Lancaster running club dominate White Rose

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Photograph: Sakib Rahman

The Saturday afternoon of Roses saw a triumph for Lancaster’s athletes, as the Lancaster University Running Club outpaced their York rivals in both the men’s and women’s competitions, taking all of the available points.

The races – a ten kilometre run for the men, and an 8 kilometre run for the women – saw Lancaster quite easily beat the competition from York, with particular mentions going to Tom Roethenbaugh and Lauren Gowland, who won the respective races.

The women’s race, which began an hour before the men’s, commenced at County College for a quick two hundred metre sprint before veering off onto the woodland trail. The women then left campus to take the road up towards Lancaster University’s wind turbine, before dropping down Hala Hill and back towards the university. Lancaster’s Laura Sullivan joined Gowland on the initial sprint, but by the time they had got within a kilometre of the finish line Sullivan had dropped to fourth behind Lancaster’s Andorra Perkins and York’s Rosie Smith, who finished the race in second and third respectively. All four finished in respectable times, with less than three minutes separating Gowland (who finished in 31 minutes 27 seconds) and Sullivan (33 minutes 56 seconds).

In the women’s race the first three from each team counted in order to win the points towards the all-important Lancaster v. York overall tally. This the Lancaster women’s team achieved with ease, with Gowland, Perkins and Sullivan all coming in faster than York’s Smith, Martine Ballinger (who came seventh overall) and Alice Smith (tenth overall).

The triumph of Lancaster’s women gave a good degree of momentum for the men’s team to succeed, and this they did with aplomb. However, it was clear that several members of the York team were going to put up a worthy fight from the beginning, as York’s Ben Jones kept up the pace with Lancaster’s supremoes Roethenbaugh and Phil Robertson on the initial charge down the first two hundred metres towards the woodland trail. From here, the men too left the campus on its south-west tip, but then headed through Galgate before running underneath the M6 motorway and along a series of country lanes in the wilderness which lies between Lancaster’s campus and the Forest of Bowland.

It was here that the runners encountered “Beast Hill,” a long, climbing road defined by its swooping rise punctuated by a series of sharp inclines; the road was affectionately nicknamed by runners to reflect how formidable it is. “Beast Hill” is perhaps the best example of the contrast between Lancaster and York’s courses, the latter of which is incredibly flat. The runners had to scale “Beast Hill” before dropping down the other side, once again joining Hala Hill like the women did.

In terms of positions, the race was altogether rather static: at Hala Hill Roethenbaugh, Jones and Robertson were in first, second and third positions respectively. This remained the case right up until the finish, when Roethenbaugh came hurtling round the final corner to cross the finish line in the phenomenal time of 36 minutes ten seconds, a mere 15 seconds separating him and York’s Jones, who crossed in second place.

Talking to SCAN after the race, Roethenbaugh put his victory down to good conditions on the day. “I just had a really good day; my legs felt really loose,” Roethenbaugh said.
“It’s a tough course, especially with ‘Beast Hill’ in the middle. There are definitely some sharp climbs, but I enjoyed it,” he continued. This was a significant race for Roethenbaugh, who has only recently got back into running since having an injury. “I had three months with a pulled calf, and I’ve been back running for eight weeks since then. I think I’ve probably injured myself running that race, but oh well – I’ll go out with a bang!”

Lancaster’s Robertson and Ho Hin Henry Chan both crossed the line under the 38 minute mark, finishing in third and fourth place respectively. York’s John Sanderson who finished in fifth place and Lancaster’s Ryan Stevenson in sixth, both crossed the finish line before the clock hit thirty-nine minutes.

While the top six positions indicate a competitive race between York and Lancaster, the teams’ scores were very much in Lancaster’s favour. In the men’s race the first four from each team counted towards the allocation of points, and here Lancaster beat York quite easily, with Lancaster’s top four of Roethenbaugh (first), Robertson (third), Chan (fourth) and Stevenson (sixth) contrasting heavily with York’s Jones (second), Sanderson (fifth), Joe Allcock (15th) and Pete Binfield (16th).

In reaction to Lancaster’s victories in both the men’s and women’s races, Lancaster University Running Club President Nicholas Barton said he was delighted. “We’ve worked really hard this season, and it’s good to see that it’s come to show in races,” Barton told SCAN.

Above all, Lancaster gained from having a higher turnout to the race than York. While Lancaster fielded eight runners in the women’s race and 25 in the men’s race, York only brought three women and four men to Lancaster to compete in the two races.

“It’s great to have such participation, and we’re really lucky that so many people want to get involved with running,” Barton said. “Just a few years ago it was just quite a niche sport, but we’ve really managed to open it up to more people. Even if you’re not scoring for the team, you’re still able to have a great run and enjoy the competitive spirit of Roses.”

The Running Club’s Communications Officer, Bethany Bloor, also championed the turnout from the Lancaster team. “I think we’ve had a great turnout from Lancaster,” Bloor told SCAN. “We’ve got so many guy runners out today and I think we’ve done well to get a girls’ team together as well.”

Asked how he found Lancaster’s Roses route, Barton replied: “It’s always horrible. We know that York is very flat and that they train on a track, so we try to use our home advantage of the hilly Lancaster countryside. It doesn’t make for a fast course or a pleasant one particularly, but it’s great to be round [the course] and finished.”