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Yet another hot day, with Allen Smalls and Jackie Stretton returning as familiar faces at the top of the podium. Thankfully a less eventful day than last year but still a very tough one as we continue to face gorgeous spectator weather which is probably less appreciated by the runners...
The 2017 results are here. Yet another day that was a little too hot for runners but absolutely gorgeous for volunteers.

We had some fresh faces this year, with a job made slightly easier by Allen Smalls deciding to run 100 miles the weekend before. Tom Wake of Ipswich Jaffa took the mens win in the closest finish we have seen so far, just 41 seconds ahead of Andrew Low from Benfleet. Allen Smalls still made the podium, just a further 2 minutes back.

We had a new ladies course record with Jackie Stretton coming in to take the win in 9th place overall in 3.50.27. The womens podium was completed by Naomi Moss and Mary Narey.

This year was marked by a course deviation caused by demolition of a footbridge which may have improved times by a very small margin, but was not material. We will consider the merits of each route for 2018 as running directly through the pub did appear to be rather popular with the spectators....

2017 was also marked by a serious health problem for one of the runners - Mike Munson, a member of both Stowmarket Striders and the organising club, Mid Essex Casuals. Mike experienced a serious heart problem just over a mile from the finish and his life was saved by the assistance of fellow runners and an off duty paramedic who happened to be at an isolated house nearby, plus of course the Essex Ambulance Service when they were able to reach the scene. Whilst this story has a happy ending, it is a timely reminder to all of us that athletic endeavours of this type are not to be taken lightly and can have very serious consequences. Its also a demonstration of the spirit of the running community and testament that trail runners will help a fellow runner before thinking about their own race - if you see someone struggling, check whether they need help before running by !
The 2016 Stour Valley Marathon results are here. This was yet again a hot day, making for rather tough conditions for everyone. 2014 winner Allen Smalls returned to take his second win and Naomi Moss was first lady home and 10th overall. A rather abbreviated write up at this stage, partly because it will of course be very similar to what you can pick up below from the 2014 and 2015 reports.

Stour Valley Special results are here - this was a one-off event held on Saturday 1st August 2015 for a pre-qualified group of 41 runners. A hot but thankfully breezy day on a rather more overgrown course than seen in June. This event was a one-off for 2015 and is unlikely to be repeated.
2015 Results and Race Report

A gorgeous day greeted the first arrivals for the second Stour Valley Marathon. All parking, and plenty of it, is now at Nayland Village Hall giving an even more relaxed atmosphere as runners collected their numbers and soaked up the early morning sunshine. Races always have a few 'DNS's - Did Not Start - and one of todays was last years winner and therefore course record holder. That certainly meant a new winner but the record was already at a very good standard for a hilly course, so it was by no means sure that the record would fall.

A typically relaxed trail marathon start saw 155 runners leave Nayland past the picturesque houses and up the now notorious Gravel Hill, which is a narrow country lane allowing the runners to establish positions before entering the first single track trail section. The first 5 miles is particularly lumpy and no doubt quite a few people are already wondering where Suffolk had been hiding all the hills... Checkpoint 1 saw lots of already tired runners, but it was clear that Charlie Harpur (number 58) and Tristan Steed (120) were setting the pace - both were in the top 3 last year and would also now benefit from better course knowledge.
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A lovely day for the spectators was becoming a little too hot for comfortable running, but Charlie Harpur had stretched his lead by CP 2 and was testing the checkpoint opening times - by CP 4 he was way ahead of the expected schedule and powered straight through rather than lose 15 seconds of his already very substantial lead. He was clearly focussed on the course record as the win was already in the bag bar any navigational issues - always a possibility on this type of trail marathon. A little further back Christine Howard was leading the ladies field, also with a comfortable margin in hand. After CP 4 last year a heavily overgrown rape field had slowed all the runners, but this was now planted with more co-operative crops - making the last hill a little more bearable and giving a little more time for most of the field to look right and see the Bures Dragon.
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There were no last minute dramas and Charlie duly crossed the line in 3.03.48 - a massive improvement over the previous course record. Tristan Steed also beat last year's course record but Charlie was clearly unbeatable on the day - he is running the Stour Valley Path 100k in August and is likely to provide a few established ultra runners with a few surprises as he matches local knowledge with truly impressive speed.

Charlie and Christine received £50 vouchers from RunActive, a local running store, and all the finishers received a very impressive medal - likely the biggest piece of bling hanging on many runners' walls for quite a while. The volunteers were serving free baked potatoes and chilli to all the finishers, and there was a surprise beer in the goody bag as everyone relaxed in the sunshine with family and friends. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Full 2015 results here - these will be updated to show club affiliations shortly.
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2014 Results and Race Report
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Near perfect conditions greeted runners arriving for the first ever Stour Valley Marathon on 15th June 2014 - dry, but overcast and much cooler than the previous weekend. 110 runners left Nayland Village Hall to run parts of the Stour Valley Path, St Edmund Way and the Essex Way.

Runners left Nayland village past the picture postcard Tudor houses and headed straight up Gravel Hill, which is long enough for natural positions to develop before hitting the first short single track section. The leading men wasted no time admiring the village houses and it was already clear a few were going to be taking this very seriously. Checkpoint 1 was less than 5 miles away and the leaders were flying - Charles Harpur setting an astounding pace and a small group including Allen Smalls and Tristan Steed never far behind. Multiple marathon winner Smalls, a local with a recent road PB of 2.35, must have been wondering whether Harpur - 22 years younger - was capable of keeping it up.

Fortunately for Smalls, Harpur was one of the many people who underestimated the hills in the second half of the race and will go home realising that Essex and Suffolk aren't as flat as advertised. Smalls reeled him in on the section out toward Bures and eventually pulled out a substantial lead. Colchester based paratrooper Tristan Steed used the experience of Smalls to get much closer than when they ran the Halstead marathon a month ago and pushed Harpur back in to third place. Both Harpur and Steed will have made a few notes - Allen Smalls may find it even tougher next year.

For the women, Mary Narey - also a vet - took the overall win with Lucy Ferguson not far behind. Mary's race report for her club is here . Sarah Booker and Christine Howard crossed the line together to share third. Sarah was the leading lady for much of the race but placing too much reliance on someone else's GPS watch saw her start running the course again ! Sarah's blog is here - http://www.dreamingoffootpaths.co.uk/2014/08/stour-valley-marathon-race-report.html
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Of course, most normal people were taking much more time to enjoy the scenery - some proving it by posting some very scenic shots after the race. Some enjoyed it so much they even added in a few miles to ensure they were truly in 'Ultra' territory - the Stour Valley Marathon is already technically an ultra, coming in at 27 miles. Several people were running it as their first marathon - the extra mile and the extra hills will guarantee a new PB if they run their second on a nice flat road course, and of course emphasise what an achievement finishing the Stour Valley Marathon really was.

Once they crossed the line all the runners were treated to an impressively painted real horseshoe, some running related goodies and complimentary pasta served by smiling volunteers at the village hall.

Full 2014 Results are available by clicking on the link below. These have already reached RunBritain rankings for those who monitor that.

2014 Stour Valley Marathon Results.

Course record now stands at 3.20.38 - Allen Smalls.

2015 date is June 7th.
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The Stour Valley Marathon also inspired Mark Taggart's first running blog and was the testing ground for this shoe test by Kate Allen.