Across the Welsh border to the scenic surroundings of Fforest Fields caravan and camp site where Builth R.C.’s Mike Speake had put in a lot of work to create a challenging and interesting course. Unfortunately, his efforts were not rewarded by a good turnout – numbers were well down on the previous 2 league races for both men and women. Stereotypically, the women were probably revelling in Xmas shopping whilst the men nursed hangovers the size of a fattened Xmas turkey. Not the Croft members, obviously, they all had legitimate excuses.
Youngsters Jon Barnes and Clara Evans took the individual honours in fine style and Wye Valley Runners recorded an impressive team double with both their men’s and women’s teams taking the first team places.
Croft were weakened in both departments and it was left to the veteran contingent to produce the goods. All the counting runners in the men’s and women’s teams were over the age of 40.
In the men’s race, Simon was again the leading Croft runner in 13th place closely followed by Neil P. in 15th, Stuart in 17th and Dave G. 20th. This was good enough to take the 3rd team place just 3 points adrift of those pesky Couriers, who also fielded an all veteran team. At about the 2 mile stage, before the runners embarked on the long drag up into the woods, there was the impressive sight of some Croft team work as Neil splashed his way through the muddy farm tracks closely followed by Dave, Mark and Stuart tightly bunched together. Mark, showing a glimpse of returning to his true form, lead the ‘B’ team to 8th place as he finished 23rd and was supported by a struggling Mick in 32nd, another strong run from Ian in 36th with Neil T. completing the team in 42nd. Neil approached the finish line in the unenviable position of knowing that he was in a group and with the nagging thought that he would soon be involved in a sprint finish on tired legs. 5 runners were in contention and Neil finished mid-table – hope the recent speed work helped to deal with this. Daren in 49th and Tom 53rd completed the all vet. Croft turnout.
The Croft men’s ‘A’ team lies in 3rd place overall with 2 races to go and the ‘B’ team are 6th.
The women, for the second time this winter, were asked to run the full distance which became a true test of their strength and stamina. The Crofties passed this test with flying colours. Linda is improving with every race and put in a typically determined and battling display to finish in an excellent 6th place. Liza and Jo kept each other company with some tenacious running to finish in 13th and 14th positions respectively. It was good to see Jo wearing her usual big beaming smile after her scary breathing problems in the last race at Croft Castle. Sam, improving with every race, took 20th place to act as a strong backup to the top 3. This outstanding performance gave the Croft women 2nd team place – they should be truly proud of that. They also lie in 2nd place in the overall standings, just a point behind Wye Valley.
The numbers may have been reduced, but the Croft veterans proved that they possess real battling qualities.