The annual pilgrimage to the beautiful hills around the village of Cardington near Church Stretton in Shropshire. Legend has it that the race is called the Cracker as the last person home wins a box of Crackers, something none of us has won yet!
This is the last race in the clubs annual Fell Grand Prix and ends the year perfectly. Six made the trip, should have been eight but unfortunately Pat Austin had to drop out at the last minute. Mark Newell and Ian Marshall were the only club runners but were joined by ex-Cambridge Harrier fell runner Chris Rogers and a few of his Sittingbourne Striders club mates. Our supporters also had good exercise by walking to the top of Caer Caradoc hill.
After an excellent meal and some liquid carbo-loading in The Royal Oak in Cardington on Saturday evening which is worth a visit even if only for the roaring log fire, we were rarinâ€™ to go on Sunday!
Sunday dawned after a hard frost but with a glorious blue sky. The race is 9 miles and has two steep climbs, the Lawley and Caer Caradoc. Apart from these two there are various wheeze inducing smaller ones which go to make up the total climb of 2600â€™. There is also a lot of good running especially along the summits with wonderful views over to the Long Mynd and beyond.
We were off at 11:00 and 253 runners made the mad dash across the field to a gate where everyone grinds to a halt, at least a chance to get rid of the initial lactic acid. Once through, the route crosses a number of fields and after a short steep descent through a wood you breakout into the open and before you is a long line of colour climbing seemingly vertically up the side of Lawley hill. Reach the summit and run along the ridge trying to admire the view before a long descent off the hill, had to be careful this year when descending as some of the ground still in shade was still frosty and slippy, the trick here is to try and find softer ground at the edge of the path to get a better grip for your Inov8â€™s! After crossing a road and a couple more fields you are then confronted by Caer Caradoc, a climb of ten minutes or so of hands on knees with more wheezing to the summit. Once the quads have recovered there is a great chance to stretch the legs for a mile or so along the Caradoc summit ridge followed by a short steep descent to cross a stream and a slow drag up to start the final couple of miles along a switchback ridge crossing numerous stiles and fields back to the start/finish field.
A warming cup of soup in the village hall and then to the Royal Oak for a warm by the fire, a pint and the usual post-race analysis. With the final race completed congratulations to Christian Poulton for winning the Grand Prix. Christian has had some impressive results this year on the fells. Clem was runner up, Ian third and Pete Hadley fourth. The Grand Prix is your best eight results during the year.
RESULTS Ian Marshall 2.05.28 Mark Newell 2.13.42 (Chris Rogers 1.51.19)