Leinthall Starkes handicap race 1

Race Reports

An excellent turnout for the first event in the 2016 Croft Ambrey Handicap Series including 9 who were running the course for the first time and a polished and shiny fleet of speedy Austins. Running conditions were favourable, though possibly slightly warm for runners who had become accustomed to chillier temperatures recently.
As always, the first run of the series took the shape of a straight race to establish times for handicapping next month. Extra significance was added to the occasion as it also counted as one of this year’s club championship races. With this in mind, Mark and Sam surged to the front setting a good early pace. They ran stride for stride until they started to flow down the enticing downhill gradient heading towards Burrington Bridge. This is a section where you can really stretch your legs and open up your pace. Mark attempted to break away from his challenger here but Sam dug deep, countered the break and then pushed hard himself to eventually open up a gap. There was no chance to relax for Sam and he continued to work hard over the slightly testing gradient approaching the finish line. He crossed the line exhausted and immediately flopped onto the inviting village green only to discover that his time was exactly equal to his previous best. He had remembered on the drive over to north Herefordshire that he had forgotten to bring along his watch – had he been wearing this, he may have delved just that little bit deeper to gain a well deserved P.B. Mark realised that he was a beaten man, on this occasion, and strolled across the line in second with Toby completing the top 3. All the top 3 had, just 2 days previously, competed well in the testing Storm the Castle duathlon event in Ludlow so it makes their efforts here even more commendable. It was good to see some competition at the head of the field with Stacey having dominated for so many years, though I suspect that he will return with a vengeance to try to re-establish himself as top dog.
It was a welcome back to competitive running to Kevin Thomas, who last ran here 4 years ago and has been fighting against a persistent knee injury. A combative 4th place was good reward for his resolution and, hopefully, he will now stay fit and continue to develop his undoubted potential.
Gemma was the first female across the line in 6th place overall and in a time that was just 20 seconds shy of her best on the course. This was all the more remarkable when put into the context of it having been just 2 days since she set a brilliant P.B. of 3.10 35 in the Brighton Marathon. How superb is that ? Most runners still want to be pushed around in a wheelchair 2 days after a marathon. This young lady is a lean, mean running machine. Just over a minute behind Gemma was Steph with a phenomenal run. She was another who collapsed across the line, having given her all, but she was rewarded with a huge P.B. – the biggest improvement of the evening.
There were 2 junior (under 17) runners testing out the course for the first time. Oscar prevailed over Jasper but they both recorded admirable times and have now set targets to beat in future runs.
2 other female competitors continued to demonstrate their improvement with Super Sue Powell again chipping away at her best time and Carol (Tom) Powell knocking almost a minute off her best – I can’t remember the last time that she did not record a P.B. in one of the handicap events.
The phenomenal El Presidente Bryan Markham continued to inspire everyone by setting 2 records – the fastest over 75 time and the oldest runner to complete the course.
It was gratifying to see so many new faces. Hopefully, they will return to test themselves again. There were a few familiar faces missing, some easing down as they prepare for an assault on the London Marathon, so when they return next month the field may be even larger. If the numbers remain at this level, it will be impossible for me to both time keep and record the runners as they cross the line. The first race was easy as the runners were mostly well spread out. Once the runners are set off according to the handicap times it is, theoretically, possible that everyone could finish together. This would potentially make my head explode. So I am requesting some assistance to help me with these tasks, otherwise it will not be possible for me to deal with the series. It would also be good to record the runs on camera, so a photographer would also be useful. I will provide the camera and I will tie a knot in my neck to remind me to load the battery next time. The days of me being able to time-keep, record and photograph at the same time are long gone. Is anyone willing to assist me or do you know anyone who may be interested ?
The next run, under the handicap system, will be held on Tuesday 10th May.

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