ONE hundred and twelve marathon runners from across the country took part in Ross’ Wye Ultra Marathon, a 30-mile across country run, the first event in the 2009 Run Further Vasque Championship series.

The original route, starting from Ross Rowing Club, was to be an out-and-back run following the River Wye to Lydrook and into the Forest of Dean, from which the runners retraced their steps back to the rowing club.

However, organisers Black Sheep Sports Limited were forced to put together a last-minute revised route because a bridge crucial to the race route had been closed due to safety reasons.

Nonetheless, the race started in ideal sunny and cool conditions and with two ultra runners running who represent the England & Great Britain team, a fast pace was expected.

Andrew McNeill from Long Eaton AC was the early front-runner and establised an astonishing four-minute gap from the chasing pack.

He maintained his lead almost throughout but was caught just two miles from home, and this made for an exciting finish. Allen Smalls, an England International from Colchester Harriers, emerged in fine style as winner in 3 hours, 21 mins with Matthew Ray from Bath AC in second place just 30 seconds behind.

Ray must have felt that he was returning to familiar territory for he spent his teenage years living in Ross when he was educated at Monmouth Comprehensive School.

McNeill had to settle for third place with Andrew Rankin taking the 4th spot.

The first lady home, finishing in 14th positon was Kate Jenkins in a highly creditable time of 3 hours, 53 mins with Angie Sadler and Michelle Laws in second and third places respectively.