Wakefield Harriers

Wakefield Harriers Trip to Castres 2008

Wakefield's twin town in France, Castres, kindly invited Wakefield Harriers to send teams to take part in the big relay race which the local running club, Les Coureurs de Fond de Castres, organise each year. This year's event, the 26th running of 'La Ronde Givree', took place on Sunday 3rd February, and the Harriers took 4 teams of 4 down to the lovely town of Castres, in the far south of France, not far from the Pyrenees.

The only suitable flights for the weekend were with Ryanair from East Midlands to Carcassonne, which left East Midlands on Friday 1st Feb at the unsociable time of 6:55, and returned from Carcassonne on Monday 4th Feb at 10:30. At least the early start gave us a long and full first day. Our hosts picked us from Carcassonne airport by coach, from where we proceeded to the medieval Old City of Carcassonne, to visit the huge fortified town. After having lunch there and sampling the local cassoulet, we then proceeded to Castres, where we were greeted at the Hotel de Ville by our French hosts for the weekend.

After a group photo in front of the town hall by the local press photographer we were given a walking tour of the town, and then we were given a civic reception in the town hall, where we were welcomed by the deputy mayor and other local dignitaries, and officials from the club Les Coureurs de Fond de Castres. After speeches and the exchange of gifts our party members were then introduced to the families who had kindly offered to put us up for the weekend.

Throughout the entire weekend we were treated like celebrities, with our pictures in the local paper every day for four days, probably because it was the first time ever a team from England had come to take part in the event. The host club gave us free entry to the event, and also invited us to their pre-race party on the Saturday evening before the race.

The race itself was a wonderful event, fantastically organised, and a credit to the host club. It is a multi-terrain long distance relay race, with teams of 4 senior runners, where the legs are of distances between 14 Km and 20 Km. This is a long established and popular race that has been going since 1983, and this year there were 307 teams competing ! Details of the event can be found on their race website.

The Harriers had their own race within the race, where the men's open team had a great battle with the strong vets over 50 team.

On the 14km leg 1 Chris Price got the men's team off to a flying start coming in an outstanding 2nd place out of the 307 starters, to give them a big lead over the vets, where Steve Wilkinson had a solid run in 32nd. Meanwhile the ladies had a sound start from Janni Hansen in 236th, with 70 year old Stuart Anderson running marvellously well to finish 179th for the vets 'B' team.
On the hilly 14km leg 2 Peter Young was 43rd fastest, to pull back a couple of minutes for the vets over the men's team, where James Wilson was 63rd fastest. Tony Audsley was 182nd for the vet's 'B' team, and Dianne Simmons 261st for the ladies.
On the longest 20km leg 3 Richard West pulled back a further 3 minutes for the vets with his 41st fastest run, to leave him just over 3 minutes behind the men's team, who had Matthew Dodsworth 68th fastest on this leg. Alex Potter ran strongly for the ladies and passed many teams with her 161st fastest, with Chris Peace 178th for the vet's 'B' team.
On the final 16km leg 4, which was a very hilly off-road course, Dave Brailsford excelled himself with his 35th place to catch and pass Chris Ward with a couple of miles to go, but didn't realise that the final 'lap of honour' was part of the race itself, and the younger team managed to re-pass the vets for a 29th place finish, just ahead of the vets in 30th. After over four and a half hours racing there was just 14 seconds between the two teams ! Chris was 71st fastest on this leg, and Peter Gooding 166th to give the 2nd vets team 168th place overall, whilst Anna Gaches was 269th fastest to give the ladies team 247th overall.
In the final results, the vets 50 and ladies teams both finished 3rd in their categories, to come home with trophies and medals, to cap what was a memorable event. After the race all runners were provided with a full meal and wine, and were entertained by dancers before the presentations.

The Vets 50 team and the Ladies team, who both won bronze medals.

The entire weekend was well organised by Christine Marion, the 'twinning officer' from the Castres Tourist Office, and everyone from the town and the club made us most welcome with their fantastic hospitality. We hope to be able to reciprocate by inviting members from Les Coureurs de Fond de Castres back to Wakefield to take part in a local event later in the year.

Here are a few photo galleries for you to download of pictures that have been sent to me :-
Christine's Gallery 1.
Christine's Gallery 2.
Christian's Gallery 1.
Christian's Gallery 2.
Christian's Gallery 3.
Alex's Gallery.