No, ‘champs’ is not a typo for ‘chumps’. It was wet, it was rocky/stony and it was steep (in places), but on the whole a good experience, not really just for chumps.
Rain had been forecast all week for the Saturday, then views changed and Friday evening the rain was supposed to fizzle out by 7am the next morning. Well, it had .. here, in Herefordshire, but not in N Wales. I arrived in a dry spell, easily found somewhere to park and wandered over to the start/finish area. There were different age categories starting every half hour, and finishers arriving from about 45 minutes after their start, so there was a lot happening. I collected my number (and age label to go on my back) and goody bag (one T shirt, a rubber souvenir bracelet and various tourist leaflets – a bit mean on the goodies), and decided to follow the next age group so I could recce the first steep climb, and the final descent, without getting in the way of competitors. It was a relief, in a way, to find my climb slowed by the final two [Italian] MV45 runners, who looked as if they were out for stroll in the woods. Maybe there’d be similarly ill-fitted runners in my category, protecting me from coming last. The descent was down a winding uneven stone track, not very veteran friendly!
Back on the playing field, I was hailed by Sue and Mark, who’d come up the night before. Sue still had another 45 minutes or so before her race, but seemed remarkably relaxed (an old hand at these things). I was able to shout encouragement as her cohort went by, about to start the real climb, after the first half mile on tarmac. Ed Davies and Steve Herington were two other familiar faces amongst the milling athletes. Then another I recognised – none other than our own Mick, who had decided against Offa’s Dyke, to protect his dodgy ankle for this ‘mountain’ race, which though more rugged, was a good deal shorter (old men like Mick and me were doing the 8.7km shorter course, while younger runners such as Sue were on the 10.6km route, adding a loop beyond the lake).
The MV65s, 70s and 75s all set off together, so I was unable to see Sue or Mick finishing. Steve H had manoeuvred himself to the front, whereas a novice like me found myself hemmed in at the back and then trapped by eager rivals for the first few hundred yards. Once we were on the slope I could overtake a few, though was in turn brushed aside by Dic Evans. From there there was a forestry track (very Mortimer Forest), then a run along a peaty, undulating path (reminiscent of Source of the Severn), before more track and then the ‘sting’ in the tail, an even steeper climb, with twists and turns, that Mick said he ran up all the way. From the top, with 2km to go, we came down a forest track which turned into the steep, unpleasant rocky descent to the finish. Although one younger runner went past me down the slope, I was lucky not to have to race anyone down the finishing straight.
Sue was 10th FV50, out of 15, in a multi-national category (5 foreign runners ahead of her), finishing in 64.50, well enough to be part of the GB second team ( though there were no medals on offer). Mick was 29th in a very large bunch of MV55s, completing the course in 51.19. In the over 70s I surprised myself by finishing 7th (out of 21), in 54.02, beaten by the 6th placed runner on the last downhill.
So, a rewarding weekend, even if there was some muttering about unimaginative courses and a relatively poor turnout, of foreign runners in particular. Next year it’s in Italy, and the mountains will be steeper!