Newsdesk 2004

 Web site: www.ranelagh-harriers.com 
 *  Allison O'Neill wins final Surrey League race
 *  Women's team finishes season in 3rd place
 *  Men's team finishes season in 6th place
 *  Mad McLaughlin survives the Toughguy

 HEC PETERSEN TROPHY Inter-club v Ealing, Southall & Middlesex AC and others
 Saturday February 14th at Perivale
 Our Hec Petersen trophy match with Ealing is combined this year with a North
 West London League race. It's a low-key event for us, but anyone who fancies
 a run will be welcome. It's 5 miles, start time 2.30pm, changing at Perivale
 Community Centre, Horsenden Lane South, Perivale, near Perivale tube

 GREEN BELT RELAY    Saturday May 8th and Sunday May 9th. 
 Those new members who don't know what this event is all about, please take a
 look at the web site www.greenbeltrelay.org.uk
 Briefly, it's a 210 mile relay around London's Green Belt. The route is 
 divided into 20 stages varying in length from 7 to nearly 14 miles. 
 There are 10 stages on Saturday, an overnight rest, then another ten stages 
 on Sunday. Teams of ten runners take part and each runner has to run one stage
 each day. So to take part you have to be free to run sometime on both days,
 but you don't have to give up the whole weekend - you can just run your stage 
 and go home if you don't want to follow the race.  We entered four teams last 
 year - vets (the Old Dogs), women (the Lassies), Bev's Bloodhounds and the 
 rest (the Mongrels). The Old Dogs won the vets trophy and the Bloodhounds won 
 the toilet seat for the last team to complete all 20 stages. In the past we 
 have been outright winners more than once and our women have also been 
 We aim if possible to accommodate everybody who would like to run, but entries
 have to be in by the end of March, so we need to decide pretty quickly how many 
 teams to put in. If you think you might like to take part please reply to me 
 straight away (mailto:srowland@calor.co.uk ), unless you have already responded 
 to Bev Ali's call last week for prospective Bloodhounds.   

 SURREY LEAGUE DIVISION 1   Saturday February 7th  Women at Lloyd Park,
 Croydon,  men at Farthing Downs, Coulsdon
 Our first-ever winner of a senior women's Surrey League Division 1 race!
 After the disappointment of losing a shoe in the South of England
 Championships and then performing below her expectations in the Northern
 Ireland Championships, Allison O'Neill is determined to make amends.  

 Typically she takes the race by the scruff of the neck and shakes it to
 pieces on the first hill. So there's Allison with a small lead but ominously
 tracking her are Lucy Hasell who beat her by over a minute in the first
 League race back in October and Meredith Pannett who finished the January
 race 50 metres up on her. But you sense there's going to be no stopping
 Allison this time. The first short lap sees her with still just a slight
 advantage over her chasers but the hills at the start of the second lap
 prove to be the pivotal moments. With an expression of fixed determination
 Allison digs in, drives on and is away and clear, building up an
 insurmountable lead which sees her cross the line nearly 20 seconds to the
 good. An outstanding performance. Then it's grins and hugs all round! 

 Sarah Seal comes bounding in a minute later just ahead of Pannett and her
 arch-rivals from Belgrave. This rounds off a consistently high-quality
 League season for Sarah, with an 8th, a 4th and two 5th place finishes to
 her name. This proves sufficient to give Sarah the silver medal in the
 senior individual competition. The overall senior winner would have been
 Allison, but as a veteran she counts only in that category - which of course
 she wins. 

 Behind our top two there is something of an "end of term" feel to the team -
 only eight starters and lots of missing names for various reasons. Well
 though Kathy, Eliete and Sonia run, they are probably surprised to find
 themselves amongst the 'A' team scoring five!  Alice, Jacqui and Clodagh
 complete our representation. But overall it makes little difference to the
 team position. We finish 4th today and retain a safe third place in the
 final League table behind Belgrave and South London. 

 Anair Beverly misses today's Under 20 race, but three straight wins in the
 previous fixtures already guaranteed her an individual gold medal in the
 Under 17 category.         

