11th A Coventry Way Challenge Commentary

7 September 2008

The excessive rainfall over the past few weeks has caused many outdoor events to be cancelled, including locally the annual vintage car parade around Warwickshire which would have finished in the Memorial Park, and the ‘Race for Life’ cancer charity 10k event which was due to be held in the grounds of Coombe Abbey. Both of these events were due to take place this past weekend.

One event which did escape cancellation however was the promotion of the Coventry Way 40 mile Challenge.  This event, in its 11th year, attracted 93 starters which included 3 relays teams.  The challenge is to complete the 40 miles on foot using public footpaths and bridleways around Coventry. The route starts and finishes at Meriden Village Hall and passes through the outskirts of Kenilworth, Stoneleigh, Stareton, Bubbenhall, Ryton, Wolston, Bretford, Brinklow, Ansty, Barnacle, Bedworth, Corley Ash, Corley Moor and then returning to Meriden. With the heavy rainfall over the past few days prior to the event, the course became extremely muddy which made for heavy going. In some places the walkers/runners were knee deep in water.

Setting off from Meriden between 6am and 9am the competitors were battling through yet more rain storms for the first few hours. But fortunately this eventually gave way to some brighter weather and even some sunshine.

Despite the atrocious conditions, no less than 69 of the 93 starters actually competed the full circuit to enjoy a meal and endless cups of tea in the village hall before many of them satisfied their thirst even more at the Queens Head pub a few hundred yards away.

Although primarily a challenge for walkers, the event has always been open to runners, and this year it was included in the ‘Trail Runners’ calendar which meant more runners than usual took part.  These included Peter Jaworisky, who came over for the event from Innsbruck, Austria, and was fastest round the course in an extremely fast time for the conditions of 6 hours and 7 minutes.  Next fastest was Henrick Skov from Denmark who clocked 6 hours and 39 minutes. Equal 3rd fastest were the Sphinx AC pairing of Steve Colbourne and Mick Hudspith in 7 hours and 3 minutes while the fastest lady was Anne Wade, a teacher at King Henry VIII school and a member of Octavian Droobers orienteering club.

The last walker to finish took 15 hours and 47 minutes which gives an idea of the spread of abilities and of course, the severity of the course.

 We often read of teams of walkers travelling up to Scotland, the Lake District and Snowdonia in order to take part in fund raising charity events.  They would be hard pressed to beat this Coventry Way event if it is truly a challenge that they are looking for.  No big fuel prices to pay before they even start to raise money, and with the route all being within a six-mile radius of the city centre it is easily supported.

However, to make the day such a success requires a lot of hard work put in by a lot of people. The most time consuming effort was put in through August by the band of footpath overseers. I mention this in particular, for this is one of the reasons that we have decided to move to April 5th to stage the event in 2009. We feel that without the summer growth to contend with, the Challenge will prove much easier to put on.  In addition we believe that we can attract more people to take part at that time of the year.  A King Henry VIII School Spring ACW Challenge was held on 4th April 2008. On that day the weather was warm and dry, with no need to spend any time clearing the way!

We are thankful to Meriden Village Hall Management Committee for letting us take over their Hall for a very full day.  From filling the water bottles at 5am whilst registration is going on, to clearing up by 9pm (just after).  Such a lot has been achieved during the day.  Refreshments are moved to the checkpoints. The checkpoints are set up.

At Kenilworth it was good that Martin Townend was able to lend a hand as the bulge of arrivals coincided with a real downpour. At Bubbenhall Bill & Tina Eve were in the dry under the village hall veranda. Whilst at Wolston, Martin has hopefully manned his last checkpoint – have you noticed that the house has been up for sale for the past 2 Challenges. At Bretford Maureen Harris had spring cleaned the loo, and put the water out.  In Brinklow Frank Tonkinson & Doug Shelton of the breakfast Club was grateful for the assistance by resident Sylvia Cree. Now comes the unofficial checkpoints at Ansty and Barnacle, these were manned by Keith & Greta Greenall, Irene Rogers and Sue Hallett.  At Bedworth Maureen & Jim Chapman assisted by Sue Bicknell were in the garage this year out of the weather.  Ken Nicholas was encamped at Breach Oak Lane for the long afternoon.  Finally at Corley Moor Georgina and Gwen Burrin assisted Mary Hewison, whereas David B then guided the final finisher through Meriden Shafts in the dark.

Masterminding the refreshments on offer throughout the day was Anne Wade.  Anne had returned from a long school trip in South Africa only a couple of days before. Hitting Sainsbury’s running with her Mum & Dad and 2-3 trolleys in tow. The rest of Saturday was spreading, preparing those filled rolls and sorting out the 7 checkpoints plus food for the finishers. Sunday morning Anne was setting off on the 40 miles, finishing inside 8 hours, then serving up the grub.

I will have missed people out, but the wish is to thank Team ACW2008, who make the Challenge such a success.

Not sure who was the oldest, but youngest must have been ten-year-old Alex Bailey who ran 6 miles with his Mum from Breach Oak to the finish in their family relay team.

See you again at Meriden in 2009 on April 5th  –  bring a friend.

Bob Carey/Bob Brandon