Race Walking Association National Long Distance Championship and the “St Edmunds 100” for the Brotherhood of Centurions (Sat 5th & Sun 6th August 2017)
Report by Sue Clements C950 & Kevin Marshall C1001
This year Bury St Edmunds welcomed the “St Edmunds 100 mile” race walk, the 94th qualifying race for the Centurions and the RWA Long Distance Championship. Supporting races over 20 & 50 miles were included to attract as many walkers as possible and 20 mile entrants were automatically included in the BMAF 20 mile Championship if they met the criteria. The races were organised by the personal training company ‘Positive Steps’ whose owner is C1001 Kevin Marshall. Early preparation and planning was key to incorporating 3 races into the weekend. Holding a ‘taster’ race in April paid off, and gave the organisers time to respond to walkers’ and officials’ observations and suggestions regarding the route and venue. The event attracted entries from the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, UK and the Isle of Man. 43 entered the 100 miles, 19 the 20 miles and 2 the 50 miles.
41 walkers toed the 100 mile start line in heavy rain to hear Terry Clements, Mayor of St Edmundsbury, set them off. After a few hours the rain stopped then walkers enjoyed a mostly dry day. The race was only two days before the full moon and St Edmundsbury Borough Council arranged to leave the street lights on so walkers enjoyed a well lit route at night which helped them maintain sufficient speed during an exceptionally cold night. The cold probably contributed to some walkers calling it a day, but 23 continued until they completed their 100 miles. Warmer weather greeted walkers Sunday morning and by mid-morning the sun was shining.
Guido Vermeir from Belgium led from the start, walking strongly throughout the race to complete his 100 miles in 20.39.35. He was followed by Australian husband and wife team Justin & Sharon Scholtz who finished together in 21.04.53. Peter Asselman (Belgium) finished 21:11:07 in fourth place, earning his first Centurion badge. Sandra Brown, legend of ultra-distance walking, finished in 21.44.15 completing her 31st Centurion in Britain. Richard Brown added a 19th completion to his tally, 22.48.54. Novice ultra-distance walker Gabriel Farmer completed his first 100 miles in 23.08.56. Martin Fisher, a stalwart of 100 mile races, finished in 23.31.11 notching up his 27th completion.
Jon Petty was aiming to be the 3rd visually-impaired walker to qualify as a Centurion. He was accompanied by experienced walkers to ensure his safe passage. Walkers relinquishing the opportunity to race were England Commonwealth Games representative Daniel King, former international George Nibre, the oldest person to qualify as a Centurion John Borgars C1170, and UK National 100 Miles Walking Silver medallist Kevin Marshall C1001. Jon walked with determination but stopped after completing 68 miles.
Overall there were 15 new Centurions, out of these 7 walkers attempted it for the first time and succeeded. These included Manx walker James Bassett whose experience of completing the 85 mile Parish Walk stood him in good stead. He finished in 21.24.38. Hardeep Minhas had never walked more than 30kms/20 miles but walked steadily to finish in 22.37.59. Joyce Crawford almost qualified in 2014 at Southend and since then has been training hard for this race. This year she trained on the circuit every week and at the finish some of the residents came out to cheer her on. Joyce’s persistence paid off and she completed 100 miles in 23.42.22.
This was the fourth time the 100 mile race had been held in Suffolk and the organiser worked hard building local links to ensure the event was well-received and ran smoothly. We are grateful to St Edmundsbury Borough Council for their support and co-operation; the council even arranged to cut a grass verge a few days before the races to provide an area for tents. The Skyliner Sports Centre, managed by Abbeycroft Leisure, was a well-appointed venue and they ‘went the extra mile’ to help us on the day. The Mayor presented the awards, giving the event real sense of local importance. He was so impressed he invited all the helpers to a reception in the Mayor’s parlour the following week. The races certainly raised the profile of race walking in Suffolk.