Mike Down’s South West XC countdown no2

10 Dec

Following last week’s individual and team triumph in the Tri-Counties cross championships, our runners split their resources this past weekend between the much vaunted Telford 10K and the domestic challenge of the third Gwent League race at Blaise Castle.

The Blaise race was particularly significant for the long awaited comeback of the club’s former junior international BEN WESTHENRY and return from injury of ANDY CHAMBERS. These two were joined among others by ANDY WATT, whose progress has been a revelation this autumn but who himself was returning from an inactive fortnight’s holiday in South America.

So there were question marks all round, but the way Ben attacked the three undulating three lap course from the start you could have thought he had never been away! He took the bull by the horns, opening up a lead of as much as 30-40 metres on the first two laps, but a combination of an ankle roll suffered midrace and a predictable reaction to such an aggressive approach in his first race for two years saw him run out of gas on the last lap and have to settle for 7th place at the end.
Nonetheless it was a remarkable resumption to what had been a promising junior career before an overuse shin injury suffered during a short athletics schoalarship stay in the U.S. left him so exasperated that he made an early return to the UK. Now happily based back with his alma mater in Bristol studying for a Ph.D. and hopefully finally clear of his chronic shin problem, it should not be long before he underlines his outstanding natural talent.

While one’s attention was inevitably focussed on Ben’s comeback effort, behind him ANDY CHAMBERS, who had shown fine early season form finishing not far behind JACK MILLAR in October’s Cardiff cross challenge, was also returning to action after before being sidelined for the past month due to an ankle sprain suffered warming up for the Cardiff race together with a recurrence of the back problem that grounded him for the first half of the year. Unlike Ben he purposely started cautiously, and although never in contact with the leaders soon worked his way through to a position in the top six and gradually closed the gap to finish in 4th place in a race that he thought he could have won if his training had not been interrupted. Like Ben he still has plenty of time to prepare for the championships early in the new year.

Andy and Ben’s efforts sandwiched those of ANDY WATT and JOHNNY SUTTLE, who both took their time to work their way through a number of the early
pacesetters to finish 5th and 6th respectively just ahead of Ben. Andy, having missed a couple of weeks running, decided to refrain from racing hard early on, which clearly acted as a spur to Johnny, who underlined his ongoing progress by producing what was arguably his besr ever performance on the country.

Four in the first seven must have removed any lingering concerns team manager CHRIS ELSON may have held about the club’s continued domination of the men’s League, while to underline it behind our leading quartet  MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI (15th), GRAHAM BREEN (18th), OLLIE SHEPPARD (20th), ROB FARLEY (21st), PETE BAINS (39th) and ANDY DRAKE (54th) provided further backup in the huge field of some 400 runners.

As for the Telford 10K, like the also much heralded Leeds Abbey Dash, it more than lived up to its reputation for producing fast times, with Scotland’s ADAM CRAIG winning in a spectacular 28:32 from Birchfield’s Ethiopian born OMAR AHMED (28:39). HARRY ALLEN as expected headed the B&W contingent and duly set a new personal best by just over a quarter of a minute at 30:17. Frustrated as he was at not finally realising his dream of breaking the 30 minute barrier for the first time that had been fuelled by three weeks altitude training in Kenya and a best ever mile rep session midweek at Aztec West, it was his first race since the National 6-srtage relay in early October and the culmination of a heavy training mileage during the interim that he had decided not to ease up for before yesterday’s event. Clearly there is much more to come from Harry down the line, especially when one considers that he was more than a minute slower at Telford last year.

Our new Tri-Counties champion FELIX MCGRATH, who conveniently had just taken up a new locum appoitment at a Telford hospital, was just outside his pb with a time of 31:04, and he will probably rationalise that his recent solo training on the hilly terrain of North Wales where he has been based was hardly ideal preparation for a fast course like Telford’s.

Further back there were new pb’s all round. Recent recruit JOE CONNORS clipped nearly half a minute off his previous best to dip under 32mins for the first time with 31:58. JED BARTLETT was hoping to go faster, but his 32:39 still shaved second or so off his best, while ANDY COOKE and BEN MALLIPHANT were both only a few seconds from breaking 33mins for the first time with times of 33:04 and 33:06 respectively. On the debit side ADAM WILSON unfortunately failed to finish despite apparently setting a 5K pb at halfway. Perhaps Ads should offer his services to the society of pacemakers as finishing is not part of the deal and he could indulge what he does best! Joking apart, I am sure he will eventually get the message and fulfil his undoubted talent.

Not to be outdone KURT TAYLOR reports a multiterrain Parkrun effort of 15:48 in Surrey that was nearly half a minute faster than he recorded last year on the same course. Keep it up guys!!