Algarve Challenge, November 1-5 2006

Veterans AC were the inaugural team winners of the Algarve Challenge. The team of Martin Miller, Dennis Williams and Clifford Hyde won by a total of 10 minutes from Dulwich Runners and Great Western Runners.. Miller, who was the 1st M55 in the Challenge, also won an award as third M50 overall, while Dennis Williams, won an award as the the second M60 overall.

The event was staged around the classic X Milhas do Guadiana, a 10 mile race that alternates each year between Ayamonte in Spain and Vila Real San Antonio in Portugal across the giant Guadiana Bridge that separates the two countries. The race is superb for Veterans with 5 awards in each age group. The Challenge organisers, Track and Field Tours, put on three new races leading up to the Sunday race, a 8km cross country, a one mile track race and a 6.5km beach race, which together with the 10 miler added up to a total distance of 20 miles. Williams had his best run in the Beach race where he beat the overall M60 champion Ray Hall.

Adding to the week's entertainment, there was a seminar by the 1962 European 5000m champion Bruce Tulloh, who gave details of his running in Kenya and his run across America and also offered individual training advice while challenge competitor while Belgrave Harriers' Will Cockerell gave a detailed account of how he came to choose his "50 top marathon races of all time," his fascinating book published earlier this year.

Tulloh unfortunately injured his leg in the first 100m of the initial race and was unable to take further part in the Challenge but he helped out the rest of the week. Indeed, the famous runner and coach (his protégé Matt Smith ran 2:14:41 in the Dublin Marathon, the day he arrived in Portugal ) called out the times for the Mile race. Tulloh himself ran 3:59.3 on a grass track 44 years earlier in Wanganui, a race won by Peter Snell in a world record 3:54.4.

The X Milhas do Guadiana race entry is cheap by UK standards and whilst certain areas of the organisation leave a little to be desired - there was lack of pre race information and the race started three minutes early, surprising a few of the UK contingent - all finishers receive a t-shirt and fine medal. There were generous prizes and awards, and the 10 mile event was accurately marked in kilometres, with adequate drinks stations over an interesting and very scenic course and the results (thanks to chip timing) were quickly posted.

All Challenge competitors received a top quality specially designed t-shirt and bag, and all competitors received a medal, and in addition there were generous awards for the leading competitors overall and in the age groups.

Other Veterans AC members in action included Stephanie Burchill (though actually competing for the Dulwich Runners squad) who was third woman overall and first W50. Steve Smythe was first M45 of the Challenge runners in the Mile and 10 mile but couldn't complete all Challenge events while Steve Edwards did the first three events but not the 10-mile. Dave Brooks was the second M65 and won an award for his even pace running in the Challenge while Alastair Jackson ran in the 1 mile and 6.5k beach race but injury kept him out of the other 2 races.

The facilities in the area are superb and Vila Real San Antonio and Monte Gordo are proving popular venues for athletes for warm weather training and the British team used it as a holding camp for the 1999 World Championships in Seville. During the Challenge a strong squad of German athletes were using the facilities. The track facilities are excellent, with a new indoor facility, there is a cross-country course close by (used for the European Masters Championships the year before) and it sits beside the Portuguese National Forest which has some excellent trails. They are clearly marked and sit both sides of Monte Gordo. The beach is also excellent for running most of the time, stretching close on 20 kilometres and running along to the Guadiana river and is flat and not cambered and besides the dunes and forest trails, very quiet.

Other entertainment organised for Challenge competitors included a trip to Seville , an Algarve tour and a quiz, while the 4 star Dunamar hotel next to the dunes and beach, had a gym, indoor pool, sauna and a Games room and a well attended bar. The latter, like many of the local bars had giant screens and after running the final race, competitors were able to rehydrate by watching either the England Rugby match, West Ham v Arsenal or the New York City Marathon.

Anyone interested in taking part in the 2007 Algarve Challenge (and helping Veterans AC defend their title), or the X Milhas do Guadiana, should contact Track and Field Tours (01277 354 377)  or e-mail

Overall Results
M50: 3 CLIFFORD HIDE 2:27:55.
M55: 1 MARTIN MILLER 2:18:03
M60: 2 DENNIS WILLIAMS 2:22:15.
M65: 2 DAVID BROOKS 2:42:17

Women 3 & 1W50: BURCHILL 2:55:47.

COMBINED TEAM: 1 Veterans AC 7:08:13; 2 Dulwich Runners 7:29:49; 3 Great Western Runners 7:35:06

Steve Smythe