The Blaise Blazer is one of my favourite events. Short but tough, it packs plenty of racing into 4 miles of footpaths and tracks through the beautiful Blaise Castle estate. The hosts, Westbury Harriers, are a fine club with a thriving junior section and a strong cross country tradition.
Three years ago Southville RC won the mob match. This evening we didn’t even have a team. In fact, only Westbury and Emersons Green had a full team. Blame the weather — relentless heavy rain.
Cycling across to the race left me soaked before the start. I shivered and tried to stay warm in the clubhouse whilst the deluge continued. Pinned to the wall was a picture of the new route, which, rather than ending at the folly, passes in front of it before a final charge back down to finish just outside the clubhouse.
At last we were off, 76 of us speeding over the wet field. The race starts downhill and fast. Ascending the zig-zag I figured I must have been around 10th. My wet feet were warming up. Down across the meadow and back on the path, trying not to skid on the greasy camber. How dark it was for a summer’s evening!
Climbing again, murky and muddy, roots and stones. Passing runners. I could barely see what was underfoot on the wooded descent but attacked nontheless. Alex Hamblin and a younger lad were just ahead of me. I didn’t know who was ahead of them. Now we were following the new route. I closed on the two in front of me on the steep ascent to the folly. Past the folly and back down on an unfamiliar switchback of a path. I took the corners carefully. Out at last and on my way across the sodden field to the line.
I was surprised to learn I’d come in third. The two runners in front, Alex Hamblin and 15 year old Aidan Noble had taken the first two places. Could I have found something extra if I’d known I was contesting the lead?