Roadrunners took a huge contingent of 70 athletes to the latest TVXC event and were rewarded with victory for the men’s team and third place for the ladies. MELANIE SHAW and JAMIE SMITH tell how they did it…
MUD, mountaineering and madness… Thames Valley Cross-Country League gets cruel at Sandhurst.
Well, we all join the League for some fun Sunday running; a chance to get out and explore new routes, meet new people and get involved in racing rather than clock watching or watch clocking.
But sometimes I do wonder what on earth I was thinking when I left my comfy, warm bed to embark on some of the most challenging, albeit beautiful, courses in the Thames Valley.
In true Jamie Smith fashion, we arrived nice and early at the stunning Lord Wandsworth College, Odiham, where the new men’s captain’s uttered the wise words: “You’ll be thankful for this close car park space when you’re done.”
Three hours later, following a race and pack-down of infrastructure, my legs fully understood what he meant.
We set off merrily on our way to the start with fellow car-sharing team Dan Stockwell and Laura Peatey. It’s always good to car share — not just an example of our eco-friendly ethos but also very practical as parking can be tricky at these events and it’s a great opportunity to get to know fellow team members. Top tip: post on the club’s Facebook page if you ever need a lift. I’m sure you’ll get a quick response.
Celebrating birthdays was a common theme for today’s fixture. I am not sure I’d want to be spending my birthday morning splashing through mud and slogging my way uphill but fair play and a huge happy birthday to Colin Cottell and Sally Carpenter for being better human beings than I. I hope you had a blast.
The weather was utterly perfect: a slight chill, a cinematic Sherlock Holmes mist close to the ground, but not a drop of rain in sight. Judging by the course condition this had not been the case in the days prior to the race. It was a mud-fest! Despite this, 70 wonderful, Reading Roadrunners turned out.
Undeterred by the previous days’ heavy rainfall, they donned their trail shoes, green vests and a wry smile… (OK, that might have been trepidation but I’m reading it as excitement) and lined up to face the experience.
Hearing rumours of potential bottlenecks on the course, the start was fast, with Sibrand Rinzema leading the men’s team out.
From the moment the countdown begins, you always wonder what the course will bring. That’s part of the fun, right? And this one did not disappoint… if you like hills.
Well this course seemed to go up FOR EVER (making for excellent hill training, which I am sure will make us all stronger in the long run). This was followed by what can only be described as a quagmire; ultimately, the reason we all do cross-country, surely?
Then, just when you thought you were safe — another hill. No, not a hill, a mountain. The kind of mountain you expect crampons and sherpas to help you with on some experiential travel package. Alas, here no donkey, only our poor legs.
Good job this was followed by an incline through a claggy mud-field that added an extra 2kgs to each shoe! Oh, and then go around again. Two-lap courses certainly are challenging.
Roadrunners were led home in fifth place by Chris Burt, followed closely by Jamie Smith in sixth, Sibrand Rinzema in eighth and Mark Apsey in tenth. But it was our leading vets, Fergal Donnelly, in 24th and Brian Kirsopp, in 30th, who clinched victory for the men’s team.
The women’s team also ran really well to finish in a highly creditable third place. Laura Peatey (below) was our first lady home in tenth, celebrating her debut appearance to the Thames Valley League following up a corking performance at the BBO Championships last week.
Mel Shaw (OK, a bit weird talking about myself in third person) came a close second in 11th, Chloe Lloyd 22nd and our first scoring vet, Sarah Alsford, 27th.
I really need to recognise the fabulous effort displayed by Gill Manton and Sophie Higgs who battled through the difficult conditions to finish together, as a team. It made me really proud to be a Roadrunner; ultimately, we are a team and it is our combined efforts that will make us stronger.
So, what’s next? Not had enough mud? Not hit enough trails and hills?
Well, we can help… the next exciting fixture is the Hampshire League race at Aldershot on November 30th. The women’s race (6k) is at 1.35pm and the men’s race (10k) at 2.30pm. What’s even better is that this is free as the club pays for your participation.
If the Hampshire League is not your bag, then join us at Bradenham Woods for the Handy Cross Runners course on December 1st at 11am (it’s OK to walk the hills, you know) for more mud and merriment.
Trail shoes are a must. £3 a runner, £4 guests and… there is cake on the finish line. You don’t even have to move to be fed. That gets my vote!
See you there.
* Two of the club’s Hampshire League stalwarts, Pete Jewell and Helen Pool, took the flatter, drier, option of the Jigsaw 10k at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey (where Top Gear is filmed)… and were rewarded for their efforts.
At least Pete, when finished 14th in 38:11, would have been rewarded had there been a prize for the winner of the M50 age group… but there was no such thing. Was he disappointed? Er, yes… actually he was!
But at least he had consolation of seeing his training partner, Helen, finish third lady and achieve a 12-seconds PB with a time of 40:47, a nice follow-up to her half-marathon PB last month.
Three other Roadrunners who opted to compete on a firmer surface were Mark Andrew and his wife Veronica, plus Lizzie Hogan. They ran in the Silverstone 10k on the Formula One circuit, Mark finishing in 42.10, Lizzie in 46.15 and Veronica 1:10.42.Meanwhile the “it’s-Sunday-so-it-must-be-overseas-marathon-day’ gang chalked up another visit to Basque country for the San Sebastian Marathon. Caroline Jackson just beat the 4hr mark with 3:59.12, Paul Monaghan ran 4:19.43, Martin Bush 4:31.24 and Pete Morris 4:35.05.
Pictures: Phil Reay, Gemma Buley, Angela Burley, John Bailey.