Birmingham League XC, Gloucester

There was some hope of a, rare, crisp clear sunny day for the third Birmingham League Fixture at the Crypt School, Gloucester but in the end we had to settle for dry, still and overcast.

The team consisted of John Alcock, Martin Bailey, James Bayley, Mark Cooper, Matt Eardley, Neil Gerrity, Rob Ibbs, Steve Ratcliffe, Nigel Symms and Tim Twentyman. It was a Birmingham League debut for John Alcock, and a return to cross country after injury for Rob Ibbs. The surprise addition to the team though was Matt Eardley. Not content with triathlon, decathlon, steeplechase etc. Matt has returned to playing rugby. Fortunately, for the XC team, his match was cancelled at the last minute, so after a quick change of kit in the bag and a brief look at the map he headed down to Gloucester and made it with at least ten minutes to spare.

The course looped around the grounds and playing fields of the school. There was a long but very gentle climb and some correspondingly gentle descent. There were some muddy patches, not a great deal but enough for a runner in front of me, who hesitated on a corner, to perform a cartoon banana skin fall.

The good conditions meant that the race started very quickly. Of the Newcastle runners Mike Ridley was the fastest starter, running the first mile in about 5:20. It was a fast mile for everyone, never the less 5:20 was a bit ambitious for someone recovering from a “heavy metal” injury. Not, as might be expected, of an ex rugby player, lifting metal in a gym but listening to it at a gig. Apparently the band’s name, “Bloodbath”, was appropriate in the mosh pit, leading to some damaged ribs for Mike. Mike was overhauled in the second mile by Steve Ratcliffe and a bit later by Tim but still finished in a very respectable 37th. Steve and Tim both continued their good recent form, working their way through the field to finish 11th and 23rd respectively.

Next finisher was, late addition, Matt, in 109th. After that came Martin Bailey in 125th, pleased to get round in sub 6 30 miles, a big improvement from the previous week where the tough conditions led to some very unflattering times.

There was stiff competition for the 6th and final counter in the team. In the end Mark Cooper pulled ahead of Neil Gerrity and Rob Ibbs to finish 174th. Neil and Rob came in 184th and 185th, both happy with their runs, an improvement on early season form for Neil and a solid return to XC for Rob, after injury. Next was Birmingham League debutant John Alcock in 219th. Final finisher was Nigel Symms in 242nd.

Unfortunately James Bayley became unwell during the race and did not finish. This seems to have been largely due to some over enthusiastic celebration, the previous evening, of his impressive feat of completing all 20 NSRRA races. Anyway James seemed to be ok by the time we all set off home.

The team score, 479, was the best of the season, by a small margin. However that still leaves the team extremely precariously placed. Although we are one place above the relegation zone, with an 85 point buffer, Dudley beat us by 106 points yesterday. This means a repeat result would see Newcastle relegated. So the odds would appear to be against Newcastle. However Michelle is probably already working to bribe, cajole and bully potential Newcastle runners from all parts of the country, if not world, into running next time. I’m hopeful of a good turn out and some fast running at the final race (13th February), to see relegation avoided.

Thanks to Michelle for organising a team. Thanks to Carl Martin for acting as team manager on the day. Thanks also to Rebecca Ibbs who saved us a potential 200 point penalty by helping officiate the race and also gained the club some brownie points by doing the same for the women’s race.

Results for Newcastle runners only available here.