Woodford's senior men sit third in the Met League table after a fifth-placed finish in a high-quality field at Welwyn Garden City. The new coalition of team managers feel this was a solid start to their tenure and will look to address the mainly safety-pin related teething problems before the next fixture. Several long-established members put in good runs, and the future looks bright with two under-20s in our scoring 12 but we also had two Vet-60s closing the team out. With Highgate taking the league by the scruff of its neck with their victory in this fixture, the race is on for 2nd place, and Woodford will need to improve to rival VPH for this spot.
Thanks are due to Dave Hollingworth for the particularly welcome tent, under which the team could both shelter and draw inspiration from the impressive young athlete performances earlier in the day. The unsurprising Welwyn rain was more drifting than driving in the still but cold conditions, but the cambered muddy surface was greasy. Two long bottlenecks in the first half-mile produced their own challenges, with all but the fastest starters reduced to a walking pace, and at the front elbows required to keep the cheekiest or most unrealistic opposition from trying to squirm ahead. Tom Beedell’s pre-race caffeine boost and aggressive start prepared him particularly well for the resulting argy-bargy.
First in was Ahmed Abdulle in 11th. Ahmed was dropped by the lead group early, but his strength to hold his own from there has the makings of a future winner in this young man with Essex League victories already to his name.
Tom Beedell came through in 31st, moving through the field and steadily increasing his lead over our third scorer throughout the second and third of the three laps. Feeling particularly bedraggled, this was Angus Holford in 51st, reflecting "I didn’t get a great start. But I didn't get a great finish either, so maybe the start was as hard as it needed to be". After enjoying his run out in the Colchester sunshine at the North Essex and South Suffolk Sunday league last week, this was a reminder of what opposition, and conditions - real cross-country - can throw at us.
Bertie Powell completed his 80th consecutive Met League, and 75th in the scoring team, in 79th place. Regrettably, his beloved Arsenal could not follow his example and also score at an important away fixture in the rain against opposition having a good season. He led a cascade of Woodford scorers close behind, with James Stockings in 88th holding off VideshWeerakkody, whose spectacular sprint finish for 91st in turn edged out Dan Steel (92nd), who he led for most of the race before a tussle commenced on the final hill. It bodes well that the most important competitive spirit of all – that of beating one’s own teammates – is burning so brightly with Videsh, an 800m and 1500m specialist. Dan is returning to racing after toughing out the Chicago marathon last month, and felt his start was too passive, with the delays in the bottleneck putting paid distressingly early to his chances of a race truly reflecting his current form. Thomas Adolphus also sneaked into the top 100 with 99th place, and promisingly, he and Videsh were both in the top 10 U20s on the day. Performing so well in their first year at this distance, and their preparation to regularly face opposition of this calibre, will stand them in good stead ahead of championship tests in their own age group, and makes an especially appreciated contribution to the team’s overall performance.
The lack of opportunities for steep windmilling descents counted against Harold Wyber in 102nd, while MCC stalwart Julian Russell (189) could reasonably have found the conditions and bottlenecks to be “just not cricket”. Our 12 were closed out by music-quiz host Tony Pamphilon (293), whose attention now turns to conquering the rival quiz run by Dave Hollingworth on Friday, and Richard Holland in 313th. Both can look ahead to the V60 Essex Vets Championship ready for whatever the Writtle mud can throw at them, and pushed by competition not available to their rivals from beyond the M25.
Our B team was led in by Paul Major in 341st, followed by Paul Stockings in 382nd, and Trevor Powell in 519th. With runners on the startline no guarantee of finishers, their efforts could always make several hundred points of difference to the team score. This team sits 8th in Division 3, above such distinguished rivals as the Metropolitan Police A team, and it should be mentioned that they did more than their fair share of work in dismantling the team tent afterwards.
That our top men's positions were all well down on the opening fixture at Claybury is testament to the increasing strength as well as size of the league (524 finished), elite runners' preparation for the European trials later this month, and the now regular appearance of the Cambridge University team with a trial race ahead of their Varsity match. At Hillingdon we'll hope to see the return of several much-missed regulars, and the other second claimers who helped lead us to victory in the first fixture.
After the deluge of 2018, and a forecast of afternoon rain, nobody was fooled by the autumn sunshine which bathed Stanborough Park in a lovely golden light on Saturday. Tents were up and wellingtons were on; even the League HQ had made camp on high ground, leaving nothing to the mercy of the weather gods.
Far enough away from the festive season to suffer from the office party effect, Fixture 2 is usually pretty busy as the numbers are boosted by Cambridge. They were fewer in number this year and fewer still in the upper orders of the finishing field of 239, which was more than Claybury, and still a huge field by Met standards. The rain came exactly as predicted, just as six WGEL women toed the line, all of them needed to score in Division One; we also had a guest of our own this time, boosting the green and white contingent to seven. Three long laps was the course, 7800 metres in the second equalised race. Claggy was the going.
Clearly loving the longer distance and making an important breakthrough to the top thirty, Alicia McArdell (26) was first home. A sizeable improvement on 39th at Claybury, McArdell - only 14” behind former team mate VP&TH’s Kat Gundersen - goes from strength to strength. Next was Zoe Watson (64) with a solid performance as she prepares for another ultra in three weeks time. Half a minute behind Watson, closing the gap from Claybury, and third scorer was Beccy Wilby (74) her form moving in the right direction as she feels the benefit of her winter training regime. With regulars Suzanne Phillips and Rachel Lund not available this time, there was always going to be a gap in the scoring, thankfully Kate Stockings (135) has been training well over the summer and - perhaps buoyed on by her training pal’s guest appearance for the Woodies - put in a decent shift to come home fourth. Said guest, Lydia Stoddart (140), ran strongly and will perhaps be tempted back for more. Unable to catch them, V50 Jenny Thomas (155) was fifth, and closing the scoring was V50 Alex Wardle (192).
With a weaker squad on paper, it was always going to be tough to hold on in this second fixture. We scored over 100 fewer points on Saturday than at Claybury and finished just off the bottom spot, dropping to seventh overall in Division One as Heathside and VP&TH strengthen their leads. It's not unassailable; we have three more fixtures to recover to make sure we stay clear of the relegation zone.