The hills are not the only challenge on this course, the nature of the ground underfoot also adds to the fun! Stoney tracks, mud, a stream, tree roots, amassed piles of fallen leaves and a stealth cattle-grid that appeared out of no-where that runners had to hurdle all combine to make this course an energy sapping one. Sounds like the stuff of night mares and yet almost 500 runners, including 8 Harriers, signed up raring to tackle all that the Drogo had to throw at them.
Half of the Harrier entrants were made up of Dupains! They are the local running scene's answer to the Waltons and when one signs up for a race there are usually others there in back-up! Top Dupain on the day, although now using her married name Bown, was Hannah. Hannah is in the form of her life at the moment having returned to running from pregnancy stronger than ever. She ran 77:00 dead (although she is adamant that her Garmin in fact clocked her at 76:59!) which gave her 61st place overall and 3rd female. Since June this year she has managed to place in the top three at every local race she has competed in! Brother Chris also had a good run. Although he doesn't compete regularly and cannot train with the club due to his work commitments, he always puts in solid performances when he does rock up to a race. He took 86:25 for 143rd place overall. Emma also had a very fine run, especially considering that her and her foot had had a nasty run in with a hockey ball the previous day and the hockey ball came off best! She just missed out on finishing in under 90 minutes, clocking 90:10 for 198th place. Completing the Dupain line-up was Nigel-'Pops'-Dupain who took the number off Ben White at last minute. He had a very solid run and enjoyed the wonderful views on the course on what was a superbly sunny autumn day for running, clocking 96:45 for 258th place, just outside the top 50% of finishers.
First Harrier home on the day and improving upon his time from last year by over a minute and setting a Drogo PB in the process, was Mike Musgrove. Mike took 70:04 to complete the muddy 9.6 miles, securing him 18th spot overall (8 places higher than last year) and 5th MV40 in a very competitive field, in which the winner, Ceri Rees, came from this category. And all this despite having a slightly pulled calf muscle which he sustained at an inter-forces cross-country race in the week. Impressive stuff! Those hills sessions with Berihu have clearly paid off!
Next in was myself, Ellie Sutcliffe. This was my first time running the Drogo and armed with advice from Terry ("get yourself to the front and the right on the start line", "don't go too hard up the first hill, save some in the tank for later", etc! - Thanks Terry!), I set off expecting it to be a hard slog! My main competition was Jo Meek from Tavistock, I have never beaten her - never even come close! - but maybe today could have been the day?! So I sidled along the start line to tuck in just behind her. This turned out to be a futile exercise as she descended the first hill like a mountain goat and I never saw her again until the finish! Nevertheless, I finished less than 2 minutes behind her, which is closer than in previous races, so I was happy with that. I took 74:42 and came 46th overall and 2nd female.
There were perhaps two stand-out performances of the day, these being those of Scott-2 Trigs-Jordan, who knocked 5 minutes off his time from last year, and Dawn Teed, who slashed almost 10 minutes off her 2011 Drogo time!
2 Trigs is a master descender and uses his nimble, speedy, fearless descending skills to great effect to gain time on the opposition. He covered the course in a time of 80:37 for 82nd place. He also proudly boasted at the finish that he didn't walk any of the course, not even the (in)famous Hunters Path Hill: a huge achievement in itself!
Dawn is now into the early stages of a marathon training schedule and if the massive improvement on her Drogo time from last year is anything to go by, she is going to do very well at the Falklands Marathon in March 2013. In fact, Dawn's times have improved over several of the races she has done this year and she is running really strongly at the moment. She finished the Drogo in 97:48 for 266th place overall.
The eighth Harrier in was Jenny Wood in 344th place overall in a time of 1:45:02. Unfortunately I do not know Jenny so cannot say if this was a good performance by her standards or not, but it was certainly a good performance by Drogo standards and given that there were 486 finishers, she placed well up the field.
The icing on the cake for a great day at the Harriers' office was that in the announcement of the team prizes, with 3 to count for the female team, Hannah, Emma and myself took the top spoils! We were all very happy with our winning wine and wouldn't mind more of this team victory lark, so on on to the Exeter XC ladies!!
All the next photos, until stated, were taken by Jon Garrity, 400m from the finish (hence why we all look knakcered!). Thanks a mil' Jon, they are great!!
Winning female team: Hannah, Emma, Ellie