Firstly, thank you to all from Croft who ran this – 10 male and 2 female Croft runners and one of the best turnouts overall for the race they’ve had for years. I think Ron (my uncle) would have been delighted!
This was the 10th year this race has operated and having run 8 of the previous 10, the conditions were certainly the best I have seen! Of course, it had rained solidly the day before so there was still plenty of mud and puddles around but the weather was gorgeous for the time of year and the route out of town on the second leg of the course was more ‘butter icing’, than the normal black treacle!
Within seconds of the start siren sounding, the front runners had disappeared quickly along the street, over the bridge heading up towards the first major climb up Spion Kop, half a mile away. It doesn’t matter how many times you do this climb, it never seems to get any easier! However, this year, we all got rather bunched in about 2 miles up because the narrow hillside path didn’t allow overtaking, so we were forced to walk a few bits. (If I’d known how much I was going to struggle later on, I don’t think I’d have worried about walking here at all!) At this point, Neil T, Frank, Gary, Guy, Sam and myself were all within striking distance of each other although by the time, I reached the top of the hill they had all overtaken me!
After all that climbing it was a relief to finally hit the long downhill around mile 3. The track was hard and quite stony but it was lovely to go with gravity for a few miles. I managed to overtake a few runners on this section but knew I’d probably pay for it in the second half. Sure enough, on passing the pub (where we started) and beginning the gradual climb that signalled the second leg, my legs started protesting at the change from hard track/road to soft, squidgy mud. I think others must have felt the same as there was a quite a change in runner’s positions over the next few miles. Sam, who I’d passed towards the end of the downhill, showed how strong she was on hills and in mud, pulled past me around mile 9 and we ran more or less together (with her pushing on up the hills) until the final steep, stony descent when I finally managed to pull away.
For me, this race is especially testing as the differences in terrain over a half-marathon distance mean it is hard to judge when to push, and when not to. I find the last mile and a half of road much more difficult than it should be as my legs are still shaky from the steep, stony descent around mile 11. I did force them into a last minute sprint to pass Frank (sorry Frank, I’m blaming Dave and Simon for yelling at me to do so) but suffered on the way home as a consequence! Luckily, I didn’t get lost this year although I do believe a few did including Greg (it’s a rite of passage on this course!).
As expected, with the favourable conditions, times were the best recorded (not mine, I might add – being 4 and a half minutes slower than last year!!) with 4 runners, including Stacey (4th) breaking the existing record of 1hr 32 mins! The winner, Felipe Jones, an M40 from Aberystwyth AC, got a winning time of 1:23:50, over 8 minutes faster than the 2013 record! The winning woman, Ruth Jones, also broke the women’s record with a time of 1:52:01.
Croft results (hope I’ve got them all):
4th: Stacey: 1:30:59 (2nd M40)
11: Simon: 1:36:57
16: Dave G: 1:43:50
18: Greg: 1:50:32
24: Nigel: 1:55:19
29: Neil T: 1:58:03 (3rd M50)
37: Jo: 2:06:40
38: Frank: 2:06:43
40: Gary: 2:07:20 (2nd M60)
42: Sam H: 2:08:14
46: Guy: 2:10:03 (3rd M60)
51: Tom D: 2:14:13