Wakefield Harriers

Wakefield Harriers Trip to Castres 2009

Wakefield's twin town in France, Castres, once again kindly invited Wakefield Harriers to send teams to take part in the popular relay race which the local running club, Les Coureurs de Fond de Castres, organise each year. This year's event, the 27th running of 'La Ronde Givree', took place on Sunday 1st February, and the Harriers once again took 4 teams of 4 down to the lovely town of Castres, in the far south of France, not far from the Pyrenees.

The flights for the weekend were again with Ryanair from East Midlands to Carcassonne, which left East Midlands on Friday at the unsociable time of 6:55, but at least the early start gave us a long and full first day, and after picking up hire cars from Carcassonne airport we spent the morning at the medieval Old City of Carcassonne. After having lunch there we travelled to Castres by the scenic route over the 'Black Mountains', and spend the rest of the afternoon at the impressive sports complex, where we had a run or swim or both. Local families had kindly offered to put us up for the weekend, and we met our hosts for the weekend and had a group meal together of the local speciality cassoulet.

Saturday was a free day which some of the party used for sightseing at the wonderful historic city of Albi, whilst the sports fans went to watch Rugby as Castres were playing at home.

As it was our second visit we didn't get quite the same celebrity treatment as we did last year, but we still got our pictures in the local paper twice in four days. Once again the people and the town of Castres were fantastic hosts, and the Town Hall of Castres paid our entry fees for the race.

The race itself is 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. It is a long established and popular race that has been going since 1983, and this year there were 270 teams competing, slightly down on last year. Details of the event can be found on their race website.

As last year the Harriers had their own race within the race, where the mens open team had another close battle with the vets over 50 team.

On the 14km leg 1 Chris Price got the mens team off to a flying start coming in 8th place out of the 270 starters, to give them a big lead over the vets, where Tony Audsley had a solid run in 50th. Meanwhile the ladies had a sound start from Janni Hansen in 187th, a good improvement over last year, with Ruth Bailey coming in 218th for the mixed team.

On the hilly 14km leg 2 Craig Heppenstall made a welcome return to competition with 33rd fastest, to slightly increase the lead over the vets, where Steve Wilkinson ran well to come home 35th fastest. Jane Senior was 221st fastest for the mixed team and Tammy Chow 225th for the ladies.

On the longest 20km leg 3 Richard West pulled back a massive 11 minutes for the vets with a superb run that saw him 23rd fastest on the leg, to hand over just over a minute ahead of the mens team, who had James Wilson 117th fastest on this leg. Alex Potter again ran strongly for the ladies and passed many teams with her run which was 130th fastest, with Chris Peace 207th for the mixed team.

On the final 16km leg 4, which was a very hilly off-road course, Pete McNamara excelled himself with his 29th place to quickly catch and pass Peter Gooding, who was nursing a sore hamstring. The mens team finished 26th overall, and Peter Gooding was 101st fastest on this leg, to close the vets' team in 33rd place overall. Anna Gaches made a huge improvement over last year to run 174th fastest and give the ladies team 189th overall, whilst Dave Marsh was 227th fastest and completed the mixed team in 231st.

In the final results, the vets 50 and ladies teams both repeated their 3rd place finish from last year 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 once again 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 that this year we will 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 :-
Tony's Gallery.