Friday, 4 June 2010

Hybrid course...a test of fortitude and patience!

 Race course design is a hard task at the best of times; but generally the course designer works within the parameters of  "road",  "fell" or "trail".  Take this defining restriction away and of course the course designer has virtually a free hand, within boundaries of common sense and of course, health and safety, to take the competiors wherever he wishes.  One of the local midweek leagues in  this Yorkshire area used to be called a ROAD league but as finding 100% tarmac races seemed to prove more and more difficult for the participating clubs it is now just called a RACE league.  Hence more licence for the organisers!
 Last night's event was a real hybrid.  Starting close to the centre of Yeadon the 281 runners (16 to 75 years of age) sped down a tarmac disused rail track then descended into woods via a rocky trail; returning via a dense wood with twisting narrow pathways which made for difficult overtaking.  They emerged from the wood to then climb back via the trail and fields before the easier last mile back on tarmac. 

  As they reached the end of the rail track after nearly a mile 16 year old MARC SCOTT (Richmond & Zetland) was already well clear and ran unchallenged throughout to win by 41 seconds on the 5 mile plus course.   The mixed surface was ideally suited to this young man who can boast a 3K PB of 8:54.51 enabling to establish a good lead on the tarmac at which point his fell running and cross country (17th in the English schools XC)  skills came into play and he ran out a clear winner. This shot shows him bounding up the last hill with no one else in sight.

 In contrast, last year's league ladies winner
JOSIE HODGETTS (Otley AC), seen here after
the first tarmac mile , is at her best when running rhythmically hard and fast on good surfaces and I knew she wouldn't enjoy the off road sections which would try her patience!   Fortunately she heeded advice not to wear her flexible lightweight road racing shoes.
But it was decided that if she could start fast and be in the lead at the end of the tarmac it would be very difficult for others to catch and pass.  This plan worked and she held a lead of a minute over LISA MAWER, recovering from the recent Edinbuirgh marathon.
 I stood with one of my ex pupils as the runners wearily tackled the final gruelling uphill stretch.  As JOSIE came into view up the last hill. I turned to him and said ,
  "I bet she say's ..."I don't like this!"   A minute later she passed and did indeed say....."I hated it!"

So there you have it. Who'd be a race course designer!   The men's race won by a very able, very young man
demonstrating excellent versatility on  road, trail and cross country surfaces which the event encompassed
whilst, let's just say, others weren't so happy!
  I would say though that bearing in mind the age profile and fitness levels of many  competitors the race could have been a lot kinder and more thoughtful given the choices of route in the area.  I couldn't help thinking that the hybrid course, a mixture of tarmac, stony trail and narrrow rutted paths climbing through the woods hadn't really taken into consideration the agility and strengths  of over half of the largely veteran competitors.

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