Simon Keller

The main protagonist at the 2022 Wellington Road Championships was the weather. The early races were run in beautiful conditions, with a light breeze and no rain. The final race was run in driving rain and was delayed by a series of slips in Karori. (Long story, but when Karori-based life member Grant McLean needs a few more minutes to make it to the start line, he gets them. Did he stop on the way for a prerace coffee? Hard to know for sure.)

There was mud. Mud on the path to the start line, mud all around course, mud in the tent, mud in your shoes and socks and mud all over your legs. And yet, it was a wonderful afternoon of racing and socializing, with a huge Scottish contingent delivering many memorable performances.

The first race was the 5k, combining several master’s and junior grades and featuring non-championship events for the rest. Guy Lees and Ayesha Shafi were at the head of the field, Guy coming seventh in the U18s and Ayesha winning the non-champs senior women – and coming within a whisker of a PB.

Michele Allison started slowly and ground her way through the field, beating all the other women’s 65 runners and many others besides. There were some entertaining intra-club tussles as Helen Willis and Ian Morton ran shoulder-to-shoulder and Tait Keller (16) sat patiently on Jonathan Harper (indeterminate). Phil Sadgrove and Michael Cummins ran like freight trains to finish high in the men’s 60s, and there were strong performances from Betty Harp and Loretta DeSourdy, among many others.

At the back of the field, club legend Bob Stephens, who has been battling serious illness, completed the first 2.5km lap, wearing his familiar yellow singlet and a look of fierce determination.

Then came the exuberance of the kids’ races. A large contingent of U10 runners gave Scottish supporters plenty to cheer for. Juliet Street and Luca Cunningham finished near the front, and Abby Cleland, Georgie Street, and Rowan Richardson competed well too.

In the U14s, Sam Cleland ran a brave race and was full of smiles at the end.

Onward to the 10k races, and the rain. There are many stories to tell, but the performance that no one could miss was Hiro Tanimoto’s commanding victory. Hiro in full flight is one of the best sights in Wellington running. The great virtue of the multi-lap Wainui course is that you can run your race and be in Hiro’s audience all at once.

Daniel Jones, Sam McCutcheon, Harry McLean and Nick Horspool combined with Hiro to give Scottish five of the top eight places overall.

Anna Smith, Sophie Whelan, and Lucy Fauth gave us three of the top six places in the women’s seniors. The women’s 35s dominated, the Mels Brandon and Aitken finishing first and third respectively, with a string of teammates behind them: Scottish had seven of the top eight finishers in the grade and surely an amazing road relays team in the making.

For all the inclement weather, several Scottish runners recorded PBs. Some of them were Alice Sowry, Ben Bielski, Nicholas Bagnall (again, again), and Karl Jackson.

Meanwhile, Peter Stevens won the hard-fought men’s 50s and Alastair Richardson may well have discarded a perfectly good pair of racing shoes.

If the weather was the villain, then the heroes were the organizers and volunteers, who put a wonderful event regardless.

Two Scottish heroes who deserve special mention are, as always, Sharon and Michael Wray. They were there early to set up the tent, giving us the welcome gift of shelter from the rain, and did not complain at all about having to take it home and wash off all the mud.

Or at least, I presume they didn’t complain. I had left by then.