Imagine, if you will, what seemed to be the set for a new TV series situated in a picturesque North Yorkshire village – technicolour bunting swaying in the breeze above a classic village green; anxious volunteers wrestling with trestle tables and uncooperative gazebos; elegant horsewomen riding aristocratic horses; cheerful cyclists chasing farmers’tractors; and a village hall bustling with life and expectation. And then the twist, this was no rehearsal for a soap opera or detective series. The inflatable starting arch and the digital clock indicated otherwise. This was Kirkby Fleetham, the venue for the Spring Festival of Race Walking, inspired by the history of the Bradford 50 kilometres, now lost under the wheels of the all-conquering automobile.
In truth the weather was not what the idyllic scene demanded. Whilst most of Northern England basked in the sun, Kirkby Fleetham was overcast and frankly bloody cold. However in hindsight the cooler temperature proved to be the liking of the gallant souls, who set off at 10 in the morning to race from 20 upwards to 50 kilometres. At stake were the Northern 35k championship and the Geoff Dowling Rose Bowl for the best overall team performance. A supporting cast of athletes set off an hour and a quarter later racing 5 or 10 kilometres, adding a measure of speed and diversity to the proceedings.
As it was the Northern championship was dominated by Lancashire with a smooth untroubled defence of his title by Adrian Edwards with Roy Gunnett in 3rd and Sailash Shah fourth clinching the team title with Phil McCullagh backing up in 5th. However more success was to come our way, somewhat unexpectedly, as Sailash announced he was going to finish the 50k, come heaven or high water. We were a mite concerned, especially as Sailash complained that his stomach was gurgling. Sustenance was required. Not content with his leading role in organising the whole day Trevor McDermot rose to the challenge, appearing with a much needed jam butty to soothe our hero’s bowels. Thus fortified Sailash strode on to finish 6th behind the relaxed victor, Bill McFadden of Scotia RWC. In the event Sailash’s effort meant that Lancashire pipped the ever smiling lads and lass of Scotia by a single point to bring home the Rose Bowl. As we understand it Trevor and Sailash are in earnest negotiations with Duerr’s, the oldest jam maker in England re sponsorship for next year, provided Sailash is given a starring role in the pre-festival publicity.
In the 10k Category A race our club provided four of the eight finishers with Tony Taylor 3rd, Greg Smith 4th, Tony Bell 5th and, defying serious illness, Dave Crompton 7th.
Full results here – Holt Bradford Results 2016
I can only add my voice to the chorus of praise for Trevor and Linda McDermot , their army of volunteers and the Yorkshire Race Walking Club for their imagination and graft in putting on a festival of race walking destined to be a permanent feature of the racing calendar. And as ever we must thank the officials, such as our own Fred Pearce, Eric and Pam Horwill and Russel Jackson for their expertise and persistence across seven hours of activity.
Finally it was a joy to see Paddy Dowling again, as humble and humorous as ever, and swap tales about the great tussles in the past between our club and Sheffield United Harriers, now sadly, but a proud name in the history of our sport. And to remember again, Paddy’s amazing long-distance feats. For example he once raced four 200 plus kilometre European events on successive weekends – utterly magnificent, utterly bonkers!
See you all at the Festival next year. We’ve a reputation to uphold.