Monkhall, the course with bitter-sweet memories – knee high stream crossings, narrow sloping tracks on field margins, a thickly mudded slope in the wood and last year’s horrendous mud in narrow furrows. The rain before the start didn’t help; it was the news that Mervyn’s absence meant the stream hadn’t been dammed that lifted the spirits, a bit, and that there was to be no clamber up the muddy track in the wood. There was a pause for the memory of Mick at the start of the race, that Mike dedicated to our late Crofter.
It was a slippery course, for much of the circuit – the margins around the first three fields were either slushy or muddy, or narrow and both. Then came the stream crossing, barely ankle high before we climbed another field margin, this time with a bit of growth underfoot to give a grip, on the first lap at least, then we entered a large grassy field, where the run was mostly downhill, with the occasional demanding undulation, before a stile and then the worst mud of the lot – a narrow muddy track in the wood, in preparation for a steep haul up to complete the first lap. The second lap was better in that runners had thinned out, but worse in that the muddiest places were even muddier. To finish we had the hill to contend with, and then a 200m run-in to the line.
Congratulations to Gemma, for her second consecutive victory in the women’s race and this time the county title, and to all the many Croft women who turned out, ably marshalled by Sam. Our nine runners finished in the first 38 places, meaning there was a Croft runner in (almost) every 4 places on average. Irina (9th) ably supported Gemma, followed by Kelly (15th) and Emma (16th), improving further on her great performance at Rotherwas. Sue D, bravely returning to the dreaded Monkhall course, was 1st FV50, just ahead of the determined Sam (21st) and a fine debut from Eleanor, in 24th. Sue P (not a course to suit her) was 32nd (3rd FV50), and Carol 38th. The A team are 2nd= overall (2nd on the day), with the top 3 teams closely packed, but Croft improving all the while. The B team are 5th, and the C team 8th, out of 24 – very well done to all.
Well done too to our newly recruited Andy Salt, 5th in the men’s race, and to Sam M, 10th, as he creeps his way back up the field. The men’s race was won by Tim Davies (41.31), staving off the Builth trio in 2nd, 3rd and 4th places. Kevin once again had a great run (long legs helping in the mud?) in 33rd, just ahead of Greg, giving the A team 6th place. Patrick, Nigel, Glyn and Martin packed well just behind – good to see the Williams back running and so well. Ben ran a solid race as ever, just ahead of Ashley (1st MV65), whose chief rival, Steve H, was forced to drop out part way round. Then came Paul, Neil and Antony, followed by me, Gary and Tom in fairly close order. Rob completed the course in 107th, whereas it would seem both Frank and Bryan were forced to retire.