GEMMA Shepherd celebrated her third successive appearance in the Virgin London Mini Marathon by helping the south west squad to finish on the podium, writes Kevin Fahey.

The 16-year-old from Yatesbury, who is a student at Sheldon School, finished fourth scorer for the U17 women’s team as the west girls produced the best performance of the day in the six-race programme to win silver behind a powerful London squad.

“We didn’t know the team results on the day so that is brilliant news,” said Shepherd.

“I was bottom of the U17s’ age group this year so I can run again in 2015 but I was very pleased with my run and happy to finish 21st.”

The mini marathon, which has grown in popularity enormously since it was launched, is more than just another race for the lucky youngsters who get selected to represent the region.

“We travelled up the night before and stayed overnight which is great for team spirit and getting to know the other girls,” added Shepherd.

“Also on Saturday night we had a talk from the Brownlee brothers (Olympic triathlon medallists) via Skype, which was very motivating.

“Our race was also started by (Olympic diver) Tom Daley and, of course, we saw Mo Farah in the marathon afterwards. It was an amazing day and the event just seemed much bigger than in the past. I really enjoyed it.”

Shepherd, who competes for Team Bath AC after starting her career with Marlborough & District AC, will switch her attentions to the track season and look to build upon last year, which included bronze over the 1500m in the Sainsbury’s UK School Games.

In the U15 boys’ race, William Stockley (Melksham Oak School) and Cameron Perkins (Hardenhuish) were 16th and 19th respectively to help the team finish eighth.

For the second successive year Chippenham Harrier’s Stuart Leaney finished top Wiltshire runner in the main marathon.

Leaney had predicted that he wasn’t in as good shape as in 2013 and clocked 2hrs 36mins 25secs compared to his personal best of 2:28.49 12 months ago.

Andrew Ind, of Marlborough Running Club, clipped 4.27 off his best with a time of 2:44.56 to finish second county man.

Leading county woman was former England international Amy Chalk. In her ninth marathon the 39-year-old from Stanley, near Calne, finished in 3:04.34. Nine years ago she ran her personal best of 2:39.37 in London, earning her an England vest for the Toronto Marathon later that year.

Chippenham Harriers’ veteran Caroline Blake, 44, produced arguably the best performance by a Wiltshire woman, slicing more than six minutes from her previous best set two years ago.


Top Wiltshire men: Stuart Leaney (Chipp) 2:36.25; Andrew Ind (Marlborough) 2:44.56 (PB); Ben Brewster (Sals, U23) 2:47.55 (PB); Stuart Holloway (Sals) 2:50.29; Trevor Batey (Chipp) 2:56.59; Jon Rich (Sals) 3:00.15 (PB); Neil Perry (Chipp) 3:03.06 (PB); Michael Brewster (Sals, M45) 3:06.54 (PB); Bernard Merron (Swin, M60) 3:08.29; David Walker (Chipp, 3:57:30 PB), Miles Wilson (Chipp, 4:06:52 PB).

Women: Amy Chalk (B&W, W35) 3:04.34; Jackie Rockcliffe (AVR, W40) 3:13.07; Diane Hier (AVR, W50) 3:23.43; Caroline Blake (Chipp, W40) 3:25.32 (PB); Henrietta Mackinnon (Marlborough, W40) 3:26.07; Michelle Leighton (Wootton Bassett, W40) 3:33.46; Katie Sloane (Sals) 3:35.55 (PB); Ewina Shirazian (Chipp, W40) 3:36.00; Fiona Russell (Sals, W50) 3:40.29; Kirsty Murphy (Chipp) 4:22.34.