Those lucky enough to take part in today’s Monkhall Farm race had the pleasure of the best conditions that I can remember for this event. We started in the gentle sunshine of a late autumn day and cantered over a rolling two lap course that was largely devoid of the glutinous mud for which this race is notorious. The bitingly cold northerlies of the past week had dried out the course and produced a circuit with something for everyone, both the speed merchants and the sloggers.
Mike’s photos as ever paint a wonderful picture. Take a look for example at the opening shots of the race start, as Andy Salt led the charge. Captions are invited for the words or thought bubble of the runner to Andy’s right. I have my own submission: “who the **** is he?!” Andy gave new meaning to ‘altitude training’ by coming straight to the race from an overnight flight back from Kenya. He then proceeded to storm home in 1st place overall in a blistering time of 38:39 – for a cross country race of just under 10k (6.09 miles).
Only 12 Croft men competed today but they all made an excellent account of themselves. Andy was ably supported by Mark Thomas in 8th (41:53, 3rd MV40), Simon Norwood in 18th (43:55 and 3rd MV45) and Glyn Williams in 28th place (46:20, 7th MV45). Glyn is putting in a terrific sequence of runs. It was great to see Simon back and running free from injury. Mark is climbing the WXC learning curve very quickly, as he explained to me afterwards, getting to know both his rivals and the challenges of the different courses.
I continue to be awestruck by the performances of Ian Price, who was 5th Croft Ambrey man, 1st MV65 (51:56) and 57th overall of 100 male competitors. I went flat out over the first mile to try and keep pace with Ian but he pulled away inexorably with each successive mile. Ashley Robinson, running strongly again was 3rd MV65 (53:25) and I (Neil T.) was 3rd MV60 (54:04). Will Gore is finding his running legs and this is no doubt helped immeasurably by his regular attendance at Tuesday night interval sessions. Will passed me in the muddy section through the wood just before the end of the race and then powered up the final climb to show great strength and speed endurance. More to come from Will I think, who was 3rd JM in 53:28.
I haven’t yet had the chance to catch up with our other male runners but there was a pleasing symmetry to Bryan Markham’s performance, finishing 2nd MV75 in 75:01. Tom Davies, nursing an injury was 3rd MV65 in 62:49 and Gary Gunner was 1st MV70 in 61:41. Well done, one and all.
There was a real smile to people’s faces at the end of the race as we enjoyed the customary hospitality of Wye Valley Runners. Winter races don’t get much better than this.