Helen Davies and Danny Rock change race plans at the 11th hour to win Stowmarket Half-Marathon
PUBLISHED: 14:33 15 March 2020 | UPDATED: 19:54 15 March 2020
Suffolk’s leading athletes Danny Rock and Helen Davies changed their half-marathon plans, late in the day due to the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, to win the respective individual titles at the Robert Tomlinson Stowmarket Half-Marathon, held over a windswept 13.1-mile rural route from Buxall this morning.
Rock had been due to run at the Fleet Half-Marathon in Hampshire, which was postponed only yesterday, while Davies had been poised to toe the start-line at the Bath Half-Marathon, which controversially still went ahead this morning, although only 6,200 runners ended up taking part, about half the usual number.
Instead, both Rock and Davies opted to run at their more low-key, local event instead, entering the Stowmarket Half-Marathon at short notice and going on to set impressive times, given the very windy conditions which hampered runners for virtually the whole of the route, with the exception of a tail-wind during the last few miles.
Rock, of Felixstowe Road Runners, led home the field in 1hr 11mins 04secs, enjoying a winning margin of over two minutes from runner-up Matt Spencer, of Framlingham Flyers, who posted 1:13:11.
International athlete Davies, of Ipswich JAFFA, was third overall and the leading lady in 1:15:31, setting a new course record by more than five minutes (the previous record had stood at 1:20:54, set by Odette Robson in 2015).
To put the difficult conditions into perspective, Rock has a half-marathon personal best of 1:09:46, set only the previous weekend at the Cambridge Half-Marathon, which eclipsed his former landmark of 1:10:22 from last year's Simplyhealth Great East Run Half-Marathon, while Davies has a best of 1:12:35, set over the same distance at the Bath Half-Marathon from eight years ago.
Both runners had been planning to run next month's London Marathon, which was postponed following an announcement on Saturday, and has now been rescheduled for October 4.
'For the first eight-and-a-half miles, you were pretty much against the wind, or had to contend with a side-wind,' explained Stowmarket Half-Marathon champion Rock.
'It was only the last four or five kilometres that you felt yourself getting back into the race, and the fastest mile ended up being the last one, a 5:02, which is crazy.
'I was on my own for the whole race. I like to get a gap early on, that's the standard tactics for me to build up a bit of a buffer for myself, particularly on a day like this when you need a little cushion.'
With regards his late change of event plan, Rock revealed: 'I was going to run the Fleet Half-Marathon, for the RAF, but that got called off only yesterday.
'So I ran the Ipswich parkrun at Christchurch yesterday (Saturday morning), and wasn't going to race anywhere today - I normally don't do parkrun the day before a race.
'But then I found out that this Stowmarket event was open, so I signed up to this today, entering on the day.
'I felt good, and I knew I had a good chance of winning it, even with tired legs,' said Rock, who has plans to run the Frankfurt Marathon in Germany, as well as the rescheduled London Marathon, in the autumn.
Meanwhile, ladies' champion Davies said: 'It was a lot windier than I expected, especially on such an exposed course.
'It was just a rather long, lonely slog, with just Matt (Spencer) ahead in the distance, and my coach Clive (Sparkes) on his bike just behind me.
'I should have been running Bath today.
'To be honest, we were on the fence about it, but I had these awful thoughts of having to make a 200-mile trip, get to the hotel and then they would cancel the (Bath) race that evening, to make it a wasted journey.
'And there was the (Coronavirus) infection itself, with 15,000 runners there plus spectators, and we having to stay in a hotel and eat in a restaurant.
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'I had lots of anxieties about it, and then on Friday afternoon came the news about London Marathon being postponed, so I phoned Clive saying that I felt we were taking unnecessary risks and an unnecessary journey, when we were only trying to get a marker for London.
'So then, with a last minute decision, Gav (husband Gavin) said why don't I pop along to Stowmarket, after having tapered down for the week in preparation for a race.
'I knew it wouldn't be fast, and it would be lonely, but I went out there and had a blast over the same distance.
'Obviously the fire wasn't there inside me, like it would have been in Bath, but I've enjoyed a really good run-out today.
'The wind slowed me down, but the effort was there,' added Davies, who won a silver medal at the 50K Ultra World Championships in Romania last August.
Chris Hall, of host club Stowmarket Striders, finished fourth in 1:16:42, while Newmarket Joggers' Mark Hayward was fifth in 1:17:45.
Saint Edmund Pacers' Andrew Southwood (over-40), Framlingham's Adam Howlett (over-45),Felixstowe RR's Ian Duggan (over-50) and Pacers' Howard Beasley (over-55) topped their respective age groups.
Today's race was dedicated to the memory of Robert Tomlinson, a former member of host club Stowmarket Striders and an event sponsor.
The race was also a part of the Suffolk Grand Prix Series, the first of 2020.
There was a junior event held before the main event, a 1.5-mile run for junior athletes and a shorter 800m run for the under-nines.
