Frostbite League - March AC
Sunday 11th January 2015
One brilliantly sunny and bitingly cold winter's Sunday, twelve years ago to the exact minute, I pitched up somewhere in the desolate Fens to represent my new running club in a team event for the first time. I was unsure about what this league actually was, whether I had to register with someone, and whether I'd be dropped off the back of the pack. Some time later, I'd been adopted by ten team-mates, many of them still friends, raced joyously round Whitemoor's challenging and varied terrain and fallen madly for the Frostbite League. I had scored my first (and still my only) Frostbite points, by catching Katrina Dean in the last mile.
That was all a very long time ago of course, when our endurance section was small but close-knit, and before we became the all conquering team of quantity and quality that has ruled the FFL of late.
This year it feels like something is changing. Yesterday it was like the years had fallen away; the March clubhouse was again packed out with eager runners seeking a last few minutes of warmth, the sun shone prettily but impotently once more, and that familiar old Fenland wind sucked the Celsius out of thousands of bones. The C&C team this year has dwindled almost to 2003 levels, thanks to the Essex League and any number of competing attractions. The eleven of that long-gone fixture is eighteen this time round, and I missed the points yet again, though only by a couple of places - another survivor from that day, Gerald Meah, was last-scoring C&C male, and I'd played the Katrina role to 2015 debutant Michael Brentnall as well. Young Andrew Howard from the junior race was there too, racing tirelessly as a grown-up senior. History didn't quite repeat, but it did echo.
The race? It was pretty much standard March, with firm and soft going, brutally exposed in places, with ins and outs, slips and squelches, framed by the huge prison walls and the new, massive turbines; a hard place of root crops and wind. Rekindling a lost passion for racing, the legendary Ben Baldelli was first C&C back to the clubhouse - eighth place for him - but young Diana Chalmers, already an experienced Frostbite racer, provided the brightest moment with a third-place finish in the females; aside from Ben, only the excellent Neil Tween was quick enough to outpace her. The rest of us fought our own battles and, in the main, came out muddy winners.
Once the laminated tickets are counted and the numbers digested, we will have a lower mid-pack finish to consolidate our lower mid-pack position, and this season will cement itself in comfortable mediocrity, just like the old days, when the wind blew and the sun shone. Are we still in love with the Frostbite League? As a club, I'm not sure. Individually, some of us always will be.