Chepstow Gwent League Cross-Country – a view from the field

13 Feb

Steve Grant reports

Bristol & West has not hosted a Gwent League Cross-Country race day for a long time and we managed to convince the League to fund a more salubrious venue to
make our return. They very much regarded this type of venue as a new departure and were willing to support it as a trial. We need to wait and see what the League made of the event and its finances. They have a wide ranging questionnaire on their website so if you liked or didn’t like Chepstow, let them know as well sharing your views on other issues such chip timing and gender equality of race distances – https://www.gwent-league.org.uk/

We started investigating venues back in March and settled on Chepstow Racecourse after a viability check on a truly horrendous wet and windy day and a follow up visit to do the detailed course layout on a blistering hot day. That’s British weather for you.

All the exciting stuff of further negotiations with the League, identification and selection of the paramedics, preparation of course information and maps, risk
assessment and scheduling of our on-course marshals eventually got us to the race weekend.

The course was set up on Friday after a trip to Cardiff to get the mats to cover the roads. The first surprise was that the inner rail of the racecourse had been moved near the Start area requiring a course modification and the loss of another interesting up and down. Most other things were as expected but deciding to set the course up on Friday rather than Saturday morning had already paid off. With every stake Bristol & West owns used somewhere on the course, we were ready and hoped the wind wouldn’t give us a wrecked course in the morning. On race day the overnight and daytime weather was being kind and with the marshals deployed, the U11’s got the races going. You have to love the enthusiasm of this age group and with decent size fields they give us all some encouragement
about the future of the sport.

All was going well until we realised the ‘link lap’ could have been better laid out. After a quick redistribution of our on-course marshals, “ assertive vocal stakes and tape” were deployed to clear the path for runners doing multiple laps. It wasn’t perfect but it worked, and is about the only significant area we need to modify if there is a next time, but it is an easy fix.

The races were clicking past with plenty of opportunity for the marshals to cheer on our red and white vests and the good representations from the other Bristol clubs despite the South-West schools event being held on the same day. There was lots of watch checking going on in the younger age groups so maybe our  coaches could have a word.

The SW & Masters race looked like a B&W takeover from the front of the field to about 1/3 rd of the way down, and the fantastic results back that up. Marshals have to be ready for all eventualities and a very hot and distressed Newport runner stripped off just to the point of decency, thrust her second layer top into our Marshals arms saying something like “too hot,.. can’t .run , too warm” and then she was off putting her vest back on as she ran. What a great competitive attitude.

The biggest test of any course is the race with the largest field, in this case it was the SM & Masters race and it was a proper spectacle to behold. As the leaders approached the middle of the course, you could still see a solid trail of moving men on the far hill about 800m away. One of the paramedic teams couldn’t get over the number of runners and the level of effort that was being expelled, and they are well used to attending sporting events.

After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the clear up, and it is then that you realise how big the course is. With a small band of helpers and the ability to get cars on the
course, we got there but not quite quick enough to get the last of us off site before they locked the gates. It’s only funny now because we chanced over someone who had keys after about 30 minutes.

On to the roll of honour for making this event happen:

  • The very special on-the day volunteers in alphabetical order– Neil Barratt, Matt Burden, Tom Burgess, Tanya Chowdery and children, Sian Davis, Chris Elson, Ellen Harrison, Nicky Hodges, Bill Hull, Tariq Kurd, Sarah McNamara, Rosey Mushens and Paul Owen
  • The very very special on-the-day volunteers who had no reason to be at Chepstow other than to help out – Mike Lewin, Nick Roberts and Fliss Russell
  • The event preparation and course layout team – Keith Brackstone, Roger Brockelsby, Steve Grant and Owain Jones