Gwent League Non-Race 5 – Aberdare 1st Mar 2015
After a break of several years, the Gwent League made a nostalgic return to the Dare Valley Country Park for the final fixture of the season. How I fondly remember the worst drenching I ever had in a cross country race.
The ladies were up against it, needing a good score to try and avoid relegation and needed to have a good team out and give it their all to maximise their score. So, what did they do? They gave a collective shrug of the shoulders, said “Whatever, are we bovvered?” and sent Claire Watt on her own. Now, we all know that Claire can perform miracles like bringing Pete back to life but collecting enough points on her own to save the whole team from relegation was beyond even her powers. She decided the lonely trip was not worth it and made, as events turned out, what turned out to be a wise decision not to go.
As far the men were concerned, we had a team of six and Pete to support / harangue us. We set off in two cars with Pete and Nick driving. Although Nick arrived quicker to Aberdare, he was being navigated by Anthony and Steve who insisted on using GPS which guided us directly to some sort of fenced off sub-station at the end of a desolate, run down terrace. Two American voices persistently told us that we had reached our destination and refused to find streets in Aberdare, another legendary tale of GPS directing drivers to the back of beyond in the Welsh valleys. We found our way back to the centre and three circuits of the one way system later with various excursions off it we found where we were on the written instructions provided and found our way to the course by use of old fashioned paper.
As we came into Dare Valley Country Park we were met by a lot of traffic moving in the opposite direction and a phone call from Pete who was already there to say that the races had been called off. As the first race lined up, the organisers had decided that “the conditions made the course unsafe in parts and with safety in mind the difficult decision to abandon the fixture was made”. Well, I never heard of that before especially thinking of the way the stream is dammed at Leamington to cause maximum damage and the conditions at Tewkesbury in some years but there it was and we had no race.
We retired to the café and Pete swerved round the corner, past some tables, in between chairs to gain a place in the queue, showing us what we’d been missing in the races. Meanwhile Mike pounced on a spare table and guarded it for the rest of us. We drank our coffees, contemplating the situation and looking out at the weather. Aberdare didn’t disappoint as rain started to teem down just about the time the men’s race was due to start. “We could have been out racing on a muddy course in that,” someone cheerfully remarked. The forecast had been for light rain but maybe that was what passes for light rain in Wales. We were partly drenched just running back to the cars. We drove back to Thornbury in heavy rain and spray and winds. Wales can be such a welcoming place.
So, a wasted trip as far as an actual race was concerned, but well done to Steve Dimond, Anthony Yates, Mike Willis, Rob Hopkins, and Murray who didn’t make his debut, not forgetting Pete Mainstone and Nick Langridge for turning out and taking it in good spirit.
There will be no rearranged fixture and the season will be decided on the four completed fixtures. That means that the ladies team has now been summarily and ignominiously despatched back to Division 2, all for failing to turn out a full team at Cardiff. It just shows how much it’s all about getting your teams out as in the three fixtures where the ladies had a team they were safely clear of the last two places. But with only one member at Cardiff the points lost in just that fixture were fatal to their status.
In the over all teams, the ladies were 22nd out of 85, the Vets team 26th out of 56, the Vet 45 team 11th out of 43 and the Vet 55 team 7th out of 17.
The league produces rankings of the top runners in each category and you count for any age group that you fit into. Ros Rowland was our only ranked runner and appeared three times, being 10th in the Vet 45 category, 24th in the Vet 35 category and 59th in all runners.
The men, meanwhile, stayed safely at 7th in their 2nd Division, were 34th out of 120 in all teams. The Vets were16th out of 68, the V50s were 16th out of 44, and the V60s were 3rd out of 22.
The V60s, of course, provided the best finish and were only 1 point off 2nd place. If only Pete had registered Nick for the Brecon race his 25 points would have taken us well into 2nd place, 24 ahead of GWR, not that I’m bitter or resentful or anything.
In the individual rankings Ashley Hodgetts was 76th in all runners, Nick Langridge was 25th in the V50 category and 7th in the V60 category.
So that’s it for another season as Pete and I sign off from organising cross country. Good luck to any future captains but the last couple of seasons have been a real struggle putting teams out on a regular basis. It’s a far cry from the first 20 or so years I was involved in cross country when we regularly had 2 or 3 teams in the men’s and 2 in the women’s and a core who saw themselves as part of a team and turned up for fixtures accordingly.
But something has changed in the last 3 or 4 years and despite having twice as many members we turn out barely half of the runners that we used to and most of those are over 60 men and over 50 women. I was castigated last year for pointing out that 48% of men’s appearances were by over 60s but we are still at just over 48% for this season.
