With the huge racing drought we are currently experiencing, PH Racing Club decided to step up to the plate and organise a free, members only, race series in place of normal club training.
The inaugural Tour of West Fife took in three races in three days, challenging members to racing around some spectacular local settings. First up was “The Island”, a flat mixed terrain lap of Preston Island, near Culross. Followed on the second night by “The Quarry”, a tough hilly trail race in the old open cast mine at St Ninian’s. The final night could only be one place, where else but “The Loop”, a 5 lap ‘eye balls out’ race around PH’s very own home, The Panhandle Loop.
Combined times over the three nights would determine the overall standings, as members battled it out for club hierarchy status and some decent prizes. The idea was, three different terrains and no set formal distances. Making this tour all about competition and honest, real life racing and not about virtual times or personal bests.
With two race starts, there was tight racing between the 30 competitors who toed the line throughout the first evening at Preston Island.
Typically around this time of year, the Red Arrows should be flying over the Tyne Bridge for the start of the Great North Run. So after calling in a few favours, we had our own display in the air to get the evening ‘s proceeding started, which was swiftly followed by some serious running displays on the ground.
The leaders went off hard with the recently crowned Scottish Hill Racing Masters Champion, Andrew Wright and the latest PH recruit James Adam clocking around 5 minutes for the first mile. Andrew kept up the furious pace breaking away from James to time 18:27 over the three and a half mile course. James held off a late surge from Paul Kieran, to take second place in 18:47 with Paul only two seconds back. Club coach Ben Hukins came home in fourth with Andy Davis, Ewan Taylor and Colin Somerville closely following each other over the line.
Kristin Lownie started the series very well as first woman home in 21:43, with nearest challenger Julie Menzies finishing in 22:22. Jamie Lessels laid down a solid run to lead the Junior category from the ever improving Aaron Bennet.
The tightest finish of the night saw our very own Infectious Disease Physician Oliver Koch pip Michael Lindsay on the line to be first finisher in the second race start of the night and placing the pair in 16th and 17th position respectively at that point in the overall standings.
Watch the action unfold here on our YouTube channel by clicking on this link – The Island
Wednesday brought with it a change in the weather, which made the tough stones, mud and freshly formed puddles of “The Quarry” even more of a challenge for the 24 racers who turned out for the 2.8 mile trail race.
Starting at the top of the site, the race descended for about a mile where the route took a sharp left and headed towards what’s known locally as “The Walnut Whip”, veering right and skirting round the whip, the runners then embraced a mile long climb up to the finish.
The battle at the front between Andrew Wright and James Adam continued as the two exchanged places in the early part of the race. The tricky descent and arduous climb over the rough terrain suited Andrew who came out on top once again, his time of 16:01 to the 16:29 of James opened up the gap further.
On the women’s side of proceedings, Julie Menzies, very much at home on this type of course, overturned the result from the first night, putting in a winning performance, 23 seconds ahead of Kristin Lownie in second place.
Paul Kieran rounded out the top three, keeping the finishing order the same as the night before. Jamie Lessels stepped up his performance, finishing 4th on the night and placing himself in fourth position in the overall standings. Jamie is another one who revels in the trail races as a key member of the PH Racing Club Junior team who shone at the 2019 Scottish Athletics Mid Trail Championships.
Gary Pirie opened up a gap on Martin Butcher in the fight for the V40 prize, with Martin McNellis establishing a strong lead in the V50 category. John Crookston, who is no stranger to winning in any V60 race, put himself in an almost unassailable position with a fine 20:06 clocking.
Watch the action unfold here on our YouTube channel by clicking on this link – The Quarry
Thursday night saw the culmination of the race series at the Panhandle Loop. With all to race for in most of the categories, 27 racing club members lined up across two race starts for what was set to be a very fast finish to the week.
Five laps of the our Panhandle gave the runners a chance to fight it out for position in the overall standings over about three and a half miles.
James Adam and Andrew Wright went straight to the front once again, there was a lot of back and forth between the pair, with nothing in it going into the last lap. With no sign of fatigue after all of the previous racing, the two remained neck and neck until the last half mile, where Andrew surged first to try and break for the tape. However, James held strong, closed the newly formed gap and made his own move with 400m to go, he showed his raw pace to nudge in front of Andrew and take the win in an impressive time of 17:55. Andrew kept in touching distance, only three seconds back, which crowned him tour champion and give him the overall win for the series.
Andrew’s fine performances all week gave a total accumulated time of 52:28, a truly outstanding few days of racing which he described as “a tough three nights of 5k pace racing.” James’ win at “The Loop” closed the gap on Andrew in the series standings but was just not enough to take the overall win, his time of 53:12 comfortably gave him second place after three tremendously fast performances.
Paul Kieran kept up his high standards coming home in third place once again and taking the third place overall in the series, with a total time of 53:51.
In the women’s race Kristin Lownie took the win after going out hard from the off on her favoured fast and flat road surface, clocking 20:42 to give her a total time of 1:01:59. This time secured the series win by just less than a minute over Julie Menzies (1:02:49).
Jamie Lessels raced very well again, breaking away from Colin Somerville on the last lap to finish fourth overall and win the junior prize. As part of his on going improvement the other junior athlete in the mix, Aaron Bennet, was happy to finish the week well placing second junior and 8th overall.
Gary Pirie ran a well paced race to overtake a challenging Martin Butcher and secure his V40 prize, with an overall time of 58:58. This was a great race involving the two V40s and Andy Jannetta who put in his best performance of the week at “The Loop”.
The V50 prize was wrapped up by Martin McNellis who started this race off slowly, as he had done on previous nights, and cleverly picked his way through the field well to finish with a total time of 1:00:21. Similarly, in the V60 category John Crookston put in another good consistent performance to take the spoils with a final time of 1:04:08.
Club secretary Scott Love led the way in Race 2 and built up a good lead over his nearest challenger Michael Lindsay. However, Michael completed a great week by picking up the pace to get a head of Scott in the closing stages and cross the line first, three seconds in front, in this, the second race of the evening.
Wright Beveridge and Billy Stewart enjoyed some good racing throughout the week, both completing the full series as part of the group in Race 1.
Alan Cockburn was another to complete all three races and gave a good showing, despite finding himself in the difficult position of what was almost a solo time trial at “The Loop” come the latter laps. Ross Bennet, Murray Thomson and Robert Milton were all pleased to finish the very testing series. Many others were not able to take part in the full series but enjoyed getting an opportunity to race on the evenings that they could.
Watch the action unfold here on our YouTube channel by clicking on this link – The Loop
The Tour of West Fife, the first of it’s kind for PH members and was a huge success. The club would like to thank every runner who took part and say a huge congratulations to all 21 members who completed the series and those who were prizes winners.
Without the help of all the volunteers who marshaled, timed, videoed and photographed, this event would not have been possible, another thank you to everyone who helped make this a really slick, no nonsense spectacle of pure racing.
If you are still reading/awake and feeling inspired to be part of a club who are dedicated to racing, why not get in touch and see about becoming a member – Contact Us – we would love to have more members on board who embrace our club philosophies, want to better themselves as runners and want to be part of an ever improving squad of racers.