MESSY MORNING IN MERV’S MONKHALL MUD
Just because the sun had shone all day on Saturday, no one had illusions that it would dry up a course that proved to be one of the most testing in League history. Unsurprisingly, Merv had sought out areas likely to be the most claggy and treacherous and came up with a new second lap, making the distance a shorter but more punishing nigh-on 10K.
Couriers rolled into the farm with a complement of 12, poor Andrea outnumbered 11 to one by the magnificent specimens that make up our male eh, outfit. After his fine, hard-fought victory in the NYD 10K which also offered [colder, I am told ] water features, our main man, Eliot faced the two rivals he had battled with then. Again, it was a close race, but perhaps with his speed blunted by the conditions, Eliot found himself pushed into third [half a minute down on the winner] by Jonny Pugh and Jim Richards, who retained his county title.
Second Courier on the day was Club amphibian, Mike Link who had an absolute stormer in 5th [2nd V40 behind Richards.] As we jogged back down to the barns, the unmistakeable tones of a catchy little melody from the ’60s wafted on the dank air towards me, ” One, two, three, how elementary it’s going to be, it’s easy, so easy, like…” “Taking candy from a baby, Mike?” “Precisely”, he replied. He then went on to explain how, following a forensic examination of the course, conducted in the field and the confines of his oak-panelled study during the long nights of Christmas, he had concluded that a softly, softly approach to the race was necessary in the conditions. The reference then to the forced removal of confectionary from infants was an indication of the ease with which he had scythed through the field in the latter stages. “Planning and Execution” as Eliot would say.
Poor Matt, running in not the most suitable shoes on the day, wound up an unfamiliar 11th but, with Luke close in 14th, managed to cement 2nd team position, with our overall Series lead still solid.
Our B team [aka Dad’s army] consisted of Tim, finding the race a slog after time out with illness, but still a creditable 21st [2nd V50]; Dave, having a much better run than in the last race despite having injured his ankle a couple of weeks ago on the unforgiving Hereford roads, 25th [3rd V50]; Geoff, his lovely loping gait a tad compromised by the mud 32nd [2nd V60 behind the outrageously talented and colt-like Mike Warrick]; and the Herring, gills flapping, 40th [1st V65].
Next in was Neil in 48th, obviously having had a far too enjoyable Christmas, with new signing, Nigel Reade, inspired into competition by his offspring, a promising 55th; and fellow Hereford and County Tough of the Track, the mighty Kev, causing extensive damage to the field margins, rumbling home in 61st.
In the women’s race run over the same course, Andrea paced herself well and, having been admonished by a marshall for laughing on the run, crossed the line in 38th.
The final race of the Series is at Presteigne on Feb 2nd when we will be hoping to clinch the men’s title for the first time in a few years. Let’s aim for a bumper turn-out. And please do your hair and trowel the make-up on, there will be photographs.
Before I reach for the eye-liner, I must reveal that, with only the above fixture to go, Eliot leads the Woodford Green Cup competition from Matt and Mike, while in the John Norton Trophy, Bev is on course to retain her title with Andrea in silver medal spot. Presentations to be made at AGM, probably Sunday 23rd Feb.