Biggleswade Athletic Club enjoyed a marvellously muddy return to cross-country action in windy Wellingboroughat the weekend.
Elaine Livera continued her brilliant year in crossing the line as first female on her debut in the Three Counties XC league.
She was followed soon after by a stream of clubmates as BAC comfortably took the ladies’ team honours.
The main event was preceded by an impeccably observed minute’s silence and rapturous applause for Vikki Vowles, who passed away in August. Vikki made her bow in cross-country at the same venue last October, and endured a muddy dunking and faceplant at its hazardous stream crossing for her troubles.
The newbies were spared the notorious crossing this year on a revamped Croyland Park course, but still had to make their way across Swanspool Brook in whichever way best suited. At the first attempt, taking off from a slightly elevated bank, it was just about jumpable for some competitors, but most opted to make a splash and wade through, either by jumping in, or easing their way in gently.
On the way back however, after hundreds of running spikes and trail studs had carved up the ground it was a completely different proposition. Mud and water was almost waist high for many, with little respite ahead on the far bank as a mile of steep hills remained before the finish.
The first eight men and first four ladies from each club counted towards the team totals.
Charlie Arnold said: “We passed through the brook, some to splash through, some to jump, some to not quite make it much to the amusement of cheering onlookers. Then, round a long stretch of inclines and banks, made more difficult by running up them at a difficult angle.”
Even those at the top of the leaderboard experienced muddy mishaps. Elaine said: “When we reached
the river crossing the two girls leading showed off their grace by clearing the ditch. I said to myself: ‘I’ve
jumped fairly far before, I’m sure if they can clear it, I might be able to, I’m the same height...’ Oh how
wrong I was. It was a very convincing face plant and I was soaked through!”
Marcus Davey added: “The course really sapped my legs - I suppose that makes the event a success!
There were plenty of undulations, steep hills and tricky cambers that tested my Mudclaw running shoes to the limit.”
Coach Giles Hawthorne epitomised the team spirit on display, and as well as being among the points- scoring finishers for the men’s team, he ran alongside Natalie Morgan, offering encouragement and a helping hand at the stream crossings.
He praised the “strength in depth” of the ladies team, where even non-scorers played their part by relegating rival club runners further down the standings.
Juliet Nayler came in as sixth lady, and with Natalie ninth and Isobel Everest 11th, it proved an unbeatable team score, relegating North Herts Road Runners to second and Bedford Harriers in third.
On the men’s side, Rich Bevan was the first BAC athlete home in an excellent 13th overall, with Rob Morgan 22nd, and the rest of the points scoring coming from Nick Haworth (57th), Marcus (59th), Paul Cooke (68th), Paul Davies (73rd), John Stott (97th) and Giles (110th).
This equated to a men’s team finish of a mid-table sixth from 13 teams, while the overall combined result, meant the club were fifth.
On the same morning, four BAC athletes took to the streets of Cambridge for the Town and Gown 10k race.
On a flat course, sheltered from the bulk of the blustery winds, Julian Brunt was first of the quartet home, beating the hour mark to finish in 59min 20sec for 116th in the MV40 standings and 1028th overall. Louise Pike (1:05.26, 138th FV35, 1285 overall) and Shani Giddings (1:05.59, 38th in the FV55 category and 1300th overall) were delighted with personal bests, as was Carol Garratt, whose debut race at the distance yielded a time of 1:26.58 (57th FV55, 1529 overall).
Results - Three Counties XC race 1, Wellingborough:
Rich Bevan overall position 13/men’s standings 13; Rob Morgan 22/22; Elaine Livera overall position 54/ladies’ standings 1; Nick Haworth 60/57; Marcus Davey 62/59; Paul Cooke 73/68; Paul Davies 78/73; Juliet Nayler 87/6; John Stott 97/104.
Natalie Morgan 118/9; Giles Hawthorne 119/110; Isobel Everest 125/11; Charlie Arnold 127/116; Aaron Ball 129/117; Damien Pitts 138/125; Emma Bailey 163/18; Gary Baldwin 212/176; Stuart Goodwin 219/182;
Nigel Bush 231/189; Neil Harvey 238/192; James Rastrick 245/196.
Kathryn Juty 258/59; Robin Wynde 265/203; Ian Grimwood 278/210; Richard Dilley 279/211; Nicky Double 290/77; Julet Grimwood 307/90; Ricky Byrne 330/221; Julie Spavins 334/112; Helen Kapur 335/113; Ruth King 343/121; Julie Cooke 344/122; Malcolm Steward DNF.