Herefordshire Cross Country Winter League – Race Five – Presteigne


Raring to go

I’m always proud to wear my Ludlow Runners vest and do so whenever I’m competing – whether or not the event requires it. Having said that, over the six years I’ve been a member of the club, spotting our colours at the start of cross country events has at times been similar to a real life game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ I have often been one of only two or three men taking part, and on one occasion – the inaugural Builth Wells fixture, complete with a bitter wind and horizontal stair rods of rain – I was the only one fool enough to show up. That’s why it’s been such a pleasure to be involved this year; particularly in last Sunday’s closing event and the presentation afterwards. Not only have we managed consistently strong turn outs this season, we have actually started to appear near the top of the results.  And in case you’re reading this without having seen the final standings I’m sure you’ll join me in congratulating Heulwen Gilbert on sweeping away the overall winner’s trophy in the women’s competition with four wins out of four appearances. You can’t argue with that. But more of the metal work – silverware, or whatever you want to call it later. First, lets take a close look at the raging Pit Bull that is Presteigne.


Heulwen on her charge to victory.

Although the course for the men’s race was shortened slightly this year, it was still a vicious old dog at heart, straining at the leash: muzzled perhaps, but by no means neutered. I’ve talked about runners’ euphemisms before and this bad boy had them all – ‘challenging’ ascents, three ‘water splashes’ and plenty of ‘technical’ down hill work.  I have to admit though, that I did enjoy it and not just because I’m a masochist; it’s my sort of run and I’d far rather be clawing my way up a barely discernible woodland path than wading through the quagmire in Hereford’s answer to Glastonbury 2012.

Presteigne is one of two events where the men and women run a different route (about two thirds the distance I think) and unusually on this occasion the women started 15 minutes earlier.  Whilst I fully understood the reason for this (to give Mike Blenkinsop enough quality time with his calculator to work out the results before the presentation), I can’t say I liked it very much. Somehow the atmosphere at the start just wasn’t the same (even if it was easier to hear the briefing) and in my case the absence of some of the quicker women meant there were fewer targets to aim for.


Matt Yapp. Junior Champion.

Anyway, at the gun I set off somewhere in the middle of the field, only to head butt the left shoulder of the bloke in front as we were recalled within seconds of departure.  I suspect this was due to a problem with timing rather than anyone doing a ‘Usain Bolt’ and at the second time of asking the leaders streaked off into the distance up the forest track, bearing down on the first hill of the day.

That’s about as much as I can say about the race up front, or the protagonists including our very own hot shoes Andy Salt, Todd Langley-Tanner and Craig Collier: any more in depth analysis would have required a quad bike and crash helmet in order to keep up with them. Suffice to say that Andy was fourth, Todd fourteenth, and Craig eighteenth.

I was able to slug it out with three other members of the team though. For the first couple of miles I clung on to Paul Elliott, (though not literally) until he decided to stop fooling about and go racing – at which point he left me for dead. However, John Lyden and Tom Powell were still in sight, and I enjoyed a tussle with both of them, finishing eight seconds behind John, and just over a minute in front of Tom. Mr Lyden always has the advantage on the downhill and although for a brief period I was in front he quickly dispensed with the gap I’d struggled to build on the second, and most brutal climb of the day. Tom seemed to fade towards the end of the race having complained of cold symptoms at the start, but until then I could literally feel him breathing down my neck.


Heulewen: County Champion.

The finish was no less strange than the start for those of us further down the field as only the leaders were able to catch the tail end of the women’s race. By the time I arrived all of them had crossed the line and sensibly opted to not hang around getting cold. I usually rather enjoy standing next to the timers, cheering on other members of the team and pretending there is another competitor right behind them, about to overtake. This is not a new joke, and one that seldom works: our chairman Sandy Ross, never falls for it, so I didn’t bother to try as he appeared on the final straight with his unmistakable metronomic gait; Heath Mountford seemed deep in “the zone” (the expression on his face similar to that of a cave man at the controls of a Chinook helicopter) and probably wouldn’t have heard me even though Justin Wheeler really was only a few seconds behind him. So I felt a bit short changed on the whole. Small things please small minds you see.


Eilish: Under 20 Silver Medal

Unable to provide a first hand account of the ‘elite’ men’s race (I don’t own a telescope and have lost the keys to my Tardis) I also have to rely on the official results to tell you about the ladies. It looks as though it was pretty much business as usual with another fine performance from Heulwen to complete an almost perfect score-card (she didn’t race at Builth Wells). Her sister Eilish told me later that she (Eilish) had run a much steadier race and therefore didn’t feel as broken at the end as she had at Monkhall Farm. Then came Viv Dempsey who would clearly dive bomb at the swimming pool rather than sitting on the edge dangling her legs in the shallow end. She chose Presteigne as an introduction to cross country running, after all – and was impressive in 28th place. That’s what I call jumping in head first. Another strong family effort was completed exactly one minute later when Sally Yapp crossed the line.  As an under 17 Junior, Matthew Yapp took part in the same race and I saw him leading the field at the start but his name doesn’t appear in the results, which seems a shame.  Jo Sharp and Maggie Morris obviously ran in close company – finishing 20 seconds apart.


Todd Langley-Tanner: Under 20 Champion

Sandy and I jogged back up the track from the finish line to meet David Haynes on his final approach and escort him in like a pair of precautionary fighter jets. However, at that precise moment David seemed to enjoy a second wind, practicing what Colin Lancaster would call his ‘fast but relaxed’ pace and as a result, having already completed one stretching routine, I had to unfold myself all over again before heading off to the presentation.


John Lyden: Bronze medal winner.


Dan Pavitt: Bronze medal winner.


Chinooks: Bamboozling cavemen since 1962.

In the past I’ve tended to slide off straight after the event, but as unofficial Assistant Deputy (etc) Team Captain, I felt I ought to be at the prize giving. Two things struck me about it: 1) the plentiful, and extremely high quality cakeage (I filled my mouth, pockets and boots) and 2) the growing success of Ludlow Runners!

I’ve already mentioned Heulwen, but she and Eilish also elevated our club to third in the women’s team event. The men’s A team came 6th in the series, and we won medals in the Under 17 and Junior Male categories, Junior Female, Male V50 and Male V55. I must also mention the very impressive performances by our senior men this season.  Jamie Shingler, Andy Salt, Craig Collier and Todd Langley-Tanner didn’t appear more in the awards ceremony only because of the intense competition in the upper echelons of the league. Todd did win the Junior Male category though, and hopefully will be even more of a contender next year.

We’re on a roll now people – this is what it’s all about. Let’s put in an even stronger performance in the summer league and start causing some upsets. The races start in June, and as soon as the dates are confirmed they’ll be circulated to everyone.



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