The sun was shining over Claybury on Saturday as over 500 runners toed the line for the opening fixture of the 2017/18 Start Fitness Metropolitan Cross Country League. As with every year, we go into the cross-country season with high hopes, full of enthusiasm and looking to progress on where we finished last year. We mustered 18 Woodies who began the 5 mile race and all battled hard to enable the team to finish 5th for the opening match of the season.
The stand out performance of the day was Adam Kirk-Smith (above) who was making his green and white cross-country debut. The talented steeplechaser did not disappoint, holding off quality runners such as Nick Torry to take our first individual victory since Matt Gunby won at Claybury in 2008. Following Adam home was young 800m international, Canaan Solomon (right) who had a very strong run to finish 16th. This was a fantastic performance for the youngster who has just settled into university life in Twickenham. In his 69th consecutive Met League, the reformed marathon man Bertie Powell was a 3rd runner home, running very strongly for 31st spot in a very competitive field. Only 12" behind was our 4th finisher Tom Beedell in 37th. Tom will no doubt get stronger as the cross-country season progresses and will climb his way up the finishing positions.
Cutting through the field, Daniel Steel was next up - after a steady start he worked his way up the field for a 43rd place finish. This was a well-paced effort from Dan who got some reasonable Woodie scalps on the way! Fresh off a 6-month travelling trip, Tom Phillips was two places further back in 45th. Although he is still shy of a few weeks training, Tom demonstrated great natural talent to finish so high up. He will no doubt get stronger as the season progresses. Separated by just 3", our next two runners home were Simon Beedell and Darren Southcott who finished 66th and 67th respectively. Simon just managed to get the better of the men's team manager up the finishing hill but both had reasonable runs based on the training they have put in over the last few weeks.
9th scorer was the resurgent Gareth Cavell who came home in 121st place. This was a strong run from Gareth, and although slightly disappointed to be outside the 30 minute mark, he will be pleased when he sees he was 5th in his M45 age group. Another athlete making a return in a Woodford vest was Rob Wilbraham. We welcome Rob, a good clubman, back into the fold after a brief break, and he enjoyed his return finishing 148th and filling the spot of our 10th scorer. 8 and 15 specialist and super V40 Pete Caton was 11th scorer in 191st. Another who was initially disappointed, he will no doubt get stronger with a few more miles in his legs after he adjusts from the quicker track training where he had great success over the summer. Closing the team was M50 Paul Major in 233rd. Another solid run from a Woodford athlete who was pleased to break into the scoring 12 and bringing the team home for 5th overall.
As this was the first fixture, this leaves us lying 5th in the league but with small gaps to those ahead, this is a solid platform for us to build on and climb the ladder throughout the remaining four fixtures.
Opening up the scoring for the B team was Richard Holland. Richard finished in 248th place and 6th in his age category. 30 places further back we had James Perry in 275th. This was a good run out for James who has one eye on his next marathon, New York, just three weeks away. Alun Evans was our 14th man home, finishing in 340th and 14th in his age group. He managed to hold off the charges of fellow V55 Paul Stockings who finished 14 places behind in 354th. One who looked to be enjoying the warm weather was Tom Spanyol who finished in 417th. This was good training for his next race which happens to be a 10k in Benidorm where he'll most likely experience similar temperatures to Saturday! Closing out the team were our two V65 runners, Roger Green and Trever Powell finishing in 454th and 483rd respectively. This left the B team lying in 14th in Division three for the league.
Many thanks to those that helped organise and marshal our home fixture on Saturday. It was a great effort by all! We now turn our attention to the next fixture at Welwyn Garden City on the 11th November.
It's become a pleasant pattern for a sunny start to the Start Fitness Met League and Saturday’s home fixture - at a Mediterranean 19 degrees - was glorious. Hard, dry and rutted was the going. Record-breaking was the turn-out - with over 1048 finishers you’d be forgiven for thinking you were at a major regional event. Perhaps you were.
Whispers of a “massive field” were already beginning as the Women lined up ahead of “the funnel”. Just shy of 2015’s record breaking 218, 211 women finished on Saturday; among them a modest sextet in green and white.
Renowned cross country lover V40 Kat Gundersen (17, right)was both first scorer for Woodford and the fastest Vet on the day. Doubting her fitness earlier in the week as work had got in the way of training, Gundo was minded to give the race a miss. We’re glad she didn’t. Second was Suzanne Turvey (20) in her first Club race after a year away travelling and very pleased (almost) to have picked up where she left off. Making it 3 in 31 was 800m specialist Anna Clark who, after a speedy summer, found the new pace setting of “snail” necessary to cover the additional 5200 meters of this course something of an adjustment. Home in fourth was Rachel Lund (51) with a strong run after her recent marathon debut at Berlin. Just behind her, fellow endurance lover Zoe Watson (53) made it fifth and closing for the team V50 Jenny Thomas (88) was sixth.
Closing the day in 6th place in Division 1, 74 points behind leaders Serpentine, leaves us with a lot of catching up to do to get into this competition. Promoted back to Vets Division 1 our lack of depth on the day left us 7th despite Gundo’s standout individual performance.