Author:  Charlie Dickinson

Photo Credit:  Ross Finlay


Another very convincing win by Sophie Harris in Richmond Park, these add to her previous league victories at Reigate Priory, Nonsuch Park, and Wimbledon Common, gave her a league record, never before in the long history of the Surrey league has a senior man or woman won all four races in one season. She was supported, just as in the previous three races, by Saron Haileselase in 6th place, with the team finishing 5th on the day and 5th overall for the season.

This was a new course in Richmond Park starting near Sheen Gate and running in the opposite direction from previous races. It was a miserable day with a cold wind and persistent drizzle which made the usual firm surface quite slippery. However, both Sophie and Saron had prepared well, already very familiar with that section of the park, they had specifically trained on Queen Victoria Ride the week before so the long upward section soon after the start bore no surprises.

Sophie looking confident and strong decided to push the pace fairly early on near the top of that first hill with only the 2nd claim Thames runner trying to stay with her. She then ran away down to the Penn Ponds and up to the Ballet School gaining a lead of 25 seconds as she started the second lap. Saron, wary of the cold wind, mud, and hills was careful to run her own pace having suffered from a debilitating stitch in her previous race. At the finish, Sophie had more than doubled her lead and Saron with a very fast finish produced her best race of the season very nearly catching the Surrey Champion.

Next to finish with another very solid run was Mhairi Hall in 33rd place. She came through well on the second lap continuing the fine progress she has made since joining last summer. Mhairi has hardly missed a race all season, always runs her best, and has been a wonderful acquisition for the club. Then came Jojo Rhodes, delighted to score for the team with a very strong run. Jojo has slowly been gaining confidence and fitness after an injury-hit year. Her run was easily her strongest this season and we look forward to her getting back to her very best in the forthcoming road relays.

A little further back there was a battle royal between two long-standing friends and ex Triathletes, Gemma Wright and Felicity Cole. In the end, it was Gemma, sliding about in her trail shoes and more at home on the hilly course than at Wimbledon the month before, who got ahead and closed the scoring team. Felicity ran her usual gritty determined race and finished just a few places further back.


Gemma fighting her way through the field

Special thanks to the next two Belles, Rose O’Brien and Mhairi McDonald who came and supported the team. Rose ran a very controlled and sensible race, massively over distance for a 400/800m athlete and on a surface she dislikes, she nevertheless finished well within the first half of this division one race. Mhairi was her usual cheerful self and the Belles have loved her presence this season always brightening up the team spirit whatever the weather. After the race, she went straight up to the city to volunteer as an outreach worker helping homeless people living on the streets.  That’s the sort of person Mhairi is.

Apart from the magnificent performances by Sophie and Saron, backed up by Mhairi Hall and no less than 19 Belles who have turned out in at least one league race, the season has been marked by injury and illness to many of the team. It was only in our home fixture at Wimbledon that the Belles managed to finish a full B team of five runners. There were four late dropouts due to injury in this last race. So, to finish fifth in the league overall out of 20 Surrey league teams is a very creditable performance and one which the team will build on next season. Belgrave achieved this without the regular second claim athletes fielded by Thames and Clapham who boost their score. The key is the recruitment of all abilities, hard work and consistent training.

Sophie on her way to another fine win







  1. S Harris 29:45,  2.  S. Davies (CC)  30:37,  3.  K. Hedgethorne (THH)  30.55,  6. S. Haileselase  31:21,  33.  M. Hall  34:07, 58. J. Rhodes  35:40,  75.  G. Wright  36:39,  78.  F. Cole  36:56,  118. R. O’Brien  38:47,  166. M. McDonald  41:40,         232 ran
  1. THH  63,  2.  CC 72,  3.  HHH  125,  4. SLH  132,  5. Belgrave  173.
  1. THH  305,  2. CC  342,  3.  SLH  547,  4. HHH  621,  5. Belgrave 644,  out of a total of 30 A and B teams

L:R Matt Welsh, Mhari, D Mhari D, Rose O Brien, Jo Rhodes, Felicity Cole, Gemma Wright, Sophie Harris, Saron Haileselase