We’ve tried bribes, subsidised kit, entry paid to races and fees over the bridge to Wales, special prizes and Pete has been as persuasive and persistent as he can be and regularly offered his body to the ladies. I’ve even gone as far as negative criticism in the hope of provoking some reaction but nothing seems to work.
We seem to have lost that team ethos that we used to have and cross country seems to be viewed as just an option that someone might try now and then rather than the team event it should be. Every so often we have a surge of runners turning up and we show how good we can be but at the next fixture it’s back to the bare bones and can we get a team out and you really can’t run a team event like that over a season. Why it’s changed, I don’t really know, but if we want cross country to continue as a prestigious team event at our club level then something needs to change back, especially among under 60 men and under 50 women.
Let’s hope a new, younger, enthusiastic captain can effect an upsurge.
GLOUCESTER LEAGUE RACE 4 – TEWKESBURY 14 FEB
And so to Tewkesbury and, like the combatants of 1471 in the Wars of the Roses at the same venue, we faced a battle and emerged with some success and some failure. The main battle was against the course itself and the cloying, glutinous mud that coated the edge of half the fields. It wasn’t as deep and quagmirey as in previous years but made up for it with its stickiness and unevenness and made what is essentially a flat course hard work all the way round. And we all remarked on the unusual numbers of runners dropping out and walking off the course for various reasons.
The ladies 7.4 K race was first away and, as in the three previous fixtures in the Gloucester League, the ladies were just able to raise a bare minimum of the three needed for a team. Ros Rowland was back and took up an early place behind the leading packs as the circuit of the playing fields was completed and they made their way over the narrow bridge into the fields for two laps of porridge stomping.
Ros emerged back over the bridge 2 laps later as the first Thornbury runner and completed the run in over the playing field to the finish at a strong pace in 35:59 for 27th place and 3rd LV 50. Claire Watt had been a little way behind Ros entering the fields but seemed to have picked up and maintained a gap behind Ros’s early fast pace. Claire finished in 36:52 for 33rd.
The final runner was Judy Mills, yet again gallantly making up the team, and finishing in 43:14 for 75th.
The ladies were 10th out of 25 in the teams and, all being V50, also made up the Vets team which finished an excellent 6th out of 18.
As for the men, well, here was the failure, they didn’t have a team. Despite pronouncements on the race, advertised dates and Pete’s powers of persuasion we fell one short of a men’s team for the final fixture and so, for the 2nd season in a row, failed to finish in the Gloucester League. Such a shame after 3 successful fixtures and the efforts put in. I know we’re not going to win anything these days but it’s good to take part, be in the competition and see how we can do against our peer clubs.
Still, we put a brave face on it and went to the start for 10.3 K of tough running. We had been warned by the ladies to tie shoes on tight and be careful on the slippy corners. We completed the circuit of the playing fields and headed for the narrow bridge and 3 laps of the glue pot. Here, those further back faced an added complication of 2 lady back markers coming the other way so single file was enforced causing a bit of a bottleneck and those first through were able to gain on those behind.
Ash was back to dash and felt energised by being back on the country after a break. He didn’t let the course hold him up and pushed on hard in the first groups, achieving his best of the season at 25th in 40:59, right on the heels of former member Paul Horsfall.
Super Mikeo Willis didn’t feel so super at the end of the first lap saying that he hit a psychological low, having just come through the sticky stuff and knowing he had to do it a further 2 times. But he didn’t let it stop his running and he came through positively to finish 94th in 47:00 and 2nd V60, gaining on the fading 1st V60 quickly but just fell 5 seconds off catching him before the line.
Nick Langridge battled with runners around him on the 1st lap and, even tough the surface of half the route was uneven, thick mud pulling at feet, it wasn’t too deep and he was able to keep forward momentum rather than sliding all over the place, and even keep picking off other runners all round the 2nd and 3rd laps to finish 122nd in 51:11 and 3rd V60.
Jerry Clothier came in next, staggering up the final slope, in 157th in 56:58. We waited for our final runner, John Watt. Pete, here as supporting captain, kindly observed that when he last saw John he looked as though he needed putting down. John didn’t let that get to him though and fought on but, as it was getting cold after the race, we left Pete to greet him in. John finished 169th in 67:06 and was delighted to have beaten at least two other runners.
We did have enough runners, just a minimum, for a vets team so John’s finish was important to us counting and we came 15th out of 16. As for Ash, being so young that thoughts of becoming a veteran are not even on his horizon, the poor boy did not have a team to run for as six are needed for the men’s senior team, and his efforts went to waste. Look, he’s a really nice lad, very engaging and interesting, and he needs somebody other than us old gits to talk to so will some of you young ones please come along and be his friend?
The consolation for Ash was that he had now gained enough points for an unassailable lead in the club championships so it’s congratulations to our new club champion.
