Mob matches are a standard feature of the cross country season. Today’s match with Blackheath and Bromley is a relatively recent one – around the 7th ‘edition’ although for a few years before that Beckenham runners ‘guested’ for a Bank of England team. Beckenham Running Club, like a lot of the sports clubs & ground in the area between Catford and Beckenham had its roots in the banking sector – until around 2000 it was known as Forbanks.
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 original Blackheath Harriers became Blackheath & Bromley after a merger of clubs in 2003.
The course is unusual for a cross country course in that it isn’t multiple lap, it isn’t even a lap – starting in a field below the fine church of St John the Baptist and finishing on the slightly higher ground of West Wickham Common about a kilometre away.
The 10 and a bit kilometres between the two start around a paddock to spread the field out a little followed a flattish kilometre across the fields to woods that run alongside the New Addington estate.
Then it is a long slog up gaining around 70 metres by the halfway point, around Layham’s Farm, and I was certainly feeling Wednesday’s long run in my legs by this point…
Photo by Tom Simpson
There are often loose horses in a field just before the farm who don’t take too kindly to over 90 runners using the public footpath through their field – which often leads to some perturbed looks from both parties (me from 3 years ago ….)
Photo by Tom Simpson
Helpfully those planning the route allow most of the height gained to be lost almost immediately. Then the height lost is predictably regained over a couple of kilometres along a bridleway which is dominated in dry years by mud, and in wet years a quagmire of thick glutinous mud where you hope that you have done your off-road shoes up tightly enough; today was the latter.
To add insult to injury at the end of this section there are steps of a number and length to make running up them more trouble that its worth unless you are an experienced fell runner or mountain goat. Any time gained attempting to run up is almost always lost on the flat three kilometres (it always feels longer) to the finish which is partially along a road.
As usual Blackheath and Bromley ‘won’ although it was closer than it had ever been before. My time was a few seconds slower than last year, however, 2014 didn’t involve a nearly 25 second wait for some very slow horse riders to pass the other way on a single track bit late on.
Finally, a few Beckenham ‘penguins’ huddling together for warmth before a rather cold start.