The cross-country season is now reaching a peak and, with most of the league races out of the way and the county championships concluded for another year, the regional championships have been on the agenda over the last fortnight.
Starting with the Midland Masters (formerly known as veterans) event on January 22, this was far from a convention of hobbling pensioners. The event at Droitwich brought together some of the best evergreen athletes in the Midlands region with Matlock Athletic Club being represented by two of its best.
In the ladies event, it was Christine Howard who ran away with the honours in the 40-44 age category, finishing third overall to two 35-39 runners. This went some way to setting the record straight after a slightly disappointing county championship a fortnight earlier which left her trailing a couple of Derbyshire athletes who were convincingly behind her this time.
In eighth place overall, and fourth in her 35-39 age category, was Matlock’s Steph Spencer who, although on this occasion was running for her first claim club of Derby AC, was only 40 seconds adrift of Christine.
In the men’s race, it was another gold medal in the bag for Matlock courtesy of a splendid run by Simon Brister in the 60-64 category. Simon put many seasoned veterans well behind him to finish almost a minute clear of his fellow ‘bus-pass holders’!
Fast forward by a week and it was Wollaton Park in Nottingham which provided the spectacular setting for the Midland Open cross-country championships. With much more youth on display, it was the chance for some of the club’s youngsters to witness the big race experience.
First on the agenda was the under 13 boys event over 3km. Towards the bottom end of their age groups, John Webster and Sam Allen were expecting to be in for a rough ride. A ferocious pace was set at the front end, stringing the field out almost instantly. John finished in 57th place with Sam taking 96th.
In the under 13s girls’ race, Matlock’s Emily Croft, who was only just old enough to compete, also had a taste of what the wider competitive world has to offer.
Finishing 107th out of 130 was an achievement to be pleased with against girls in many cases two years older than her.
The ladies’ event, once again, had Christine Howard battling it out with the best in the region. Tracking her friend and fellow Matlock AC runner Jenny Reed (running for her first claim club of Notts AC), there was only 16 seconds by the end separating them, with Jenny taking 35th place and Christine in 36th in a field of 170. Nicky Dick also did herself justice with a great run, finishing 79th in what will be her final season before stepping up to the 50-plus age group.
Finally, the last race of the day was for the senior men. Taking a plunge into the unknown in his first race of such concentrated quality was Simon Croft.
His baptism of fire in amongst over 400 runners had him finishing 239th and pleased to see the finishing line.