Cheltenham, Pittville Park
The ancient ‘Jodo’ faith, originating in Japan, preaches that its pupils believe in Amitabha and to earnestly pray ‘namu-amida-butsu,’ which would lead to paradise. Although this may be common knowledge, it is a little known fact that ‘paradise’ meant the Cheltenham Birmingham League, normally occurring in November time.
As with those Ancient Japanese Philosophers, the excitement levels were through the roof for the first Birmingham League of the season. Some loyal BUAC troop such as Tom Coe and Mike Proffitt arose at 4:30am, just to fit their session in before watching. Admirable. Slowly but surely, athletes and spectators alike began to make their way towards the coach, preparing for a cracking day of racing.
Regretfully the day got off to a bitter start, with Captain Robert Bough demanding £5 for getting on the coach. While many of us thought the days of captains lining their pockets were over when Dictator Ruiz was overthrown, it appears Boughy is not the man of the people we all believed him to be. He ended the day £310 richer. Typical Scotsman.
Upon entering the coach it was shocking to see how spread out everyone was, as it appeared nerves and rivalry had begun to kick in. Upon hearing the news Tom Dodd was unable to race, James Gormley exploded with laughter, before shouting at the nearest person: “HAHAHAHAHA what a bottlejob! I’m number one! Don’t you forget it!” The coach driver did seem rather baffled and James returned to his seat. That wasn’t the only controversy on the coach however, as Lewis Laylee decided he’d had enough of Grant Anderson’s chat. Lewis moved away from Grant after giving him a slap – no one would argue Grant didn’t have it coming.
We arrived at Cheltenham, with sweepstakes done and everybody keen to get going. Tom Coe would be live streaming the event, the likes of BUAC alumni Ian Crowe-Wright and Alex Eykelbosch were tuning in from the States. Excitement was at an all-time high – perhaps too much for some. In the build up towards the event, Merhawi declared loyalty to the Eritrean flag before swearing that Ethiopian Nathan Bekele “would feel the wrath of 1000 suns” if he dared show his face at the club again. Sadly Nathan was unable to race due to a severe case of a Lambrini induced thigh strain. Disgraceful.
The runners were ready, spectators perfectly positioned and finally the race got underway. The sight of BUAC’s finest running 10k cross is one which we have all missed, and those early stages felt like seeing a relative after four years in the wilderness. BUAC made a strong start, with the early stages of the first lap seeing Toby Cooke, Gormley and the ever impressive Drabble packing high up early on. They were followed by a wrath of runners including Merhawi and Rieley, with a whole host of other athletes behind. It was great to cheer on these brave soldiers, particularly the ones that we’d put in our sweepstake.
The end of the first lap brought a sight which was a genuine pleasure. Loughborough have been dominant at Birmingham Leagues as of late, with the all too familiar view of African Violet vests packing at the front getting tiresome. But alas, a stray Toby Cooke had found himself bang in the middle of the Loughborough pack! One of the greatest men in the club was disturbing their rhythm, with some not handling it well at all. “DROP HIM!” screeched their coach, as Loughborough vests disappear in the distance and Toby went with the pace. Glorious.
Elsewhere other BUAC athletes were giving their all for the team. Sergio Argul, born and bred in Blackpool, looked imperious gliding through the mud, saying: “This is nothing fam, back when I used to go Boomtown with my mates the mud was up to your knees blud.” Certainly food for thought from Sergio. Meanwhile a fan favorite Ronnie Pickering was flying with support from all corners of the course. Ronnie managed a smile every time he passed the BUAC contingent of support, which was a treat for us as we got a glimpse of those gleaming white teeth. Ronnie has been putting in some serious work this season, and was looking to impress at the first Birmingham League here.
Joe Connors, the nastiest man in BUAC, was also having a strong run in the middle of the pack. Running well wasn’t enough for Connors though, and he launched a missile straight into Mark Pearce. Mark laughed it off, which infuriated the man even more, so he kicked a spectating 6 year old and continued running. Desire. It was also great to Peter Mumford and Aidan Daniel running well with Mikey Lennon in the pack. Pete has had a rough first year in terms of injuries and it’s great to see him back in full flow again.
The race was heating up now, with Gormley having comeback strongly in the third lap. He was just behind Toby going into the last river jump. They were closely followed by Drabble who was having a fabulous run. Harry Halford followed behind. Alex Rieley was just behind, with Merhawi, Davis, Ronnie, Lascelles, Pearce and Boughy in close proximity. Another pack had formed behind as BUAC attempted to gain as many points as possible, as the charge for the finish line began.
1st Sam Avis – anyone who knows Sam will have seen the work he puts into his cross country as he optimizes sleep, diet and recovery. That’s why it was no surprise to see him finish first at this Birmingham League. No one deserves it more than Avis and the newly elected social sec is destined for big things this winter. When asked for comment, he said “I wasn’t first you ***** I dropped out.” So humble. What a man, well done Avis!
5th James Gormley – the starlet fresher’s tactic of slagging everyone off appeared to have worked. He ran a cracking race and showed a lot of character for a fantastic 5th. Hopefully more to come at Liverpool. And he won the sweepstake – what a cheat.
8th Toby Cooke – Toby goes from strength to strength with his best ever Birmingham League finish. A performance of real determination, and it almost makes you feel bad that his beloved Everton are getting relegated.
