First, the highlights…
Biggleswade Athletic Club’s women’s team consolidated third place in the Three Counties league after the fifth and final fixture of the season, while the men took 11th. In combination, this added up to sixth overall.
So sadly, after three straight years of holding the women’s team trophy, BAC relinquish it to North Herts Road Runners, but finishes of fourth, first, first, third and second across the five fixtures are a superb effort and took some beating – no women’s team won more than two fixtures this season, and NHRR and Wellingborough & District AC just pipped our revamped squad with a little bit more consistency at the business end of each race.
Steven Baldwin finished 17th in the overall individual men’s standings, after taking in part in four of the five races, his best result ninth in the final fixture, and he never crossed the line lower than 28th. He was rewarded with second place in the age 25-29 category.
Hannah Broom planted her flag as the club’s ladies cross-country runner to beat, after an outstanding season that saw her finish first, fourth, third, fourth and second in the five races. This added up to a fine third place overall.
Hot on her heels were Natalie Morgan (9th), Natalie Garner (10th) and Emma Bailey (11th), while Kathryn Juty’s fine season was rewarded by 29th place overall.
Garner took second spot in the women’s age 25-29 season standings (thanks to three second placings and a third), while Morgan and Bailey took first and second respectively in the V40-44 season results – neither finished outside the top three in their category in any race they competed in this season.
Other age group award-winners were Charlie Arnold, who seared to the V60-64 top spot thanks to a sequence of fifth, third, second, first and first. Ian Grimwood took third in the V65-69 category having finished third in his category three times and fourth in his other outing this season.
An admittedly alcohol-fuelled Nick Haworth writes:
The final race of the 2018-19 Three Counties Cross Country League saw all teams converge for battle at the grounds of Delapre Abbey in Northampton – the site of the Battle of Northampton in 1460, a major battle in the War of the Roses.
The course is a five-mile, two-lap route taking in a mixture of meadow and woodland – and a lot of mud – and though considered by some to be the easiest of the series it would nevertheless test the spirits and resilience of all participants.
The day itself saw clear blue skies but with a bitingly cold north-westerly wind. A good downpour of rain the night before ensured competitors and spectators alike got soggy feet from the outset.
In a change from the previous year, the start consisted of an initial oblong loop round the meadow before a sharp left-hander through a narrow uphill wooded section (rather than just heading straight on to the narrow wooded section). I presume this was to avoid some of the chaos of former years, though needless to say, it didn’t really have the desired effect with competitors running and trampling over each other, cursing themselves and each other, and a few partially disemboweling themselves on the route markers – behaviour not too unlike that back in 1460!
Having survived the meadow and an arduous, long slog up a wooded hill, the course flattened out revealing an excellent view of the A45, before heading twistily downwards though more trees and ankle-deep mud. Several runners were lucky to avoid impalement on unseen tree branches, while some came awry on numerous tree roots seemingly deliberately placed across the path.
A flat straight section on a mixture of tarmac and mud saw the runners proceed alongside a golf course. Thankfully a hedgerow protected the runners from any wayward golf balls and the majority of runners emerged fairly unscathed.
A final left-hand bend saw the runners head through more trees before entering the meadow once more to begin a toilsome and hazardous second lap of the course. The second lap, with even more freshly churned up soil, was arguably even more hazardous than the previous, as exhaustion took hold, speed and coordination of some began to fail. Others meanwhile seemed to literally take it all in their stride and proceeded to gain a few vital scalps.
Against all the odds, most runners completed the race, be it with the occasional missing limb, distended eye socket, or bloodified face. The vast majority finished with smiles on their faces, most with a heavy lacquering of mud on their legs and a few cuts and bruises.
We left the marshals to clear up the mess and proceeded on a long mile and half warm-down back to the race HQ where we were all welcomed back with tea and cakes in the comfort of a nice warm gym of a local school.
All in all, Biggleswade AC had done surprisingly well. In the men’s team, Steven Baldwin finished an admirable ninth place overall – his best performance of the season. Newcomer Alan Kell, though not able to score officially for the team, finished 68th, outsprinting Nick Haworth (63rd) in the last 50 yards himself just ahead of fellow vet Paul Cooke (78th). Behind them came Charlie “Killer” Arnold, securing 91st place and the V60 men’s award, followed by Jon Stott (127th), Neil Harvey (180th), Giles Hawthorne (196th), and Robin Wynde (232nd).
Hannah Broom successfully challenged and beat arch-rival Christine Lathwell from Stopsley Striders coming in third place for the ladies. Natalie Garner finished a commendable 9th just ahead of Natalie Morgan (11th) and Emma Bailey (14th).
The men’s team finished the season in 11th place while the women’s team came third, giving a combined position of sixth.
Alan Kell said: “This was my first cross country run for the club and by all accounts I had timed it well as it was the supposably easiest of this seasons courses. Well after that first steady incline on the first lap, I soon realised those other courses must have been tough. This was hard but great fun! Running (or sliding) through the woods and battling against the wind across the open fields. A fantastic event with great support from both the marshals and Bigglesswade team.”
Julie Spavins added: “The final cross country of the season was also the coldest! Despite the freezing conditions we had a good turnout and even some new recruits to the ladies team.
“The course was changed slightly, adding an extra half a mile over the rather draining grassy area, before the slog up the not too steep but neverending hill. The mud was certainly churned by the time I was coming through the woods, but I managed to avoid slipping over, and also managed some overtakes of the runners who were a bit ‘nervous’ of so much mucky stuff, before coming back on to the grassy area and the biting wind blowing in the wrong direction. This year I managed to keep running up the incline on both laps, way better than last year! And despite being half a mile longer, I came in five minutes quicker and like the rest of the season I’m further up the field.
“Our team has performed brilliantly this season, and I’m very proud to have played my very small part in our success.”
Huge thanks to Nick Spavins for his superb photography at Three Counties XC fixtures this season