The third and final run, in the 2016 handicap series, around the leafy lanes of north Herefordshire attracted a small field but the weather conditions were excellent and there were 6 P.B.s set.
Ladbrokes were quoting short odds on Dave the Dentist filling first place and he incised his way through the field brushing past runners en route, but he was unable to make any impression on a determined Sarah, running a solo run at the front and slicing a massive 3 mins. 35 secs. from her debut time set in April. As she approached the finish line she expected to hear the sounds of heavy breathing and rapid footsteps from the rear. These did not materialise and Sarah had time for a cuppa on the village green before a decaying Dave appeared. Sarah’s impressive achievement was possibly overshadowed by yet another stellar performance from the in-form and prolific Gemma. Just 3 days after completing the gruelling Man v Horse race, and finishing 4th female, she produced an outstanding run to knock 1 min. 21 secs. off her P.B. and registered a time that took her to 3rd in the overall female rankings in an event that has been going for 29 years. Her time of 31.48 was just 2 secs. shy of Suzanne Turvey’s strong effort 2 years ago and 34 secs. adrift of Sue Connop’s course record set way back in 1991 – maybe next year Gemma. On top of this, Gemma recorded the fastest time of the night – the first time that a female runner has achieved this feat in the history of the event.
The race results will show a phantom name in 4th place. No, the race officials were not hallucinating – ‘tis not yet the magic mushroom season. El Presidente Bryan, unable to attend due to his overflowing social calendar, decided to undertake a solitary run around the course on the previous Sunday morning. He reported to me that he had recorded a new MV75 course record, but I failed to ask whether this had been achieved on his bike. Hopefully, this will not set an unwanted precedent for club members recording solo runs at their leisure.
Carol extended her sequence of setting a P.B every time she runs by chopping over a minute from her previous best as she continued her development. Jo, who has run over this course many times over the years, illustrated that she is still improving by knocking nearly half a minute from her P.B. Nigel, now in his 50s, is still on the up with another good P.B. and Kevin, having featured in the top Croft team for the first time at Abbey Dore, showed that there is still more in the tank.
I have updated the listings for the fastest times over the time-honoured course and it is noted that not a single male runner entered the top 20 this season, though Sam M. did equal his best time. It was left to the septuagenarians, Gary and Bryan, to register new age group records. In contrast, the women’s section of the club is thriving with Gemma, Steph, Jo, Liz and Kelly either entering or rising higher in the top 20 during the season.
The handicap series now moves to the slightly shorter course in Croft Woods with the next race to be held on Tuesday 12th July. The individual handicaps will be calculated as a percentage of the last time set on the Leinthall Starkes course this season or an average of last season’s times over the Croft Woods course, whichever applies.