Nevertheless, over 30 gutsy runners took to the start line without even the hint of apprehension. In fact, the runners were champing at the bit and ready for the challenge ahead. Huntsman Rory Fraser's rallying cry of "All hounds who wish to run, run hard, run well, and may the devil take the hindmost" could only just be heard above the roaring wind, but as soon as "hindmost" was on his lips, the pack were off and charging through the mud like galloping wild horses, spraying water and mud almost instantly.
An early lead pack was formed with the expectant favourites at the vanguard, and the Churchill's duo of Fraser and Fifth Former Ben Remnant reviving the rivalry that saw such a dramatic battle over the Tucks course last term in which Fraser 'killed' and took home the coveted Hector Rose Bowl. As the leaders entered the Masters' Garden and headed down School Bank behind Pengwern Boathouse, Riggites Oscar Dickins and Freddie Huxley-Fielding were not far behind their Churchill's rivals, with in-form Theo Clarke from Severn Hill close on their heels. Favourite in the girls’ race, Tory Mobley (EDH), was steadily making her way through the field and took advantage of her strength powering up the ‘Cresta Run' and surging forward down Oldham's Gap towards the cattle grid and Ridgemount Lane.
As the runners re-entered the school campus and made their way towards the final loop around the school site, it was Remnant who emerged at the lead, with Fraser having taken the brunt of the brutal wind in the early stages and fading fast under the pressure from his younger housemate, who had sensibly sheltered behind the taller Fraser for much of the first half of the race.
L to r: Charlie Naylor (on debut), Freddie Huxley-Fielding almost being blown away, Oscar Dickins, the pack near the race start, Tory Mobley
With the Birley Cup up for grabs, Remnant was determined to get his name on a trophy this year and powered home as convincing winner in 13.26 over the (approximately) 4km course. Fraser took silver in 13.42, with Rigg's Hall's Oscar Dickins completing the podium just three seconds behind in 13.45.
Impressively, Fourth Former Freddie Huxley-Fielding demonstrated his return to imperious form with a majestic 13.47, winning the Mark Mortimer Cup for winning junior, all the more impressive given that his slight frame was in severe danger of being blown completely off course at various points! Second junior was fellow Riggite Will Hayward in 14.18 and 6th overall, with an ever-improving Charlie Home from Ridgemount 3rd junior in 10th overall (15.37).
Just behind Charlie in a time of 15.48 was Tory Mobley to take the Willie Jones Cup for 1st Senior girl, with the girls' podium completed by Tatty Hunt in 17.03 and 23rd overall and captain of Girls’ Running Lucie Cornwell-Lee (MSH) 3rd Senior girl in 17.34 and 26th overall. Following on from their superb 4th place at last week's Coventry Relays, the Club Champs provided further evidence of just how strong girls' running is this year.
33 runners completed the course with two not quite making it round. We salute them all regardless of position! Congratulations, of course, go to the winners, and let me finish by noting one final winner in George O'Brien (M) who won the coveted Nutella Cup for Muddiest Runner!
Below l to r: Freddie Huxley-Fielding, Ben Remnant and Tory Mobley