A skeleton squad of senior men made the long trip to Mansfield for the English National Cross Country Relays to fly the flag for Herne Hill Harriers for the first time in several years. The team finished in a respectable 33rd place out of 157 complete teams with all members putting in solid performances at a venue only one of whom had visited before.
Leaving London, it seemed a pleasant day was in store for all with conditions looking good. However, on the approach to Mansfield it became clear that rain was setting in and with various age groups and the senior women’s race prior to the men’s the course muddied up quickly. I was the first leg runner and was hoping for good underfoot conditions. There was mud on most of the course but it wasn’t too thick in most places so there were opportunities to open up the stride. I ran 17:30, marginally the quickest team leg of the day but only good enough for 62nd on the opening leg. Super Vet Brian Wilder took over via the dubious changeover procedure which made it difficult to see when a team mate was finishing. He ran a 17:42 split, a few seconds of which was due to the changeover procedure which was the only obvious blot on what was a well organised event. Finding the first lap muddy, Brian was able to pick a clearer line on the second lap to almost certainly negative split the two lap course which featured a combination of open grass and twisting woodland, taking us up to 48th.
Third man up was stand-in team manager John Kettle (by virtue of the fact he signed the team declaration). Geoff Jerwood’s shoes are impossible to fill but John did a great job trying with enthusiastic support out on the course which was much appreciated by his team mates. The tougher the conditions the better for John – super fuelled by a hearty pre race iced spice bun to match Brian’s herbal concoctions and he relished the mud to post 17:38 and move us up to 36th.
Anchor man for the team was Simon Coombes who, unlike his team mates, had sampled the delights of Mansfield before. He took three further places, willed on by his roaring team mates whom had by this stage discovered the supporters triangle allowing support at 3 separte locations on the course within a 50 yard walk, with his 18:13 clocking in conditions that were muddier than for his team mates before him.
All four members enjoyed the event and it would be great to see a whole squad at next year’s event with the Herne Hill banner flying proudly.