Returning heroines and RAC overnighters: Oakley 20 race report

Biggleswade AC runners endured mixed fortunes at the Oakley 20 mile race on Sunday, with one award-winning performance, some great times but also injury disappointment. The hilly event run by Bedford Harriers, which starts from Lincroft Middle School, provides the perfect preparation for runners heading for the London Marathon later in the month, but is also a considerable challenge in itself.

Julie Balaam, returning to running after a break to raise a family, stormed round the course in 2hrs 33min 42sec, and she was crowned Bedfordshire County 20 mile champion in the female veteran over 35 age group, despite having not raced over 10k for seven years. Julie’s training is now focused on the Halstead Marathon in May.

Rob Morgan, using the Oakley race as a fast-paced training run, was the first BAC athlete to finish, with a great time of 2:30.05, the 23rd best mark in a very high-quality V40 category. Ian Grimwood showed his London training is in a great place with a 3:07.09 finish, which made him the sixth V60 finisher.

Ian Skerratt said he was “just pleased to get round” having run the Wymondham 20 mile race seven days earlier – his participation in both races down to a “diary malfunction”. Yet he was eighth in the V65 standings with 3:26.25 – just four minutes outside his time in Wymondham. However Andy Bruce, a regular at London, was forced out of the race after the 12-mile mark with an injury that could jeopardise his marathon preparations.

Cat Marriott, meanwhile, bettered her time at the event last year despite taking to the start line having had no sleep. Having been helped around the majority of the course by Juliet Grimwood, who was struggling with injury, Cat said of her time: “I was on the back of a motorbike which broke down in central London on Saturday night. I spent the early hours of Sunday morning sitting in a pub doorway in my biker clothes waiting for phone calls from the RAC. I eventually got back to Potton at around 7.40am – I left for Oakley at 8.30.” Despite her overnight ordeal, Cat finished a superb sixth in the FV60 standings in 3:57.22.

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