So, we all congregated in the Sports Hall and then some went off and some stayed for the end of season awards and here was individual success as we picked up three medals. Firstly, Ros took bronze in the FV50 category and danced a jig of delight as she wasn’t expecting it. No prizes for guessing where the others went as Thornbury dominated the men’s V60 awards with Mike Willis taking silver and Nick Langridge bronze.
Ash also finished an impressive 14th Senior Man and 19th over all for the season.
As far as the final team standings are concerned the ladies senior team finished 13th and the ladies’ Vets team were an excellent 7th.
The men’s vets team was 11th and the senior team was unplaced, again.
Gwent League Race 4 – Blaise Castle 8th Feb 2015
After a break for county and regional championships (there were no Thornbury entries) the cross country leagues resumed on Sunday with the Gwent League fixture at Blaise Castle.
After the cold of the previous days we were greeted by a sunny afternoon at Blaise and a course that was firm going on the slightly thawed mud with only one muddy section on the descent from the woods to the fields half way round the lap.
Nick Langridge was particularly keen to make sure that he was entered for the race. Those of you who were at club the week after the Brecon event may remember a little altercation between Nick and Pete about the number of runners in the men’s team. The cause of this was that although 11 ran, Pete had only entered 10 and the one he had kindly left out was only his so called co-captain, long time colleague and ever present so it wasn’t exactly a surprise he turned up Nick himself. So all Nick’s lung bursting, throat scorching, muscle aching efforts to gain just a few extra places and points for the team counted for nothing with the team suitably reduced in points.
The ladies were first off for their 5.9 K race and, with Ros missing, it was Becky McInnes making a welcome return who took up the baton for the club and led the team in at 75th in 27:48, declaring how much she’d enjoyed it.
Behind her a close tussle was going on with Claire Watt, rapidly becoming known as the angel of the cross country courses, finishing 100th in 29:05 and just holding off Fiona Moore in 102nd in 29:15. (Angel Claire – get it? Thomas Hardy reference, if not then you must read Tess of the D’Urbevilles immediately).
Diane Ball, coming from the Tuesday night efforts, made her debut and finished a promising first race 129th in 31:15 while Judy Mills, complaining of a lack of speed and being too close for comfort to someone she usually beats easily was 159th in 34:18.
The ladies team finished 8th in Division one but are still in 11th and a relegation spot for the season, some 153 points behind San Domenico whom they beat by 115 points on the day – so, a bit of a challenge for the last fixture then.
Over all, the ladies’ team was 22nd of 56, the vets 26th of 37, the V45 team 11th of 27 and the V55 team 7th of 11.
As far as the men’s 10 K race was concerned, with a couple of regulars missing, it was only thanks to 2 season debuts by Martyn Green and John Watt and Aaron Dishman’s 2nd appearance that they were saved from a V60 only team. (Just what is wrong with our under 60 men? Answers on a postcard to the club captain.)
Aaron, being the strong, young man, ran away with it for the club and finished 97th in 40:48. Martyn, having concentrated on cycling recently, realised just how much it had taken from his running form and was a bit disappointed to be so far back from his previous results although 136th in 42:09 is nothing too much to complain about and, at least, he knows how much he can improve.
Super Mikeo Willis was 3rd in and, again, the first of the V60 team for 175th in 44:18. Nick Langridge, gaining and losing places, passed a bunch of several runners at the start of the 3rd lap but was unable to hold off three or four faster finishing younger runners at the end, lacking the sprint finish speed of days of yore.
Hugh McPherson, making his debut, started off quicker than Steve Dimond but Steve was able to get into the race and catch him, something Steve maintained he always did to Hugh, and finished 255th in 52:47 while Hugh was 259th in 53:18.
Jerry Clothier was 267th in 54:50 while John Watt, suffering from several pints the night before, lumbered and struggled to 284th in 65:16, beating one other finisher. Good for you. Claire was just glad to see him finish in one piece and not to have any medical emergencies to deal with for one fixture, and gave John some cake. Too much cake, John?
The men’s first team finished a creditable 6th in Division 2, considering there were 3 V60s in it, and remain a comfortable mid-table 7th for the season. They were also 35th of 79 in the over all teams and the Vets 12th of 49.
The stars of the day were, almost as usual, the men’s V60 team who did what they always do when a full team turns out and finished 1st V60 team. Not only that, they also, quite remarkably, registered as 3rd team in the V50 category with only V60 runners. They are now 3rd for the season in the V60 teams, just 1 point behind GWR. What a pity Nick’s points didn’t count at Brecon otherwise they’d already be in a comfortable 2nd position behind only Les Croupiers who are just that bit better at having a full team every fixture.
