The halfway point in the 2012/13 Herefordshire XC League saw 13 male and 7 female hardy Croft runners cross the border on a crisp frosty morning to receive a hearty Welsh welcome from Builth & District R.C. who had organised the event at Fforest Fields campsite for the 3rd year. Course designer Mike Speake had created an interesting amended 6 mile course with plenty of variety and a sting in the tail as the runners were teased into believing that they were approaching the finish only to be sent on an extra hilly and muddy loop –good call Mike S.! The venue was scenic and the refurbished toilet and shower block facilities were magnificent and have set an elevated precedent way out of reach of the rest of the “slumming it” events that the League provides. Well done Builth R.C. for fashioning such a superb event.
The men’s race soon developed into the usual pattern of the previous 2 races with 4 runners breaking away in the early stages leaving the rest to battle over the minor places. Tim Iveson, from the home club and running his first XC race of the season, finally burst away from Eliot Taylor over the final tricky section to record a victory which delighted the home club fans. Wye Valley Runners again illustrated their strength with another emphatic team display. Croft fielded a strong team and finished 3rd, just 2 points adrift of Couriers, with some committed running. Stacey’s anguished facial expression from the early stages indicated that he was suffering, but he held on gamely to take 7th place. The last thing you want when you are hurting at the end of a tough race is a sprint finish but that is exactly what Stacey faced. Protecting himself from his persistent injury troubles, Stacey has avoided any speed training recently so this was doubly unwelcome as he just failed by a couple of strides to claim that extra place. Great entertainment, though, for the pen pushers and spectators. Mark L. is gaining in strength and race craft and had Stacey in his sights all the way to finish in 9th place just 20 secs. behind the club’s top runner. Simon, still on the comeback trail, was next home with a solid 11th place (2nd MV 40) and Jordan, wearing the sky blue vest for the first time in a league race, performed strongly to complete the ‘A’ team with a promising 14th place. Jordan was so deep in concentration that he forgot to smile for the camera so he requested to run it again so that he could rectify that behaviour.
Strength in depth from the Croft squad meant that our ‘B’ team finished 4th overall and took the ‘B’ honours. I can’t recall this happening before (certainly not for many years) – well done lads. Glyn, with his mind now set on the London Marathon, fought hard to take 19th place followed by Dave George in 21st. This is Dave’s third consecutive 21st league race position ! He is training hard and is determined to record a top 20 place before the end of the season. Andrew is learning to not charge off so recklessly in the early stages and ran a more controlled race to register his best league position so far in 23rd. He again was the leading Junior Man (Under 20) and there is a lot more to come from our promising youngster as he gains more race experience. Ben R. completed the ‘B’ team with an excellent 28th place taking a few good scalps along the way. Ben declared “I’m chuffed to bits with that position. I felt strong and enjoyed it.”. Again, Ben is learning that starting more conservatively is the wiser method at this stage of his career. He is new to this type of running and there is good potential there.
The Croft ‘C’ team finished 13th overall and 3rd in the ‘C’ rankings. Neil T. led the way with a typically determined effort to finish 48th (3rd MV55) and was closely followed by Ashley R. in 49th (3rd MV60). Ashley’s exertions saw him collapse as he completed the race (more good entertainment for the spectators !) but soon recovered to celebrate a year as a Croft member with a lively performance. Frank (another runner London bound) was next home in 54th place with a returning Steve Jakeman rounding off the team in 62nd place. Steve has been bobbing around in County Cork for a while as part of his job and returned recently to north Herefordshire – this would have been a bit of a shock to the system. Tom completed the men’s squad just behind Steve in 63rd place. This may not be Tom’s most glorious performance but he maintains his impressive record of having competed in more Herefordshire XC League races than any other runner. Tom was also celebrating being a founder member of Croft Ambrey R.C. The formation of the club took place 30 years ago on 1st December 1982 – Happy 30th Birthday Croft Ambrey. Bryan, another of the original members, helped out with timekeeping duties. Once he had learned how to read a watch, as opposed to a sundial, he may have a new career role ahead of him. As he wasn’t running, it also meant that I didn’t require my calendar to record his finishing time.
The Croft women’s team is getting stronger (even without the prodigious Suzanne) and we have high hopes of a competitive display. Unfortunately, Gemma (5th at the previous race) was sadly stricken with illness and unable to compete – get well soon, Gemma. Despite this setback, we finished 2nd team just 7 points behind Wye Valley. Sue D., returning from Welsh international duty, set her usual team captain’s enthusiastic example with yet another outstanding run to take 3rd place (1st FV45). Irina again excelled herself with a strong 5th place (2nd S.F.). After a gentle start, she worked her way through the field and finished vigorously to continue her impressive progress. Jo completed the ‘A’ team in 17th place. Again Jo found herself in a sprint finish situation and, despite a niggling calf problem, her competitive juices kicked in as she won her battle with her Wye Valley opponent. The ‘B’ team finished 9th overall (and 2nd. ‘B’ team) thanks to another tenacious run from Sam in 20th place, followed by Sue P. (yet another looking forward to the London Marathon next April) with a resolute 29th place and Rachel completing the team in 33rd. Rachel runs her races, as she appears to conduct her life, with a big smile on her face. This was evident even when she, too, was involved in a sprint finish with a male WVR competitor. Kim completed the female squad with a solid 37th place finish. Having moved some distance away from Croft’s base, we rarely see Kim these days but it is always a pleasure to see her competing in the sky blue colours.
An enjoyable day with lots of rewarding Croft performances. Back to the English mud and hills for the next event at Monkhall Farm on 13th Jan. A lengthy Xmas break in the meantime but that is no reason to ease off on the training ! How many of you will be doing a Daley Thompson and getting out there on Xmas day to put in some serious hard training ?
Results on Results page.