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Race The Train - 13th October 2012

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This novelty event pitted runners against the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire steam train which runs from Cheltenham racecourse to Winchcombe and back. Runners started on the loud blast of the steam train and made their way around a 14 mile loop, heading firstly towards the top of Cleeve Hill before descending into Winchcombe, then looping back to the racecourse via Belas Knap, with a view of beating the train back which would mean finishing inside 1 hr 52 mins.

Runners had the option of racing as a pair in a relay or running solo. Laura Kent displayed her usual tenacity by opting for the solo option whilst Dave Smeath & club captain, Chris Driskell ran as a pair. Smeath started aggressively, finding himself in the previously unchartered territory of being the race leader. He maintained this lead for at least the first 400m, possible even 500m before realising that this was not what nature intended and settling into a slightly slower group behind the leading two men. The exhausting, steep muddy climb up through Queens Woods and onto the highest point of Cleeve Hill for the first 3 miles was rewarded by a long descent into Winchcombe, where Smeath handed over to Driskell at Studeley Castle in fourth place overall and leading team, but with a lot of work to do to make up ground on the leading men.

Keen not to burn himself out on the ascent but conscious of the need to maintain sub 8 minute mile pace in order to stay ahead of the train, Driskell set a tentative yet solid pace on the long climb out of Winchcombe towards Belas Knapp. Having reached the top of the climb with an average split lying just above 8-minute miling, he began to take advantage of comparatively fresh legs and up the tempo to close the gap on the second-placed runner. The decisive move came with a 6:00 mile on the top of Cleeve Hill where he put clear distance between himself and 3rd place. All that remained was the steep descent and the final mile through the fields between Southam and the racecourse. Despite tiring up the final hill, he held onto the lead over the 3rd place to claim 2nd place for Team Smeath/Driskell and beat the train by a comfortable distance with an average mile split of 06:56.

With Smeath and Driskell having run, in their own words, rather well, there was an excellent performance from Kent who surprised herself after a recent injury lay off by not only beating the train back comfortably in a time of 1 hr 47 mins, but also finishing as leading lady. This augurs well for the upcoming cross country season.</p>