WHEN in future tough cross country courses are discussed wizened old runners will say: ‘Ah! but did you do Hadleigh in 2013’.
Hadleigh Downs is a tough undulating course at any time of the year but on Saturday the treacherous uphill and downhill stretches were punctuated by ankle deep, glutenous mud. Falls were frequent, shoes were lost and scrambling on all fours a common sight. Nonetheless hundreds of runners finished and these included 30 Thurrock Harriers.
Stars of the show were the Club’s two individual winners Joanne Wilkinson and Gemma Holloway. Joanne ran away with the senior race winning by over a minute. Joanne grew up in North Grays and as Joanne Sheen continued to run for the Harriers until her mid 20s. After marrying an RAF officer, she has travelled widely, borne 2 children and managed to run at International level for 10 years.
The highlight of her career was running the 10k at the Manchester Commonwealth Games. Through all this she has kept her Essex qualification and 2nd claim membership oThurrock Harriers. On Saturday she showed all of her old qualities of strength and concentration to annihilate the local stars.
Gemma Holloway who is 25 years younger has those same qualities and in her first year as an under 17 won that race with confidence. In the forthcoming weeks she can now look forward to regional and national championships where she will relish the challenge of taking on the country’s best.
The junior men took bronze medal thanks to the help of pole-vaulter Damon Nugent. Improving Alec Finch led in the team with an impressive 12th place. Dennis Cross lost one of his shoes in the mud but toughed it out to finish 16th. Adam Dowman threw off the effects of recent illness to finish 19th and … Damon trundled in 20 minutes behind the field but safe in the knowledge that his effort had won his team bronze
Alex Houghton turned in a classy performance in the senior men’s race to finish 18th. Don Lawless had the best race of the winter to finish 55th.
Other finishers were David Johnson 69th, Eamonn Shelley 82nd,Mick Bumstead 88th, Mark Cable (his debut over the Country) 89th, Nigel Instance 98th, Jason Syrett 107th, Nick Trencher 113th, John Russell 120th, John Arthur 185th.
There were over 200 starters in the race and Thurrock were 10th team.
Club officials were delighted to see a good women’s team complete the event. Led in by Joanne Wilkinson the team achieved a creditable 9th place. Toni Noble, whose running style does not suit sticky conditions, finished 37th. Sam Tuck was 50th in only her 4th race in Club colours and the team was closed in by Jodie Farrell in 57th place, another athlete in her first winter with the Club.
Also running well was Victoria Peacock in 58th place. There were 125 starters in this race.
These 5 athletes are all busy working mothers and in athletic terms veterans so their performances were nothing short of amazing.
This week sees the final round of the Essex League at Chingford. Scott Rice, Jon Metcalf, Eamonn Shelley and Mick Bumstead are all in contention for medals in the veterans categories. All the athletes are in for another gruelling afternoon around the muddy paths of Epping Forest.