Lincolnshire Services Cross Country League
Bitterly cold winds and an ever constant threat of rain did nothing to deter over 150 runners from gathering on a Wednesday afternoon in late January for the third race of the Lincolnshire Services Cross Country League.
The league is open to and aimed at all levels, giving runners an aim and focus to their training. It is open to ‘Service units’ that are based in Lincolnshire and elements from the RAF, Army, Police and Fire Service all compete in the 10 or so races held over the winter months which culminates at RAF Cranwell for the final race and the trophy presentations.
By kind permission of the Station Commander Gp Capt Rich Knighton and Mr Robin Dunlop, this event was hosted by RAF Wittering and held at Grange Farm. As the ‘home race’, it has historically been well represented by the Station and this year was no exception seeing nearly 50 men and women from the Station line up at the start, swelled by a strong presence from 3 Sqn RAF Regt.
After a very brief ‘brief’, Gp Capt Knighton (who also ran) gave the countdown to the whistle and the race got under way. The course could best be described as ‘undulating’ – it seemed you were always going either up or down, albeit gently for the most – and it wasn’t long before the runners encountered their first steep downhill slope which unfortunately had a small stream at the bottom they had to cross (maybe I should have mentioned that in the brief?!). Once the water feature was safely negotiated (in many differing and ingenious ways, as the steps people are willing to take to keep their feet dry is quite something to behold) the field met their first short, sharp climb – and their first mud and those nice, bright, white trainers that Father Christmas had just brought them were never to be the same again! The steep climb soon levelled out to just a ‘steady rise’ before eventually changing to gentle descent offering the runners brief respite as the course continued along the edges of the fields, all thoughts of the cold now gone after the exertion!
This pattern of alternating steep and gentle ups and downs, interspersed with mud and a bit more mud, repeated itself as the runners made their way through the lovely, fresh Lincolnshire countryside until, after around 4 1/2km, a long flat straight stretch of tarmac was reached and the end was finally in sight – for the ladies at least! Half way down this straight the gents were directed to the left and after a short run along a river met up with that first muddy hill again to begin their second loop – oh how much longer and steeper it looked second time round and the mud now freshly churned by the recent passing of 150 pairs of feet seemed worse!
The ladies continued straight on and mustered whatever energy they could find, picked up the pace and sprinted for the finish line after completing nearly 5km! The first to cross was Flt Lt Sarah Hazell of RAF Waddington with an impressive time of 20:21 and a full two minutes ahead of second placed Sgt Louise Parr of RAF Cranwell with Cpl Bell from Brampton/Wyton/Henlow placing third. They were very closely followed for a respectable fourth, fifth and seventh place by RAF Wittering’s very own Cpl Nicola Falkner, Flt Lt Mary Temple and SAC Babs Andrews respectively – go on the Wittering ladies!!
Now on the second loop, Cpl Steve Robinson from RAF Cottesmore continued his blistering pace, and managed to keep it up all the way round and completed the 10km, winning the gents race in a stunning 33:49 – followed just 24 seconds later by RAF Waddington’s Sgt Andy Fisher who despite tremendous effort just couldn’t quite catch him. Another Cottesmore runner, Sgt Chris Rowlawnd, took third place in an equally impressive 35:07. Wittering gents ‘first three’ home were Cpl Stewart ‘Slingers’ Kingshott, SAC Mark Peart and Sqn Ldr Al Rutledge taking 14th, 18th and 23rd respectively with ‘Slingers’ less than four minutes behind the winner.
All in all a brilliant result for the Station and every single one of the runners who crossed the finish line was a winner. Not only did they have an afternoon away from work exercising in the lovely countryside, scored points for Wittering and boosted its standing in the league, raised the profile of the Station within the local community, but had lots of fun in the process!
Report by Sgt Mark Hayman