Moguls and Molehills – cross-country race report, 8th January

How we love the fast-draining limestone soil of the Cotswolds!   

The Gloucestershire County Championships took place at the Cotswold Farm Park, and despite a fortnight of almost continuous rain it was remarkable how much actual grass we had to run on, even on lap 3 of the senior men’s race, some three hours after the competitions began.   

The start and finish took place on what the organisers called the ‘bumpy field’ which was full of moguls, hillocks and tree-roots, before a testing long section through fields and wooded paths.

The senior women’s race was combined with the men’s over 65s.  As the women sprinted for the sanctuary of the finish line with the occasional septuagenarian in hot pursuit, I did suggest to the organisers that they played the Benny Hill theme tune over the loud-speaker, but they just told me to stop bothering them and go away.

Taryn Roberts was the first TRC woman to finish, and demonstrated that her recent resurgence in form is continuing by securing an excellent 5th place overall in 33:42.   That should qualify her to run for the Gloucestershire team in the UK inter-counties championships.

Equally impressive, and less than 2 minutes behind Taryn, was Melanie Wilson who recorded a 5th place placing in her age-category competition.   Mel pipped team captain Hannah Hamilton to the line, but Hannah was significantly hampered by a nasty fall during the race that cost her a lot of time.   After the race her swollen knee resembled a 3-dimensional, scale-model of the aforementioned ‘bumpy field’.    Despite the accident Hannah should also have qualified, with Melanie, for the county team.

Some of TRC’s best endurance athletes filled the next few places – all of whom recorded comfortable top-10 age-category results.  It was great to see the talented Natalie Bennett on the cross-country course.  She was home in 36:23.   Jo Plumbley was next for TRC in 37:23.    Clare Watt and Ros Rowland were, not surprisingly given their abilities, first and second respectively in their age-categories.   Carol Mosses also ran a strong race to complete the line-up.

Arthur Renshaw was the clear winner in his age category, and he exudes such an aura of invincibility that none of his contemporaries were willing to line-up against him.   (are you trying to say he was the only runner?   Ed.)

The men’s race was very competitive up at the front, with UK inter-county places on offer.   The men had to circle the bumpy field five times in total, with three long laps around the main part of the course thrown in too.   The underfoot conditions remained good, but the pinch points at the corners were now very slippery indeed.

James Harrod has been injured for much of the past two months, and so was severely lacking in any form of speedwork coming into this race.   He began cautiously but was rewarded with a storming final lap as he worked his way through the field to finish in 9th place overall, and the runaway winner in the U20s competition.    A muddy, hilly 10k in 38:17.

Andy Wilson produced arguably the performance of the day for TRC’s men.   He was 39th overall in 42:03, but that was a big improvement on his last outing.   Andy has undoubted speed and talent, but until recently had been fading towards the end of the longer races.   His steady endurance training over the winter is already paying dividends as he paced his run to perfection this time around.   I am very confident that he will make further progress up the field in the next few races.

The ever-reliable Ben Bohane just lost out to Andy this time, finishing in 41st place in 42:30.    There then followed a sizeable gap to some of the TRC veterans, although they were consoled with some top 10 age-category finishes.   James had time to scoff a few slices of cake before watching his dad, Paul, slip-slide around the final corner like a malfunctioning milk-float:  52nd in 44:21 but 8th in category.   George Evans improved on his last outing, and was 6th in category, and 55th in 45:03.  X-country captain Jim Godden was less than a minute behind, and an excellent 5th in his category.    Will Hamilton was closing in fast on Jim and secured 63rd place overall in 46:17.   Paul Saville was the final member of the team home and should be pleased with a top-10 age category finish as well.

In the overall competition Thornbury’s men were fourth overall, and the ladies, fifth.   Both teams missed their top-scoring senior runner from last time around, (Laura and Sean), and the men’s team in particular has several other luminaries to call upon in the future.   Please put the next race, on the 13th February, at Pitville Park in Cheltenham, in your diaries.