Another belated report.
The fourth & final event of the Gloucestershire XC winter league was held on Saturday 20th February at Warwick University, which is actually on the outskirts of Coventry. League places were keenly contested in all categories. The scoring system is a little more complex than the one we are accustomed to in Herefordshire, every runner is competing against everyone else in the same race, regardless of age group. Before the race I was in second place in my age group; to take gold I would have needed to beat league secretary Arthur Daley(!) by 49 places, whereas under the system we use, just finishing in front of him would have been sufficient. It made for exciting racing, but needed several laptops whirring away to swiftly process results. The results are printed off & pinned or taped to a wall somewhere appropriate. The first pages go up on display before the race has finished & are updated as results come in, very impressive. It also allows comparison of age groups, for instance, I would have finished 4th in the MV60s’ & 5th in the MV55’s
Warwick is a fine-looking University campus, with state-of-the-art football & rugby pitches. The course went round the outside of these pitches then into woodland where thick deep mud (but not nearly as bad as Monkhall!) Was interspersed with gravel retained with a rubber mesh. Senior males ran three laps, all of them a bit different, making up 10.16km. I was overtaken by an age-group rival (David James of CLC Striders) on the first lap. He was well supported by friends, who exhorted him to “Think about the bling!” I slotted in behind him for best part of a lap, before overtaking & leaving him behind. I continued moving gradually up the field, finishing well, just two places behind Arthur Daley, who took gold in our age group. David James would have needed to beat me by 27 places to take silver, but this I finished a few places in front of him.
I started taking Jasper to these meetings in winter 2014 because they include races for his age group & soon realised I could also join in. This season we have done all four races & winning the silver medal in my age group pleased me immensely. Jasper finished 10th in his age group. Some of you will know Hannah Lancaster from Ludlow Junior Triathlon club, who finished 3rd in her age group, an excellent achievement.
Meetings tend to start at about 11 AM on a Saturday morning with the youngest runners & progress through the age groups, with up to 215 Jr/senior/veteran males starting at 2:45 PM. Males & females have their own separate races in each age group, a total of 8 races of varying distances. The events are extremely well-organised, loads of yellow-coated marshals & helpful, friendly faces everywhere.
The courses are generally much flatter than what we are used to in Herefordshire (except at Malvern) and so the times are much faster. Competitors come in from far & wide, from Leamington & Llandrindod, Bristol, Bath & Brecon, etc and so the standard tends to be high. Of course, there is the usual friendly camaraderie along with a keen competitive edge. Kevin Barnes from Couriers was another ever present.
The first event was on 10th October at Cotswold Farm Park, home of Andy Henshaw of TV programme countryside fame. The road east from Tewkesbury was graced with a stunning display of awesome Cotswold architecture, the creamy yellow stones dressed immaculately. That was before the rainy weather began, so the course was on short dry grass with a little bit of woodland thrown in, fairly flat & very fast. I finished the 9.5k in 41.40, pretty quick for me!
The second was on 31st October at Peachfield Common, next to Malvern College , Here we had to negotiate a bog, which began a long uphill stretch, followed by a rapid descent, then pasture interspersed with woodland paths. Senior males had to do 3 laps 9.6 km (senior females did 2 laps). I instigated a ferocious sprint at the end which saw me finishing 2nd out of a group of 4 runners. Tough going, but really rewarding.
The third event was on December 12th at Blackbridge, a suburb of Gloucester. The traffic was atrocious, being the last Saturday but one before Christmas, and the AA directions were not clear, but we did make it in time. The race itself was around a large school field, once again the senior males did 3 laps.
Despite the dire weather forecasts on most of these days, there was little rain to dampen the spirits, although at Blackridge & Warwick University the wind was noticeable. We thoroughly enjoyed our racing & certainly wish to do it again next season.