The inaugural Hatterall Hammer, promoted by Hereford Couriers but held on the Welsh side of the border along a stretch of
the formerly fiercely contested Offa's Dyke, saw further combat of a less bloody kind between runners from the neighbouring
countries. Numbers were swelled by a strong contingent from Croft Ambrey in North Herefordshire, dragooned into action by
manager Mike Blenkinsop.
The straight up and down course of about 4 miles with over 1000 feet of climb consisted of a flat start over
yielding grassland with the steep ascent beginning on tarmac, funnelling in due course into a stony gully which
in turn gave way to deliciously springy turf up to the trig point from where the headlong descent began.
We were blessed with an unfamiliarly dry if windy day though the road section still bore witness to the recent
persistent heavy rain which only a fortnight before had turned this part of the course into a lethal skidpan.
78 runners were set on their way by the farmer whose land we were traversing and who took an enthusiastic interest in proceedings.
There was some fine racing with many places being lost and gained on the long speedy descent. Chris Jones of MDC set a challenging
inaugural male record of 27.22, 23 seconds clear of the second man, while the women's record time was claimed by Katie Beecher in
34.29 after a superb descent leaving a clutch of men floundering in her wake.
Second man home was Jon Barnes of Mynnyd Du [and Hereford!], another who gained places on the way down with Matt Stott of
Chepstow just 11 seconds back from him. Charlie Jenkins, who arrived just before the start, having been caught in traffic,
took the under 23 prize in 32.02. Simon Norwood from Croft had a storming run for 1st v40 in 30.58 but was closely followed
by top V50, Peter Sowerby [31.12] who in turn had had to work hard to overhaul fellow V50, Max Suff [31.46] venturing out of
his Forest of Dean hibernation at the first scent of spring.
It is a sign of the times that there were 12 over sixties in the field and once again, as in every race in the Series
so far, Steve Littlewood of the illustrious Couriers, came out on top in 35.06 but it was not without a tough battle
with Mynydd Du's Dai Smout [35.24] who had climbed superbly and was 50 metres clear at the summit. In the V70's, the
indefatigable Robert West of MDC had some competition in the form of Wye Valley's 79 year old Harry Franklin but took
the category win by some two and a half minutes in 47.33.
Second woman and 1st V40 home was the prolific racer, Niki Morgan of Chepstow [35.41] who had led to the top and was
also in a hurry to leave the venue having a night race to run a bit later. In third was Sarah Adams of Taff Ely Triathlon
in 40.31, with Rona Davies of Mynnyd Du first V50 in 41.29.
The men's Team Prize went to MDC with Chepstow Harriers carrying off the women's award.
The Old Pandy Inn offered fine hospitality to the unwonted Saturday afternoon invasion and, as the crowds dispersed, a
couple of us remained to watch a convincing England win over Ireland at Twickenham on the big screen. Strange how quiet
this pub in Wales became!