 Finally the Under 15s - Alex Hook, Emily Ball and newcomer Rhiannon Mehta -
 achieve their best result of the season with a 4th place. 

 The men's race on Farthing Downs was of fearsomely high quality, and not
 suprisingly as there was everything to run for at the top of the table.
 Thames were carrying a slender 29 point lead over Herne Hill into today's
 event. At a more mundane level, we trailed hosts South London by just 26
 points in 5th and 6th places. 

 While track international Spencer Barden was leaving them for dead at the
 front, David Benton and Peter Haarer were acquitting themselves handsomely
 by finishing in the top 20 scoring runners. Excluding the guest in 7th
 place, David's effective 16th was his third 16th in three League races this
 season! Paul Doyle gave it 100% as ever, and next for us Marius Acker,
 Marcus Gohar and Paul Graham had a race-long battle at around 60th place.
 Captain Bicks, Chris Owens, Mick Lane and the President completed the 10
 counters, but Mike had his work cut out to hold off Jacus Engelbrecht, who
 very nearly made it into the scoring team for the first time, and Neil
 Walford. Christian Vaughan made a late but vain bid to defend the tenner he
 had bet your editor at the start of the season that he would make a Surrey
 League scoring team. Gallant effort, Christian. League debutant Neil Day
 also perfomed well and Phil Aiken provided the team anchor. 

 SLH imported Computer Ken to do the results for them, so naturally they
 appeared efficiently and in double-quick time. The team result turned out to
 be a microcosm of the whole season - Thames just pipping Herne Hill for the
 honours, Belgrave and Aldershot isolated in 3rd and 4th, South London
 holding off Ranelagh in the battle for 5th and 6th, Reigate a safe 7th and
 Stragglers and Boxhill tailed off and booked for Division 2. They will be
 replaced next season by Guildford & Godalming and Dulwich Runners. 

 Matt Hirschler was our only represenative in the junior event but he ran
 well for 8th place less than two minutes behind the winner.


 Alice Beverly was fourth counter for the Oxford University team which
 finished just outside the medals in the 6km event.
 1 L Dobriskey (Lough) 23.48
 41 Alice Beverly (Oxford) 26.45 
 LONDON SCHOOLS CHAMPIONSHIPS  Wednesday January 28th at Parliament Hill
 This was the day of the heavy snow and race distances were severely
 shortened to reduced the threat of exposure!  Anair Beverly seemed little
 perturbed by the conditions or anything else in the Senior Girls race and
 built up a winning lead of 15 seconds in less than 9 minutes of running.
 Jordan Mungovan also ran well to finish 6th in the Senior Boys.

 1 K Tadesse (Belgrave) 1.10.26
 1235 Steve McClune 1.58.57
 1236 Simon Burrell 1.58.58
 1290 John Hanscomb 1.59.57 

 ...writes Mike McDowell:
 "Having won two bottles of Lambrusco and a packet of biscuits I am thinking
 of turning professional. I was first over 65/70/75 in the Boxing Day 4 miles
 road race in Gloucester in 41.27 and again in the New Year's Day 5 miler in
 51.42. On January 17th I was again leading over 65/70/75 in the 4.5 miles
 cross-country Chocolate Biscuit race in 42.24. 
 In the national 2003 road rankings I'm 3rd over 75 at 5 miles with 49.01". 

 TOUGHGUY WINTER 2004 - the Warrior Uprising.   
 Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.
 For the rest, Anna McLaughlin reports:  

 "To the uninitiated, Toughguy is no ordinary race.  In fact it is like no
 race you have ever done.  Marathon runners, sprinters, ultrarunners, elite
 triathletes, plodders........you ain't done diddly squat until you've done
 Toughguy.  There is nothing that can prepare you for this but to  ensure

 a) you are physically fit to do an 8 mile run 
 b) you are completely and utterly barking mad 

 Toughguy is recognised everywhere as one of the gnarliest and daftest
 adventure challenges around getting international press and TV coverage. 

 OK we hear you saying - what's so tough about an 8 mile cross country run???
 Everything.  And more.