Pete watched on very managerially and managed to register every one properly. He claimed he was too ill for me to make fun of him in the report but seemed quite well enough to be dishing some of it out.
Oh, by the way, WE ‘AMMERED ‘EM.
GLOUCESTER LEAGUE RACE 3 – CHELTENHAM 13 DEC
A bright sunny day and not a breath of wind, what a great day for a cross country race! These were the conditions that greeted us at Pittville Park in Cheltenham on a day of very mixed fortunes and a certain amount of drama for the Thornbury runners. The course was slightly changed in that the golf course seemed to have disappeared and become an area of wild rushes and there were various twists and turns that varied the route all round the course. The stream crossing remained and gave the feet a quick chill on each submersion. It’s one of those courses that is a lot harder than it looks like it’s going to be and makes you work and wears you down despite the lack of any serious hills.
The ladies’ 6K race was first off with Ros well to the front as the leaders swept along the starting strait to the first bend, with Claire and Judy being a bit more circumspect as to their starting pace. As the race settled down Ros lost places on the leaders but kept a healthy place in the top third, and a wary eye on Claire who picked up to within a minute of Ros. But Ros kept ahead and gave a last burst to the finish for 43rd place and 3rd Vet 50 in 28:19 while Claire was just less than a minute behind for 54th and 4th Vet 50 in 29:15 and another marked improvement in her return to fitness.
Judy found the 2nd lap rather tiring and was not pleased to see other runners passing her but she was running with an injury from a recent fall and still came 114th in 35:17.
And it’s congratulations to Ros who has now finished first in all six of the initial events and thereby has an unassailable points tally in the club championship and becomes club champion for the season with three events still to go. She will also be first in the age adjusted but as she can’t win two trophies that one is still up for grabs for the second in the season. Ros then proceeded to put the rest of us to shame by saying that she was also off to run a night race that very same evening after a tiring cross country.
The ladies just had enough for the team events and finished 20th of 34 with the vets 12th of 22, a good showing for those ladies and they live to fight on to the last race.
In the men’s 9.1K race Ash the Dash Hodgetts set the pace again. He did say that he tired in the third lap and was losing places as his dash was curtailed but he still finished an impressive 46th in 36:00, so not much of a loss there then. He was followed home by Rob Hopkins, having another consistently good run, for 80th in 37:41. Mike Willis kept saying that he wasn’t feeling so good and that he wouldn’t be performing as well as usual. Methinks he doth protest too much as he disappeared into the distance, picking up places all over the place, to finish 118th and 2nd Vet 60 in 39:27.
Nick Langridge started off steadily and was a bit dismayed where the course turns back on itself to see a string of runners ahead and just a few stragglers behind, but then got going picking up places through the first lap, having a few battles on the 2nd and 3rd, and seeing a younger runner he’d caught just before the end then sprint back past, unable to raise one of his own on the old legs but finished 164th and 3rd Vet 60 in 43:20.
We then looked out for Steve Dimond, but what was this, Anthony Yates well ahead of him and showing that persistence brings its rewards with a much improved performance for 191st in 46:50 and quite a lot of runners behind him. Steve Dimond completed the team at 195th in 47:20. Not just content with his improvement and beating Steve, Anthony then told Nick that he was the next target. Well, we like to see determination but we’ll see about that. Well, one thing about getting older is that you do find lots of new people to beat you.
As for the teams, the men were down to the bare bones and relying on the over 60s again. Was last week at Brecon just a dream? At least we had enough for a team and finished in 20th place out of 24 with the vets at 13th out of 18 and we are still in the standings as we go the last race of the series.
It wasn’t until the men had finished the race that we started to realise the drama that was playing out. Our 7th runner was Pete Mainstone who, although he hadn’t been well and wasn’t going to run, decided to give it a go anyway. Unfortunately, it was all too much for him and he had dropped out of the race feeling sick and been taken to First Aid by the ever watchful Clare. We didn’t really realise how serious it was until we went over and saw that he was being looked after in Claire’s car with Claire doing nursely duties again and a paramedic had been called. The paramedic put him on oxygen as his pulse was running very high and then an ambulance was called and we saw him being taken off to hospital to be stabilised. A bulletin on Sunday said that he was well but being kept in for another 2 days so that further checks could be made to make sure that everything was OK. Poor old chap, he really needs to be more careful at his age.
Visits have been happening and John Watt seems to be organising things so not too many go at once. But from this report, and the cross country squad, we wish him a safe and speedy recovery and look forward to his next proclamations on a cross country race that will be flat and very sunny, probably in Wales.
