Club Quartet Contest National at Sunderland – Saturday 23rd February 2013

It is a sad day for the club when only four athletes compete in the National cross-country championships. The long journey to Sunderland was always going to impact on the numbers who were prepared to make the long journey – and that wasn’t just from Bristol. For once the weather forecast was 100% accurate and the snow that was supposed to fall overnight prior to the race came and flurries the morning of the race were also well forecast. The outcome was a course that wasn’t quite as bad as Stafford Common for the Midlands – but as the photos on Charlotte’s Facebook page testify it still made for a difficult mix that became deeper mud as the afternoon wore on.

Kate Goodhead had advised the team manager at the beginning of the week that it would take a miracle for her to compete. By Thursday although still not over her chest infection she was up for a trip away and to give it her best shot. Club stalwarts Charlotte Green, Jenny Jagger and Owain Jones were always up for the challenge. The plans went – well according to plan – although the journey there took longer than forecast. Still a good meal and a good night’s sleep left just a short trip to the buses that were shuttling athletes to the start.

Kate took off as though she hadn’t had a chest infection that was still lingering and passed the mile and a half point around 27th. Behind her Jenny was 41st and Charlotte just outside the top 70. Into the second lap and Jenny showed the strength from her London Marathon training as she continued to move through. Kate’s illness was catching up with her but she had built up quite a cushion that saw her hold onto a top 50 slot (just). Charlotte too was showing good strength on the hills and ability through the mud well into the second lap. At the end Jenny finished 30th in 33.17 for a very difficult 8k, behind her Kate was 50th in 34.36 with Charlotte 66th in 35.27. Jenny and Charlotte performed exceptionally well as National first-timers – I doubt they will forget the experience in a hurry. Kate was happy to get round and now plans to run the Gwent League before running the Inter-Counties for Gloucestershire. The three ladies scored 146 points and with runners up scoring 174 someone placing in the top 28 could have seen the club take the silver medals they won last year at Parliament Hill and certainly bettering Serpentine’s 231 points for third place should have been well within our reach – still it’s about getting your teams to the start and we didn’t and there are a number of other clubs who could have made the same claim. There were 427 finishers in the Senior Ladies’ race.

In the Men’s race Owain Jones was our only runner and Owain’s racing is very much dictated by managing on-going knee and Achilles tendon problems – so a tough 12k was always going to be a big ask. A tumble on the first lap didn’t make the task any easier as by the end of the afternoon the surface became very difficult in parts. To finish in the top 100 of the Men’s Race is always a good bench mark but I am sure Owain would have been looking to get closer to the top 50. In the end he had to battle all the way to the line to settle for 96th in 46.03.

Former club members Suzie Richards and Jon Wills were both running (coincidentally both for Leeds) and Tuesday night regular Lucy O’Gorman finished 22nd for her club (Sale Harriers) now there’s a thought thinking back to my earlier comment about a placing in the top 28 would have given the women a silver medal.

Let’s hope that next winter will see us getting far stronger teams out when the Midland Counties takes its turn to host the Nationals.