Marvellous Marilyn’s Meldon Madness

By Contributor in Athletics

IT was a great day on Saturday for the Marilyn’s Meldon Madness run in memory and tribute to former Okehampton Running Club member Marilyn Cooper.

The club had decided to rename their annual Great West Fell Run this year in a fond tribute to Marilyn, a founder member of ORC, who died in 2016 at the age of 61.

The event which took place from Meldon Dam proved a popular race for the competitors who enjoyed fine sunny weather on the five mile run, with a challenging 415 metre ascent.

Marilyn’s husband Paul was delighted with the event, saying it was a great honour that the race’s name had been changed in his wife’s memory. He told the Times that it could not have gone any better.

‘Marilyn would have been left speechless —not just that the race was named in her honour but so many people turned up to take part. There was one runner who came down all the way from Stratford-upon-Avon to take part and he told me what a fantastic day he had. Also you could not have asked for better weather.

‘Okehampton Running Club is such a lovely, fun club which Marilyn just loved being part of. I know that Katie Littlejohns, who won the ladies’ race, and other members have told me that they wouldn’t be running if Marilyn had not encouraged them.’

Paul was also proud of his sons, Michael and Peter, who both took part.

ON Saturday the second in Okehampton Running Club’s summer race series took place. This race, previously called the Great West Fell Run, has been renamed Marilyn’s Meldon Madness in honour of former ORC member Marilyn Cooper who died suddenly just over a year ago.

A founding member of the club, Marilyn was an outstanding runner over all distances and terrain, but was always happiest when out running on the moors. She had a great love of the moors and an appreciation of how lucky she was to be able to run in such a beautiful area, so it seemed fitting for her name to be given by ORC to this lovely fell race, run over the part of the moors that she could see from her home in Inwardleigh.

Her husband Paul, and two sons, Peter and Michael, had kindly donated a Dartington Rose Bowl trophy to be awarded in her memory to the first ORC lady home and ’the boys’, as Marilyn referred to her adult sons, both ran the race, having their first taste of the type of running Marilyn did.

The weather played fair and gave the runners and spectators a clear if somewhat fresh afternoon to enjoy the spectacular views that this race offers with the climb to Yes Tor and High Willhays, the highest point in the south of England. From there the steep and tussocky descent to Black Tor claimed a few fallers, but thankfully this resulted in nothing more serious than some muddy kit.

There was a good turnout for the race from both visiting runners and the club, with 55 entrants — everyone enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of a small, friendly fell race and the excellent post-race tea and cakes provided by club members.

The first to finish was Okehampton’s Rob Hicks, rarely to be seen running anywhere other than on the moors and the combination of his speed and familiarity with the terrain bringing him home in an superb time of 39 minutes 19 seconds for the five mile course. Equally at home on the moors, was Katie Littlejohns, who was not only the first ORC lady home to win the new trophy, but was also the overall first lady in a time of 51.36.

Other ORC times; Chris Turner; (fourth) 43.53, Andy Vernon; (seventh and first male over 40) 45.49, Mike Baker; 49.44, John Binns; 54.14, Ed Dumpleton; 54.18, Robert Richards; 56.34, Phil Read; 58.48, Chris Aylen; 59.33, Ang Martin; (first F40) 1.01.29, Christine Fritsch; 1.01.29, Danielle Fullford Brown; 1.05.41, Karen Vallance; 1.06.49, Jo Turner; 1.06.49, Debbie Bryant; 1.12.33, Janet White; 1.17.52.

Michael and Peter Cooper ran their first fell race together, and despite a lack of training and the fact that one ran in borrowed shoes and the other in road shoes, they finished in a very respectable 57.01.

The club thanked the North Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team who always attend this event.

On Sunday the Indian Queens Half Marathon threw up an unusual result for two club members when Paul Carter finished ahead of his club-mate and training partner Roger Voaden. Usually finishing a couple of minutes behind Roger, Paul overtook him at mile ten and held on to this lead to come home in 1.26.45 ahead of Roger in 1.27.25.

ORC Ged Fitzgibbon was the only club representative at the Totnes 10k on Sunday. This multi-terrain race follows the River Dart mostly on trails and narrow woodland paths, with one big hill encountered in the middle of the race. Ged ran well to finish in 1.00.55 over this attractive but quite testing course.

The previous Saturday Ed Dumpleton took the opportunity of a visit to his sister in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, to try a new parkrun, and was pleased to run a new 5k personal best of 20.44, coming 10th out of more than 300 runners.

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