD was Marcus Shantry (20.03) having a great run and coming 8th, Lewis Reid was AFD’s 3rd runner coming in 20th (20.25)  just in front of our 4th and final scorer Max Heyden in 22nd (20.27).

Unsurprisingly, on current performance Zac Mahamed (19.01) and Lachlan Wellington (19.02) took 1st and 2nd place with a photo finish required to choose the winner, which was after deliberation handed to Zac, but what a battle for the finish line, both runners finishing 20 seconds in front of 3rd place George Groom.

As often happens at the Southerns, Tonbridge had the breadth of field to take the team gold (58 points), closely follwed by AFD in silver place (67 points) with Reading (132)  just pipping Ipswich (134) to 3rd and bronze.

AFD U17's Team Silver Medalists

AFD U17’s Team Silver Medalists

 

Hampshire Schools XC Championships 2017

With the club event out of the way, time to compete for School glory. The U17’s field sporting a number of runners outside of Robbie’s club XC age group, as he is bottom year Senior Schools. So the top 3 U17 names from the club event are running in the age group below, meaning Robbie needs to step up to compete against the likes of Jack Boswell, James Heneghan and Sam Costley, though some familiar names are still in the field notably Sam Tyas, Lewis Reid and Keir Sullivan.

With the first 16 qualifying for the Southern Schools XC Challenge, and then the top 8 from the Southerns qualifying for English Schools XC Championship there is a need to succeed. Last year Hampshire only had 16 contestants in the Seniro Boys event, so the competition to compete was a little reduced, this year 24 line up on the start line, so no guaranteed places to be had.

Unfortunately event favorite, Jack Boswell who has been suffering with flu like symptoms all week did not finish the event, despite making a valiant effort and actually giving it a go. Well done for trying Jack, and good luck representing AFD in European Team Championships.

Robbie set a good solid pace from the start, but the long gentle down hill slopes so prevelant at Southampton simply don’t suit him and it soon became obvious that James Heneghan had the better downhill capability. It was a good race though, with Robbie closing gaps on the uphills, and james pulling away on the downhill, both pulled away from the chasing pack, with James making the most of the final downhill to lengthen his lead on Robbie.

The Race is On

The Race is On

The short course led to quick times and it was all over for the leaders in less than 14 minutes.

Individual Placings
1: James Heneghan : Eastleigh and Winchester : 13.28
2: Robbie Coupland : Aldershot : 13:45
3: Sam Costley : Eastleigh and Winchester : 13:55
4: Sam Tyas : Eastleigh and Winchester : 13:58
5: Lewis Reid : Aldershot : 14:00

Sam (3) - James (1) - Robbie (2)

Sam (3) – James (1) – Robbie (2)

Team Placings
1: Eastleigh and Winchester
2: Aldershot
3: Isle of Wight

Hampshire Club XC Championships 2017

After the ice, frost and frozen grounds of the midweek a soggy and heavy Cross Country route was something of a surprise, but given the almost 24 hours of rain on Friday it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. Fairthorne Manor in Botley provides a very changeable course, with the footing and surface varying from compressed stone, through clods of heavy grass all the way to bogs of mud and sand making for a very “Cross Country” cross country course.

For the first time 2017 sees the U17 (6300m) and U20 (8700m) races are combined, running the same course up to around the 6000m mark where the U17’s peel of and head for the finish line whilst the U20’s have another 2500m loop to complete. The combined group of boys raced away across the open fields of the “Arena Stage” and with no Arena loop were soon hitting the first wooded area of the course, coming through those woods for the first time saw Robbie sat back in 8th place with Lachlan Wellington leading the combined groups through the woods. Some 700m later with the slightliy lighter footing of the “Golf Course” stage and Robbie had powered to the front of the group and was taking the race on, looking strong and a lot like the Robbie of old. The lead didn’t last for long though with both Lachlan and Zac responding and coming past Robbie as they entered the second wooded area and pushed in the “Cap Site” stage, Robbie’s legs still not 100% and with a heavy Christmas training routine still hanging on his muscles he simply didn’t have the endurance to keep up the pressuer for any serious amount of time, that said it was really good to see him push it and put the effort and determination in while he could. As the boys completed the first full lap and entered the shorter second lap Robbie was clinging on to 3rd place with U20 team mate Jack Boswell and U17 competitor Jacob O’Hara closing the gap, which and passing Robbie.

