Eastern Athletics Association has held open cross country championships most years since 1937. Only C&C, Nene Valley, and Peterborough AC have ever brought the trophy to Cambridgeshire, could Ely add to that list in 2016?
No, is the short answer, not this time, but a valiant team effort did run it pretty close on a cold and windy November Saturday near Bedford and six happy Ely Runners drove away with silver medals around their necks.
A small field of perhaps 50 U20/ Senior and Vet men, small relative to the more glamourous regional pillars of the season that are the SEAA and ECCA championships in January/ February, but a high-quality competition across the board saw runners quickly spread out over a wide and well-marked course (championship standard).
The venue this year was an equestrian centre, and the three-lap course at first glance incorporated a great deal more jumps than is usual in cross country. On closer reconnaissance, no actual horse jumps were included, but several grass banks and a knee-deep water splash some ten strides in length were part of the fun. Overall, the course was difficult to describe as anything other than flat.
The main cross country feature was the surface, which was mostly some sort of mud and bark chipping mixture, heavily rutted in those parts that were horsey favourites. This unrelentingly uneven and soft surface made sapping running; very difficult to settle into any sort of rhythm, and yet rhythm was precisely what the flat terrain and spread out field demanded. Under these circumstances, a couple of 500m drags into headwind became selective.
The greater selections were to be made on a headwind drag preceding the dreaded water splash. The cold water made for interesting facial photos (allegedly) and also enabled those who could push home any advantage gleaned in the wind whilst rivals attempted to re-galvanise their racing intentions.
Man of the match goes to Alan Darby, finishing 3rd across the line in 43:11. The rest of the six-man team all performed to their limit to secure the silver medals: 14th Robin Webb 47:59, 16th Gordon Irvine 48:47, 29th Richard Hill, 31st Stephen Howard, 37th Matthew Mason.
The venue was also hosting a dog show concurrently, which provided excellent post-race entertainment and refreshments. Thanks to Jess and Rose for the support and encouragement.