The numbers for the fifth and penultimate race in the 2017 Croft Ambrey Handicap Series may have fallen slightly short of the record turnout of the previous month, with some of the club’s speedier runners missing (in the absence of notes from their respective mothers, they may be compelled to run in their vest and pants next month), but there was certainly no lack of effort or incident. A record that was definitely broken was for the number of P.B.s set. Including the 6 debut runs, there was a veritable treasure trove (not sure whether that is the acceptable collective noun) of 28 personal course records, many by huge margins – that is a staggering statistic.
I had checked out the Ladbrokes site prior to the event and placed a Lady Godiva each way on the battered old sea dog Stuart and the fresh young shaver Alec, both of whom had run a shocker last month, to lead the way. It was the sprightly young filly Sue Field, however, who romped home first many furlongs ahead of the chasers. Sue improved her previous time by over 3 minutes and this is testament to her hard work and determination as she builds up to her first assault on the Half Marathon distance, and also provides a fine illustration of the benefits of regular quality training. Alec rediscovered his form and enthusiasm and confirmed my pre-race faith by crossing the finish line in second place and Katie overtook 16 runners on her way to completing the top 3. I suspect that Cap’n Pugwash, having got wind of my wager, paused in Fishpool Valley (his idea of Davy Jones Locker) to splice the mainbrace just to rob me of my prospective winnings.
After the first 3 runners, the storm began with 16 runners crossing the line in the next minute – proof, possibly, that the handicapping was working correctly. The plethora of P.B.s are listed on the results sheet, but a few are worthy of mention : Sam Wickham, still in her early days with the club, set a new FV35 course record and Imogen, despite still tying her laces when it was her time to set off (clearly a chip off the old block), breaking her own junior record. The women’s all-time fastest performances list was vastly rearranged with Emma’s time of 27.24 sneaking to within a single second of the top 3. Kelly, still riding high and celebrating her victory at the weekend’s 10 Mile County Champs. race, has now moved up to equal 5th and Katie has now popped in to the top 10.
The newest recruit to the Croft ranks, Mark Thomas, registered an outstanding debut time of 23.51 – good enough to place him at number 7 on the men’s listings. Welcome aboard (to prolong the previous nautical theme) Mark – may you sail the Croft seas with much success for years to come.
A particular highlight for me was witnessing the approach to the finish as all the runners, having just negotiated the brutality of Heartbreak Hill, sprinted wholeheartedly for the line. A prime example of this was the “eyeballs out” tussle between Nick and Toby. This was brilliantly captured by super snapper Hayley – that and lots of other photos are now featured on the Croft Facebook page.
There were 2 other noteworthy records set. Bryan continued his oldest git record as the most senior finisher at the ripe old age of 77 – he doesn’t look a day over 90. The other record was for the number of family members competing. There were doubles for the Harpers, Davies, Marriotts, Wickhams, Pearsons, Luscotts and Gunners plus a whole fleet of 4 Austins cruising around the course.
The final race in the series will be held on Tuesday 5th September and there are still 20 runners in contention to win the annual handicap trophy. With so many runners now participating, this competition is still wide open.