Last Sunday saw the cross-country season kick off in style, with a university-wide road race for college members hosted by the Hare & Hounds. The so-called "Freshers' Fun Run" (bit of a misnomer, as it's open to everyone - not just freshers) was started at 2pm from Wilberforce Road Athletics Track, and an all-time record number of people took part. Of 157 competitors in the men's race, fresher Paolo Natali was first man home, closely followed by club captain Ben Hope. Completing the 5km flat course in 15:59 and 16:04 respectively, they dipped well under Rowan Hooper's winning time of 16:18 from last year.

... In fact, so did the next two runners (Richard Ward and Will George), which just goes to show how blisteringly fast the pace was in this, the first race of the Chris Brasher College League 2004/05. I suppose everyone was so keen to get their share of Fun that they forgot about pacing the race and just nailed it off the start line.

The women's race (which had started 5 minutes earlier than the men's) consisted of one 2.8km loop around the Cavendish labs. It was also full to the brim with enthusiastic entrants, 81 ladies running in all. First across the line was Claire Willer of Robinson, who won with a comfortable margin of 57 seconds, beating her previous time on the course by over a minute. Next came Catharine Wood of Queens' (10:26) and Catherine Hanna of Newnham (10:34). The first fresher amongst the ladies was Claire Day, finishing a close 4th behind Miss Hanna and further contributing to the Queens' College cause.

I think the standard of incoming talent may have come as quite a shock to some current members of the Hare & Hounds, and with only Captain Hope to split the first 3 freshers in the men's race those tantalising spots in the Blues and 2nd teams seem to have all but disappeared. One thing's for certain though - the squad will be a mighty adversary for Oxford this year, particularly when it comes to strength in depth. In terms of sheer numbers of talented and enthusiastic runners, Cambridge is second to none.

The college competition (incorporating a total of five races over the first two terms) was initiated at the Fun Run, with the following team results:

Men's Division I (4 to score)

1 Queens 567 pts
2 Girton 481 pts
3 Jesus 465 pts

Men's Division II (3 to score)

1 Tit Hall 445 pts
2 Catz 437 pts
3 Sidney 402 pts

Women's Division (3 to score)

1 Queens 246 pts
2 Caius 223 pts
3 Newnham 203 pts

Queens' Ladies produced a particularly strong performance, with their first 5 runners in positions 2, 4, 6, 10 and 11 respectively. Trinity Hall, who finished a modest 14th in Men's Division II last year, seem to have skyrocketed to success at this early stage in the season, with strong performances by Matthew Armstrong, Oli May and Cassina Nicola. Perhaps promotion is on the cards?
In the Men's Division I, defending champions Queens' were able to snatch victory from the jaws of Girton, with a good run by fresher Matt Young (and some equally good marshalling by Alex McIntosh). Pembroke - almost obscenely strong on paper - were unable to get a full team out and will have to wait until Grantchester Meadows to make their claim for the title.

After the race there was a general migration towards the track pavilion, where refreshments were on offer and prizes were being organised for the first few freshers in each race. While results were hurriedly being pieced together, the Kit and Membership tables were swarmed by zealous competitors, eager to get involved in the world of C.U.H.&H. Almost all of Matt Sims' legendary hoodies were swiped (they really are so cool) and a stash of BUSA training tops was devoured by the hungry crowds too.

League sponsors Sweatshop had even made an appearance with some high-tech gadgetry to analyse running styles and pronation. It was the icing on the cake of a delicious day, and thanks must go to League Organisers Alice and Catharine, along with all their marshals and helpers, for making it happen. Look forward to more of the same on 31st October, when the 2nd race in the Chris Brasher League - i.e. Grantchester Meadows - will be held... Bring it on!

--Andy Bell

See here for results.