As always the sight of close to 2000 brightly coloured club vests (in the senior men’s race) charging up the start field towards the inevitable congestion at the first corner created quite a spectacle – this year there were ten Cambridge vests somewhere in the melee. In the previous race Emily Meins had been our sole representative in a field of 800 senior women. But the brightly coloured vests were not to stay that way for long: although much of the course was firm some of it was very muddy, and some of it was a knee deep swamp. It is common for cross country courses to start with a smaller lap and to be followed by larger ones but what we had here was particularly convoluted: a small lap followed by a medium followed by a large followed by an extra large, as if working our way up through T-shirt sizes. This allowed the organizers to throw in an extra challenge, usually a testing hill, to each new lap to always keep you guessing what was coming next. But the dreaded swamp was an ever-present.
Half an hour before the start of the men’s race with Emily already ten minutes into hers the rain began to fall and those of us that had decided to stay huddled in the tent rather than to go for a warm-up were treated to the sight of Ethan Fiore returning from the Under 13 race having been a victim of the swamp – not so much a case of falling over as falling in – a near total immersion! He was duly swaddled in multiple layers of clothing to stem the shivering and dispatched to the club minibus.
In comparison to running in Kent races, here most of the runners around you are strangers from all over the country but it is surprising how many calls of encouragement you get from fellow competitors and spectators alike, all of them welcome but none more so than that from young Ethan who had swapped a place in the warmth of the minibus for a position on the big hill up towards the mansion to cheer on his dad and the rest of us.
Dean Lacy was first home for the club, his 64th place continuing his good form and auguring well for the London Marathon in two month’s time. Second was Danny Kendall making a welcome return at last after struggling with his achilles for many months: not only was this his first cross country race of the season it was his first race of any description since last year’s London Marathon in the light of which his 147th place was very impressive. A bit further back Dom Fiore had one of his best ever performance for the club, finishing ahead of Christian Poulton for the first time (perhaps not wanting to be upstaged in the heroism department by his son!). It was left to Clem Dixon to complete the six-to-score team which finished 52nd (from 131 clubs, Tonbridge were first). Mark Newell had been struggling with a bad back and was unsure whether he would be able to start the race let alone finish it but he struggled round so the senior men had ten entries, ten starters and ten finishers which is probably some kind of record in itself.
The final word should go to the swamp. Those of us who traveled back to London on a train crowded with hen parties and football fans could not deny that not only did we look rather bedraggled but the smell of the swamp’s noxious waters hung about us obstinately.
So that is it for the season! Thank you to all who made at least one appearance in a cross country race for the club: the men had a turnout not far short of last years record and although the women only had one entry here numbers across the season have been on the rise. And if you are wondering what to do with yourself until October when we start all over again, you can run round and round a track of course and there are plenty of good road and trail races, but for something a bit more adventurous why not consider fell running? Cambridge Harriers is one of just a handful of clubs in the Southeast of England with an active fell running section: make the most of it!
433 Emily Meins
1309 Graham Maynard