Even though there was sunshine over Shropshire in the morning by the time the train pulled into Euston, the cold wind swirling around London was threatening dampness.
From a list of a possible 15 runners I was then looking at nine registered entrants for The OSH Team attending this exceptional event.
My journey continued to Putney Bridge, where I had to wait for the No.85 Bus, but was met by Huntsmen Freddie Huxley-Fielding (R. 12-17) on his first visit to an OSH event and Oscar Dickins (R. 11-16) who was here to support while nursing an injury.
The wind and rain battered the top deck of the bus as it rocked on down to Roehampton Vale where we alighted to walk the short distance to The Richardson Evans Memorial Playing Fields Pavilion.
We were early, and as team manager I hoped to get all the registrations checked and vest numbers ready before photos, warm-up and the start at 2.30pm.
It was very exciting to have more Huntsmen arrive. Cal Winwood (I. 09-11) and Ed Mallett (S. 08-13) had both run in Shrewsbury the week before, and Ed is so fit he had already competed in a run earlier that morning! Tom Hughes (Ch. 13-18) arrived who also ran last week and was looking keen. Will Manley (PH. 13-18) came to support me and Oscar, all disappointed at not being able to run this good 5-mile cross-country course. Returning again to The Thames Hare & Hounds 66th Alumni Race was Huntswoman Liv Papaioannou (EDH. 14-16), with extra support from Greg (who wasn’t put off last year!), Kris Blake (S. 09-11) who always achieves a good result, Anthony Hickson (I. 48-53) who is well known to TH&H and The OSH alike, and Michael Johnson (S. 55-60) who can also boast the “Shrewsbury & Roehampton” double.
At this moment one team member texted to say he was stuck in London’s Saturday Christmas traffic and couldn’t make it. However, we still had an impressive team of eight! Then after several visits to the organisers gazebo and club house, I discovered that the registration and vest numbers could not be found. The rain was getting heavier and the team were disappearing to warm-up.
At 2.25pm there was a panic as a long queue formed for people to get their numbers. I managed to get ours and quickly handed them out with safety pins but only just in time for the start which was a long line-out in the next field at 2.45 pm and by then it was very wet and getting darker!
The hooter sounded out and the charge of nearly 300 runners, all trying to get through the first right hand farm gate, was a sight to see. I could already see that Ed, Freddie, Kris and Cal were near the front of the pack, as they went forward to disappear into the woods of Wimbledon Common where they fought to get a good path through the mud and water before rising onto the top track and beside the golf course. Will and I went to shout encouragement to our team at a downhill part of the course near the last mile and were so pleased to see Freddie come through in the top ten, quickly followed by Kris, Cal, & Ed. A big shout went up from me and Will when we saw Tom come past, who had obviously kept up with his training and was within the top 100.
In the corner of the playing fields, where runners emerged from the woods to see their final destination through the darkness of that wet afternoon, we noticed Liv charging through the mud, being the first female alumni competitor to come through to the finish. What a great success!
By now an extra supporter had fought through the bad weather and traffic to see Salopians cross the line, The Salopian Club President, Nicholas Barber. With good boots and large umbrella Nicholas cheered Michael Johnson as he ran into the funnel steaming with effort.
Many of us tried to withstand the conditions as we waited for our last man home, Anthony. I did walk some of the route to try to look out for him, but in the end Anthony appeared out of the dusk with a broad smile ready for a cup of tea. I don’t think he has ever given up in all his many years of running and today was no exception!
It was then time to try to get out of the rain and we dispersed into the night, satisfied that there had been a good OSH Team this day, who, even without official results, had achieved what appeared to be a significant improvement in placings this year.
When I got home and checked the website for results, I found that there had been some problems with the “system”, not helped by me! First, The TH&H organisers said that there had been a problem with timings and some positions. Second, some runners had been wearing the wrong vest numbers. I immediately realised that at the last minute before the start, in a wet panic, I had given six of our team the wrong numbers. Straightaway, I sent the organisers a corrected list of names with the vest numbers that they were wearing and the placings and timings that I had. I received a receipt for this information, but as I write this I am still waiting to see the corrected results finalised.
Until that happens, I have the following information:
There were 259 finishers of the race. There were alumni from 36 Schools and 16 guest runners.
1st place went to William Ryle-Hodges of Eton in 26 mins and 50 seconds (which was his same time as last year).
10th - our best man, Freddie Fielding in 29:15.
14th - Kris Blake in 29:42. (who bettered his time by over two minutes and 30 places!).
18th - Cal Winwood in 30:04.
19th - Ed Mallett in 30:08.
99th - Tom Hughes in 34:50.
118th - Liv Papaioannou in 35:38. (who was 156th last year in 38:09).
231st - Michael Johnson in 45:20
259th - Anthony Hickson in approximately 1hr 20.
Our placings should have pushed our team position in The Open Race up to 2nd place. The first four count and we should be given 63 points which is only three points behind the winners, Rochester.
Even without confirmation, you can see that there is a huge improvement in Shrewsbury’s OSH Team results and I for one am very proud of our team for running with such determination. If we continue to attract more members to compete then we could win the race which would astound everyone!
All the photos are on our OSH Facebook page and some on the Twitter page.
I hope that we will eventually see the correct official results on https://data.opentrack,run/x/2018/GBR/alumni/event/1/1/1/
Peter Birch. (DB 66-71 & Huntsman) OSH Chairman.