 It starts with a cross country run that has a few little "differences" to
 others.  First off are The Banks where there are trees, shrubs, brambles and
 hills in the way - and 3000 fools tryng to get through this lot.  Then out
 into the country for a fairly standard run across fields and tracks until
 you hit the Slalom - up and down hill 8 times - except it's so steep that
 most of the up and most of the downs can only be done walking - even for the
 elite front runners.  Through more woods, grab some water, and head back to
 the start.

 Hey that wasn't so bad we hear you say.   True - that wasn't so bad.  But

 Across a track and, all of a sudden, crowds of spectators and reality kicks
 in - the last 6 miles or so has just been a  warm up to the main event - the

 For anyone that hasn't been through Commando or similar training, NOTHING
 You've read about it, seen the photos, but nothing really prepares you for
 The Killing Fields which is an obstacle course that has come from the
 darkest recesses of someone's warped mind.  Otherwise known as Mr Mouse.

 It starts with the Tiger - two 30' tall wooden arches you must climb up and
 over using either the cargo nets or widely spaced beams - neither route is
 easy and the danger of falling off is high as some did prove landing in the
 safety net.  It then continues as follows. 

 Colditz Walls - a sequence of 3 wooden walls to clamber over, progressively

 The Behemoth - 4 big walls separated by 20' single rope bridges which get
 slacker with more competitors!   

 Fiery Holes - burning bales of hay to jump over and then into water pits
 which get deeper with each one and are COLD!  And wet. 

 The Tyre Crawl - a cylinder of old tyres you crawl through - and straight
 into a muddy pond on the far side.
 The Swamp - by now you've had enough mud for a day but this is the start of
 the deep, gloopy stuff.  Two of my friends have to haul another one of us
 out as she gets stuck solid. 

 Vietcong Tunnels - a series of concrete tunnels to crawl through that also
 go uphill - murder on the knees  And they are dark.  And wet. 

 The Paradise Climb - a set of high cargo nets, finished off with a choice -
 fall off the cargo nets and into a pond, or slide down the rope.  Either way
 you get wet! 

 And what's this?? A drinking water station???  Sod that - we need Brandy by
 now but some fat chance of getting any. 

 Through the Splosh Pool - the word "gloop" was invented for this deep,
 sticky, stinking pond.   

 And down to the Pièce de Resistance - The Water Tunnel.  By now you are as
 wet and muddy as you think you can be but have yet to experience full
 immersion in winter cold water.  This is the one that truly takes the breath
 away and gives lads high pitched voices.  It starts with jumping into a
 chest deep river (chest deep for average persons).  Duck under 2 wooden
 beams on top of the water which is just a "warmer-upper" for the main part -
 four 18" timber beams laid across the water with a small gap between each
 beam.  By now you are soooooo cold but there's no escape - you have to duck
 under the water, below the beams, surface and grab air and do this twice
 more and then carry on wading for 20 metres or so out of the river.   

 Jeez - can you get any colder??  You bet!!  You are shivering for your
 country by now and Marshals implore you to get moving before you die!!! 

 A couple of hundred metre slippery run helps to get the circulation back
 with my mate doing a passable impression of Whacky Races - his legs are
 turning over like the clappers, but he ain't moving as his feet keep

 Then comes the BIG wall - the Korea Hell Hill.  A 12' high wall made of hay
 bales with ropes to clamber up - except these ropes are for most wet, muddy
 and slippery so it's difficult to climb up them.  There's much heaving and
 shoving at the bottom with people helping each other get to the top. He does
 a big BANZAIII shout at the top before heading down the cargo ropes and off
 the wall. 

 More muddy ponds and onto the Jesus Bridge - a series of barrels tied
 together with wooden slats- very rickety, very slippery, and if you fall off
 guess what?? Yep - you're back in deep water!   

 Even more running through mud and muck, and onto Dan's Deceiver - yet
 another cargo net climb but with a twist - it's got a sod of a drop on the
 other side.  At this point one of my friends decides to call it a day - she
 is feeling sick, her face has gone white and after all the cold water she is
 showing the first signs of hypothermia.  The marshals escort her to the St
 Johns crew who look after her until we catch up after the race. 

