Croft Handicap Series – Race 4 – Bircher Common

Race Reports

Report by Mike B

A new course and the first running of a Croft Ambrey handicap race on a Thursday evening and the most number of PBs ever set in a single event all featured on the latest production of the handicap series. The new scenic course set on the open spaces of the common, with a brief climb through the woods, may provide more total elevation than the 2 previous versions of the off-road component of the series, but the runners were relieved not to have the spectre of the finishing climb up Heartbreak Hill weighing upon their minds with each step. The event had been postponed from its scheduled Tuesday evening happening due to the extreme heat. Conditions were much more favourable two days later but there were still some red hot performances to report.

Steph King, who lives nearby and regularly trains on the common, became the first winner on the new course as she sped across the finish line over a minute ahead of her rivals. Steph appears to be modelling herself on Longfellow’s “little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead, when she was good she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid” – in the 4 handicap events so far she has won 2 by a huge margin and battled not to be last in the others. Steph revealed later that she had finally discovered the reason for the additional pocket in her running shorts – it is her “chocolate pocket”. Next across the finish line was the ever-improving Oli Cameron-Swan, with his go faster hair style and go slower shag-pile beard he galloped down the final hill to record his first ever choccie award performance. Completing the top 3 was ace fell runner Flora Gunner, who mercilessly stormed past a spirited Alison Apperley in the final stages.

The holder of the new course record in the blistering time of 22.13 is Eric Apperley. Kingsland Fire Brigade had been put on emergency alert with the prospect of Eric’s scorching pace threatening to set alight the tinder dry vegetation on the parched common. Thankfully this was avoided but it may continue to be a future hazard as the determined young speedster will surely now have his sights set on breaking the 22 minute barrier.

The female course record holder is Mia Davies, who registered an impressive 27.51 to continue her development as a top runner. Mia appears to have perfected the art of the flying start. With just seconds to spare she busied herself tying her shoe laces about 20 metres away before charging across the start line with absolute precision just as “go” was shouted. My compliments on this display of immaculate timing.

Another to write her own addition to the runners’ coaching manual on how to warm up before a race was Bronwyn Preece, who was kneeling in front of the start line taking photos of the other competitors as they started, before leaping into action with seconds to spare and speeding off up the hill. Again, I applaud the ingenuity.

With it being a new event, it was pleasing to see a few unheralded names now featuring as age-group course record holders – Tom Davies, after all these years; rock and Roland Preece; Howard Verran; Greg Jones; Dave Millichap and the beaming Lisa Gray – can all bask in the glory of being part of the club’s history. Chairman Huw Williams, having been so cruelly deprived of his moment in the spotlight last month, is now the MV60 record holder. To quote the recent utterance of a famous blond bombshell : “Them’s the breaks”.

I believe that I am contractually obliged to mention the heroic deeds of the venerable Bryan Markham. The old Silver Fox kept pace with Alison for the first lap of Oaker Coppice, but then slowed down to scrabble around in the dirt. A rapid piece of seamstress work must have followed as I can’t remember him wearing those moleskin running shorts when he set off.

Altogether a successful new development to the handicap series, which has been going since 1989. Let us hope that this version will remain part of the series for many years to come.

Photos can be found on the photo page of the website click here to open page


Click on the arrow in the time box to see runners in order of time.

1Steph King (FV55)35.40
2Oli Cameron-Swan (MV45)33.05
3Flora Gunner (FV55)34.03FV55 Course Record
4Alison Apperley (FV55)46.58
5Tom Davies (MV70)41.43MV70 Course Record
6Bryan Markham (MV80)47.28MV80 Course Record
7Mia Davies (SF)27.51Female Course Record
8Howard Verran (MV45)31.17MV45 Course Record
9Huw Williams (MV60)35.28MV60 Course Record
10Sam Harper (FV45)32.54
11Thea Preece (SF)28.55
12Amy Purvin (SF)34.18
13Lisa Gray (FV50)35.57FV50 Course Record
14Rob Wood (MV65)32.39
15Lee Monks (SM)27.55
16Greg Jones (MV50)28.50MV50 Course Record
17Gary Gunner (MV75)33.21MV75 Course Record
18Eric Apperley (SM)22.13Male Course Record
19Hayley Millichap (FV50)41.01
20Bronwyn Preece (SF)32.43
21Jo Tilby (FV40)29.51FV40 Course Record
22Gareth Leek (SM)23.01
23Dave Millichap (MV50)28.41MV50 Course Record
24Clare Preece (FV50)39.19
25Roland Preece (MV55)30.42MV55 Course Record
26Nikki Ferguson (SF)37.45
27Gemma Davies (FV40)37.08
28Sue Powell (FV60)34.07FV60 Course Record
29Emma Jones (FV45)30.30FV45 Course Record
30Louise Reeves (FV45)36.40
31Tim Wain-Hobson (MV65)44.03
32Neil Taylor (MV65)30.39MV65 Course Record
33Frank Luscott (MV6544.16
34Kelly Bowen (FV35)29.34FV35 Course Record
35Theresa Jones (FV50)41.00

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