Algarve Running Challenge Relay 2019

Fun in the sun at the Algarve Running Challenge

runABC South writer Alan Newman joined a couple of dozen enthusiasts for the Track & Field Tours Algarve Running Challenge and pipped his partner Sue James by a point after four races! This is how the week unfolded...

Track & Field Tours have organised the Algarve Running Challenge (ARC) in Portugal for 13 years and it has always been my ambition to take part but it never happened – until this year.

The winning formula of ARC is four races on a variety of surfaces within five days; a bit of winter sun; fellowship of other runners and slick organisation by Steve Smythe, Results Editor for Athletics Weekly. There is even the chance you might get your name in the 'athlete's bible'!

We were based on the beach in the comfortable Dunamar Apartments Hotel, perfect for access to the undulating pine forest trails in the Monte Gordo/Vila Real region of Portugal, rubbing shoulders with Spain across the Guardiana River. The venue is popular with Team GB and other international teams for warm weather training, so you can run in the footsteps of the elite.

The race programme was 5K cross country (6/11); mile track race (7/11); 3 x 2.5K forest relay (8/11) and 10K multi-terrain (10/11). All events were run as handicaps, apart from the graded mile races in the impressive Vila Real Stadium. This gave everyone a fairer chance of 'winning'. Individual performances were age-graded to give all ages and abilities an equal footing – vital in the case of this man of many summers!

Weather conditions were excellent, with the sun in evidence on race days, although there was a brisk northerly wind to keep us cool. Fastest in all races was 34-year-old Oliver White (Exmouth Harriers). His times for the four events were 17:08; 4:59.8; 8:14 and 37:26. Oliver joined his parents Des (M65) and Alison (W60) for an exciting trail relay in the nature reserve. The leading lady was multiple W55 world record holder Clare Elms (Dulwich Runners) whose equivalent times were 18:20; 5:22.9; 8:53 and 39:29.

As if to prove anything is possible with the right handicap the relay was narrowly won by Sue James (W65), June Johnson (W75) and Alan Newman (W65). My Tonbridge AC/ex-Sevenoaks trio hung on by four seconds from Team Dulwich ARC (M65 Andy Murray, W70 Ros Tabor, W55 Clare Elms), with the Exmouth White family nine seconds back after our generous start.

The 10K saw scratch starter Helen Halliday (W55 Lawley RC, 76:45) holding off Alison White (45:35) and Alan Davidson (M70 Liss Runners, 62:56) in a close finish.

When the numbers had been crunched the overall awards were announced. Age-grades were converted to points and the top three were world class masters Clare Elms (3,823 points), Ros Tabor (3441) and Dave Mansbridge (M55 Telford, 3210) with honourable mentions for Claire Steward (W65 Dulwich 3107), Des White (3096), June Johnson (Midland Masters, 3073), Mike Mann (M70 Dulwich 3054) and Oliver White (3005) for averaging more than 75% age-grading.

And the most important result: Alan Newman (2892); Sue James (2891)! Until next year then...?

Details of Track & Field Tours Algarve Running Challenge here

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