Biggleswade Athletic Club enjoyed a marvellously muddy return to cross-country action in windy Wellingborough last weekend, as Elaine Livera continued her brilliant year in crossing the line as first female on her debut in the Three Counties XC league. Better was to follow as she was followed soon after by a stream of clubmates as BAC comfortably took the ladies’ team honours.
The main event was preceded by an impeccably observed minute’s silence and rapturous applause for Vikki Vowles, who passed away in August. Vikki made her bow in cross-country at the same venue last October, and endured a muddy dunking and faceplant at its hazardous stream crossing for her troubles. Despite this she loved the experience and several fellow Couch to 5k graduates were among the startlist, competing in tribute to their friend.
The newbies were spared the notorious crossing this year on a revamped Croyland Park course, but still had to make their way across Swanspool Brook in whichever way best suited. At the first attempt, taking off from a slightly elevated bank, it was just about jumpable for some competitors, and several successfully leaped to the far bank, but most opted to make a splash and wade through, either by jumping in, or easing their way in gently. On the way back however, after hundreds of running spikes and trail studs had carved up the ground – coupled with some fiendish impromptu re-landscaping from nearby marshals – it was a completely different proposition, and mud and water was almost waist high for many, with little respite ahead on the far bank as a mile of steep hills remained before the finish.
The first eight men and first four ladies from each club counted towards the team totals, and it proved a tough proposition, with even experienced cross-country competitors acknowledging that the course it was tougher than in previous years. Charlie Arnold said: “We passed through the brook, some to splash through, some to jump, some to not quite make it much to the amusement of cheering onlookers. Then, round a long stretch of inclines and banks, made more difficult by running up them at a difficult angle. The field of runners spread out as they take a long circuit before crossing the brook again, which did involve some face planting in the mud in my, and one or two others’, cases.”
Even those at the top of the leaderboard experienced muddy mishaps. Elaine said: “When we reached the river crossing the two girls leading showed off their grace by clearing the ditch. I said to myself: ‘I’ve jumped fairly far before, I’m sure if they can clear it, I might be able to, I’m the same height…’ Oh how wrong I was. It was a very convincing face plant and I was soaked through! That made the next 800m running into the wind pretty chilly. But at least I had provided the newbie entertainment factor for the supporters!”
Marcus Davey added: “The course really sapped my legs – I suppose that makes the event a success! There were plenty of undulations, steep hills and tricky cambers that tested my Mudclaw running shoes to the limit. The ditch crossings went well for me with only one of my claws getting a proper soaking to the skin.
“It was a fabulous BAC turnout, a great competitive and social day and I have no doubt XC is going to improve athletic endurance and performance for everyone involved, whatever ability and running goals they may have.”
Coach Giles Hawthorne epitomised the team spirit on display, and as well as being among the points-scoring finishers for the men’s team, he ran alongside Natalie Morgan, offering encouragement and a helping hand at the stream crossings to help her shave off valuable seconds. He praised the “strength in depth” of the ladies team, where even non-scorers played their part by relegating rival club runners further down the standings, with lower placings equating to fewer points.
Juliet Nayler came in as sixth lady, and with Natalie ninth and Isobel Everest 11th, it proved an unbeatable team score, relegating North Herts Road Runners to second and Bedford Harriers a point further back in third.
On the men’s side, Rich Bevan was the first BAC athlete home in an excellent 13th place overall, with Rob Morgan 22nd, and the rest of the points scoring coming from Nick Haworth (57th), Marcus (59th), Paul Cooke (68th), Paul Davies (73rd), John Stott (97th) and Giles (110th). This equated to a men’s team finish of a mid-table sixth from 13 teams, while the overall combined result, incorporating all scoring runners in the positions they crossed the line irrespective of gender, meant the club were in a very creditable 5th position.
Club secretary Hannah Broom was unable to compete due to injury, but was part of a fine turnout of supporters offering vocal support at key points. She said: “It was a fantastic day for Biggleswade AC who were out in absolute force with a record number of competitors!”
Elaine added: “To my surprise I found myself overtaking the two girls in front of me with three hills to go. All I could hear was Hannah telling me to “Look up! Look up! Pound up that hill – you’re almost home!” The huge support I received in the last 300m helped me power through.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had while running a race and it was made even better when all of the women in the club came in so quickly after me which all helped make us the winning team. The whole atmosphere was great, and I was laughing out loud at my phone when looking through all the ‘ditch-jump’ pictures!”
Malcolm Steward had looked in tremendous form in the early stages, but he succumbed to a calf injury on a steep downhill section. All other BAC athletes, including the first-timers, emerged muddied but unscathed, with many already looking forward to race two of the season at Delapré Abbey near Northampton on 12 November.
Four hit the streets for Town and Gown
On the same morning, four BAC athletes took to the streets of Cambridge for the Town and Gown 10k race.
On a flat course, sheltered from the bulk of the blustery winds in the region on the day, Julian Brunt was first of the quartet home, beating the hour mark to finish in 59min 20sec for 116th in the MV40 standings and 1028th overall. Louise Pike (1:05.26, 138th FV35, 1285 overall) and Shani Giddings (1:05.59 , 38th in the FV55 category and 1300th overall) were delighted with personal bests, as was Carol Garratt, whose debut race at the distance yielded a time of 1:26.58 (57th FV55, 1529 overall), over seven minutes quicker than a trial run the previous week.
Results – Three Counties XC race 1, Wellingborough
Overall | name (gender position) – *indicates team scorer
13 Rich Bevan (13)*
22 Rob Morgan (22)*
54 Elaine Livera (1)*
60 Nick Haworth (57)*
62 Marcus Davey (59)*
73 Paul Cooke (68)*
78 Paul Davies (73)*
87 Juliet Nayler (6)*
97 John Stott (104)*
118 Natalie Morgan (9)*
119 Giles Hawthorne (110)*
125 Isobel Everest (11)*
127 Charlie Arnold (116)
129 Aaron Ball (117)
138 Damien Pitts (125)
163 Emma Bailey (18)
212 Gary Baldwin (176)
219 Stuart Goodwin (182)
231 Nigel Bush (189)
238 Neil Harvey (192)
245 James Rastrick (196)
258 Kathryn Juty (59)
265 Robin Wynde (203)
278 Ian Grimwood (210)
279 Richard Dilley (211)
290 Nicky Double (77)
307 Juliet Grimwood (90)
330 Ricky Byrne (221)
334 Julie Spavins (112)
335 Helen Kapur (113)
343 Ruth King (121)
344 Julie Cooke (122)
DNF Malcolm Steward (calf injury)