The BBC weather forecast for Abergavenny was showing clement conditions until 2 pm, where two blobs of rain suddenly appeared indicating monsoonal downpours, gale-force winds and a plague of frogs, for the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately their timing was wrong and although it was a little bracing out there and a moderate to strong risk of losing an ill-fitting hat on exposed sections of the course, the 53 competitors all returned to the finish safe, dry and pumped full of endorphins ready to return to spouses with tales of derring-do. It certainly beat a circuit of the local shopping mall.
Race Venue The Skirrid Inn, with its special spooky ambience, lends a fitting feel to this short but sparky fell race. With a new, swanky computer system one new requirement was a need to ask competitors their ages, Only a handful of competitors could remember how old they were. Unsurprisingly most of the ones who could remember their ages were under 40 - notwithstanding the winner U23 Duncan Birtwhistle, who had a self-debate for a couple of minutes to decide whether he was 22 or 21 and in the end plumped for the latter.

Fortunately Duncan’s running skills are vastly superior to his counting skills, and he smashed the race to win in a time of 30.50 – beating his own course record set last year by nearly a minute. He is also, almost certainly the winner of the coveted fastest descent perpetual trophy (again). The scores for fastest descents will be worked out at some point and winners notified of their £2000 all expenses paid trip to the Bahamas (or a chocolate santa).

Conditions underfoot were not as muddy as last year, so times were generally quicker, even though everyone was a year older and more world-weary. Out of 53 runners, only 11 were under 40. There were some impressive performances from these vintage runners though, showing that even though they’ve forgotten how old they are, they can still usefully get up and down a hill, especially if it means getting out of the Christmas shopping. It must have been the lure of the Tescos value chocolate santas as prizes that was spurring them on.

There was a very marked dearth of female runners in the race – just 4. Still, it’s quality not quantity that counts, and besides winner Niki Morgan, there was the orienteering world champion goddess/legend Alice Bedwell taking 2nd place and 1st FV50, fell runner and orienteer extraordinaire Sasha Habgood in 3rd place, and Chepstow Harriers fell racing stalwart Karen Elvers.

Given the dearth of women in the race, the organisers gave more vet prizes for the men, so first and second in each category were rewarded for their supreme physical challenge with, er, a Tescos value chocolate santa…

Huge congratulations to all who took part in the event, and enormous, heart-felt thanks to all the helpers, who were rewarded for their onerous, challenging and responsible duties by er. a Tescos value chocolate santa… Helpers were stoical summit beacon Rob Brown, super-smiley photographer and road marshal Lou Summers, results/finish dream team Paul & Joc Dodd, suave sweeper Gareth Jones, Registration (and racer) guru Karen Elvers.

Well done to the prize winners:

1st Male – Duncan Birtwistle (aged 20 something) 30.50
2nd Male – Ben Moon (confidently 34) 33.21 – smashed his time from last year
3rd Male – Grant Lewis (34 – clearly a winning age) 33.49

1st Female – Niki Morgan, 39.34
2nd Female – Alice Bedwell, 1st FV50 40.27 – too damn close for comfort
3rd Female – Sasha Habgood 40.37 - too close for Alice’s comfort

1st Male Vet 40 – Stuart Moore 34.53 – running out of things to say now
2nd Male Vet 40 – Mark Matthews 35.32

1st Male Vet 50 – Kevin Hagley 36.04
2nd Male Vet 50 – Gary Jones 37.23

1st Male Vet 60 – Steve Littlewood 39.46 (not running Mortimers Forest last week clearly worked)
2nd Male Vet 60 – Neil Grant 40.17 (bitter & twisted not to be first but still won a beer due to generosity of prize giver

1st FV40 not to have been in the top 3 – Karen Elvers proud winner of more chocolate santas than she ever wanted!


Niki Morgan

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