At the end of the seconf lap, the U17’s peeled away, by this time Robbie was in about 7th or 8th place overall, but 4th in the U17’s so as they peeled off the race was led by Lachlan, who had a convincing gap between himself and second place Zac Mahamed, with a similar gap back to Jacob and another similar gap back to Robbie. Though for a tense final 200m it looked like there might be an upset with Zac switching in to full on sprint mode and quickly closing the gap on Lachlan, though never quite getting there and ultimately leaving the placings as they were at the peel off point.

  1. Lachlan Wellington – Portsmouth – 20:38
  2. Zak Mahamed – Southampton – 20:42
  3. Jacob O’Hara – Portsmouth – 21:23
  4. Robbie Coupland – AFD – 21:41
  5. Samuel Tyas – Southampton – 22:00

A weekened AFD team, alongside very strong team performances from Portsmouth (1st) and Southampton (2nd) saw AFD finish in a dissapointing 5th place behind 4th place Winchester and 3rd place Guernsey, not through a lack of trying though with great performances from Connor Dauven (23rd) and Stephen Lawry (32nd) in a very strong Hampshire field.

Robbie chasing Zac, chasing Lachlan in to the Camp Site stage.

Jacob chasing Robbie, chasing Zac, chasing Lachlan in to the Camp Site stage.

AFD New Years Day Relays

Another day out to Aldershot for another AFD Christmas special event. Another simple but effective and fun event, the AFD runners are paired up in to couples, with the fastest runner being paired with the slowest runner, the next fastes with the next slowest etc. I remember the first time Robbie ran in this event, at 9 years old he was paired with Steph Twell and was completly made up about it, a very real element of hero worship going on there. This year after about 7 years of progression Robbie is in the fast grioup and get’s paired up with a young female athlete “Amy” I think her name was. The format again is simple, and once again it is designed to make the fast runners work for their living instead of coasting along at the front of the groups. The couples form two sets, the fast runners in set one, the slower runners in set two. Set one run 2.7k first lap and hand over to their partner, who runs the second lap and hands back to the set one partner who runs the 3rd lap, finally handing back to their partner to run the 4th lap and finish the race off.

The first lap was started at a rapid pace and was very quickly led out by Josh Grace, with Jack Boswell chasing and Robbie chasing Jack, which is much how the first three runners came in, but by the time set one got back out on to the course positions had floated somewhat, Robbie got out in about 10th place, with Jack further back and Josh a long way back, all three had to work very hard to push up the field and all three more determined to keep the known faster runners behind them than anything else, set one runners made up a lot of places but never did catch each other with Robbie coming in 1st out of the three, followed by Jack and then Josh. Some great running, along with the chase mentality, led to their second lap being run substantially faster than their first lap effort.

Another great morning had by all, some heroic efforts put in by the younger and newer athletes and a great spectator event, well done to everyone who ran it was once again a great success.

Robbie - Leg 1

Robbie – Leg 1

AFD Boxing Day 5km Handicap Race

The AFD handicap is a great day, dragging runners and families alike out of the house at Christmas. Anyone involved with AFD is welcome to run, including the parents of AFD members, past illustrious AFD parents have included the Dad’s of Steph Twell, Jonny Hay and Josh Grace. I even had a go once :).

The idea is simple, everyone puts down their 5K PB, or has a guess at it if they have yet to do one, then the runners are set of at intervals with the aim being to try and get as many finishing as close together as possible, so if the slowest runner is going to take 30mins, and the quickest runner is going to take 15mins then the quickest runner would be released from the start some 15 minutes behind the slowest. It’s a great day, and a great run for the fast guys and girls who often have nobody to chase with the format starting them last and forcing them to race.

A lovely day to be honest, not as cold as previous years and no ice on the route led to a good morning out for all involved. Robbie managed to complete the route in 15:52, which knocked of a good 90 seconds from his previous 5k PB, though to be fair it’s been a while since he has done one.

Congratulations to everyone who joined in, from the regulars to the new and very young talent enjoying their first AFD Christmas.

Robbie Chasing Steph Twell

Robbie Chasing Steph Twell

Southern Inter County Cross Country 2016

Recent events, trying times and a nasty cold came together on Saturday 10th December to smash Robbie for six. A very poor performance with Robbie feeling out of it from the go. Hampshire battled forward with great performances from Zac Mahamaed (2nd) and Lachlan Wellington (4th) helping Hampshire to the Team Gold, unfortunately Robbie’s 5th place in Hampshire, 28th overall was insufficient to score and dropped him out of the winning team. More work needed to get that fitness up, more determination needed to battle through the little things, but improvement is still on the cards, and 2017 threatens to be a much better year than 2016. No more races now until the new Year, so plenty of time to get back on track in advance of the big races in early 2017.

