2023-24 Met League race 1: Senior Women 10th, Men 4th
After the pre-season friendly of the Southern 6-stage three weeks ago, Woodford’s best and brightest runners, officials, managers and marshals all descended on Claybury Woods for the winter season opener of the Met League.
This season sees Kate Stockings take the reins from Suzanne Phillips as Women’s Team Manager. The team would like to once again thank Suzanne for all of her hard work in recent years. Although missing Suzanne from the team due to work commitments, the women were thrilled to have their first full team running in many years and hope to continue this throughout the season. The first lady home was Alicia McArdell in 41st followed by Zoe Watson in 55th. Both club stalwarts, it was great to see them both looking so strong - even if Alicia did comment that it ‘never gets any easier’. Aiobheann Pearce was hot on Zoe’s tail in 57th in her first race for our senior team. Her comment at the end was simply that the race was ‘horrible’ but we very much hope she will join us for the much flatter (and faster!) course at Wormwood Scrubs.
Becky Scanlan was next in, finishing 74th. Despite the 8k course being much much longer than her usual 800m distance, it ‘wasn’t as bad as feared’. Becky, like the rest of the team, commented on the real buzz around renewed depth in the squad. New member Katie Olert was our 5th scorer in 86th, having passed Kate Stockings (88th) just ahead of the hill on the last lap. A great first race for our ladies team and onwards and upwards from finishing as the 10th team after race one!
On the men’s side, Joel Doye finished 7th, and first U20 by almost a minute. He ran a consistent race, sitting between 6th and 9th the whole way round before winning a sprint finish. This eclipses even Joel’s 11th place, when he burst onto the senior scene at the same venue last year. The club wishes him and junior teammates the best of luck in the U20 race at the Southern cross country relays next weekend.
Tom Beedell was close behind in 12th. With this he equalled his two previous best finishes, so his marathon training is clearly paying dividends. He even continued for a 5k tempo effort afterwards.
Next in was Angus Holford in 35th, despite suffering a push and falling in the opening downhill melee. He was knocked over again in first attempt at getting up but was grateful to an unknown runner who then helped haul him up. Angus worked his way through, but the fact he still lost a place more than he gained on the final lap suggests he overdid it a little. He was pleased to have hunted down and nipped ahead of Mike Waddington on the final downhill stretch. Mike stuck close behind to follow him in 36th. Three weeks after his impressive 2:24:44 marathon in Berlin, Mike initially “felt alright”, and then “less alright”, declaring it an honest return to cross country, which the team management appreciated him making.
There was another consecutive Woodford shootout 40 seconds later, won by Thomas Adolphus in 46th over Jimmy Geller in 47th. Thomas had hoped for better, but acknowledged that solid performances like this are the building block of good winter seasons. Jimmy, more used to 800 than 8000m, had sensibly used his speed to avoid trouble at the start, but he found the length and terrain of the course challenging. Tom Rehal, racing at Claybury for the first time, was 51st. He would also usually hope for better, but after a 5 week lay-off in late summer, and now experimenting with training regimes around a lengthy commute everyday, the new graduate was happy to accept this as a baseline for the season.
Dan Steel in 54th and Simon Beedell in 71st had taken the opposite approach to avoiding the trouble at the start, talking afterwards of a “warm-up mile” and “being ready to race after 4 miles” respectively. Unsurprisingly, both marathon specialists came through strongly. Senior Met League debutant Ronan Edwards was next in, in 75th. Another 800m specialist, fresh from breaking the 2 minute barrier for the first time late in the summer, we hope that Ronan, like Jimmy, will embrace the benefit of 8k cross country as the foundation for further improvement. Brother Rhys Edwards was 137th, winning yet another consecutive Woodford run-off against Peter Caton who was 138th, and delighted with a PB time for the Claybury course. This was despite the course, in fact, being slightly longer than usual to avoid the long grass near the start, and beginning the climb to the main hill further down than usual.
That closed the team in fourth place. Highgate (1505) lead from Victoria Park (1423), London Heathside (1252) and ourselves (1100), with Trent Park completing the top 5 on 802 points. We can expect stronger performances from the teams based close to the next two venues in West London. Half of Woodford’s scoring team were U23s, providing more than the recent usual encouragement that the team will strengthen in years to come.
The team had three dedicated runners in back-up. Bertie Powell completed his 92nd consecutive Met League, and 20th consecutive Claybury Met League, in 227th place. He was 10 places ahead of Tony Pamphilion in 237th. Tony had been marshalling since the start of the fixture, and brought his best game to rolling up the tape from the startline before the gun went each time. After that, he was happy to let the race take care of itself. But only runners with as many years of rigorous training and racing experience as Tony can be sure of pulling that off. Paul Stockings was 349th, in his 162nd Met League. Paul’s challenge to himself is to complete his 200th before being the last finisher. With 40 behind him and 16 minutes to spare on this occasion this correspondent backs him.