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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Coniston 14 pulls in record entries

PERFECT weather conditions set the scene for a record-breaking number of runners to take on the prestigious Coniston 14 road race.

Saturday saw a stunning sunny morning dawn over John Ruskin School, the start and end point for the annual event, which every year sees hundreds of runners tackle a gruelling course while taking in some of the Lake District’s most beautiful views.

This year, the 31st time the race has been held, saw the course changed back to its traditional 14-mile route.

The last two years have seen runners face a 17-mile slog, after the race had to be extended because of flooding damage at Bouthrey Bridge at Water Yeat.

This year’s event pulled in the race’s largest ever entry – around 1,600 runners from all over Britain.

Geoff Cooper, race co-ordinator, said: “We’ve no trouble filling the race, we’re always fully booked, and this year we were full up by the end of January.

“I’ve never seen such a big stream of runners as I did at the start, it was tremendous.”

Asked what he felt attracted so many runners to the event, Mr Cooper added: “I think it’s one of those runs that’s become well-known over the years.

“Some people claim it’s the most picturesque run in Britain, which I’m sure it is.

“Looking up at the mountains from the lakeshore, especially on a sunny day, it’s brilliant.

“It’s also a social event – even though we get a lot of competitive runners, it’s a really pleasant race, very friendly.”

After a sunny start to the day, the weather changed to provide perfect running conditions, with the skies clouding over and the temperature cooling noticeably.

Having taken full advantage, the first man back was 42-year-old John Herbert, from Nene Valley Harriers in Peterborough.

This is the third time he has run the Coniston 14, having come first two years ago and second last year.

Finishing in one hour, 16 minutes and three seconds on Saturday, Mr Herbert said: “The 11 to 12 mile mark was a killer, but once I got over the hill my brain told my legs, ‘That’s it now’ and my legs came back to life and started motoring. It’s a good, hard course – very physically demanding.”

Completing the course in one hour, 28 minutes and 26 seconds, Eleanor Fowler was the first woman back across the finish line.

The 33-year-old, from Nuneaton Harriers in Warwickshire, said: “I hadn’t really done as much training as I would have liked, so it was a case of hanging on at the end.

“It’s a fantastic race, with it being quite hilly and tough, it’s a really good long-distance run with great scenery.

“There’s always a great atmosphere and the support on the course is fantastic.”

As well as pulling in runners from all over England, Scotland and Wales thanks to its prestigious reputation, the Coniston 14 is regularly attended by a large number of local runners.
Narrowly missing out on a top 10 spot this year was 21-year-old Harry Stainton from Ulverston.

After coming in 11th, the Hoad Hill Harriers member said: “The weather was perfect, I was just lacking a bit of speed – I struggled a bit. It was just a lack of training I think.”

Mr Stainton was soon followed in by a number of his Hoad Harriers teammates, including Adrian Newnham.

Mr Newnham said: “This is a great race – they’re very friendly, and it’s challenging.

“Quite a few of us are training for the Windermere marathon, so it’s good training for us. It’s a good local race to come to.”

For some, the course is even closer to home.

A number of Coniston runners regularly turn out to support the community event, which is organised by local volunteers and raises money for the area’s charities through entry fees.

Coniston resident Phil Glennon has run the race eight times, and is sponsored in aid of Ulverston’s St Mary’s Hospice every year.

Celebrating as he recorded his best ever time – one hour, 52 minutes – he said: “For me, it’s my local, but it’s got to be one of the most beautiful races in the country. It’s absolutely stunning and the atmosphere, for a little village, is fantastic.

“It’s what it does for the community, and for local charities, that makes it really special.”

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