Biggleswade Athletic Club put in another excellent team performance at the second Three Counties Cross Country race of the season.
Jamie Hall finished a brilliant fifth overall and the women’s squad combined superbly to retain top spot in the league despite stiff challenges from both rival clubs and fiendish conditions.
On a bitterly cold morning in Northampton, athletes contended with a challenging and deceptively awkward course around Delapre Park, consisting of two multi-terrain laps taking in tricky uphills, breakneck downward sections and hundreds of hidden tree roots ready to catch runners unaware.
With the first eight men and first four ladies from each club counted towards the team totals, finishing positions were key. So three top 10 placings in the women’s standings, from Elaine Livera (3rd), Juliet Nayler (8th) and Isobel Everest (9th), plus the fourth scoring runner - Hannah Broom - 12th enabled BAC to take second, just pipped by Bedford Harriers.
Elaine reflected on another fine top three finish: “I managed to stick just behind one of the girls for half of the first loop when, out of nowhere, another girl passed us so quickly I hardly saw her.
“One bit which was definitely worth mentioning was a downhill muddy section which ended with a sharp right turn. Both times I almost ended up going straight down the hill. I think I definitely lost some time there!”
On the men’s side, Jamie celebrated his 28th birthday with a superb first senior outing.
With coach Paul Davies also joining him among the scoring runners, he expressed surprise at the gameplan: “I was slightly taken aback when the plan involved a sprint off the start line to avoid getting stuck out of place. I gave it everything for the first few seconds to get myself into position for the narrow first uphill section. This paid off as there was no way I could have made up ground if I had ended up too far back.”
“Having struggled across the open field past the start line for the second lap, I was pushed back into sixth half way up the first hill but managed to keep the guy ahead in sight. I did everything I could to make sure I didn’t fall any further back but found the constant change of pace due to the twists and turns hard work.”
In Jamie’s wake were Rob Morgan (24th), Marcus Davey (76th), Nick Haworth (79th), Paul Davies (107th), John Stott (121st), club chairman Damien Pitts (129th) and Charlie Arnold (134th). Their points total left them eighth of 13 clubs on the day, and they lie seventh overall for the season.
Marcus was one of several to find themselves running wary of the various hazards: “Running uphill and avoiding tree roots I can deal with - running downhill on slippy mud is another thing. A lot of concentration was required on that twisty muddy downhill section!”
Charlie said: “Mud puddles, rabbit holes and tree stumps added to the dangers to be avoided as we twisted and turned round the trees on an undulating path before finally getting respite downhill.”
Deb Bryant made a successful to the course for the first time in over a decade, having left last time with a twisted ankle.
Club secretary Hannah returned after an injury-plagued spell: “I had one strategy - go out hard and try to hold on.
“That field and hill was a little much and I had to drop off the pace. Two girls passed me and I was furious with myself, I hunted the first down and overtook her then started to hunt the second.
“My legs were done – the finish was metres away but I did not manage it. I’ll get her next time!”
Carol Garratt was one of the club’s Couch to 5k graduates. She said: “It was my first cross-country run ever! The grass sapped my legs before the killer hill. I loved the woods but did the ‘gentlemanly‘ thing, pulling over to let the front-runners pass.”