Old Down Country Estate, near Thornbury
Once again there were more cross country high jinks going on at the weekend with Tewkesbury RC runners taking part in this year's County Championships in South Gloucestershire.
The iconic Old Down Country Park was the venue this time as the cream of the counties' athletes descended on a quirky location to take on the mud, grass and hills of the 66 acre estate. For those of you unaware of Old Down, the sprawling grounds were first built in 1856 although the original house burnt down in 1953. It reopened in 1971 and for a time the manor was even owned by rock musician Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame.
Although I prefer Moonlight Shadow...
Anyway, starting in front of the Old Down Manor House competitors had to negotiate not only steep inclines and rapid muddy descents but screaming children on a huge trampoline, curious llamas, a gorilla dressed as Father Christmas, a yellow double decker bus, gangs of roaming segway enthusiasts and in Jon Mansfield's case - a protruding cow's head...
It was an interesting setting to say the least.
First up for the club Carol Cowley was our first entrant heading off in the 6km Ladies Race. Upon arriving at the course, the seasoned campaigner told Club XC Captain Wes Reid that it looked quite flat to her. Moments later Cowley was eating her words and indeed eating up the hills as she set off in earnest.
Such was the toughness of the course that Cowley had to use her speed and guile to avoid an unfortunate runner who fell early on in the race. Thankfully Carol was able to skip past the incident and make her way down into the underbelly of the country estate.
This of course meant that there was a hill to climb in order to return to the manor house and begin the second of three laps. The hill itself was split into three sections with an agonising short steep slope halfway up before a rapid descent preparing runners for the final climb.
Once over the hill runners ran through the confused alpacas, other farm animals and the adventure playground before going out into the estate for another lap.
Bouyed on by Captain Reid, who at this point chose to watch events unfold whilst on the giant trampoline, Carol finished in 32:19 claiming the gold medal in the LV65 catagory in doing so.
Onto the men then and Captain Reid took the opportunity of a delayed start to try and convince organisers to shorten the course due to bad light. Mick Morris wasn't having any of it however and so the 9km distance stood.
Despite almost being felled by a cow's head sticking out of a wire fence, Jon Mansfield took to the course with aplomb. Having avoided the unwanted attentions of the bovine invader, Jon made the hard terrain look ridiculously easy as he charged round in 39:45 to claim second place in the MV45 catagory.
Having pushed Jon all the way it came as no surprise to see Mark Parker charging up the hills with dogged determination. The harder it gets the more this man likes it and Mark did his upmost to keep Jon honest and follow him home in 41:49.
Next up Nigel Tillott was looking at the hills with concern as the club chairman was due to race in the Naunton Nearly 19 the following day! So Nigel decided to adopt a steady pace to save himself for the mammoth challenge the next day. I'm happy to report that the veteran runner managed to do just that and come home assuredly in 46:43.
Finally Captain Wes Reid strode out to gasps of awe as he looked respendant in the brand new running spikes he'd bought only the previous day. Surely these top of the line dabs would bring him victory... or at the very least stop him from sliding around like Bambi on ice for once.
Having warmed up on the trampoline and kid's zip wire before the race, Reid plodded round to finish in 68:25 and was very pleased with the performance of his new shoes and less pleased with the performance of his legs...
Oh well, next up in the Glos XC League is the big one!
Coincidentally it will also be the last race in the Winter Off-Road Series (excluding park runs) so make sure you get yourselves down to Pittville Park in Cheltenham on Feb 18th for the return of Cross Country running at the popular local venue - including of course the infamous stream crossing!!!
This is one not to be missed!
See you there!
27 Carol Cowley 32:19 (1st LV65) Gold medal in the County Championships.
28 Jon Mansfield 39:45 (2nd MV45) Silver medal in the County Championships.
34 Mark Parker 41:49 Bronze medal in the County Championships.
50 Nigel Tillott 46:43
73 Wes Reid 68:25
Mens Masters Team
Tewkesbury RC 5th (10 teams entered)