The Worcester Beacon Race, promoted by Worcester AC, has a long and noble history. 42 years ago, a sketch of the Malvern Hills appeared on the front cover of the inaugural Fell Runners Association fixtures calendar as the Beacon Race was among the original events listed. The course has changed over time [it used to start at the bottom of the town] but it has always been splendidly organised and attracted a top-notch field, drawing runners from far and wide.
A boast made in the entry-form is that the race also has a history of being blessed with fine autumnal weather and over the years many runners have donned racing flats to good effect. This year, such a choice was not to be recommended. First, a shower of hail and rain greeted the three Couriers present as they gingerly emerged from their vehicles. And then as the race got underway and hope faded that this was merely a passing weather system, the clouds disgorged their swollen, frozen load for as long as the 250 or so runners were out on the course. Not only was it cold on the summit but there were ankle-deep streams to traverse on the way down.
Perhaps because Eliot was wearing only a vest, not having had time to fetch something warmer from the car, he started off at a brisk pace in the top ten, which gradually became a foursome, with one other man some way ahead. Before the summit, the four became two, including Eliot and, as the descent began, the young Courier was clear in second, hot on the heels of the leader whose choice of footwear was now beginning to find him out. Quickly then into the lead, Eliot was away, with no one now going to catch him, given his brave and agile descending. In fact, as he stormed into the Rose Garden finish, the rain still hammering down, his early arrival took spectators and timekeepers somewhat by surpise and he clocked a mightily impressive 45.18 for the 7 miles, 46 seconds clear of the second man. Even more to his credit, his time was one and a quarter minutes faster than the winning time from last year [run in far more favourable conditions] by an athlete from Ambleside. Eliot’s dad, Tim, had some great races on the Beacon but never got to win it but he was delighted to see his son triumph in such spectacular style. This is surely the breakthrough race we have been expecting from Eliot for some time. So much more to come!
Did I say there were two other Couriers running? Oh yes, the V60 twin Steves. One in thick black webbing beneath his Couriers vest and sporting hat and gloves, the other in a tank-top designed to highlight the contours of his rippling torso. As expected, the hatted one haired from the off and led his comrade to the top like the faithful domestique he is, whereupon Littlewood [name names] surged across rocks to gain a 20 m advantage on the first descent. Herington clawed back 10 m on the next incline as Littlewood looked back anxiously but then as the descent began to unfurl, the younger man strode through gulley and teeming torrent, increasing his advantage to the end, finishing 68th in 57.32 with Herington 70th 58.14. It was no consolation to the latter that he had comfortably beaten the V60 who had pushed him into 2nd the last 3 years. But spare a thought for Littlewood. I guessed he must have got the win but the results revealed soon enough that a runner neither of us knew had been ahead, finishing 61st in 56.50.
Well, you win some, you lose some. Or should it be some of us win and some of us lose?Whatever, a fine day’s sport in the foul. And it didn’t bother me one jot to find that Hereford had been bathed in sunshine all afternoon. It bothered me a lot.
Eliot’s Garmin Readout: