Smith bags a personal best to finish third in Leamington Half

Spa Striders line up before the Leamington Spa Half Marathon.
Spa Striders line up before the Leamington Spa Half Marathon.

The start of the Spa Striders Summer Series saw the club well represented at the Leamington Spa Half Marathon and they were rewarded with three top-ten finishers.

Although still pretty warm despite the 8.30 am start, the weather was much kinder than last year’s inaugural race which saw athletes struggling in baking-hot conditions.

Spa Striders' Neil Smith and Ian Allen in the lead group alongside eventual race winner Adam Holland (374). Picture: Tim Nunan

Spa Striders' Neil Smith and Ian Allen in the lead group alongside eventual race winner Adam Holland (374). Picture: Tim Nunan

Ian Allen and Neil Smith were both part of an early seven-man breakaway and despite neither being able to stay the pace with Adam Holland (73:58) and Valter Fonseca (74:42), Smith hung on for third place and a personal best time of 75:10.

The in-form Allen clocked 76:50 for sixth, with clubmate Chris Liddle ninth in 79:41.

Kenilworth Runners were led home by Connor Carson who finished seventh in 78:04.

Katie Deards overhauled long-time leader Natalie Bhangal (Leamington C&AC) in the last mile to win the ladies’ race in 86:12.

Ladies' race runner-up Natalie Bhangal is a picture of concentration.Picture: Tim Nunan

Ladies' race runner-up Natalie Bhangal is a picture of concentration.Picture: Tim Nunan

Bhangal finished 23 seconds back, with her C&AC clubmate Hannah Thorne third in 87:31.

Kenilworth Runners’ Laura Pettifer was fifth female and first FV35 in 1:31:41, with Spa Striders’ Laura Peake sixth lady in 1:33:48.

There were also PBs for Striders’ Michelle Hutton (1;34:06), Jame Cummings (1:53:08) and Louise Parry (2:12:12).

Selected others (Spa Striders unless stated): 25, Adam Notley (85:31); 30, Gavin Fowler (Leamington C&AC, 86:01); 38, Steve Bradley (Kenilworth Runners, 87:04); 53, John-Paul Hunt (88:50); 66, Paul Okey (Leamington C&AC, 89:55); 68, Ryan Baker (Kenilworth Runners, 89:56).

Spa Striders were out in force the previous Thursday evening at the sociable Sphinx 1-mile relays in Coventry, with the men taking home the team prize and the ladies finishing runners-up.

Further afield, Mel Venables ran the North Downs Way Marathon, finishing in an impressive 4:15 to take first lady and eighth overall.

Lucy Walton raced in the Evesham 10k, finishing in 50:09 for a shiny new PB.

Just hours after completing the Leamington Spa Half Marathon in 1:32:58, Kenilworth Runners’ Ian Baynes finished 13th in the Seven at Severn, a 7k race around Draycote Water which took place at 7pm.

The annual race attracted a large field of 370 runners, with Baynes clocking a personal best of 27:47.

Runners’ team-mates Tom and Pauline Dable finished in 39:02 and 42:46, respectively, with Pauline the leading FV70.

Three Spa Striders also took part, with Chloe Kinton 31st in 30:43, Michael Clarke 50th in 33:00 and Julie Heaton 172nd in 42:01.

The race was won by Bedford Harriers’ Mark Raddan in 25:32, with Louise Balloch (Daventry Road Runners) the leading female in 28:13.

Meanwhile, Leamington C&AC’s Ben Hawkes has been selected to represent Great Britain at the European Under-20 Championships in Sweden from July 18-21.

The C&AC record holder for 400m will be taking part in the 4 x 400m relay.