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Grantham Running Club's Winter Solstice race uses familiar course

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After a delay of 18 months, Grantham Running Club were finally able to stage their inaugural Winter Solstice 10K.

A total of 320 hardy participants ran on the same loop from Long Bennington out to Staunton as its long-established companion, the Summer Solstice.

The change from a balmy summer evening to a foggy early morning in near-freezing conditions certainly meant there was a very different feel to the two races.

The Winter Solstice podium. (54055115)
The Winter Solstice podium. (54055115)

It certainly could not be said that the runners appeared to suffer from the change in conditions though; 54 of them ran an official personal best and 70 achieved season’s bests.

First runner home was unaffiliated athlete Elliot Smith-Rasmussen in 31min 47sec. This highly commendable time for an under 23 years old male gave an age grading of 83.06 per cent, marking Smith-Rasmussen as a national level athlete, yet it was 30 seconds slower than the season’s best he achieved at the Telford 10K just a week earlier.

In second place was Marlon Dunkley of Rushcliffe AC, with Alan Oliver of Sleaford just a few seconds behind.

First woman home, Sleaford Striders' Anna-Marie Thompson, also achieved a PB with a time of 44:56. Ladies' runner-up was Alison Dunphy of Eye Community Runners, with the final podium place going to Shantelle Gaston-Hird.

Joe Diggins not only volunteered at the race but was also the first Grantham Running Club member over the line in 12th place with a PB of 36:02.

Robin Atter’s hopes for a sub-40 minute time were narrowly scuppered by the final hill, but he arrived home in 39th position and a time of 40:06, another PB, taking five minutes off his previous time on the course.

Stefan Latter was 58th in 43:04, a PB for the course at nearly a minute faster than his last attempt at the Summer Solstice in 2018. He commented that the cooler temperatures may have helped.

Stuart Reader achieved a season’s best, coming 74th with a time of 45:46. Hannah San Jose was first GRC woman in 89th position with 46:35, another PB.

Nicola Ruston-Lichfield was 97th in 47:11, with husband Richard following close behind and 102nd in 47:20. In position 114 was Simon Allsopp in 48:20.

Simon Hartley, in position 255, achieved a season’s best with a time of 61:16. In 273rd and a time of 64:03 was Fraser Marshall. Vicky Willan crossed the line 293rd for a time of 68:01. In 305rd was Emma Fleet with 71:46.

As the race was GRC's own, it offered a different perspective for members from the organisational side.

This was the final time in charge for outgoing race director Ben Mason, having originally signed up for three years. Retiring after one and a half times that stint, he fulfilled his task to raise funds for the club and enable GRC to pay back the local running community by staging a top quality race.

One of the hardest working members of the race crew was treasurer Gordon Geach who had been liaising with the runners who entered in spring 2020. More than 70 GRC members helped over the weekend and really enjoyed seeing so many runners being able to compete on this classic course and end the year on a high.

Sam Jepson was not only the lead marshal but also the club’s fastest 10k runner this year, who led by example by giving up his chance of home glory to make sure the race was staged safely.

The fastest woman in the club this year, Sarah Chynoweth turned down the certainty of a race win to help out with a road closure on a junction with the A1.

Although there were too many helpers to mention individually, Vicki Ball was medical director, Paul Rushworth set up and cleared down the course, and finally Kate Marshall and her junior parkrun team volunteered at the 9am event in Grantham and still managed to be in position for the race start in Long Bennington.

The overwhelming feedback about the race was that it was well organised and the goodie bags, with a bottle of beer and cider from the local Zest Brewery as well as a medal, were well received by all the runners.

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