A still late summer/early autumn evening provided ideal running conditions, which were conducive to fast running, for the final race in the 2018 Croft Ambrey R.C. Handicap Series. The event attracted a good sized field of 31 runners to wave a fond farewell to the summer season. The winter cross country season beckons with its promise of lots of mud and ice !
Ireland Pearson, running for only the second time over this woodland course, knocked a huge 2 mins. 20 seconds off last month’s debut performance to register a clear victory nearly a minute ahead of the chasing pack. Her determination to hold the hunting pursuers at bay meant that there was only a cursory cheery wave and a quick word of encouragement as she flew past her mother in the woods. Irina Dale, having played a vital role in Croft’s glorious team triumph in the Herefordshire Summer Off Road League, continued her spell of excellent form with another stellar display of speedy running. She was rewarded with a massive P.B. and a fast time of 25.44 which places her a clear second on the female listings over this new version of the Croft Woods course, which has been used for 5 years now. Completing the top 3 and upsetting the female domination of the event was Nick Paviour – no P.B. for him but a big improvement of over a minute on last month’s run. Nick’s intervention was the only male presence in the first 13 runners to cross the line.
The success and improvement of the club’s female runners has been a prominent feature of this year’s series and 9 of them recorded P.B.s in this last event. There were also 2 age-group course records with Jo Marriott, on her best behaviour and pacing impatiently on the start line well before her scheduled start time, improving her own record by a colossal 52 seconds. A lesson well learned there ! Sue Powell continues to defy the ageing process by not only breaking her own FV55 course record, but also setting a P.B. to beat the time that she recorded 5 years ago. There were 2 other performances at the sharp end of the rankings worthy of mention : Kelly Bowen maintained her habit of chipping away at her P.B.s and now features at no. 3 in the female listings, whilst Mark Lamonby was just a single second shy of his own course record that he set 4 years ago. Maybe he shouldn’t have stopped to have a chat up a passing roe deer, but who am I to interfere in his pastoral pursuits. I think that the deer had a wounded eye but I still think it was a bad idea.
A record 17 runners competed in at least 5 of the 6 races (3 on the roads at Leinthall Starkes and 3 in Croft Woods) to count towards the Handicap Series Trophy, with the best 5 places providing the final totals. This should always illustrate a measure of each runner’s improvement throughout the season and the top 3 places markedly demonstrated that. Will Gore was a clear winner as he made progress with every run. His Leinthall Starkes times improved by nearly 4 minutes and his Croft Woods times by over 5 minutes. A worthy winner with more big achievements to come. I am hoping that he may be able to sort out world peace in the near future. Louise Reeves finished in a deserved 2nd place in her debut season as she set P.B.s in every round. Maybe sorting out the Brexit issue can be her task. Kelly Bowen completed the top 3 in the series and she would probably take the title for the most prolific racer in the club. No extra assignments for her – I think that she is busy enough.
A review of the series would again point towards the performances of the club’s female runners. 6 women recorded times during this season that now feature in the Top 20 of the Croft Woods best times, with Irina, Kelly and Robyn now placed in the top 5 and Louise Reynolds, Sue Powell and Nicky Turvey in the lower regions of the top 20. The male runners altered the rankings with Andy Salt at no. 2, Will Gore at 11 and Alec Harper at 16. The Leinthall Starkes section of the series has been going for over 30 years so it is much more difficult to hit the highlights but Kelly is now positioned at no. 9 with Jo Tilby entering at no. 18 and Georgina Harrison at no. 20. For the men Mark Lamonby has climbed to no. 7 with Mark Thomas entering at no. 10.
Altogether a very successful series with high turnouts and some quality performances and pleasing development from lots of runners.