15th Tom Drabble – outstanding performance of the day. While we like to take the mic out of Tom on social media, sometimes you have to sit back and applaud. A man who works incredibly hard on his running, this sudden boom is no more than he deserves and that ‘bronchitis’ this time last year seems a long time ago now.
17th Alex Rieley – another very solid performance from the man who can’t play Mariokart. While he may not feel entirely satisfied, those 60 mile weeks will eventually come to fruition. A good race at Liverpool and who knows where he could go.
22nd Harry Halford – Harry proving that you smoking is not a limiting factor in running. Not only did he have a strong run, he has made a pioneering scientific discovery! Well done Harry!
34th Merhawi Yermane – a great run from Merhawi – it’s amazing what wearing only one pair of compression socks can do! Mr. Circuit Man has had a strong start to the season and is a dark horse for BUCS A.
40th Charlie Davis – WOW! What a run from the fresher! He was not a man backed on many people’s sweepstakes, but he most certainly delivered. Rumour has it he is coached by the great Will Ruiz, who said: “He’s a great runner and terrific lad. Got nothing on me though. If I’d stayed fit through first year we’d have renamed Old Joe to Old RUIZ. That’s how good I could have been. But Charlie is half decent also.” Charlie also beat my placing by 6 last year. No one likes to see that.
44th Mark Pearce – having spent the last year in Singapore, the ever cheerful Marky P is still on the comeback trail and produced another solid run here. Described by our captain as one of “the most talented athletes the club has” (that quote is actually genuine) we look forward to seeing what a Marky P in full flow looks like.
58th Jacob Pickering – over a 50 place improvement from Ronnie on last year shows how far he’s come. Ronnie is in some shape this year and he laid down the gauntlet immediately after the race: “Mahammed Mahammed, if you’re watching I CHALLENGE YOU at Liverpool. Race ME and I’ll watch you EAT MY DUST.” Very strange from Ronnie but we’ll let him off due to his good run.
61st Robert Bough – Unfortunately a recurring stitch prevented our Boughy from coming as high as he’d have pleased. He was on course for top 25 quite comfortably before it hit, so this position doesn’t truly reflect the shape he’s in. At least he’s £310 richer. Scumbag.
76th Grant Anderson – a 20 place improvement from Grant is typical Grant. Grant ran really well and Grant dedicated his strong performance to Grant. Good work Grant. Grant.
85th Chris Hicks – the flowing locks of Chris Hicks looked majestic as he bound through the regal fields of Cheltenham. A really strong run from Chris and he is an athlete from whom we hope there is a lot more to come!
87th Lascelles Hussey – Lascelles only decided to race 30 minutes before the start in a way only he could. He made a strong start before feeling very tired, so cruised the last two miles. Lascelles is one of the few athletes who you know it doesn’t matter how they do – he knows he’s in fine shape. Hopefully he can produce some good results after going indoors this year.
94th Joe Connors – Mr Nasty with another impressive race to add to his CV. Connors appears to go from strength to strength and has thrived under the guidance of Dean Miller. His story would almost be heart warming if he hadn’t stolen from a pensioner after the race. No need Joe, no need.
96th Lewis Laylee – the heartbreak kid broke the top 100 in what is a serious accomplishment for a fresher. Lewis has been a constant at sessions and runs and seeing him produce a performance like that is no more than he deserves. He thanked the late great Whitney Houston for his performance. Classy.
100th Peter Mumford – a severe ankle injury almost caused Pete to drop out in the second lap, but guts and determination meant he kept going to a respectable 100th. Mumford, who is a former West End Musical Star, vowed there is more to come and announced that he would like to be considered for lottery funding next year. British Athletics take note.
108th Aidan Daniel – Aidan has put in the work this year and claimed to be a tad disappointed with 108th place. We think he’s being particularly hard on himself considering the improvement from last year. Either way Aidan has declared that his elbows were not out wide enough, and vowed to hit Joe Connors if he was ever near him in another Birmingham League. Passion.
112th Jamie Ward – Wolvo got changed 6 times in the middle of the race which may have slowed him down, but he really didn’t care. Wolvo has settled in seamlessly and provided lots of laughs for us. Despite being a Satanist, he dedicated his performance to God. Diversity.
116th Sergio Argul – a really good effort from Sergio and he shouldn’t be too hard on himself. It is my understanding courses like Cheltenham are not common in Valencia and trying to float over the mud is a skill to be mastered. Good effort Sergio. Visca Catalunya.
121st Mikey Lennon – shortly behind Sergio was Mikey Lennon. Mikey put in a big effort on a really tough course and 121st is not a position to be sneezed at. Mikey said: “I dedicate my run to our President, Donald J Trump, it’s time to put America first again, the economy is booming and it’s all thanks to him. MAGA!”
256th Alfie Ratcliffe – everyone’s favourite BUACer put in a shift and deserves nothing but admiration for the effort he’s put in! Well done Alf, forza el Ratfcliffeo!
The coach home was full of laughs, all friction in the air had completely dissipated, as we all told tales of how we conquered the first Birmingham league. Boughy said some words about the day. No one really understood. And that was that. Onto Liverpool we go. Well done all. Vamos BUAC.