28 Years in the Making
By Andy Inchley
In 1989, before the Leighton bypass was built and when I was just a scrawny 13 year old, dad dragged me out of bed on Boxing day to go and do the Christmas handicap. The 5.6 mile race may well have been the furthest I’d ever run at that time and the handicapper (probably Geoff Roe) had me down to run 39 minutes. I actually ran 37:22 which earned me fourth place on the day, with Pat Neilan taking the title. There were 26 club members taking part that day and that is just about the closest I have come to winning the elusive Langmay trophy in a further 20 attempts. That is until this year!!
There were certain similarities in 2017: the course was almost the same (with a couple of bypass crossings included), there were another 27 participants from the club and the first man home was a V40. Times have also changed though. In those days the race started at 11 on Boxing Day morning and most people stayed for an hour or two in the football club telling Geoff how wrong he had got the predictions over a beer or three. Nowadays, we prefer an earlier start and results are published online.
Anyway, enough warbling. After the disappointing turn-out for the final Stag it was excellent to beat our all-time record attendance for club members at this event, with the 27 I mentioned earlier. Katie Stanton was there after her Brighton marathon and a few of the London marathoners were using it as a tempo run ahead of this weekend’s upcoming exertions, while most of us were just looking to burn off some chocolate.
The race is a blind handicap. The meaning of this is that the handicapper predicts a time for everyone before the start, but they don’t know what it is. You then run the race as normal and the winner is the person who beats their handicap by the greatest margin. Therefore, if you’re Elliot and you’re just using it as a pre-marathon jog round (it’s all relative!) then you’re going to come last, and he did.
As we set off, the early leader was Chris Dimmock. This lasted for maybe 100m before Tom took up the reins on the way out of Leighton, up Stanbridge Road. As I trailed along behind, hoping it would be over soon, Simon and Jordan cruised alongside chatting like a Wednesday night social. Everyone has had this happen at sometime or another and it was my turn to point out that this was meant to be a race. They ignored me and jogged past discussing upcoming races.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the field a friendly atmosphere was developing, with Elliot doing 1 minute efforts each mile in between running with Sam and Warren. Susan and Katie were having social run and were joined by the returning Sarah Daniels who we haven’t seen since last summer due to injury. They kept each other going throughout and all finished just a couple of minutes apart.
There were various minor battles going on throughout the course with Adam baiting Charlie and Alex Killick and Liz Miller pushing each other right through to the finish. My own personal battle was keeping near to the serene progress of Jordan and Simon as we approached Billington. These days it’s a rarely run route and so the hill at Billington takes me by surprise every time. It really is hideous. It’s two-thirds of the way into the race, it’s pretty steep and long enough for you to wonder when you’re going to reach the top. This is where I really lost contact with the elite boys and wondered if anyone was now gunning for me.
I managed to put my climbing equipment away and gain some composure on the descent finish the race in 40 odd seconds behind Simon and Jordan and to my surprise in under 32 minutes. I wasn’t sure, but a quick check with Dave and he confirmed I’d never run that fast before! Admittedly, many of these runs have been done with severe Christmas hangovers, but nonetheless I had to be happy with that in my veteran status.
So we all stood around at the finish and cheered everyone home while speculating about potential winners, whinging about the hill, discussing London marathon prospects and sharing injury stories.
So the final results came in later that day and I after 22 attempts I did manage to sneak the win by 19 seconds from my old man.
|Handicap Position||Finish Position||Name||Variance||Actual Time||Predicted Time|