 Onto the Dragon Pool where you have 3 choices - a deep water 30 metre wade;
 slide down a rope or try a rope walk across.  It doesn't really make a lot
 of difference as by this time the ropes are so slack that you will fall into
 the water anyway.  Hell do you care about getting wet by now - nope - so
 many opt to wade it. Those who try the a rope walk fall off as expected. 

 Then the Bailey Bridge which is a shorter version of the Jesus Bridge and
 into Stalag Escape.  This is great fun if you enjoy crawling in mud under
 barbed wire - raise your head or rear and you will get shredded!  And the
 mud has gravel below which is just fine for taking the skin off the knees.
 And the crowds are hovering over you imploring you on.   Lovely. 
 The Tyre Torture is next- about 400m of track with tyres embedded into it so
 you have to pick your way through it. And guess what? It's muddy as well
 Then the Anaconda - a series of five 5' concrete tunnels ACROSS the track so
 you have to find some way get over them.  Too high to vault, too muddy to
 climb, so the best way is to leap onto your belly on top, spin the legs
 around and drop off.
 Yet more running and the end is now in sight. YEEHAAA!!!!!.  But there's a
 sting in the tail -  2 hills to climb which for the later runners are very,
 very muddy and slippery and one has ropes on it to help you get to the top.
 Over the second hill and then a final run in and across the line. ...with a
 time of 3hrs 16 minutes.   That's about 1 hour for the cross country, and 2
 hours in the Killing Fields which give some idea of how hard they are. 

 Winning time is 1hr 10mins.  Yep 70 minutes.  Phew, that is superb.  Fast
 times are achieved by strong athletes who start at the front, run on their
 own, don't end up in bottlenecks at obstacles or are members of  teams as
 this slows you down.

 After the finish comes a worthwhile medal - a horse brass - an obligatory
 hot drink and thermal blanket . You're so cold however that half the drink
 spills with . And ooooh the joys of a luxurious hot bath and shower - but
 you have to wait until you get home for that.   What you get is a cold muddy
 bath which everyone avoids and a warm, dribbly overhead shower to do your
 best to get the mud off.  Mixed showers as well but do people care??  Most
 of the lads strip right off to get the mud from bits where there really
 shouldn't be mud and many of the girls get their kit off as well.  By this
 stage nobody gives a damn.

 So having finished and collected my huge medallion along with a washing
 machine full of mud, would I go back and do it again?  Try and stop me... in
 fact my application is in the post already... !!!" 

 If you're a trophy holder, please make arrangements to return them to Alan
 Hedger as soon as possible so that he can arrange for the new winners' names
 to be engraved before the annual prize presentation at the Baker Cup supper.
 You can contact Alan on 01372 740626 or mailto:alan@hedger1st.fsnet.co.uk 

 Correction - the Epping Forest walk being organised by Peter Saw and Carol
 Barnshaw will take place on Saturday 20th March, not the 13th as previously
 stated. Further details to follow.
 A full fixture list for the 2003/04 winter season is available on our web

 More details of the following from Andy Bickerstaff (07966 552302 /
 mailto:andy@norris-hobs.co.uk ) or Paul Graham (mailto:paulgraham28@hotmail.com )
 or Clare Nicholson (07710 348030 / mailto:clarenicholson@hotmail.com ).

 Saturday February 14th           Hec Petersen Trophy inter-club race v
 Ealing Southall & Middlesex etc at Perivale.  5 miles starting at 2.30pm. 

 Saturday February 21st           National Championships at Leeds 

 Saturday February 28th            A busy day! Ranelagh Cup schools race in
 Richmond Park at 2pm followed by...           
                                               Clutton Cup 10 miles handicap
 in Richmond Park. Start 2.30pm followed by... 
         Junior Points Prize final races in Richmond
 Park. Start when the handicap is under way.

 Saturday March 6th                 Inter-club 3.8m in Richmond Park starting
 at 3pm

 Saturday March 13th               South of the Thames "Senior" Championships
 7.5 miles at Stanmer Park, Brighton starting at 2.30pm
 Steve Rowland
 e-mail: srowland@calor.co.uk
 Tel: 01926 318734
 Fax: 0870 4006901