Undeterred by an e-mail earlier in the week informing runners that this year was drier than usual, I arrived at Moor Park with my studs, and was thankful! A record field of 405 runners set off (including 21 Croft runners, in the last of the year’s club championship races), over the playing fields, along the driveway and onto the field up to the road crossing. Congestion was fortunately not really a problem, or at least not till Poison Bank, as those with little grip slithered and came to a halt. Once on top, the terrain was more varied – but we had to watch out for tree roots, muddy ruts and then tree stumps as we came down to the Wigmore/Ludlow road. Then there was a steepish gully, catching out those with little grip, down to the pipe track. Next came the flattest section of the race for about a mile (where I get overtaken), before a couple of re-entrants which provided a little diversion, then we hit the infamous three steep dips – almost too steep to let yourself go on the down, and too steep to run up. After that tough interlude, comes the long haul up a forest track till we spot High Vinnalls on the other side of the road. At least now it’s almost all down hill (but the marshals kindly refrained from saying it). A zig-zag down onto a farm trackwhich brought us to the Vinnalls car park. You might think you’re nearly home, but 1/2 a mile down Sunny Gutter, we are steered off to the left and wind between oak trees and then up and over undulations beloved of mountain bikers, but less popular with tired runners. We then drop steeply down to the stream crossing encountered on the way out and scramble up the other side ( a quick calculation tells me well over a thousand feet have been this way before, and the slippery bank bears witness), then a more or less level path, before a sharp bend leading us back down over the same stream and up the last steep climb (don’t walk now!), drop into the oak wood and 500m run down to the finish (where we are forced to do a 20m detour around a fallen tree, that we happily crossed on our way out).
The race was won in record time (58.50) by Paul Jones, a familiar sight at Shropshire fell races. Will Haywood though, home for the holidays, ran a fantastic race in 9th place (65.54), the first U20 by a long way. Stacey, venturing into perhaps unfamiliar territory, produced a fine result – 21st, in 69.42, with Kevin again running so well (51st, 77.30). Jasper was first U17 (62nd, 79.19), an excellent result over a tough course. Patrick is showing his old form again, 66th in 79.52, ahead of Ashley (89th, 1st MV65) and Paul (83.14). Neil is reaping the benefits of retirement and thus more training to come in 120th (85.36), just ahead of Kelly (131st, 86.13), our first female finisher, who was in turn just ahead of a recuperating Irina (137, 86.57). I came next (88.56), with Emma running her first (?) endurance race for Croft, finishing in a very commendable 89.45. Croft were now well bunched, with Sam followed by Daren, Sue P, Jo, Gary, Tom and Carol in the space of 6 minutes. Rob didn’t seem to regret his last minute decision to run. Julie’s thoughts aren’t recorded! It was a tough race, with quite enough mud to suit the masochists, but varied terrain, nice views if you had the time to admire them, well marshalled and we were lucky with the weather on the day.
The full results are on the Ludlow Runners website (click on ‘Latest News’).