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.