Sunday, 1 April 2012

Grantham Cup 2012

The Grantham Cup race takes place as part of Belton Horse Trials and starts within the historic grounds of Belton House. I wasn't going to run this race and didn't think I could marshall either but I managed to get away from a work conference on Saturday evening and so decided to have a mosey up to Belton House on Sunday morning to see if I could help and perhaps take a few photies to illustrate this post.

Runners and Rider
Horse trialling is a sport I don't understand very well. It is clear however that its very well supported. There were thousands of people enjoying the horse trials, classic cars, and associated entertainment in the show arenas, including evil kinevil style motorcyclists jumping over ramps.   I learnt that there are two main parts to such a horse event, dressage which involves making your horse look nice before parading it around a ring and secondly show jumping which involves galloping the horse around a course and throwing it over huge jumps whilst as a rider you hang on to the reigns tightly. For me there was a far more sensible pursuit taking place, a running race. The Grantham Cup is perhaps unusual in these parts for two reasons. First the course is a 10k but over rough unforgiving rutted terrain. The course also involves a hill. Not a hill by Lake District proportions but a hill enough to test the resolve of the 110 participants that took part. 

At the start I spotted a runner from Clayton le Moors harriers, a prolific and respected club from the North West of England and a club whose runners I had often encountered when fell racing in the Peak District. The club has a very strong fell running section and I had a feeling the CLM runner whilst far from home, would fare well over the tough terrain and I wandered if he might show the Lincolnshire folk how to run up and down a hill properly!

A nice quirk to this event is the 'lead horse' instead of a lead car. The rider this year dazzled wearing Grantham Running Club's new green vest. Shortly before the race start she positioned her horse in front of the runners ready for the off. The race started when the adjacent horse course was clear. 

The route tracks through the splendour of the grounds of Belton House before crossing five gates lane and up the hill to the folly at the summit. The course then follows through the woods at the top where runners can find a bit of pace on the woodland tracks which were hardened because of the fine weather. A steady descent of the same hill eventually brings runners back to five gates lane. I wandered if the CLM athlete would extend a lead on the decent knowing that fell runners can run skillfully at break neck speed down such gradients whilst remaining upright. Finally the route comes back into Belton grounds to the finish where competitors are rewarded with a bottle of beer and a bottle opener.

Whilst the race ran, I walked up the course, admired a few horse jumpers and then positioned myself under a tree to await the return of the runners. Shortly afterwards the lead horse cantered by followed by Breton Holdswoth of.......Clayton Le Moors who was clearly maintaining the reputation of his club on familiar terrain! 

Breton Holdswoth - Clayton Le Moors
Arthur Short of Grantham AC ran past looking strong and subsequently finished 7th in 40:40. Stuart Sinclair was next Grantham runner also finishing in the top ten in 41:35. First Grantham lady and second overall was Catherine Payne looking far too happy for the later stages of a race and ultimately finishing in 46:16.

I enjoyed marshalling. It's interesting to see the response to racers after you clap and support. Some run past silently too tired to muster an acknowledgement, some grunt a thank you and others start a full blown conversation, "oh thanks a lot, that hill was pretty tough and I'll be glad to get back" said one memorable competitor. The trick of support I overheard at the start is to encourage without patronising, I hope I got the balance right! 

After the final few runners came through I ambled back to the start and watched runners reflect in their glory. It was good to see the round of applause from spectators that accompanied the back markers cross the finish line. The Belton Cup is to be recommended a modest race fee includes the ability to enjoy the horse trials post race.     

I took a few pics which can be found here and results are here.


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