Mud-tastic! The RAF Match 2004
On Saturday 23rd October, Cambridge University Hare & Hounds had their second race of the season, a three-way match with the RAF and Eastern Counties. A nearly-full coach arrived at Huntingdon, where the Eastern Counties were hosting this year's race, 2½ hours early for the women's race! This would have allowed plenty of time to walk the course and get psyched up - if the course map had been prepared by then!
About an hour before the start, we set about trying to deduce the muddy, river-side route involving a novel combination of soft ground and concrete. The efforts were in vain however, as both races went awry. The misleading arrows on the ground (left by an earlier race for which the course looked much more interesting!) were successfully ignored by all, though Claire Willer, for Cambridge, led the women's 6km race on an inadvertent short-cut during the very first lap.
The men's leaders, also from Cambridge, were not much more successful - although it seems they were eager - Rowan Hooper's route was a long-cut! Through incessant rain, the women had 3 soaked-to-the-skin laps to endure, and the men 5 in their '10km' course. I say '10km' because revised estimates put the distance at more like 12km! I wasn't even sure how many laps there were, as I gave up worrying about that and focused on keeping my water-logged shorts from falling down.
In the women's race, there was no question as to the winner, as Claire Willer dominated and won by over half a minute. Other outstanding individual performances came from Alice Tozer, 3rd home for Cambridge in 7th place (beating 3 of the 4 girls she lost out to in the previous weekend's Fun Run), and Olly Sanderson - completing the 4-person team in 10th position - but these were unfortunately not enough to secure victory against a strong Eastern Counties team. The Cambridge men dominated their race, however, with all 6 scoring runners finishing in the top 10. Paulo Natali won, with Rowan Hooper and Captain Ben Hope not far behind in 3rd and 4th. Excellent efforts by Will George, Tim Short and Edd Collins (finishing 5th, 8th and 10th respectively) completed the convincing victory.
Team morale was unquenchable in spite of the rain, as shown by the magnificent support offered by both teams for each other - especially the women, choosing to stay on after their race and cheer instead of heading for the showers! Then again, they did get to witness the most orgasmic sprint finish by a certain Aidan Brown, who unleashed the proverbial beast with 200m to go and positively rocketed over the line... The season has certainly started brightly, and hopes will be high for the next race; the 'Mob Match' against Thames Hare & Hounds, held this year at Wimbledon Common on 6th November.
by Matt Young