Bitton Mob Match race report

We couldn’t have chosen a better evening to hold our ‘Mob Match’ against Bitton Road Runners.   The first evening after the clocks go forward is always infused with hopeful anticipation of long, languid summer days to come.  We had glorious, balmy weather, and the pleasure of finishing an evening race, and eating a restorative ice-cream, with the sun still present and correct in the sky.

The only downside was a clash with Mother’s Day, which ruled out quite a few of our strongest runners – either doing their duty to their own mother, basking in their offspring’s adulation, or perhaps snoozing off the effects of that extra glass of lunchtime prosecco.  One or two heard the race route was planned by a psychopath, and so stayed away in fear.  In fact our hosts picked a fine ‘out and back’ route along the Bristol to Bath cycle path.

Mob matches are not for the faint hearted.  The rivalry with Chepstow is a bitter one – whose castle has the superior buttresses; whose Secondary School is in a greater state of disrepair – and yet there was even more at stake this time.  Bitton provocatively staged the event at the train station – a cruel dig at the Beeching railway cuts that afflicted Thornbury – yet our intrepid crew rose above the psychological games.   Huddling together for support and comfort we ignored the caustic jibes flung across the carpark from the opposition:  ‘How lovely to see you’; ‘please do stay for cream-cakes afterwards’.   That sort of thing. 

In truth their mob was bigger than ours; home advantage surely being the deciding factor, and so it was always likely Bitton would take the overall event victory.   However there were still individual and team competitions up for grabs.

Jo Plumbley had a wonderful race, pacing her effort to perfection, to win the 4.25 mile race well inside 30 minutes.   Jo led home Hannah Hamilton in second place – although Hannah had a little difficulty in the final mile which probably cost her some time, although she still went inside the 30 minute barrier, which is 7 minute mile pace.  Ros Rowland stormed home in third place in 33:57 and the clear winner in her age category.   The TRC 1-2-3 meant that our ladies secured the team competition before Bitton could get the first of their counters to the end of the board.   

Catherine Dack, 35:06, and Karen Carr, 40;31, also ran excellent races to ensure the team title really was safe, while it was great to see Samantha Glew run in what I think was her competitive debut for the club?  She kindly paced her husband Roger round the course; Rog being told he couldn’t have an ice-cream unless he ran the whole way without stopping!

The men’s race attracted a larger field, and so the outcome of that competition would also decide the overall Mob Match results.  Sadly TRC missed most of our fastest runners, when any one of the likes of Nick, Sean, Ben or George could have conceivably have won the race.

However there is no one in the club – probably no in the county – who could beat Phil Blackburn in a sprint finish.   Bitton’s top athlete went out from the off, and set a relentless sub 6-min mile pace throughout.  Yet Phil tracked him all the way, and like Steve Ovett in the early 80s, just put on the after-burners in the final 200m to stride away to a six second victory, in 25 mins and 2 secs.

Behind the top 2, was a battle for the top male veteran.  Paul Harrod had trained at altitude in Iten, Kenya for the past fortnight, such is his dedication to the club, and was rewarded with a fourth place in 25:33.  It looked hopeful that he might pip the Bitton vet for third, but he had no match for his rival’s final 800m surge to the line.

Asten Haynes continues to improve and impress, and he was next TRC male home in 27:16.  Alan Gatling and Tom Usherwood have both been recording strong parkrun times recently, and that showed with their 8th and 9th place finishes, respectively, in 28:18 and 28:56.

This was the point where the lack of Thornbury runners began to count.   Nick Langridge was 14th, an amazing result for a V70, in a time just outside 30mins.  Kevin Wood and Chris Foley also completed the course ahead of several runners they had at least a decade, if not more, on!   Yet, alas, our numbers ran out, and the hordes of Bitton runners surged across the line, whooping in triumph; their overall team victory some consolation for lack of access to the motorway network and a paucity of artisan coffee shops.

In all seriousness, a huge thank you to the wonderful team at Bitton.    They put on a splendid event, and could not be more welcoming and gracious to us.    We hope we can offer them a return match in the future.  In the meantime look out for a date in August for a return match with those scoundrels from Chepstow.   They’re mocking the low gradient of our high street, and bizarre layout of our parks.  Will you let that stand, Thornbury?!