Mercia Fell Runners has kicked off the championships season with a bang at Lad's Leap. The course is a hard but classic fell race, with a steep initial climb followed by a singletrack trod over some very peaty muddy ground and a short steep descent to run under the Lad's Leap crags to a second much more runnable ascent, more peaty single track and a flying last mile down rough fellside. Although advertised as a short race, we got good value, with most folk's GPSs reading 6.1 or 6.2 miles!
Five of our ladies ran in the women's race, with Mel Price, Helen Skelton and Susan Howarth finishing 4th ladies team. Mel has struggled with injury for the last few weeks but managed a creditable 10th place, Helen Skelton turned out at short notice and ran well despite an early fall (and to be honest a course which was about 8 times shorter than she's used to) for 23rd, and Susan came in at 52nd and 7th LV50. Kim Braznell was second in her class (LV55) behind Wendy Dodds, and Naomi Watson showed a real improvement coming in 83rd in a very high quality field of 112 ladies.
We were one lady veteran short of a team score: given Susan and Kim's strong showing we would have been 6th team even if we'd had someone walk round and finish last, so please, ladies, get out to the remaining champs races!
Two junior races were run while the ladies were out, but sadly these hadn't been particularly well publicised and Mercia had no representation.
In the men's race, Simon Bailey was initially behind Morgan Donnelly, last year's champion, but seems to have passed him somewhere near the top of the first climb. Simon then held on to a few second's lead throughout to take a well-deserved win in 41:16. Morgan was second and Lloyd Taggart was third.
Recently joined member Connor Carson (43rd) was 10th vet 40, with Pete Vale and William Neill hot on his heels in 45th and 47th place respectively. Will placed 5th U23 runner with some very stiff competition. Dan Brazier in 60th place completed the men's team of five. We put out 12 male athletes (only Dark Peak, Pennine and Tod Harriers had more runners), and despite the Mercia team not featuring many of our strongest runners, they managed a 5th place and some useful points for the teams competition.
There were also good performances from Tom Roo (106th) and Pete Matthews (146th) in support of the men's team - Pete has recently joined Mercia.
The veterans team comprised Connor, Andy Davies (138th overall), Tim Werrett (150th), and David Malia (223rd), finishing 14th team which means sadly that they failed to score any team points for the championships. The remaining vets running were myself (237th) and Colin Williamson who is hopefully having another go at the V65 championship. He started well with an 8th place in the category, 279th overall, but was again a little lacking in support - we needed another couple of V50 or more senior runners to score points in the V50 teams.
For full results of the races, follow the links below:
This was an excellent start to the champs season for us and I look forward to hopefully seeing a lot more Mercia athletes out at the next race, Coledale, which is both a British and English championships counter. The entry details are here - note that entries close on 2nd April, so you haven't got long...