Army Athletics France Tour




The Army Athletics Association holds 2 training camps annually one to prepare athletes for the forthcoming Athletics season normally held in March/April and a 2nd held in September/October to prepare for the cross country season. Alpine Runner incorporates the Geneva 10km and the Abondance hill race as part of the training schedule and upto 20 athletes of Army or Regimental standard are invited to attend.

The purpose of the tour remains to:

Prepare athletes for the forthcoming cross country season.

Identify new talent and introduce them to Army level training practises.

To educate and encourage Regimental standard runners to participate and in so doing set up and form unit teams on their return to unit. With the primary target to increase participation at Division/Army level and provide a more informed competitor base.

To provide some assurance of the validity and utility of these tours attendees over the 7 years of their running went on to achieve the following:

2007 – Captain now Major Kate Brown a relative newcomer to running achieved a PB in the Marathon in 2008 running 2hrs 53 Mins winning the IS title.

L/Cpl Nerys Jones a unit level runner was later selected to join the Ladies Biathlon development squad. She was part of the Army women’s marathon team in 2013 and was placed 3rd in the IS at the London marathon. The Women’s team were IS team Champions.

2008 - Captain Debbie Coslett won the Geneva half marathon ahead of an international field of 600 runners.

WO2 Steve Laidler was runner up in the veteran’s category of the same race. WO2 Laidler to this point was a regimental standard runner who had not achieved his potential. He went on to represent the Army at Inter Service level.

Junior Craftsman Craig Williams attending both the 2007 and 2008 tour went onto win the Junior IS XC titles and confirmed himself as a regular Army level runner at Senior level the following  year.Army Athletics Francde tour

2009 - Capt Aidy Whitwam  was placed 8th in the Geneva 10km in a race that was dominated at the front end by international athletes. Aidy became and still is one of the Army’s main runners and continues to represent the service in XC and Track.

Cpl Amanda Jones placed 5th in the women’s event behind 4 internationals, Amanda went onto represent Wales in 2010.

WO2 Steve Laidler won the over 40s category and Tpr Elliot Vernon the junior category. Elliot went onto be selected for the National Biathlon development Team.

In spite of the international athletes that dominated the front end the ‘Alpine Runner’ group finished in very credible positions just out of the 1 to 5 prize winner placing in the men’s event.

Sgt Sophie Morris won the Army XC title in February of 2010 after attending the Sept Tour.

2010WO2 Tony Smith a regimental runner on his 2nd AR tour focused his attention on the marathon and won the Army title in Oct 2010 along with his regimental team who won the team title.  Alpine Runner gave him the realization that the art of the possible could be achieved with the right mind set and hard training.

Between 2007 to 2010 athletes attending the tours posted the fastest times at the Army XC Relays held every October.

2011 – Training Camp moved base to the Pyrenees, Mouleon Barousse.

In the Toulouse 10km Sig Smith won the Junior category, Mrs Sue Sharp (AAA Hon Vice President in attendance as Physio) won the female Vets category, Cpl Danny Hodgkinson the female category and Jim Wood (tour organisor)vets over 50 category.

Sig Smith competed for the junior squad who won the Inter services in Feb of the following year and Cpl Hodgkinson won the individual Inter services female title helping the women's team win the overall IS team title. Sig Smith is now a regular runner for his Corps. Cpl Hodgkinson is arguably now the Army’s best female middle distance athlete.

2012 – The Training camp returned to the Pyrenees but with a slightly less successful tour outcome. Cpl Hodgkinson won the overall female title in the Toulouse 10km and Capt Paul Molineux winning the male category. May (retd) Wood won the male over 50 category plus 3 liter bottle of wine for his troubles!

Although injured at the time and totally reliant on cycle training to improve her fitness and stamina base, Army marathon runner SSgt Issy  Menzies went onto run a PB in Manchester in March the following year. She was subsequently selected to represent Scotland at a home international 10 mile road fixture in 2013.

Army Athletics France tour

2013Capt Aidy Whitwam and SSgt Dave Branfoot were placed 1st and 3rd respectively in the Geneva 12km. Both Athletes represent the service at Track and Cross Country. Newcomer L/Cpl Gareth Watkins was placed 5th and dominated the BA(G) cross country league in 2013. 

Any doubts of the validity and benefits of these tours will hopefully dispel any misgivings on the rationale underpinning their establishment. Some of the results outlined above, which are by no means comprehensive, hopefully go some way to understanding the ethos.

They offer newcomers the chance to develop to a higher level of performance and assist established athletes to consolidate their training early in the season. It provides attendees an opportunity to concentrate solely on their training, at altitude, in a constructive concurring training environment.

The Army Sports Lotteries support to these tours and the subsequent success enjoyed at both individual and team level has contributed in no small measure to their success.