Report by Bill Milbourne
Summerhill Country Park, Hartlepool
DULCE ET DECORUM EST
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind
I can’t describe it any better. You had to be there. If I told you about
- the knee deep mud,
- the icy river we had to wade on each of the four laps,
- the grown men leaning against fence-posts sobbing
- the people digging for lost shoes after 200yards
- the near vertical slopes of gelatinous slime we had to somehow clamber up, or, worse, scramble down
You would think I was one of the Monty Python Yorkshiremen.
Last time the event was held at Summerhill (Pah! Who thought of that name, it has never, ever, been summer here) it rained and I don’t think it had stopped raining since 2007. The whole place was waterlogged, even the top of the hill.
Anyway, we were there with the gear and it wasn’t actually raining despite threatening clouds so the motley crew assembled and made our way to the start
There were surprisingly few competitors on the day, although perhaps this was to be expected given the conditions. There were only 348 finishers in the Senior Men’s Race compared to 460 in the Harrier League at Blaydon.
I started off at the back with high hopes of staying there. I wondered how long it would be before I was lapped. Not long. I was about a third of the way through my second lap when Peter Newton came thundering past and after that it was a steady stream. Into the third lap and I started catching people who had been a bit too enthusiastic and quite a few were giving up altogether, I think they had forgotten about lap 4 and just could not cope any more.
Eventually I got onto my final lap. Peace at last, no more enthusiastic young men charging past. My ambition was to get off the course before the women caught me. I had about 5 minutes start on them so I thought I was in the clear. I kept looking behind me but there were only the stragglers that I had already passed behind me. When I got to the top of the steep slippery downhill bit I realised my error. The senior ladies had started off with a short lap and here I was, careering, out of control, downhill into a crowd of women. Luckily a gap appeared and I managed to slot in and get to the side of the trail. I have never been so frightened in a race as I was in those few hundred yards to the end of the lap as a swarm of harpies charged past. I got elbowed into the barbed wire fence, I got sworn at, I even got spiked.
“Just wait until they have done a couple of full laps, they haven’t even done the big hill yet” I thought as I forced my weary limbs to keep going. I got a cheery greeting from Mandy and Tracy as I staggered up the final hill and at last I turned off to the finish. Dave Kear was nowhere in sight, I had lost him amongst all the women. I tried one last effort to catch Brian Brown, an old adversary from Durham City who I have been racing against for over 30 years, but the mud was too much for me
Still, I wasn’t last and Claremont managed 19th team.
Senior Men’s Race 12 Kilometres
Brendan McMillan 108 51 min 37 sec
Matthew Kingston 225 57 min 37 sec
Alasdair Wilson-Craw 234 58 min 10 sec
Sumanth Nayak 247 59 min 01 sec
Dave Kear 325 66 min 43 sec
Bill Milbourne 337 69 min 56 sec
Mandy and Tracy stuck together all the way round. Sadly they needed a third person to make up a team but a good effort all the same
Senior Women’s race 8 Kilometres
Mandy Herworth 44 44min 38 sec
Tracy Etherington 46 44min 44 sec