Top 30 finishers: 1 D Rock (Felixstowe RR) 1:11:04; 2 M Spencer (Framlingham Flyers) 1:13:11; 3 H Davies (Ipswich JAFFA, first lady) 1:15:31; 4 C Hall (Stowmarket Striders) 1:16:42; 5 M Hayward (Newmarket Joggers) 1:17:45; 6 A Southwood (Saint Edmund Pacers, first over-40 veteran) 1:18:21; 7 J Smith (Newmarket, second over-40) 1:19:11; 8 A Howlett (Framlingham, first over-45) 1:19:47; 9 J Taylor (Felixstowe RR, second over-45) 1:20:58; 10 G Taylor (Felixstowe RR) 1:21:00.
11 A Bell (Hadleigh Hares) 1:21:35; 12 H Catling (Felixstowe RR) 1:22:05; 13 L Senior (Pacers) 1:22:03; 14 C Mower (Pacers, third over-40) 1:22:44; 15 J Wiles (Bungay Black Dog, third over-45) 1:23:50; 16 A Smy (Framlingham) 1:24:19; 17 J Waggott (JAFFA) 1:24:26; 18 H Beasley (Pacers, first over-55) 1:25:27; 19 I Duggan (Felixstowe RR, first over-50) 1:25:38; 20 B Jeffery (West Suffolk AC) 1:25:48.
21 S Brooke (Felixstowe, second over-50) 1:26:25; 22 M Davey (Biggleswade) 1:26:41; 23 D Solomon (Felixstowe, third over-50) 1:27:00; 24 C Hann (Sudbury) 1:27:10; 25 A Read (Felixstowe) 1:27:35; 26 T Hayden (Framlingham) 1:28:01; 27 J Pestell (Un) 1:27:59; 28 M Lambert (Felixstowe) 1:28:15; 29 R Harper (Felixstowe) 1:28:42; 30 H Myatt (Un) 1:28:53.
Also, male veteran over:55: 1 Beasley, 2 R Mackenzie (Framlingham) 1:29:22; 3 D Lumby (JAFFA) 1:33:38. Over-60: 1 R Belsom (JAFFA) 1:34:35; 2 R Morgan (Pacers) 1:42:57; 3 M Carr (Bungay) 1:50:01. Over-65: 1 P Hymers (Pacers) 1:48:59; 2 N Clarke (Newmarket) 1:49:11; 3 T Stewart (Lonely Goat) 2:10:21. Over-70: 1 F Moggan (Stowmarket) 1:48:11; 2 D Field (Norwich RR) 2;14:08; 3 P Adams (Un) 2:16:27.
Top 20 ladies: 1 H Davies (JAFFA, first over-40) 1:15:31; 2 A Smith (Wymondham, second over-40) 1:30:07 3 N Belsom (Un) 1:30:37; 4 K Gladwell (Framlingham, first over-35) 1:31:45; 5 K Creak (Un, second over-35) 1:33:12; 6 K King (Pacers) 1:33:30; 7 C Jeffery (Pacers, third over-40) 1:33:35; 8 E Mitka (Un, third over-35) 1:34:00; 9 Z Armitage (Pacers) 1:34:20; 10 S Linassi (Felixstowe RR) 1:40:18.
11 J Ringrose (Un, first over-45) 1:42:08; 12 L Wallace (Un) 1:42:12; 13 S Kingston (Un) 1:42:17; 14 H Taylor (Felixstowe) 1:45:06; 15 K Branton (Felixstowe, second over-45) 1:45:31; 16 T Quarrell (Haverhill RC, third over-45) 1:45:44; 17 J Steel (JAFFA) 1:45:51; 18 M Gordon (Felixstowe) 1:46:20; 19 L Cusack (Thetford AC, first over-65) 1:47:03; 20 C Durrant (Stowmarket) 1:47:07.
Also, female over-50: 1 J Hann (Sudbury Joggers) 1:49:16; 2 K Oxford (Hadleigh) 1:49:30; 3 H Wing (Stowmarket) 1:49:49. Over-55: 1 S Brandon (Pacers) 1:50:06; 2 M Parker (Felixstowe) 1:50:42; 3 A Haag (Un) 1:53:07. Over-60: 1 B Sauerzapf (Bungay BD) 1:55:49; 2 J Morgan (Pacers) 1:56:50; 3 E Frost (Un) 2:06:58. Over-65: 1 Cusack, 2 C Trundle (Haverhill) 1:49:52; 3 M Wright (JAFFA) 2:19:32.
Female teams: 1 Saint Edmund Pacers (King, Jeffery, Armitage) 4:41:38; 2 Ipswich JAFFA 4:53:17; 3 Felixstowe RR 5:11:17.
Male teams: 1 Felixstowe RR (Rock, J Taylor, G Taylor) 3:53:11; 2 Framlingham Flyers 3:57:24; 3 Saint Edmund Pacers 4:03:20.