Canterbury in Kent and St Albans in Hertfordshire are both historic, walled cathedral cities situated on ancient routes with Roman heritage. They could be twins and the similarities extended to both venues hosting hugely popular 10 mile road races yesterday (21 January).
Canterbury has the edge in age and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated on the Pilgrims Way and the River Stour. However, St Albans takes its name from the first British saint and it was the first major town on the Roman road Watling Street, travelling north from London.
More than 2,000 stepped back in time to compete in the Ssanyong Canterbury 10 and Fred Hughes 10 at St Albans and it was the Kent race that had more competitors and faster times.
With tracer bullets of hail and snow in the bombardment of rain that soaked a capacity field of 1,390 finishers (in 2:35:37) conditions were unpleasant at Canterbury, especially on the more exposed parts of the 100% rural course.
Abel Tsegay (Invicta East Kent, 51:13) was clearly in a hurry to return to the warmth of Christ Church University Sports Centre as he won for the fourth year in succession. Tewelde Menges (Medway & Maidstone, 53:16) and Peter Hogben (Canterbury Harriers, 54:11) completed the podium and all three set cracking new personal bests.
The women's race was equally impressive as Nicole Taylor (Tonbridge, 58:34 PB) was among the 23 sub-60-minute finishers. Runners-up were top quality W50 master Tina Oldershaw (Tonbridge, 63:34) and W40 Renata McDonnell (Deal Tri, 64:17 PB). The mid-point finisher was M45 Spencer Davis (of the Petts Wood group) who enjoyed a PB of 1:28:10.
It was also raining PBs at the Fred Hughes 10, based at St Columba's School, incorporating the 2018 Herts County Senior Championships. This race was also sold out in record time, with a 1,000 limit. The narrow King Harry Lane start prevents any further expansion. The course is a single lap circuit with a combination of urban and rural sections and a hard frost was the best the weather could throw at the competitors.
First three men were Andrew McMulkin (Bedford, 55:31 PB), Andrew Inglis (M40 Cambridge Harriers, 55:40 PB) and Milan Misak (Serpentine, 56:26). The women's leaders were Marta Bagnati (Serpentine, 60:52), Stacey Ward (Herne Hill, 61:11) and Heather Hann (St Albans Striders, 62:13).
There were 755 finishers in 2:05:07 with Gemma Carruthers (Hobbs Harriers, 1:25:00) the midfield finisher on gun times. More than £1000 was raised for Cancer Treatment and Research Trust.
Image courtesy Fred Hughes 10