October. Storey Arms. Winter league time once again, this year like some impudent impostor, starting as it did several weeks before the climax to the season long WFRA championships. Nonetheless the south Walians just love that Winter League feeling, legs a sea of lactate overload, so short of breath that your chest hurts every step of the way through the series of short sharp shocks that lie in wait over the winter campaign.
None are shorter than the sharp dap up and down the quiet side of the A470, where less than 20 minutes of heavy breathing represents a considerable achievement. The day, crisp, clear and pretty good underfoot, the biting westerly largely sheltered by the rolling bulk of the Fans. An almost exclusively male field of 42 toed the sheep trod start line, eager to get the winter season underway, or was it just a desire to get the pub before the pints warmed. The sole female representative, not in the slightest way intimidated, the famous Daniela, running for the Fairwater club.
A brief briefing over the initial hurtle dwindled to an understandable plod and grind for the masses as at the elite end Welsh international and previous winner Andrew Jones struggled to hang on to the pace set by the lanky Rob Gordon. With Harry Mathews, freshly returned from World Cup duty giving chase this had all the elements of a classic battle.
Besides the avoidance of pain one of the added pleasures of timekeeping for this event is to be able to witness the field snake its painful way to the summit plateau in full view for the majority of the course. Whereupon, lost from sight for a few moments to tick off the summit, a bit like the Space shuttle on re-entry, the runners suddenly emerge from nowhere and plummet to the finish in no time whatsoever. As they returned to view it was with Harry Mathews leading the way, storming to an outstanding winning time of 16:32, just 15 seconds ahead of Rob Gordon, with Andrew Jones in a comfortable third. This was the fastest time for years and the closest ever threat to Graham Patten’s 1991 record.
In a jiffy it was time for mass arrivals with the newly old Mike Duxbury leading the V40’s home followed by a close run thing between Max Suff and Peter Ryder for 7th, a diplomatic dead heat awarded demonstrating Brycheiniogian impartiality. The remaining age category winners Steve Littlewood, John Sweeting and Ian Turnbull accompanied Daniela for their statutory bottles of wine.
My thanks as ever to the queen of summit marshals, Kay Lucas, whose boundless energy for yomping up to the top of innumerable race routes is source of joy and to Simon Blease for fuelling the rapid results service with a bacon sarnie and cup of tea from the mobile café. Cor, wot a life!