MELANIE SHAW reports from the Berkshire Cross-Country Championships and was too modest to mention in her intro that she led the Roadrunners’ veteran ladies team to a gold medal triumph…
THE Championships were a superb event. Race director Sam Whalley once again proved her superhuman skills in organisation to produce a slick, competitive and certainly difficult course at Ashenbury Park.
She even managed to bake for the runners. A huge, unwavering thank you should go to all the amazing volunteers who braved the wind and cold to marshal the race and ensure its success. They should consider a career in aircraft control or, failing that, professional cheerleaders. They certainly kept me going.
From a competitor perspective — I am sure we all face races with trepidation (I certainly do) and this is normal. I want to take the opportunity to say nerves make us strong, they mean that our team and races matter to us; we want to do well. Nerves are to be celebrated, not feared: don’t let them put you off racing.
The conditions were arguably perfect for cross-country; wet,wet wet, and as Marti Pellow once sang: “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes” and we certainly felt it in our toes after the end of a muddy, slippery, sodden 10k.
In some places — most notably the last 200 metres — it seemed more akin to running through a swamp than a park in Woodley. I considered swimming through the larger puddles.. it may have been more effective in places.
This was a day to celebrate the brave; the new 10k distance in competitive fields is not for everyone and certainly put off a few. However, the marvellous Shweta Siakumar stepped forward nervously to help the women’s senior team and without her they would not have been eligible to score for the team prize.
Wearing her rather lovely new trail shoes, Shweta attacked the course. What a hero! Her participation meant the ladies secured second place in the women’s team event.
Chloe Lloyd, first senior finisher, and Swinda Falkena, second finisher, completed the team. It just shows that if you are brave enough to show up you will be rewarded and Shweta was rightly delighted with her medal following a tough race.
There were some inevitable tumbles on the course, Chris Burt taking a second slip this season, so perhaps we can have a new Roadrunners award for most XC wipe-outs. Mind you, the speedy Helen Pool even took a fall (apparently the most dignified and graceful topple) on her own turf, so it just shows you how difficult the terrain was.
Despite the conditions, roadrunners were out in spectacular full force. Jack Gregory secured third senior in the men’s race and with the men’s senior team of Sibrand Rinzema, Brendan Morris, Chris Burt, Chris Lucas and Calum Pratt won the second senior team prize.
Roadrunners vets also pulled out a fantastic performance in draining conditions, team captain Jamie Smith leading home the squad, with Tony Page and Lance Nortcliff following to guarantee third place in the men’s vets race.
With Sam ‘cool as a cucumber’ Whalley occupied with an abundance of race procedures and management — terrifyingly the caterers asked on the morning if it was an event at Newbury Showground — I had the absolute pleasure of stepping in as women’s captain and what a day to take on the role!
Bragging rights earned: Every one of the ladies who competed today took home a medal! They were amazing. Claire Raynor faced the technical run on her birthday like an absolute pro. Together with the legendary Lesley Whiley and Claire Seymour (who was unjustly wary of the field) they took home the vets’ bronze medals.
The Roadrunners team also took the gold vets team medal, Mel Shaw (again weird talking about me in the third person, but I will get over it soon), Helen Pool and Sarah Dooley taking the shiny gold medals.
So, to conclude, a beautiful sunny day out in the mud, with fantastic rewards for the brave and valiant runners. I’d like once again to applaud the volunteers. This would not have been possible without you. I salute you.
On a personal note, thank you for keeping us running when at times it would have been easier to give up and also for keeping us en route when disorientated in the sun. We would have quite happily run in the bushes to hide.
Feeling inspired? You should be! Fear not, you can recreate this joy next week in the final XC fixture of 2019. The Thames Valley League sees us once again splashing our way round the glorious hills and hummocks of Ashenbury Park on December 22nd at 11am.
Thanks for that, Mel. Now the rest of the action…
The Henley mafia cleaned up at the Muddy Welly 10k in Crowthorne, Caroline Hoskins being first lady home. Carrie’s win meant the FV50 prize went to her great friend Julie Rainbow, whose son Matt, the Reading AC speedster, was first overall. Ed Dodwell picked up yet another MV60 prize.
There was a big personal triumph in Spain, where the popular Paloma Crayford finally crashed through the marathon’s four-hour barrier.
Paloma ran 3:52.59 in Malaga, an improvement of nearly 12 minutes on her time in London earlier this year.
“I’m feeling rather emotional as Malaga was my mother’s home town,” said Paloma after the race. “I would love to say that I am out celebrating but I’m drinking herbal tea. My body is feeling a little battered as the last three to four miles were painful .
“I had to stop a couple of times to have a good drink and was battling with my mind to just keep going and push on. I’m hoping I’ve done enough to scrape through for a place in Boston in 2021.
“Now I’m off to meet my 90-year-old aunt. She lives a 20-minute from the course but I need to allow an hour as I’ll be shuffling.”
Paloma’s achievement will go down as another big success for the Katherine Sargeant-Sarah Dooley coaching team.
Muddy Welly results: http://dbmaxresults.co.uk/results.aspx?CId=16421&RId=12013
Malaga Marathon results: https://sportmaniacs.com/es/races/zurich-maraton-de-malaga-2019/5df63a9f-ef58-4275-88bd-303eac1f122f/results#rankings