(From left to right) Michelle Ford, Susan Kennedy, Sophie Barnard and Jen Armson
I like a hilly race; mainly because hills usually decrease the likelihood that young whippersnappers are out of sight before I’ve got my (old, diesel) engine going. And the Harrow Hill 10k didn’t disappoint.
Briefed by John Walerych, a few of us trotted off for a warm-up jog and to have a look at the hill we’d have to run up twice within the first kilometre. Better the devil you know, and all that. Well, even at jogging pace, my legs filled with lactate and my lungs complained. So, with confidence slightly dented, I stopped halfway up, aborted my warm up and walked back to base camp. Turns out that ignorance is bliss when it comes to the “famous” Football Lane hill.
Base camp was in the grounds of Harrow School, which looked stunning on an unseasonably warm and sunny February morning. After dropping bags in one of the many pavilions, a posse of Hoops headed off to the start line.
Now, I generally try (pretend) to be chilled before the gun goes off but, having spotted a lady wearing
a club vest and warming up in a professional manner (drills, nice form etc...unlike my wheeze up the hill), I started to feel up for a race, with the carrot of Queen/King of the Hill having been dangled before us. “Don’t worry, she’s not in your age category”, Sophie Barnard helpfully counselled: in other words “you’re much older than that lady and you don’t stand a chance!” (Only joking, Sophie; I know that’s not what you meant...or at least I think not ;-D)
After a warm welcome from the Metros—who put on a wonderfully organised race—we were
off. With the sun on our backs, we ran a short but brutal loop around the school grounds—including twice up That Hill—before beginning the first of two laps around Harrow itself. It’s a brilliant course, with uphill sections, fast downhills, a bit of flat running and a lovely section through picturesque Harrow. No PB potential here, but if you’re looking for a hard run and a massive fitness boost, then look no further. The second lap takes in the less steep—but still quite steep—route up to the top of Harrow Hill; over a kilometre of uphill running, which was a good opportunity to test the strength built up through the Cross Country season.
What goes up must come down and, after taking in the village streets of Harrow for a second time, we welcomed a fast downhill section before making the final chase to the finish line. I was greeted at the finish by the always-smiling Sam Sutherland, who had finished sixth overall of the Senior Men—an excellent result.
Successes came thick and fast among the QPH ladies too, with Sophie Barnard winning the VW45 category and coming a fantastic fifth lady overall, Susan Kennedy winning the VW55 category, and me completing a QPH clean sweep of the veteran women’s categories with victory in the VW35 category and second lady overall (approximately two seconds after the gun went off I lost sight of the aforementioned Fast Lady, who was duly crowned Queen of the Hill and took the overall win). Great job, ladies!
Post-race refreshments were served in yet another pavilion, with tea, coffee, and a spectacular spread of home-made cakes welcomed by all.
Well done to all the Hoopsters who ran on Sunday. Thanks to the redoubtable Jean Walerych for cheering us on along the route, and to Victor for the photos. Let’s see how the fledgling Club Road Championships leaderboard looks now!
Check out how all the Hoops did at Harrow in our latest results blog.