There’s not much to entice a Wolves fan to Smethwick, but this years County XC Champs were being held at Warley Woods – and MCKEP athletes Thighs Simkiss and Hywel Towel were making their first XC performance of the season, forming a quarter of a masters team, and a quarter of a team in the senior mens race.
Both athletes had completed their local Parkrun that morning in Daventry; Simkiss enjoying a 3mile shakeout jog accompanying his wife, and Hywel doing his best to sweat out a litre of single malt and the front of the field. The pair reconvened several hours later aboard the MCKEP team bus and arrived in Smethwick with plenty of time to spare. Race numbers collected, the only panic coming from Simkiss who couldn’t remember which one of them was race number 620 and which was 843.
Number dilemmas resolved, the athletes congregated at the start line – given that the route was a cross between a trail run and a ‘kids-run-free’ course on acid, with as many turns and switchbacks as discussions about appropriate spike length – it was actually quite a good cross country course and made for good spectating. Hywel could barely contain his excitement.
The opening surge saw a characteristically cautious start from Simkiss, and Hywel settled in behind – as the field thinned they soon began to pick off the sprint starters. First (small) lap done and the prospect of three large laps was somewhat painful. Having recovered from the opening charge and flood of lactic – Simkiss worked to catch former team mate Phil Gould of Kenilworth, and Scott Hazell of Godiva before pushing on to open a gap. Hywel’s battles were against gravity and his hamstring – with a couple of tumbles and a big twinge, added to a reminder of last night in the form of a pounding head – Hywel was all but ready to chuck it in – but fought through with MCKEP pride.
Simkiss faded a little on the last lap despite some fantastic support on the course from the Kenilworth & Leamington spectators, and gave up the chase on Leamington’s Savery snack. Hywel managed to close a little ground and they finished 14th and 23rd respectively in the overall results, putting Simkiss 11th in the Warwickshire standings, and Davies 5th in the Warwickshire Masters race.
Simkiss was pleased with his result, but confesses he hasn’t missed XC running this season – Hywel was just pleased to be on his way home to a hot bath and fluffy slippers.