Gwent League Race 3 – Brecon 6th Dec 2014
What happened? All of a sudden there was a mass turn out and we had really good numbers with enough men for more than a full 2nd team and five in the ladies’ team. AND, across both teams, there were debuts from three new young runners, yes that’s right, you didn’t misread it, three new young runners. And not a vet 60 to be seen in the men’s first team, although Super Mikeo (no Balotelli references here) still enjoying his new lease of retirement life was only just held off by Steve Allen. The phoenix has risen!! And not even at a local venue.
The ladies were, as usual, first off for their 5.7 K race, enjoying the last of the sun on a course of grassland with some sticky and lumpy sections to negotiate. Unfortunately, two of the team were sabotaged by another runner who collapsed in front of them and fell into unconsciousness. Claire Watt and Fiona Moore, one of our young debutants, did the decent thing and stopped to help rather than obeying the runners’ tenet of “Great, I’ve gained a place”. Fiona did manage to get back into the race but finished much further back than she might have while Claire remained to help the unfortunate runner into the ambulance and had to abandon her race.
Meanwhile, Ros forged on at the head of the Thornbury team and was delighted with 52nd place in 28:12 (and 3rd Vet50). Suffering from a cold she waxed lyrical about the benefits of sniffing her Vick’s ointment and rubbing it on her chest and how it had helped her to run. Nicki Davies followed home 93rd in 30:18, while Fiona, recovering from her first aid ministrations had pulled up to 116th in 31:38. Angela Bushell completed the team in 148th place in 34:11 while Claire looked on, happy in the knowledge that she had done her good turn for the day.
In the teams the ladies’ had one of their better days with a full team. The first team were 20th of 58, and in Division 1, 10th of 12 but still 11th over all and in a relegation position. They beat San Domenico in 10th by 107 points but remain 268 points behind over all. Is this a gap that can be bridged in the last two events with a full team? There’s a challenge. The vets team was 11th of 39 and the Vet 45 team 6th of 25.
The men, meanwhile, were feeling the chill of a cold wind under dark cloudy skies while Ros still went on about her Vick ointment and persuaded Nick, just coming off yet another cold, to use some. Whether a spreading round the nose and lips worked or not at least he had a clear passage round a run for the first time in 2 weeks. Fortunately, the rain held off for the men’s 9.4K race and everyone soon warmed up. Another of our young debutants, Aron Dishman, was off quickest, giving Ash the Dash Hodgetts a bit of concern but Ash overtook during the first lap and maintained his lead to the end finishing an excellent 97th in 40:28. Aron, nevertheless, was still second in at 109th in 41:00, giving the team a great points boost.
Just behind these a battle was going on for third in with a change in the usual positions as Rob Hopkins found a way past Andi Davies for the first time to finish 132nd in 42:53 while Andi Davies had to settle for an unfamiliar fourth place in the team. Perhaps he had some difficulty in seeing the course through his sunglasses under the dark clouds.
Another battle raged behind these two for last place in the first team. Super Mikeo Willis overtook Steve Allen twice but each time Steve was able to respond and, sprinting for the line against a Chepstow runner, gained a last advantage to finish 174th in 43:33, just 2 places and 7 seconds ahead of Mike. Steve is going to have to work hard to keep his first team place with all this new competition.
Behind these two came another debutant who is so young he could also run as a junior. Andy Graham finished 201st in 44:55 and really enjoyed his day out.
The rest of the vet 60s followed in with Nick Langridge 249th in 47:39. One of the things about the Brecon course is that there is an embankment that you run up twice on each lap and as you descend you see other runners coming the opposite way so he was able to see Mike coming away as he reached the hill on one lap and then said hello to Steve Dimond and Jerry Clothier as he left and they arrived, running side by side in a very civilised manner. Steve eventually pushed ahead of Jerry to finish 313th in 52:06 while Jerry was 317th in 52:53.
Bringing up the rear and just out of the 2nd team was Pete Mainstone at 331st in 57:16. However, his points were vital in helping the Vet 60 team to a great result, which just goes to show that everyone can contribute in a team event, wherever they finish.
In the team events the men smashed all their previous results with much improved positions. The men’s team were 23rd of 87 and the 2nd team, yes a 2nd team, 51st. In the divisions they were 4th in the 2nd division. The vets team were way up in 11th position of 52, the Vet 50 team 14th of 35 and the Vet 60 team a great 2nd of 18, only behind the almost invincible Les Croupiers.
So, the Phoenix has risen and there is hope for a resurgent cross country team. The next event is in the Gloucester League next Saturday and only at Cheltenham, not so far to travel. Let’s make it a continuation of the Brecon performance.
Note: For those of you who remember Alain Baxter winning a bronze medal in the slalom in the Winter Olympics and losing his medal through using Vick’s nasal spray which contained a banned substance I just hope Ros’s was the British version and not the offending American.
