The frosty early-morning chills gave way to a glorious sunny morning in the run-up to the race. The course was three laps of 2.2 miles around a large field farmed by Nicola Goodwin & her husband. It was as flat as Holland, the altitude varying by only 2m over the whole lap. Mud was not a problem, but frozen ruts were hard on ankles & knees. 106 males & 62 females completed the course. Mike & Clive officiated as usual, many thanks to them & their reliability.
The observant runner would have noticed ruined buildings in the woods & in the middle of the field and may have even noticed that the internal walls of these long buildings were fairly close together & of considerable thickness. These buildings were munitions factories used in the First & Second World Wars and are now listed by English Heritage. The workers, mainly young women, each had their own small room in which to pack TNT into the shell cases. The thick walls were blast proof, so if an unfortunate worker was blown up, the other workers were not killed. There is also a larger building set back from the course. This was the munitions store & when it was erected in the early 1900’s, it had the largest single-span roof in all of Europe.
There were also railway sidings with brass rails to avoid sparks, which were taken up after the Second World War.
Ah yes, the race.
My tactics were simple. I knew the riverside path was extremely narrow & that the rough grass on either side of the path was harder going. So I decided to go as fast as I could over the first few hundred yards before we turned right into this narrow path and then just try to keep going. It worked pretty well and I managed to sustain a pretty fast pace. I thought I had slowed down on the last lap, but timing suggests I was fairly constant throughout. I made the Croft “A” team for the first time ever, albeit because of Sam M’s absence due to a back injury. However, not all was gloom in their household, Claire’s welcome return after a lengthy absence boosted the already-impressive performance of the ladies, whose teams finished 2nd, 4th & 9th, led home by ladies’ winner Gemma M in 43.35.
Kevin T was the fastest Croft male, coming 32nd in 43.17
There was also a junior race comprising 2 laps instead of 3. Jasper was the only contestant. For some unfathomable reason, he thought it was 4.4 km instead of 4.4 miles, so was disappointed with his time of 29.25 until Clive pointed out it was miles not kilometres. Wake up, Jasper!
(Maybe it’s we older folk who need, after dithering so long over ‘going metric’, to adapt and finally go fully metric with Celsius, Metres, Kilos and Litres? Guy)