Generations of Chepstow children have gazed out across the shimmering Severn and wondered who was so rich and famous that they got to live in that Big White House? The Mayor of Thornbury? Arthur Renshaw?
So there was palpable excitement from our Mob Match opponents, Chepstow Harriers, as they turned out in force, excited by the opportunity to see this landmark abode for themselves. Hopefully they weren’t too disappointed to discover it was a decommissioned nuclear power-plant. Still, they must be warmly congratulated for turning out in such fantastic numbers for an away fixture in August. Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and owner of Thornbury Castle, must be rolling in his substantial grave. Although his efforts to keep the Welsh at bay have been somewhat undermined in recent decades by the M4 and M48 bridges.
With the mercury still above 30 degrees at 7pm there was a suggestion that the Mob Match be resolved over games of petanque at the Anchor, washed down with ice-cold sauvignon blanc. Instead after a very cursory ‘warm up’ we found ourselves assembling for a 5km dash along the Mad Max-esque bleached-blonde banks of the Severn, to the consternation and utter bewilderment of the slow-strolling dog-walkers.
Any thoughts that the run out into the headwind would be a cagey and tactical affair were immediately dispelled by Nick Williams charging off at 5 min 45 mile pace. Andy Wilson’s usual race tactic is to run himself to the point of utter exhaustion, and then accelerate. He was the only other runner willing and/or able to pick up Nick’s gauntlet, and Andy pushed his team mate all the way to the finish line. Nick a deserved winner of the 3 mile race in 16 mins and 56 seconds, with Andy a fine second place just five seconds behind.
Phil Blackburn has taken a well-earned holiday following the end of the football season, so was maybe not quite at his sharpest, although I wonder what would have happened if he’d gone with the leaders. He still picked his way through the field to finish in 4th place overall, just behind the lead Chepstow runner, in 17 mins 15 seconds. Conner Vidal-Cocker is a relatively recent recruit to the TRC stable, but he already looks like a thoroughbred champion in waiting. He paced his effort to perfection, pulling away from a cohort of Chepstownians, to finish in 5th, in 17:29. Paul Harrod, who was a human parasol for a group of runners on the out-leg, also finished strongly in 17:47 to finish 7th. At this early stage TRC were well out in the lead of the men’s and overall race.
Unfortunately at this point Chepstow’s weight of numbers started to tell, and they stacked the positions from 8th to 30th with just a handful of TRC runners bucking the trend. That is not to say there were not some excellent individual performances within that mix. Jim Godden ran a fantastic 19:32; Ash Blackmore ran 20:28, while George Evans in 20:32 and Asten Haynes, 20:49, are both recovering from injury, and should be heartily thanked for turning out to bag us some points despite both knowing they’d be far further up the tow-path if fully fit.
It takes a special athlete to beat the top TRC female runners, and so we should congratulate the brilliant Katherine Matthews who won the ladies race, and was 8th overall, in 18 minutes flat. Such was the quality of performance from Chepstow’s leading ladies that Avon 10k road champion Lucie Wilson had to settle for 4th place, in a still fabulous time of 19:28. Club road race champion Ali Vaz was second TRC lady, and 6th overall, in 20 mins exactly. Jo Plumbley was brilliantly consistent as always to come home next for TRC in 21:34, just 10 seconds or so ahead of Natalie Bennett who had to sprint to the line to hold off a trio of fast-finishing Harriers. Julia Jolley in 23:33 and Ashleigh Ferris in 24 minutes exactly made up our top 6. Despite these wonderful efforts Chepstow won the overall ladies competition pretty decisively.
Apologies that there is not the space to mention everyone who ran. It was, without exception, a tremendous achievement to run in that heat and to score points for our team. Even if a few sun-sapped and heat-addled later finishers mistook the picnic table set up 50 yards up the path for the finish line. Inevitably Chepstow’s numerical advantage meant they won the match, but our senior men definitely had the edge at the top-end of the field. Perhaps we need to annex Berkeley to boost our numbers for future matches?
A huge thank you to Kevin Wood, and his family, and all those who organised this brilliant event. Thank you to the marshals, and especially to Carol Mosses. She was the sole person at the kissing gate, and not only coped with a wave of runners hurtling through the tiny gap in the gate, but even had time to set up a temporary traffic-light system to give priority to the faster-returning runners. Which also meant that our Chepstow guests got a taste of the authentic Thornbury experience. Thank you to the Chepstow captain for organising the chip-timing; that really enhanced the race, and meant we got the results accurately and promptly. There was a warm and convivial atmosphere between the teams as we refreshed ourselves in the gardens of the Anchor pub by the light of the Sturgeon moon. The Harriers returned home in triumph to Chepstow – or ‘transfluvial Thornbury’ as the estate agents call it in a bid to boost house prices. But the best result of the night was the growing consensus that this fixture is now going to be a regular event in our club calendars.