Wards Solicitors’ record breaking runner returns to the track with a tribute to Bradley Stoke
The sun was shining at this year's Bradley Stoke 10k race - and so were our two Wards Solicitors' entrants, Gary Hope and Rachel Bennett, who came an impressive first and third in their respective categories.
A race close to our hearts, we have sponsored it for many years now, it was fantastic to see Gary - Partner and head of our National Conveyancing Unit based in Bradley Stoke - reassert his position as a competitor to contend with after a long break from running.
He won the race the first year he ever ran it back in 2009 in a time of 33.36, setting a course record which endured for nine years until it was finally broken at this year's event by Maciej Bialogonski.
Gary, formerly British 5k, 10k and half marathon champion in the Masters 40 to 45 year age category, had always been a keen runner and also competed in several London Marathons clocking his best time of 2 hours 35 minutes in 2008 when he came 107th.
This year, Gary marked his comeback by winning the over fifties race in a time of 38.58, more than a minute ahead of the runner who came in second.
"After an eight year break, resulting in a four-and-half stones weight gain, I happened to lose a little bit a few months ago," he says. "With the half century birthday on the horizon and, taking inspiration from others, I then started to wonder if I might be able to run again.
"Last February, I dug out the old trainers. The reality was that, to begin with, I could barely run two miles. Like many things in life, perseverance is often the key and I decided to have another go at this event. Finishing the race to come in 19th overall and winning the over 50 age category was a real bonus."
Tribute to Bradley Stoke
For Gary, taking part in this year's 10k race impressed on him just how much the superbly organised local event, part of the Bradley Stoke Community Festival, reflects how the town has grown and developed as a community since he started working there as a trainee lawyer at Wards Solicitors 25 years ago.
"I lived and worked in Bradley Stoke when the foundations of the town were still being laid," he says. "Today, the dedication, friendliness and effort of all those involved in the seriously well organised Bradley Stoke 10k race - with the many voluntary martials deserving special mention - is an epitome of the spirit and nature of the residents of the town and its surrounds.
"On a personal note, I can also reflect on the great benefits that running has given to me since childhood and how pleasing it is to see so many people now running the streets of the town (runners were rarely seen 25 years ago), adding to the vibrancy and general good health of the community.
"Wards Solicitors has sponsored this event for some years now. We opened our office doors here in 1989 and are proud to have had a branch within the heart of this community since the first few homes were built."
Personal best for Rachel too
Gary's colleague in Bradley Stoke, solicitor Rachel Bennett, also had a fantastic 10k race coming third in the over 35 year age category.
She says: "It was my fourth year running the race and I completed it 30 seconds quicker than last year in 47:57 minutes, so I was delighted''.
"It's a great event and exceptionally well organised. I thoroughly enjoyed it and appreciated the encouragement from the 49 minute pacer, Alan. I'm already looking forward to running the race again next year."
Organised by Sole Sisters, the only all women UK Athletics affiliated running group based in North Bristol. The 10k course runs along tracks and footpaths through Bradley Stoke's Conservation Area. This year, 566 men and women took part.