Herefordshire Summer Cross Country Series – Race 4 Shobdon


Here’s the Team – A Great Turnout. Photo: Bethan Edwards

Shobdon, the final fixture on the summer cross country series, is one of two races organised by Croft Ambrey Running Club and both are absolute peaches. I don’t often feel unfortunate to be a man, but at its sister event on remembrance Sunday, I envy the women, who are ‘let off’ with a lap and a half of a very testing course at Croft Castle. We fellas are obliged to tackle ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – the brutal climb to the finish – no less than three times. The Ambrey, from which the club takes its name, affords spectacular views often bathed in glorious winter sunshine, which we are unable to take advantage of due to the blood, sweat and tears. For this race, Penny & Richard Corbett kindly lend us their arboretum for the evening. At the end, I admired the vista with a couple of club mates – with its rolling lawns, lakes, and tree lined driveways – concluding that it must take small army of groundspeople to maintain it. You won’t ever hear the words ‘can we have our ball back’ from beyond this garden fence – more likely ‘have you seen my microlight by any chance’. The village has its own airfield after all. It’s a relatively quick, two lap canter, particularly when dry, but wooded areas and crop fields hide some sharp climbs and tight corners you’d rather have to navigate just the once.

I pursued an aquatic motif in my last report – for no particular reason – and in view of the scenery at Shobdon it seems only appropriate for my theme to be garden machinery for this one. I guess we can divide our team members into categories with Jamie Shingler – ever mindful of his Club Championship ambitions – in a class of his own and represented by a turbo charged quad bike. Further down the field, complaining of a lack of energy (and sweet lord, I wish I had that kind of lack of energy) we might compare Craig Collier to a pretty fancy ride-on mower. Rhys Jones, hotly pursued by Stuart Booker, Mark Warren, and in due course new members, Paul Joyce and Sam Walmsley were certainly taking advantage of Craig’s aerodynamic tow, but by comparison were operating power assisted rotary jobs. That said, when I congratulated Sam at the end, he seemed somewhat underwhelmed – regarding the result merely as a bench mark to measure future performances. I like his attitude. Amy Fulford, clearly concealing a secret garden weapon (‘Barried up’ leaf blower perhaps?) squeezed into the top fifty on her way to a very creditable third place in the final women’s standings for the series.  The rest of us plodded along behind, pushing wheelbarrows of varying squeakiness and perhaps doing a little light weeding on the way.

The course was slightly longer than usual, diverted up hill and away from a wasps nest discovered by Mike Blenkinsop and his team of helpers. His very comprehensive race briefing was a reminder of the level of organisation that goes into putting on the series, or even a single race, and we owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who gives up time and effort for the benefit of the rest of us. Insects make a B-line for me (see what I did there?) so I was very grateful for the excursion, and that extra quarter of a mile perhaps made up for the shortfall at Westhope. Personally I can’t say I noticed it in terms of physical fatigue.  The conditions were pretty near perfect as far as I was concerned – dry, but not too hot, and springy underfoot due to a little recent rainfall. I duelled with a chap called Martin Green from Maldwyn Harriers, who has been trying to beat me throughout the cross country season and at some other races. I quietly forget the fact that he’s ten years older than me when smugly reflecting that he hasn’t succeeded yet.  As ever, I attempt to keep Tom Powell’s economical pate within my line of sight, but seldom succeed – he was already chatting to Craig by the time I hurled myself down that glorious grassy slope to the finish…and along the following flat section that’s always a little longer than I think. I was hoping to challenge Kevin Artus from Wye Valley, but his finishing kick was a little too good for me

I’m describing this from a very personal perspective of course, but you could see that each and every Ludlow runner had his or her own battle to win, and story to tell. Once again there was a joyous sea of blue and white vested runners at the finish, cheering on the team – which was 31 strong! That’s a recent record I think, the like of which just a couple of years ago would have been unimaginable.

Well done everyone – and enjoy the rest of the summer. This is your correspondent signing off until October, as it’s about time I mowed the lawn.

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