Gwent League Race 2 – Cardiff Landaff Fields 9th Nov 2014
Another trip to Wales and we were greeted by a sharp Welsh shower as we arrived at Llandaff Fields, a new Cardiff venue. The course itself is what you would call a parkland course, a grassy surface round the fields, through trees and one slope at the far end with the going soft to heavy and well drained despite the recent rains.
I would say that the ladies’ team were first off in their 5.97 K race except that there wasn’t one. With Judy and Nicki missing and no back up, Ros was left on her own to fight the Thornbury cause. Ros smiled through and remained upbeat, putting in another valiant effort for 82nd in 29:16 but she can’t be a successful team on her own. Due to the Gwent scoring system her points still count but 11th and a distant last in the first division and the same over all means that relegation will be a certainty unless she can get some regular support.
On, the other hand, the men fielded more than a full team, even if half were again the over 60s. However, young Ashley Hodgetts clearly won the sartorial elegance prize with his very posh flat cap, setting a new departure for athletics wear. There was a large field for the men’s 9.81 K race which meant that after a couple of hundred yards there was a bottleneck through the trees and a consequent slowing down before everyone moved again and the race opened up. The men ran a 4 lap race which provided plenty of opportunity for lapping which Thornbury runners took full advantage of, with six of the team seeing the leaders fly past them. This didn’t affect Ashley Hodgetts who again dashed round first in 38:49 for 105th place, slightly down on Bridgend which he blamed on drinking coffee with milk just before the race. Hey, any place round the top 100 is a super position in this class and size of field.
Paul Thomas found the going much more to his liking than the hills of Malvern and had Rob Hopkins in view for a while before Rob pulled away. Rob finished 158th in 40:49 while Paul, feeling he had set off too fast again, held on in the last lap for 233rd in 43:39 He explains it by saying that his brain still thinks he can run as fast as he used to and sets him of at his younger pace.
Nick Langridge didn’t see Paul in the race this time or any other Thornbury runner come to that and battled around as well as possible after the crowd had cleared finishing 286th in 46:01 improving form from Bridgend. Steve Dimond returned to the team and declared that this type of course on grassland was the sort of surface that suited him rather than rough hills and came a good 340th in 49:05.
Jerry Clothier again held off Pete Mainstone and finished 363rd in 51:38. Anthony Yates was also much happier on this course than Malvern and was catching up Pete towards the end and felt he would overtake but the last effort caused him to feel like he would throw up and he had to hold back (or was he just sick at the sight of Pete?). Pete finished 374th in 53:22 and Anthony was 376th in 54:24 but that’s the sort of effort we like to see.
Pete wasn’t so keen on the course, feeling that grassland is more boring than the variety of courses like Malvern. I tend to prefer the varied courses as well but found this one good too and some members obviously preferred it, so horses for courses really. And you do get variety over the season.
The men’s team finished 47th out of 94 over all and 8th out of 10 in Division 2 and also 8th after 2 fixtures, just one place above relegation. The vets team were 22nd out of 56, the Vet 50 team 17th out 38 and the Vet 60 team being the stars of the day with 3rd out of 18, although the first team would obviously benefit if they didn’t have to rely on them so much for making up their team.
I was clearing up some stuff the other day and came across some copies of the old Prattle and Run magazine. What caught my eye was an article on the front page of a 2010 edition by Jacqueline Wadsworth reflecting on how more Thornbury members than ever before in her knowledge had run in the Gwent and Gloucester Leagues and what a revelation the women had been turning out in force and winning promotion to Division 1 of the Gwent League. Which begs the question, of course, what happened to all those runners and why is it such a struggle over the last couple of seasons to get teams out from Thornbury, including men under 60, at a time when numbers seem to be swelling in the cross country events. It’s a bedrock event, the only thing we really do as a team and so beneficial to the rest of your running. So, what has changed? Obviously an issue for head of competitiveness, club captain John Watt to take up. (And I’ll write you a report on how you’ve got on with it).
GLOUCESTER LEAGUE RACE 2 – MALVERN COMMON 1 NOV
Yet again, Pete continued his desperate pleas for a woman. But, this time, there were stipulations. She had to be under 80 and have 2 legs. Seeing as he was looking for a cross country runner, this was a bit rich coming from someone who is regularly beaten by a bloke with just 1 leg. And, as usual, it was to no avail. Fortunately, though, we arrived at Malvern to find that, contrary to reports, Nicki Davies was running and the ladies would just muster a minimum team again.
The ground was surprisingly dry after the recent downpours, apart from the stream crossings and a boggy section leading up to the main climb. Along the top, the descent down the moors, the paths across the bottom and through the trees were all dry and just interrupted by some ditch crossings.
