1 October 2017
October started with the first CC6 of the season, at least the first one the Spitfires could run. Last year there were a hard core of around eight Spitfires who turned up to run this series of winter cross country races, along with one mad photographer. It isn’t easy dragging yourself out of a warm bed on a Sunday morning to go out into the cold and run around a piece of muddy woodland. The more the merrier, or so they say, so this year the master plan was to get more people interested. There had certainly been enough of them turning up for the marshalling race last month.
Today’s race was at Whiteley, the new town that sprung up in the 1980’s and 1990’s between Southampton, Fareham and Winchester on land that was mostly farmland and coppice originally. It’s a small town with just six thousand or so residents but there is a gigantic shopping centre including several coffee shops. From my point of view this makes the Whiteley CC6 one of my favourites because I can watch it with the benefit of a warm cup of takeaway coffee in my hand.
Of course the runners aren’t actually running round the streets or the shopping centre. The race is run on Whiteley Pastures, a wooded area just across the road from it. These woods once sheltered troops waiting to cross the Channel to the D-Day beaches. Today they are criss crossed with trails and it was along one of these Commando and I walked this morning. As usual we were early so it was a lonely walk. Still, I had coffee in my hand and an amusing sign to read telling me there is no such thing as the dog poo fairy. Apart from missing my warm bed I was fairly happy.
This race was hosted by Stubbington Green and Netley Abbey running clubs and there were a few marshals about when we got to the race start but no runners.
“I hope I’m not going to be the only Spitfire,” Commando said.
He needn’t have worried. It wasn’t long before team captains Darren and Leah arrived, shortly followed by an unprecedented number of club members. For some this would be their first cross country experience, others had enjoyed the RR10’s and, of course those core CC6 veterans were there too, along with a small number collecting and cheerleading team.
Whiteley Pastures is one of the more cramped venues so it wasn’t easy to find somewhere to put up the tent or to get a team photo, especially with such a large group. There was the usual standing around chatting with the veterans giving the newbies tips about the course. Last year this was Commando’s first race after he broke his leg and I’d been terrified he’d fall. The course was one of the muddiest and several people did take tumbles. Luckily Commando wasn’t one of them.
The start of the Whiteley CC6 is quite some distance from the finish and, because of the narrow track, it isn’t really possible to stand and watch the runners set off. As I’ve been to a few races here now I quickly found a good place to stand to see them come past on the first loop. This would be the clean loop, because the first part of the race is on a gravel track. It was no surprise to see Gerry leading the Spitfires, or Gill grinning as he came by close behind. Everyone looked happy and mud free at this stage.
Commando came past just after the team captains. He stuck his tongue out as he spotted me. This seems to be his signature camera pose lately.
In fact everyone looked happy and clean as they came past. Of course this was the very beginning of the race. There was a hill ahead and, as there’d been heavy rain overnight, there’d almost certainly be mud.
Once the last runner had gone past I changed position to get a better view of the finish line. Ed, who was marshalling because he missed out on the Fleming Park race, and Amanda, Mitch and Andy the cheer team and number collecting heroes joined me. As expected, Gerry was the first Spitfire across the line. He also turned out to be the first runner in his age group in the whole race. Behind him was Gill, looking more exhausted than I’ve ever s ever seen him. Everyone looked extremely muddy. In fact one runner was so covered in mud he was dripping and it was impossible to see what club he was running for. The prize for muddiest Spitfire went to Dave Chalk who had managed to fall over not once, but twice.
Commando, who was taking it easy, was in the middle of the pack. He’d rather be nearer the front of course but he’s still on the road to recovery after a year of health issues so mid pack is fairly good, at least in my opinion. He was muddy but it didn’t look like he’d fallen.
By this time some of the finishers had joined the cheer team and were telling tales of woods filled with tree roots, gloopy mud and massive puddles that couldn’t be avoided. Everyone said the final downhill stretch was a welcome sight.
The morning finished with some of the best brownies I’ve ever tasted, thanks to team captain Leah. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves, although, from the state of some of the trainers, Sunday afternoon was going to be spent scraping off mud. Hopefully they’ll all be back for the next race at Dibden in November.
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