Having lazily indulged myself and my sports fanatic nature by watching the morning session of the first day of a new Ashes contest- surely, this should be declared a public holiday – I headed off to Westhope to assist my friend and fellow H.A.A. official Clive the Courier in setting up the course for that evening’s race. On arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Clive and his daughter, Kate, had already almost completed the bottom field. Dare I leave them to it and head home to further gratify my fetish for leather and willow ? Too late, they had spotted me ! The weather was hot and humid and the ground hard, dry and dusty and it was hard enough work plodding round the top field and marking out the rest of the course. This was always my least favourite winter xc league course when I used to run long ago and I never performed well on the long uphill strength-sapping drags on offer. I enjoy organising and officiating at races but I normally say and think that I would rather be running. On this occasion I was glad to be pen pushing and I raise my hat to the 24 Croft runners (see Gallery section for photos.) who braved the conditions and the climbs. It was another excellent turnout from the sky blues with some notable individual performances which gained us 2nd, 4th, 6th, 13th and 18th team placings.
The “A” team was lead home by a strong run from Mark L. in a best ever league placing of 5th and this was just 3 days after he had broken 3 records and equalled another in the annual Multi-Events competition – great versatility. He was chased every step of the way by Andrew who finished in a magnificent 6th place and just 3 seconds behind Mark. Andrew is gaining in experience and ran a controlled race as part of the leading pack of 8 runners for the first 3 miles of the race and hung on well as the group splintered. Glyn dug deep in the final stages to finish 13th (3rd MV40) and Sue D. ran a determined team captain’s race to complete the team in 38th place (2nd Female). This was still 19 points adrift of the winning Wye Valley team but an outstanding effort, nevertheless.
Dave Rouse in 15th – how good could he be if he trained ?- Dave George, with a brave run on his return from injury, in 17th, Mick , finally admitting that he was starting to feel his age but still running brilliantly in 21st (1st MV55) and a tenacious run with a strong finish from Gemma in 45th place (3rd Female) completed the “B” team. The “C” team featured some good grouping from Mark G., Martin and Ben R. in 25th, 26th and 27th places respectively with Irina 55th (7th Female) completing the foursome. This was a promising run from Mark, who is still new to this type of intense running whilst both Martin and Ben fought their way past the leading Wye Valley female runner Becki Davies in the closing stages to boost the club’s chances. Irina found the warm conditions testing but still produced her usual wholehearted effort.
The remarkable Gary G. led the “D” team in 39th place (1st MV65) closely followed by Stuart, testing out his fitness for a forthcoming triathlon in the hope of gaining further international selection, in 41st and a battling Frank in 52nd with an excellent run from Sue P. in 82nd completing the team. The “E” team was led home by another exceptional run from Tom (how many races has he run at Westhope ?) in 57th (3rd MV60) backed by Ashley C., another nursing a chronic injury, in 64th plus Sam, suffering in the warm conditions, in 81st and Ashley R., running his first race of the summer, in 82nd. Jason fought hard to finish 90th. Kim, returning to the scene of her first ever race in Croft colours, finished 99th and the Old Silver Fox (2nd MV70) recorded the 100th place. Only Rob recorded a DNF but he will be back for more.
One more race to go in the summer series and this will be our own event at Shobdon on 24th July. We are 61 points adrift of Wye Valley in the battle for the championship but we will push them hard all the way.