MIKE DOWN’S EASY RUNNER XMAS HANDICAP

23 Dec

ORIENTEERS ROCK THE BOAT

The scene was set. The weather gods for once in recent days were smiling and there was even a rare glimpse of winter sunshine as our own bunch of elite runners – perish the word, but in reality an even stronger line-up that had graced the Weston Prom race some 40 hours earlier – prowled around the start area primed for action in the BTC’s race of the year. Nervous glances were exchanged between the major contenders as they adjusted their watches convinced that this year one of them near the back would finally make their superiority pay and make a mockery of the handicapping.

Sad to say their hopes were once again to be thwarted and the status quo to prevail. But how on earth could a couple of orienteers dominate the proceedings that followed? I’d even overheard one runner comment when told that there were a couple of international orienteers competing that they would only have a chance if there were no markers and nobody knew which way to go! Nothing however could have been further from the mark. Even so I wondered how they could possibly end up dominating the race until it finally dawned on me that freed from the shackles of navigating their way round, and with only a few cones to spot and follow this was really chicken feed for them. For heaven’s sake they didn’t have to think about where they were going, but just run fast. Come on handicapper you were giving it to them on a plate!

Perhaps in retrospect we should have realised that our two stars of the day MEGAN CARTER-DAVIES and BEN MITCHELL, who away from the world of map
and compass actually happen to be partners are used to chasing each other, let alone their opponents, and that’s just what they did!

So how did it all happen? The early action concerned a race within a race as our supervet and coach DAVE BEDWELL set off determined to avenge his recent defeat by KATRINA ENTWHISTLE, who had just outsprinted him in a Gwent League race. In due deference to his age Dave had been given a ten second start on Katrina, but though there was never more than a handful of seconds between them, the 40 or so years age difference told in the end and Katrina just managed to overhaul him.

Both of them however were to be caught by Megan, the first off of our two flying orienteers , who not only made up the minute she gave them, but as she came up the avenue of trees way in front with no more than half a mile to go, it seemed only an orienteering control to visit would give any of those leading the chase behind her a chance. Little however did she realise that hot in pursuit was partner Ben, who was having a rare old tussle with fellow orienteer and cross-country master OWAIN JONES, who despite his lack of any significant training over the past couple of months due to a chronic knee strain was determined to finish near the front to give himself time to warm up the mince pies for the post race feast. Who in fact could have had a better adviser than our cross captain, and as the pair of them
rounded the final football field he told Ben ther was still time to catch Megan and urged him to have a go. It was the prompt any stalker needs and with his confidence no doubt boosted by his recent participation for GB in the World championship sprint relay in China, he took his cue and tore after his girl friend sprint. Yet just as it looked as if he would reel her in, she suddenly produced her own explosive burst of speed to hold him off and leave him literally speechless. One can only counsel Ben to never let Megan off the leash, or maybe even with speed like that to suggest she might be a middle distance runner in the making.

While the orienteers ended up having the race to themselves at the front, there had been plenty of incident behind them. First casualty had been ADAM WILSON, who renowned for his pacemaking exploits, clearly felt his job had been done after blasting the opening mile and simply pulled up before literally vanishing into thin air, though apparently there was no truth to the rumour that he had headed home for fear of a dope test on account of his fantastic early pace.

With Adam out of contention and the three orienteers already away and gone, it was left to CALLUM JONES, BEN WESTHENRY and KURT TAYLOR, who had all started among the backmarkers to fight out the minor positions behind them rather than the original scratchmen JOHNNY THEWLIS and HARRY ALLEN, who unsurprisingly were feeling the effects of their spectacular runs at Weston.

Johnny, in characteristic style, had set off as if his life depended on it and had hauled Harry in within half a mile of the start. Harry did briefly try to go with him, but to his credit he stuck at it and ironically was to finish no more than the same 11 second margin behind him that he had been at Weston, though of course Johnny had bridged the 10 second start he had given him.

If those two were suffering an energy hangover, spare a thought for ANDY WATT, who never fails to surprise and once again here was no exception as he was suffering from a more conventional hangover, though there was no truth apparently to the suspicion that his late arrival at the finish was due to an enforced toilet stop.

How fortunes can change in 40 hours, for in the end it was Kurt Taylor, our third finisher at the Prom, who stole the bragging rights as the fastest on the day. Yet this too was only after a protracted chase of his 10 second man Ben Westhenry, whose stunning return to form after nearly two years out with a niggling shin injury was surely the performance of the race. Ben simply refused to be reeled in, while for his own part he too just failed in his own pursuit of his frequent training partner Callum Jones. In the end no catch was made, though just ten seconds separated them at the finish in 4th, 5th and 6th positions, while their frenzied chase left Callum just two seconds away from Owain and only a couple more from our triumphant orienteers.  Kurt’s 14:37, Ben’s 14:42 and Callum’s 14:52 proved to be the first, second and fourth fastest actual times, with Johnny Thewlis’ 14:46 third best and no one else under 15mins.

So back to our orienteering stars. Nobody could claim they had deceived the handicapper as both of them finished within a quarter of a minute of their predicted times, while overall it was one of the closest finishes ever. Just 15 seconds separated the top six, while 14 of the 18 finishers were within half a minute of their handicap marks with only poor suffering Andy and JOSH MOODY, who purposely eased off due to a tightened adductor muscle, more than a minute adrift. Finally a word of thanks to Ricard Ford at Easy Runner for sponsoring this epic race again that dates back to the 1980’s!

HANDICAP (predicted times: faster – slower+) 1 Megan Carter-Davies 18:07 (-0.13); 2 Ben Mitchell 18:08 (-0.12); 3 Owain Jones 18:10 (-0.10); 4 Callum Jones 18:12 (-0.08); 5 Ben Westhenry 18:17 (-0.03); 6 Kurt Taylor 18:22 (-0.02); 7 Johnny Suttle 18:28 (+0.08); 8 Pete Bains 18:30 (+0.10); 9 Katrina Entwhistle 18:37 (+0.17); 10 Dave Bedwell (+0.22); 11 Maciej Bialogonski 18:44 (+0.24); 12 Tony Roper 18:48 (+0.28); 13 Johnny Thewlis 18:51 (+0.31); 14 David Awde 18:51 (+0.31); 15 Harry Allen 19:02 (+0.42); 16 Alex Crossland 19:14 (+0.54); 17 Josh Moody 19:27 (+1.07); 18 Andy Watt 20:57 (+2.37).

Fastest – Men: 1 Taylor 14:37; 2 Westhenry 14:42; 3 Thewlis 14:46; 4 C Jones 14:52; 5 Allen 15:07; 6 O Jones 15:20; 7= Mitchell, Suttle 15:23; 9= Bialogonski, Crossland 15:49; 11 Bains 16:15; 12 Awde 16:16; 13 Moody 16:17; 14 Watt 17:27; 15 Roper 17:28 (V50); 16 Bedwell 18:42 (V65).