As menâ€™s team captain Jim Godden put it: â€˜that was proper cross-country.â€™
Round one of the Gloucestershire League took place at Cirencester Park. The venue features acres of lush green grass that allow for a spectator-friendly event and a fast and furious race. Instead we were pitched down rain-sodden tracks, along rutted woodland paths, and (for the men at least) three times through a swamp which was knee-deep in places. Discerning readers may detect vague hints at my personal preference for a race route, but there is no denying that the sense of solidarity and achievement is all the greater if you make it to the finish line in a race like that more or less unscathed. Plus if you enjoy startling squirrels, you were in your element.
The highlight of the day was seeing just how many TRC runners turned out. As a result we had some excellent team and individual performances, even if we were missing many of our stars from the women’s team. Even a strong senior menâ€™s team was missing Nick and Dylan, arguably our two fastest runners. So the potential is there for the club to perform even better in future events.
However it was the Masters men that delivered the performance of the day. Nick Langridge, Chris Foley and Arthur Renshaw won their team competition, while Nick was second in his individual age category. Our three musketeers ran alongside the senior ladies, who also ran at the same time as some very speedy U17 and U20 juniors. So picking out the specific results is not straight-forward. Laura Orna knew if she didnâ€™t get round the course at a serious trot then her children would almost certainly have eaten all the cakes. So she did not disappoint by finishing in 51st place overall, but much higher in the senior ladiesâ€™ race, and a very impressive eighth place in her age category.
6km is barely a warm-up stride-out for Ros Rowland, but she proved that her ultra-marathon trail running hasnâ€™t sapped her speed, as she finished in 77th place, and third in her age category. A top three age category finish in an event of this quality is a significant achievement. Ros was still pipped to the post by Jo Plumbley who finished 10 seconds ahead, in 76th place. Maria Hobbs completed the line-up and she finished in 98th place. Anything inside the top 100 is very good indeed.
The senior menâ€™s race was also of an extremely high quality. Perhaps the 18 month plus Covid gap, and the fact that this was an ideal warm-up for some of the very serious guys looking ahead to the national cross-country relays, meant that there seemed to be a particularly strong turnout from the likes of Bath AC, Western Tempo, and some of the University teams. To put it into perspective, the winner of the menâ€™s race ran well under 30 mins for 10k on the road the previous week.
So the TRC menâ€™s team performed very creditably, even if I sensed some disappointment from a few of us at the placings. However virtually everyone on the team was making their cross-country club debut, and it does take time to gauge the right pace, and adapt to running on such challenging terrain after a summer on the roads.
18 year old James Harrod made his first appearance in a senior race, which involved a step-up to 10k from the usual 6km covered in the junior races. He was holding on to fifth place deep into the final lap when stomach issues necessitated a pit-stop in the woods during which he slipped to 10th place and James could not overhaul any other runner before the finish. However a top 10 placing in such a competitive race is a great achievement.
Sean Leadbeater, Phil Blackburn and Ben Bohane probably lost out to some guys they would easily beat on the road, but they still performed exceptionally well in their first XC races for the club. Sean grabbed a highly-prized top 50 finish in 46th. Phil was only 20-odd seconds behind in 53rd , while Ben just another minute back in 63rd.
There then followed a veritable cluster of TRC runners, with Paul Harrod in 79th; a brilliantly-paced effort from Simon Pinnington in 82nd (and 9th in his age category), Andy Wilson one place back in 83rd, and a fantastic effort from very-recent recruit Asten Haynes in 88th. Asten has made remarkable progress in a matter of weeks, so I am sure he will climb the ranks in future races.
London marathon club record holder George Evans was 95th, and running in the same month as his monumental effort in the Capital was heroic, and probably cost him a few places. However top 100 is still very good. Captain Jim Godden was 107th, but 6th in his age-category. Henry Orna was 122nd and Martyn Green 134th. Tom Witherbed sadly had to pull out just after halfway. He felt his hamstring was struggling on the sharp descents, and wisely spared himself injury. Hopefully Tom will be back for the next race which is likely to be on a less extreme course.
The net result was that both the senior menâ€™s team, and the vetsâ€™ team (over 40s) are in seventh place overall. In an ideal world weâ€™d get a few more fast guys out next time, then all the seniors score for the senior team, leaving those vets that scored for the senior team this time round (are you following at the back?) free to score for the vets which would correspondingly bump up that score. A top 5 placing in both team categories is therefore possible.
Next race is SUNDAY 12th Dec at Wotton Park. Any club member is welcome to join the team, and, based on our experience last week, the quality of the running is only exceeded by the quality of Jim Goddenâ€™s patisserie skills.