The ladies 6.5 K race set off first and, after a loop of the starting field, disappeared up a bank to boggy streams and the first climb. Ros ran her usual valiant race, appearing in the groups after the main leaders, the effort showing as she achieved a really good 32nd place in 32:36 and 3rd LV50. Nicki Davies showed well and steadily for 47th in 34:26. We didn’t quite see Judy Mills finish as we had to go to the start for the men’s race but I’m sure she enjoyed her outing for 103rd in 40:43.
The important thing is that they all counted for the team scores and 16th out of 27 was a significant improvement on race 1. As all 3 are vets they all counted for that team as well and another improved showing of 11th out of 19 teams.
The men’s 9.6 K race started with a charge for position and a challenge of staying upright as the narrow paths up the banking were reached. The first climb sorted out a bit of space. Ash the bash made a dash in a flash and showed Andi Davies a clean pair of heels again and, in what he described as “going for it and hanging on”, achieved a great 30th position in 38:15. Andi followed in 52nd in 39:29 and 3rd MV45. Rob Hopkins followed next in 72nd in 41:25.
Mike Willis, making a welcome return, was just ahead of Nick Langridge as far as the first climb but then picked up his pace, surging ahead as he gained places over the course, leaving Nick well behind and overtaking a tiring Paul Thomas who was finding the hills somewhat challenging. Mike finished 101st and 2nd MV60 in 43:02. Paul managed to hold off Nick who, although he was reducing the gap each lap, couldn’t make up the deficit created at the beginning. Paul was 154th in 47:10 and Nick 166th in 48:38.
Anthony Yates found it all a bit of a culture shock and really struggled with the severity of the course but at least he knows what he has to deal with in the future and seemed quite chirpy once he had recovered. He was passed by both by Jerry Clothier, 205th in 54:23, and Pete Mainstone who fell over the line 210th in 56:13. Jerry was delighted to leave Pete behind, who clearly needs something, 80 year old woman or not. Anthony finished 220th in 59:56.
Nevertheless, with the addition of Ash, Andi and Mike from Cotswold Farm Park, the men’s team was much stronger, finishing half way up the table rather than near the bottom with the seniors 12th out of 23 and the vets a very good 8th out of 22.
It should be noted by the young men of the club that 50% of the men’s team were V60s or over. Come on, where are you? Frightened of cross country?
Cross country is a team event and it is always important to get your numbers out. This was shown in the ladies’ event where Bristol and West, who won at Cotswold Farm Park failed to turn out a team at Malvern and so have been overtaken by Thornbury who have just had a team. with more runners the ladies could do even better.
As an aside, Fiona Eatherington, who is our current champion but now runs for Bristol and West, did turn out and achieved her best ever result, finishing in the top 10 for the first time at 7th. It’s nice to see former members doing so well even if Pete did try to claim responsibility for her success until it was pointed out to him that she had only improved that much after leaving his training methods and moving on. There’s a moral in there somewhere if you want to improve your running.
GWENT LEAGUE RACE 1 – BRIDGEND 12th OCTOBER
The second of the weekend’s cross countries was the Gwent League at Bridgend. The lift sharers left Thornbury in mist and cold and crossed the Severn Bridge as the weather started to clear. Pete became unnaturally excited as Steve read off the increasing temperature on the car temperature gauge and a bit of blue sky appeared. The ladies’ 6K race set off much earlier than the men’s and we arrived just in time to see Ros finishing 76th in 31:53, holding off Nicki Davies, 82nd in 32:09, on the finishing circuit round the athletics stadium and putting in an effort to gain an extra place on the finish line. This was the second time Ros had been first home for the club in consecutive days.
A little later Claire Watt appeared, making her first appearance for some time after injury. Claire looked a little heavy legged and tired at the end, finishing 116th in 34:10, but it was a welcome and needed return for the team and the only way to get race fit is to race so watch out, Ros.
Rachel Mills came in after another gap at 182nd in 38:17, making her debut for the cross country team and declaring that she had enjoyed it, so more to come, then.
Over all, the ladies’ team finished 23rd and 9th in Division 1. The Vets team were 10th, and the Vet 45 team 7th.
We had six runners for the men’s 10K race on a course that was the driest we have seen at Bridgend. Ash Hodgetts and Andi Davies, the current club champion, were both turning out. We jogged across the bridge to the start and joined the large field of mingling runners. I was with Steve Allen and Ash. Steve wisely moved further forward to make a better start. I advised Ash to do the same and, after some thought, he decided it was also the better option.
Ash beat Andi once last season, taking him on the final corner, but had obviously, despite his unassuming stance, been doing some secret training in preparation because this time there was no doubt. He left Andi well behind and skimmed across the surface to finish 83rd in 39:13. Any position in the top 100 in a field of the Gwent League’s quality in such a large turn out is an excellent performance. Here’s to an injury free season. Andi came 117th in 40:42 which is still another good, strong run.
