Report by Arne Dumez
Early polls indicated a 4-man team that was virtually guaranteed to take home a gold medal for us. After a well-earned bronze last year, we would have loved the top step of that podium ahead of Aldershot, Herne Hill, Kent and Guildford. Unfortunately, the TM’s nightmare came true and several last-minute drop outs – while perfectly justified – put us in a pickle. Damn polls… There was no longer a 99% chance of a medal. But that was not to say there was no chance! It just made the day a bit spicier than expected. Nothing but seasoning.
We didn’t even need a warm up jog on the course to realise it was going to be an absolute mud bath in Morden. “No use looking at splits, just look at the man in front of you and try to not die quite as hard as him”, that was to be the strategy of the day. Callum Stewart, who made an impressive debut with us at the last Surrey League fixture in Wimbledon, took that strategy to heart. The Scottish triathlete set off so fast and furious that when TMs Arne and Steve spotted him about 1km into lap one he was sticking to the heels of AFD’s Joe Morwood (Steph Twell’s husband) and Ben Bradley (English 5km champion), and Kent’s Owen Hind (recent sub 14min 5k runner). Callum had served himself up a hot, steaming plate of “ouch”. He fell off pace during the second lap when he got a painful stitch, but still finished strong in 8th place to be first Bel home. Behind him, Paskar Owor never quite found his legs and had to settle for 12th place. For a multiple winner of the event, that was slightly disappointing for him. That didn’t stop him from congratulating Callum at the finish and designating him as “the next big Belgrave runner”! What a team player.
Missing the imperious team captain Phil Wicks (whose wife took a dominant win in the women’s race) and the relentless Andrius Jaksevicius – both out with injuries – the A team looked to the feisty trio of Will Johnson, Ben Hurley and Alex Mills for its final two scorers. All three were in great shape and had been hovering around the same times for a long time, so this was set to be a race within a race. Will started fastest, but the other two were never more than a few spots behind him, stalking his every move. It took Ben about a lap to catch up to the former Tyne Bridge runner (TMs believe it was the infamous dab that cost Will the spare seconds). Alex was, again, never far behind but didn’t quite have the legs to put himself in the top 4. Ben decided to turn on his renowned burners in the final km and caught more than a few runners ahead of him to leave Will 5 places behind him. The A team tallied up another 46 and 51 points. Alex kicked off the (incomplete) B team scoreboard with a 58th place – he has never really enjoyed XC but he is always an extremely valuable addition to the team. The A team finished 5th overall, behind a terrifying Kent outfit… There were four blue vests inside the top 10, another four between 10th and 15th place. Their C team finished just over 30 points ahead of us too. There is no shame losing to a team that solid. Very well played, Kent!
James Morris and Alex Luce closed the men’s ranks in 119th and 123rd place. James has been a regular appearance at our XC events and always cruises through them with a smile. For a man who runs about 10 marathons every year, what’s another 5Mi?! Just seven days before Valencia marathon, James took the opportunity of a tasty sharpener in Morden. He will take his legs to Spain, run the marathon, and then come back to run the remaining XC fixtures for us. Because he’s a right proper chap. Mr Luce had a very solid run, completely uninhibited by TM Arne’s colossal oversight in the week leading up to the race. It will be great to have him back in contention with Terry, when that unlucky sod gets back from his battle wounds.
INDIVIDUAL: 1. J. Morwood AFD (25:38), 2. B. Bradley AFD (25:43), 3. O. Hind Kent (26:08), … 8. C. Stewart (27:19), 12. P. Owor (27:47), 46. B. Hurley (30:01), 51. W. Johnson (30:22), 59. A. Mills (30:55), 119. J. Morris (33:38), 123. A. Luce (34:03)
TEAMS: 1. Kent A (21), 2. Kent B (49), 3. Herne Hill (58), … 5. Belgrave A (117)