24 Dec


Miles “it’s only the races that matter” Chandler followed up his victory in the Old Blues Varsity cross-country match three weeks ago by franking the bookies’ odds to score another convincing win in the Downs Fitness Christmas Handicap.

The event first staged in 1982 and contested over the ensuing 25 years by most of the club’s leading distance runners, including internationals Rob Whalley, Ian Gillespie, Jo Pavey,and Kate Reed, was eventually discontinued some ten years ago for organisational reasons. It has now been resurrected on an informal basis and given further interest could be expanded next year.

Run round a figure of eight course on the Downs just short of 3 miles (the Garmin experts tell me 2.9), it produced the customary tight finish with the small invitation field all finishing within little more than a minute of each other. But once Miles, sensing he had been given a favourite’s chance, had caught one of his training partners Adam Wilson as well as the other frontrunners and taken the lead approaching the final half mile along the Avenue of Trees, he never looked  back and comfortably held off the chasing pack to finish 17 seconds in front and leave the handicapper with egg on his face for doubting his credentials.

Nevertheless early on it had looked as if first man off Pete Mountain might just have fooled the handicapper even more decisively. Cast as the hare, he seemed determined to live up to the role by sprinting off the start as if his life depended on holding off the chasing hounds and was almost out of sight and already heading down to the Sea Walls before fellow vet and club stalwart Tony Roper and leading lady Charlotte Taylor-Green had even set off  in pursuit.

Clearly set on giving his rivals a real Mountain to climb, Pete presumably reckoned that the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” might apply, but unfortunately at some point he began to run out of fuel, and once he turned for home down the Avenue of trees, there were signs of distress etched on his face as he fought to hold off the rabid pack headed by the inscrutable Miles , for whom 3 of them is surely chicken feed with a christian name like that. Poor Pete had climbed his own mountain, only to be denied from reaching the summit.

Meanwhile behind Miles Josh Moody, Kurt Taylor and Owain Jones were involved in a real ding-dong for the minor honours as they carved their way through through the early starters, among whom Josh Habgood-Coote, Adam Wilson, and Scott Watkins were the last to succumb, though they still had just enough left to hold off the two flying backmarkers Callum Jones and Johnny Thewlis, who just needed another quarter of a mile to make their presence felt.

With strong winds and rain falling throughout the race on a surface already softened by the weeks’ wet onslaught, Rob Whalley’s remarkable course record of 13:16 was never likely to be threatened, but it was heartening to see as many as six of the runners clocking under 15 minutes, headed as expected by Johnny Thewlis’ 14:21. Even so Kurt, Owain and Callum were all within 15 seconds of the Notts international and Josh less than half a minute. Mind you Johnny had enough left to quickfoot it round the course again in a time only just outside 15mins.

While bringing up the rear Charlotte seemed obsessed with not veering more than a second or two from her prescribed tempo pace, but still managed to dip under 17mins, her time of 16:53 being only marginally more outside the women’s record of 15:36 set by former Welsh champion Melissa Watson in 1986 than Johnny had been shy of Rob Whalley’s spectacular mark.

From the handicapping point of view all bar the winner and lanterne rouge finished within little more than half a minute of each other to ensure a challenging end to the race, while on behalf of all who took part I would like to thank Richard Ford of Easy Runner for providing the prizes and both Chris Elson and Dave Taylor for helping officiate.  Finally I would like to wish all our runners a Happy Christmas and triumphant New Year, beginning at Yeovil, Clevedon and Mountain Ash next week!!


RESULTS – HANDICAP: 1 Miles Chandler 18:35; 2 Josh Moody 18:52; 3 Kurt Taylor 18:55; 4 Owain Jones 19:03; 5 Josh Habgood-Coote 19:04; 6 Adam Wilson 19:08; 7 Scott Watkins 19:12; 8 Callum Jones 19:15; 9 Andy Watt 19:18; 10 Tony Roper 19:18; 11 Johnny Thewlis 1921; 12 Pete Mountain 19:26; 13 Charlotte Taylor-Green 19:43.

FASTEST TIMES (Handicap Prediction): 1 Thewlis 14:21 (+21); 2 Taylor 14:30 (-05); 3 O Jones 14:33 (+03) 4 C Jones 14:35 (+15); 5 Moody 14:47 (-08); 6 Chandler 14:55 (-25); 7 Watt 15:18 (+18); 8 Wilson 15:43 (+08); 9 Habgood-Coote 16:04 (+04); 10 Watkins 16:32 (+12); 11 Roper V55 16:48 (+18); 10 Taylor-Green 16:53 (+43); 13 Mountain V60 19:26 (+26)

Very interesting!Many thanks for this.Love it!