Cross country running has a long and distinguished history going back to at least the early 19th century with racing at Shrewsbury School mimicking fox hunting in a very similar way to hashing. In London a similar approach was used by Thames Rowing Club in the late 1860s to keep fit over the winter with paper chases which soon became more formalised into the Thames Hare and Hounds, the first race was a fool hardy night time race over some of the boggiest bits of Wimbledon Common – a tradition was born…
Today’s race is an inter club ‘mob match’, primarily between the hosts Blackheath and Bromley, in black, and Beckenham, in claret. The links of Blackheath and Bromley to Blackheath is historical – they were based for around 50 years at the Green Man, just off Blackheath Hill, but moved to their current base in Hayes in 1926.
The course respects the history of the sport and is always muddy seemingly even in the driest years; after the torrential rain of recent weeks, parts of it were the muddiest I have ever run the it in. The conditions overhead were almost perfect.
(From Blackheath and Bromley website)
The high winds had brought down nearly a dozen trees on the course, while most just involved a step over, there was one small detour and clambering over one blocking the path. While there is always a field of horses to negotiate, today’s race had the added excitement of a loose horse on a very muddy bridleway; it made a dramatic entrance from stage right and had I been a second or two slower, it would have probably collided with me.
My finish time was about as expected in the conditions – around 40 seconds slower than last year; but unlike my last cross country outing, I didn’t end up completely covered with mud…
The winners on the day were the team in black, but it was the closest result in the half dozen years that the fixture has been running.
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