As I sit down to write this report, the beautiful evening sun is setting, illuminating the countryside. It was a very different story this morning as we set off for the first of the Shropshire winter fell series – persistent rain, big puddles and hills cloaked in low cloud. The forecast was for heavy rain till around 1pm, but as so often, it didn’t turn out quite as dire as that. It rained as we listened to a (very long) pre-race briefing, but must have stopped at some stage during the race, because it was dry again by the time I finished.
122 runners set off, including many competing in what was also the last of the Welsh summer series. It’s a long hard slog for about a mile uphill on a forestry track, where I caught up with Gary G near the top, only to see him spurred on to greater efforts. Then we cut through a small wood, across a sodden field, onto a short section of road, and then started on the first climb. The paths were wet and muddy, but little to cause one to slip or slide. From the top there was a pleasant grassy downward slope, followed by a climb across grazing land. It was here that I found Mark P nursing a painful ankle, an injury he’d aggravated, which forced him to retire further on. There followed a winding path to the top, and then first a rocky expanse, before the slippery rock face we needed to negotiate before a fast run down between trees and boulders, leading us to a ‘dip of doom’ far more doom laden than the Ludlow parkrun! A steep descent down a leafy, peaty cwm, where trees came to your aid to slow your descent, or became bollards to avoid as you hurtled downwards. The slope then became more civilised and we emerged onto the road for a short section leading us to the final climb up to Rodney’s Pillar, the final steep haul called upon reserves of will and energy. From the trig point it is largely downhill to the finish, but I managed to set off in the wrong direction until I realised the yells behind me were directed at me. We were soon on a steep winding, rocky path leading to the forestry track we started on, with another half mile down to the very welcome sight of the finish.
Gary P had a great run, 33rd in 1.10.03, and once again he rushed straight off, so I assume he came through unscathed. Sue, having run in South Wales the day before, still managed to cover the 11 km in a very respectable 1.25.38, as 2nd FV50 and 85th overall. Having been within 50m of her before Rodney’s Pillar, I finished some 90 seconds behind at the finish (89th, 1.27.03). Gary G was just behind (97th, 1.29.35), and 2nd MV70, beating his two Welsh rivals. Tim Jones, after some injury problems (maybe worsened by a full length fall today), ran a determined race in 106th (1.31.38), with the very game Flora, enthusiastically tackling a wide variety of races so soon after taking up running, who finished in 1.35 36 (111th). Ruth Stafford, now an ex-Croft runner, returning to running after the twin interruptions to health and fitness of childbirth and cancer, made a welcome return to running.
PS Gary G couldn’t find out his Welsh FRA series position, so watch this space.