Every race is a hard race, because you’re competing against the opposition, but this was a tough course: a relatively gentle introduction, then a long climb, steep descents and a hard grind up to the finish. Still, the summer series produces plenty of variety, with Abbeydore’s rolling (?) terrain over fields, Westhope’s predictable toil round the orchards, High Vinnalls’ ups and downs in the forest, and finally scenic Shobdon. Again Croft were missing some of our top male runners, but Mark was there, 3 days after his Weymouth triathlon, and Gemma too, after a full weekend of Saturday half marathon, followed by Sunday full marathon – hats off to them both for supporting their club three days later.
At the start we were channelled into a long column on the forestry track, which only slowly thinned as the track widened (and the dust was raised by 284 running feet). After a gentle climb, we dropped down onto a harder, stony track, which then became single file round the back of the wood, the difficulty then being seeing where you were putting your feet, with another runner immediately in front. As we completed this semi-circular sweep the track began to rise, gently, until we were turned right up the first steep climb leading us up towards High Vinnalls itself. Here I found walking as fast as others’ running (I wasn’t amongst the elite!). After the grassy path we switched to a wider, steadier but stonier, slightly muddy track up to the forestry road, across onto the grassy path onto Climbing Jack common, which was a steady climb till we could see Ludlow half right in front, and then the fast drop down through the trees, where cross-country runners were overtaken by those with fell running practice. The final stage of the descent, down a gully, was smoother and grassier than I remembered from the old Mortimer Forest race route. Then began possibly the hardest section of the course – a long steady climb, admittedly up a wide track with good grip, but tough at the end of a race. Once I’d built up a rhythm it was a question of sticking in there, knowing others were suffering too. At the top we turned right down to the finish, just 100m away.
Tim Iveson (32.30) won, narrowly defeating Jamie Shingler (32.42) on his home turf. Mark (34.38) ran an excellent 8th, after his triathlon, and the ever reliable Nigel was 18th (37.31), and 1st MV50. Dave G (20th, 38.02) and Neil P (22nd, 38.14) were very close behind, and Gemma, finding enough strength in her legs to again finish first lady, was 23rd (38.20). Steph, whose fighting spirit this course may have appealed to, completed the A team, third on the night but still 2nd overall, with one last chance at Shobdon to claim the series second place. Gary was 1st MV70 (46.21), Sue D 1st FV50 (45.49)and Bryan 1st MV75 (62.36). Harry (MV80) struggled down to the finish, looking a very tired man – not a friendly course for the elderly.