It’s over a month since this race took place (24th August), but given the outcome and that I promised to put together a bit of a report, I’ll offer the “better late than never excuse”!
If you’re a regular reader of “Race Reports” you’ll be well familiar with what Harrock Hill involves, and some of the exciting incidents that have occurred over the last two seasons; most noticeably Andy Eccles leaving a large chunk of his arm on a barbed wire fence. This year has been much calmer. A lack of rain has meant that the course has been bone dry for every race, and a concerted effort by the marshals has largely kept the cows in check.
This was the final race of the series (of four), and so not only were race positions up for grabs, but also the series standings, based upon your best three results. The starting field was back to over 200 again after the dip in numbers to 147 in July. Together with the overgrown shrubbery on the first climb to the car park, this made for another congested start. It was odd not to have Harrock stalwart Shona Taylor taking part, as she had conveniently taken off on holiday. The Harriers contingent was Steve Nicholls, Mike “Statto” Harris, Dave Collins and Jayne Taylor.
These races have a familiar way of playing out, as Steve hared off as usual, Mike and me followed at a respectful distance which avoided the bottleneck, while Jayne got caught in the traffic. For me, this was the best contested race of the year, as I engaged in a titanic battle with Statto. We were inseparable up the first hill, then barged a few of the usual “go off too quickly”s out of the way as we headed for Eccy’s stile. At this point, Mike lived up to his boasting of being good downhill by sprinting off into the distance, putting three or four runners between us. “Stay calm, he’ll come back” I told myself. He did eventually, though by now I’d passed several other good runners and Mike certainly wasn’t for giving in.
So it was that we struggled up to the High Moor, where we caught a tantalising glimpse of Steve Nicholls. It really was a classic battle – the master (in age that is) against the (not so young) apprentice. We eventually closed in on the runner ahead of us, and it being his first time in the race, I found myself shouting directions to him. The temptation to send him wrong was strong but he did usefully opened the gates for us. Just before the final descent, Mike took the lead again, but unfortunately was still stuck behind the runner in front which at least allowed me to stay in touch. The Harris downhill running training shone through again as he flew down the last field. The “newboy” picked the wrong line so I passed him as well. By now, there was no stopping Mike, and without last month’s tractor to obstruct him, he sprinted to the line in a massive pb of 36.41; 42 sec improvement and under the magical 37 minute barrier for this course.
Steve Nicholls was first home in 36.07 (14th), Mike was 16th and 3rd Vet 40, I was 17th and 2nd Vet 50 in 36.45, while Jayne did 40.41 (58th, 5th lady, 1st Vet 50). It was another balmy evening, and so we stood outside the pub for the prize giving, pints in hand. Jayne got her fourth box of veg of the year, while I ended my wait to win another, having beaten Rick Bowker into 3rd place. Mike hung around to bask in his glory, under the pretence that he thought we might win the team prize. After some apparently tricky arithmetic, this was awarded to Spectrum Striders, who had two runners in the top ten. Mike’s wait was not in vain though, as Jayne decided that he deserved a box of veg, and promptly gave mine to him!
For the record, five Harriers completed the necessary three races to qualify for the series. Jayne was the most successful, finishing 2nd lady overall and 1st Vet 50. I was (joint) 9th and (joint) 2nd Vet 50. Mike 13th and 2nd Vet 40. Tony Boyle 72nd and Shona 77th.
We really need to get Gary Wane interested in this race!