Hampshire U17M. Gold Medalists (First 4 Score)

02: Zakariya Mahamed(Southampton)15:41
04: Lachlan Wellington(City of Portsmouth)15:47
15: Samuel Tyas(Southampton)16:21
24: Jacob O’Hara(City of Portsmouth)16:38
28: Robbie Coupland(Aldershot, Farnham and District)16:41
71: Max Satterly(Southampton)17:44
79: James Porter(Basingstoke and Mid Hants)17:54
91: Steven Cross(City of Portsmouth)18:41

Team U17M Placings.
1: Hampshire – 2,4,15,24 = 45
2: Hertfordshire – 1,6,14,40 = 61
3: Surrey – 3,16,20,29 = 68

Robbie chasing behind the leading pack about 1500m in.

Robbie chasing behind the leading pack about 1500m in.

Popham Airfield – Hampshire League (2016/7) 3 of 5

A chilly day at Popham, but not as cold as forecast, and none of the threatened rain to wetten the ground. Another good day for AFD in the Hampshire League, securing the following team positions;

Ind. 1st Place in U13G, U20W, SenW, U13B, U20M, SenM, VetM

Team 1st Place in U15B and U17M as well as all the above races, also securing 2nd in U15G, 5th in U17W and 6th in VetW. So all in all, a great team day out.

Robbie ran a strong race in the U17M finishing at the leading edge of an AFD pack, coming over the line in 6th followed by Max Heyden, Ollie Percival and Marcus Shantry giving AFD 6,7,8 and 9th place finishes. A good solid time of 17:17 for the shortened course, down to 5km instead of the previous years 6km. A little dissapointed with his position on the day, but given that his best ever performance at Popham was 5th, he was running at about par, the long straight gentle slopes not suiting his running style at all. The race was started at a flying pace with Zac Mahemed taking the lead from the gun, and never relinquishing it, after building a good gap it was up to Lachlan Wellington to chase him down, closing the gap but not enought owrestle the first place spot, with 800m to go Matt Rawlings from Reading stepped up and started to break the chasing pack, the AFD boys dropping off the pcae as Matt, Sam Tyes and Jacob O’Hara pulled away, a flying finish from Matt securing his 3rd place finish.

Dash down the Finishing Straight, end of Lap 1.

Dash down the Finishing Straight, End of Lap 1.

UK Cross Challenge – Liverpool 2016

Getting used to the long haul up to Liverpool on a Friday night, settling in to the Crowne Plaza (John Lennon Airport), having a nice meal, a couple of beers, early night and getting up, raring to go on Saturday for the UKA Challenge. So this year, a little of the same old same old, except for the horrendous journey, 4.5 hours extended to 6.5 hours due to multiple accidents, still got there for 8:30pm, had the meal, beer and headed to bed. Saturday morning saw our annual trip to McDonalds (New Mersey Retail  Park) for a breakfast of kings. Though for the first time in 4 years of doing this, we couldn’t actually see McDonalds from the hotel, a freezing fog had descended overnight leaving paths and roads covered in very slippery ice, and visibility at roughly 50 meters (if that).

After a short drive to Sefton park, we were soon set up and ready to watch a full day of racing, with Liverpool UKA also doubling as the European Trials for Under 20, Under 23 and Senior races it promised to be a good day. As it went it wasn’t until those latter races that we could actually see much of the action, the fog hung around until about 1pm when it finally started to lift (though as we found out on the way home, it wasn’t lifting everywhere).

Liverpool never carries a heavy AFD presence in the younger races, though there was a smattering here and there, with Ryan Martin and Patrick Brown running in the U13 Boys, Robbie representing the club in the U17 men, Jack Boswell and Jake Cvetkovic both finishing in the top 30 in the U20 mens race, the senior men was well and truly represented though, including top 25 finishes from Andy Vernon (3rd), Johnny Hay, Ellis Cross and Josh Grace, with 632 runners it was a busy course. AFD female representation by Kat Brown in the U17W, Niamh Brown in the U20’s and a flood of athletes in the Senior women, including Emily Hosker-Thornhill, Louise Small, Lauren Hall, Georgie Bruinvells, Philipa Bowden and Amy Griffiths all finishing in the top 50.

Robbie had a strong race in the U17m, showing further improvement with a hope of a complete return to fitness now being in the near future. Finishing well and crossing the line in 17th place with a time of 17:48 for the 5.5km course.

