Almost ideal conditions, cool-ish, and the 48 hours of rain seems to have been fully absorbed by the ground. Tom, Gary P and I lined up in the field beyond the campsite with 74 other runners, swollen (fortunately, especially since they filled most of the last 10 places in the race!) by the presence of a contingent of 22 runners from Newton Abbot, who had competed in the Bishops Castle tandem triathlon the day before. A gentle start over a flattish grassy field soon became a steep, grass-pulling slope with a teasing lessening of the slope towards the top – but I wasn’t going to be tempted to waste energy on switching to a run! Then a long downward run towards Church Stretton, before climbing steadily up beside a stream and then the second of the four ascents. On top we had to contend with winding paths where the heather tugged at our shoes. Over the top and steeply down into another stream valley, abruptly followed by another steep climb (more walking!), another steep descent, over a stream and then a narrow sheep track above the stream, where you needed to keep your footing and your nerve to stay upright, and out of the stream. Then we crossed the stream, and struggled up the wet rock on the other side, and then just gritted our teeth to maintain the upward impetus. Eventually we were at the summit, with a long dash down through bracken, then the gritty, slippery path down to the finish. Gary had a magnificent race, 7 and a half minutes faster than last year (69.25), and finishing 10th (3rd MV40, but the category is very competitive). I lost over 2 minutes on last year’s time (feeling my age!), but crossed the line 31st (80.25) and only MV70, while Tom raced in in 86.51, 1st MV65 – winning prizes is beginning to become a habit!
The second club championship race saw 5 (6?) Croft runners turn out, with Ruth running in a Mercia vest, but surprising us 3 days later in Croft colours. There was mist over the hilltops, and drizzle in the air, but the rain largely held off during the run (!) – frequently a scrabble up the 4 stiff climbs, but at least Gary enjoyed the breakneck hurtle down the other side. It was a relatively small field of runners, and probably a bit light at the top end. Roland Stafford won, in 42 seconds over the hour. I was 28th (76.04), 2min 36 faster than last year (in a heatwave), with Ruth running really well to finish 32nd (77.27), ahead of Gary (34th, 77.31), nearly 8 mins faster than in 2011. Tom was 41st (1st MV60) in 86.12, with Adam (very quickly regretting his decision to run!) coming home in 93.06.