Ups on the Downs … Hannah hoovers up at opening Three Counties cross country

Biggleswade Athletic Club kicked off another Three Counties Cross-Country season in fine style, with Hannah Broom – a key member of the club’s award-winning women’s team of recent years – coming away rewarded as first female finisher.

Dunstable was the setting for race one of five for the 2018-19 campaign. With two other members of last season’s squad – Elaine Livera and Juliet Nayler – having moved on to pastures outside BAC, it was a new-look scoring quartet in the points for their club. Hannah took the reins in superb style, showcasing the results of her recent hard work and intensive training under the gaze of coach Paul Davies. Her first place in the women’s standings was followed in the team-scoring stakes by Emma Bailey (11th female), Natalie Morgan (14th) and Kathryn Juty (53rd) as the team finished fifth.

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Hannah Broom digs in. Photo by Nick Spavins

On the men’s side, where the first eight runners over the line score for their teams, Steven Baldwin was first home for BAC in 22nd place, followed by Marcus Davey (66th male finisher), Rob Morgan (72nd), Nick Haworth (75th), Paul Cooke (86th), John Stott (124th), Charlie Arnold (129th) and Neil Harvey (214th). The team came 10th of 13 clubs.

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Steven Baldwin, first BAC finisher. Photo by Nick Spavins

Hannah said: “Last year we did the course the other way round. I actually really liked it – I was just in a lot of pain with my arm so did not have a great run … so this course owed me! So this year, we were off down ‘Heartbreak Hill’ to start. My recent performances have given me some confidence so I put myself quite far forward. It is a narrow start so a good position is key.

“The field opened up a bit and I could see a lady from another club a little way in front. She is a good runner, better than me, so I decided if I keep her in sight then I am doing well – so I pressed on.

“A steep uphill … round some more twists and turns, some steep sharp up and downs and then I realise I am gaining on her … Another steep hill, somehow I am now right behind her, step for step …. how did this happen?

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Team BAC have their game faces on. Photo by Nick Spavins

“I have forgotten the hill we are climbing, I just concentrate on her. Another turn and into a field, another hill, somehow I am passing her and I realise there is not one but two girls and somehow I am passing them both … how? These are very good runners. I panic a little I think I am moving too fast, we cross a field and round a burnt out car, it feels surreal, there is one guy in front a little way off otherwise I would not be sure where I was going! I know I need to keep pressing, those ladies will be trying to maintain their position, they know I shouldn’t really be this far forward and I will most probably start to lose pace soon as the lactic acid builds in my tired legs.

“I have no idea how far back the other ladies are but I just keep pushing, a guy from another club lets me pass, encouraging me, what a champ. I can hear the finish, where the devil are you? We break through the trees, I can see it, I am now praying that they do not overtake me now, keep pushing, my god there is nothing in these legs, I cross the line! I have won my first race and I am delighted! Giles, Bev, Rachel and Stephen are there to congratulate me! People are pointing at me and saying that was the First Lady as I walk past, I feel like a celebrity. I am now off to cheer in my other teammates!”

Maria Merridan wasn’t just a debutant in the Three Counties league: “This was my 1st cross-country! I placed myself at the back of the pack thinking I might disappear down a ditch never to return. I’ve run quite a lot off-road, but racing this terrain was a much tougher proposition. I was mighty pleased to see the finish line with legs beginning to give up rather than my heart. Looking forward to going through the ordeal again soon!”

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Gareth Saynor ‘enjoys’ the Dunstable scenery. Photo by Nick Spavins

Gareth Saynor, who hit the big 5-0 this month, was philosophical about his chances beforehand: “I was press-ganged into running this and to be honest, mud and me don’t really get on! At the start I felt a bit of a fraud surrounded by the elite runners of the club and slightly overdressed.

“It started off really well and I felt strong, even after the first few hills and the dreaded mud and water didn’t materialise. However about halfway the big hill swept into view and I had to walk. I managed to struggle to the top and enjoyed the downhill stretch, only to be met by another hill, then another, by now I was mostly walking.

“Then I saw the finish line with the rest of BAC shouting encouragement and managed a sprint finish.” He was rewarded with 442nd place overall. “Now, for some reason I am looking forward to the next one!”

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Julie Spavins poses for her photographer husband. Photo by Nick Spavins

Just four places back was Julie Spavins, having her second taste of XC action in Dunstable. “My aim was to finish further up the field since I’ll never make it to the front!” she said. “Even in reverse this was a tough course with what felt like more ups than downs. The hills just kept appearing around corners and everyone around me joined in a united ‘groan’ …And even though I was last BAC in, I did manage to be considerably further up the field, and on my own timings I was over five minutes quicker than last year. So a real sense of achievement for me!

BAC next take to the infamous Croyland Park in Wellingborough this Sunday, 25 November, for race two of the season, scene of many flying leaps over water hazards, and muddied heads, shoulders, knees and toes over recent seasons.

Dunstable XC results

22 Steven Baldwin
51 Hannah Broom (1st female)
70 Marcus Davey
76 Rob Morgan
79 Nick Haworth
91 Paul Cooke
133 John Stott
138 Charlie Arnold
143 Emma Bailey
155 Natalie Morgan
267 Kathryn Juty
269 Neil Harvey
302 Nigel Bush
339 Ian Grimwood
354 Simon Strong
356 Robin Wynde
389 Juliet Grimwood
395 Jennie Day
407 Maria Merridan
442 Gareth Saynor
446 Julie Spavins
(483 finishers)

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