From Out of the Fog

From Out of the Fog

Kings Park Bournemouth – Hampshire League (2016/7) 2 of 5

Today was quite remarkable, the weather was bad, but not too bad, hard rain on the drive down was ominous, but Kings Park suffered drizzle at worse. The turn out from AFD was nothing if not exemplar, the individual and team performances were exceptional, and the feeling of a true family, there for each other, there together was simply unique.

The U13 Boys and U15 Boys repeated recent successes with AFD providing multiple runners in the top ten of each, U17M saw Robbie work through his fatigue, both physical and emotional to push home a 4th place finish. But today, AFD and what makes us, all of us, part of the AFD family was reflected in the performances of the two senior events.

The Women, as is the usual in these events went off first, and AFD showed a huge scope of participation with Louise Small carrying the flame over the line and taking the win for AFD, closely followed by other AFD runners, with 3 of the top 5 finishes being AFD. A little further back was a crowd pleasing group of runners, sticking together, being AFD in adversity and showing their love for the team mates so recently and tragically lost completing the course as a group, holding hands and wearing their black ribbon pins with a show of respect that was unprecedented.

The Men took to the field, the number of AFD shirts was quite astounding, the number of black ribbons had spread throughout the day to the extent that every team present had a runner with a ribbon. Today wasn’t just the AFD family, it was the entire running community coming together to show their support, and the AFD Men’s team provided the ultimate performance for the ultimate respect for the sport, and for those that choose to live it as part of their life. From the start the AFD Men’s lead runners took the field by storm, working together they conquered all in their path and as a group of 5 they turned in to the finishing straight together, a whole 300m in front of the next runner. It didn’t stop there, as the group approached the line, there was no mad bid for placing, no need to take first, there was a spreading across the straight as the 5 runners formed a flat line, arms around each other’s shoulders they crossed the line together as an AFD Family.

Today was about running, it was about AFD, it was about those that love the sport, it was about results, but it wasn’t about any of those things for a personal reason, it was about all of those things for two very special girls. Today was for Lucy Pygott and Stacey Burrows, and AFD stated loud and proud that they would never be forgotten, and that they would always be loved.

Robbie Hitting the Finishing Straight

Robbie Hitting the Finishing Straight – Tired but Still Going

National XC Relays – Mansfield – 2016

A traffic strewn slow drive to Nottingham, via Warwick to collect Jade Coupland, for a pre-race stay over at the Holiday Inn at Castle Marina. A family meal, minus Anna, but plus Sandra and Bob Coupland for the kids to get a chance to say hi to the grandparents before Robbie heads off on Saturday to participate in the National Cross Country relays.

Lots of team changes for the AFD teams, the final one seeing Guy Tucker pushed up in to the A team to run middle leg, led off by Robbie and anchored by Max Heyden. The boys ran well, first time with all three as a single team and with last minute changes adding some nervous energy in to the mix but good solid individual runs from all three saw AFD U17M finish in 10th place overall.

With the dry weather conditions, an unusual state for the Mansfield event, the course was dry, no swamps and slip points but some very tight corners led to a number of falls around the course. As always the big spread of runners on the start line is forced to condense down very quickly in to a much tighter course, so being in front of the pack provides a great advantage as the runners hit the first of the corners.

Under 17 Men Stampede Down the Starting Straight

Under 17 Men Stampede Down the Starting Straight

The pack jostling and squeezing being one of the key elements in the early falls, Robbie forced to slow to an almost walk on one or two corners as he steps over competitors or squeezes around tight corners, but once the pack starts to break the running becomes clearer and the runners start to speed up, though by this time those that got in front of the pack had a distinct advantage and dug in to ensure they kept their positions, great runs from Josh Cowperthwaite (1st – 09:00.15), Hamza Kadir (2nd – 09:00.85) and Joe Wigfield (3rd – 09:01.55) got them in front and kept them there.

Robbie Coupland – 09:13.25
Guy Tucker – 09:45.15
Max Heyden – 09:35.70

With a winning time of 9:00.15 (Josh Cowperthwaite) only 13 seconds spreading the top 13 runners to see Robbie place 13th overall.

Determined Finish

Determined Finish

Another great day for AFD as a club, with team victories in;

Under 13 Boys, U15 Boys, U17 Women, Senior Women, Senior Men.

With medal positions in;

Junior Men (Silver), Junior Women (Bronze), Under 13 Boys- B Team (Bronze).

Well done AFD.