Steve Allen followed in a good 192nd in 43:43 but probably spent too much time taking in the scenery. There was then a gap before the V60s came in at the back. Where are you, younger ones? We really need some more team members under the age of 60. Ash needs some company at the front. Well, Nick felt the effort of the previous day’s race but was able to wave to Steve Dimond on the first two laps as we passed on the zig-zags across the field before the hill, well at least we saw each other. Nick recovered some places on the third lap to finish 310th in 49:32. Steve came 331st in 51:19 and bemoaned the fact that the final thank yous were being announced over the tannoy before he finished. However, he was still well ahead of Pete who lolloped across the finish for 355th in 56:45 and wanted to know what it was he enjoyed about it. A couple of large sandwiches and Welsh Cakes later he was fine and trying for the umpteenth time to persuade Ash’s supporting girl friend that she should run as well, all to no avail.
Pete didn’t count for the men’s first team of 5 but with Ash being such a young lad was part of the counters for all the vet category teams.
The men’s team finished 39th over all and 7th in Division 2. The Vets team were 22nd, the Vet 50 team 25th and the Vet 60 team 5th.
We returned in the late afternoon back across the bridge to the mist and cold of Thornbury. Strange weather systems.
GLOUCESTER LEAGUE RACE 1 – COTSWOLD FARM PARK 11 OCT
“Morning has broken like the first morning” sang Cat Stevens and, last Saturday, morning broke on the first day of a glorious new cross country season as runners from all round Gloucestershire and beyond gathered at the Cotswold Farm Park for the first fixture of the new season. There were large fields in both the men’s and women’s races that included, despite Pete’s strenuous efforts to round up a substantial team and his desperate pleas for a woman, just a bare minimum in each of our teams. A severe arm twisting for two hours on the Thursday had persuaded Paul Thomas to make up the men’s numbers and a call to Judy Mills, despite recovering from a broken arm, a cycle ride to John O’Groats and only four preparatory runs found someone ready to answer the call and make up the women’s team. We need more runners like that, committed to the cause and the team to enjoy the benefits of team running and cross country as so elegantly espoused by Brendan Foster and Steve Cram in their athletics commentaries over the summer. Yes, a cross country background allows you to run stronger for longer.
In the Gloucester league you have to field a full team in each fixture to count for the final season’s standings and last season we suffered the ignominy of failing to do that in all categories. At least we avoided that fate and survived to carry on the contest for the rest of the season.
We gathered beneath a tree and unable to plant the Thornbury flag in the hard ground laid it against said tree intertwined into branches so it would not fall in the breeze. Jim Williams arrived complaining that he didn’t feel quite well, Offa’s ‘Orror bandana round his neck and rolling his hot balls in his hands for warmth.
The ladies’ 6.5 K race was first to go and Ros quickly came to the fore of the three Thornbury runners around the top 30 while Angela and Judy were nearer the back, enveloped in a large group of Almost Athletes Runners. Although Ros dropped a little during the race she put in a fast finish for 44th place in 29:42 and 2nd V50. This was a really strong run. Angela pulled away from Judy to finish 118th in 35:20 with Judy coming in 129th in 37:05.
In the men’s 9.5 K race Rob Hopkins and Paul Thomas set the pace for Thornbury. Rob seemed to benefit from his marathon the week before, finishing 123rd in 38:30, and Paul never quite caught him up but made a valuable contribution from his late inclusion in the team for 156th in 39:55. Anthony Yates, making his cross country debut, started off well but soon found out that cross country is that bit more difficult and, as he ran out of steam, was passed by Nick Langridge and Jim Williams late on the second lap, finishing 238th in 46:40. Improvement will come as he gets more used to gauging the effort for this discipline. Nick, recovering form from a lay off was never quite up in his usual position and finished 204th in 43:08 and 3rd V60. Jim “hot balls” Williams, not benefiting from his marathon the previous week so much said he used Nick as a marker and followed him round in 43:41 for 210th position.
We all cheered Arthur in as he held off the last ten runners to finish 248th in 49:35 and make up the complete team as a heavy shower broke. We changed quickly under the tree while Judy disappeared into a bin bag for shelter. The bin bag rolled around the ground until we were ready to go and Judy reappeared.
The teams finished low down in the rankings, senior ladies 28th of 35, ladies’ vets 16th of 23, senior men 29th of 31, and men’s vets 23rd of 28 but we were there in the results and with the potential to move up in subsequent rounds.
The next Gloucester League is at Malvern on 1st November. This venue was used for the first time last season and is a cracking course with a bit of everything – moors, woods, fields, streams, uphill, downhill. Don’t miss it!