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HALTON HILLS CROSS COUNTRY RACE

By Mr Rimmington, RAF Halton

From an entry of 110 runners, 85 made it to the start line. It was a glorious afternoon, the rain that had fallen in preceding days had softened the ground, but not to the extent of leaving it treacherous under-foot. Taking up the early pace were Chf Tech Andy Gibbs from RAF Benson and Sqn Ldr Bob Sheppard from RAF Halton. The rest of the field settled into groups of equal pace and ability as the race headed for the first hill, some 1.5 miles away.

The first hill always comes as a bit of a shock for first-timers to the race. Nestling at the back of the Tedder Road families quarters, The Snake provides a deceptively steep, and long, haul up to the top of Wendover Woods. Those familiar with the route always tend to take it easy until the first hill is behind them. The runners then meandered up and down some less intensive - but still demanding - hills and by the start of the third the field was starting to take its eventual finishing form. Chf Tech Andy Gibbs stayed at the front until hill 3 and was then overtaken by the eventual winner, Wg Cdr Dave Cole from RAF High Wycombe. Incredibly the two leaders were both aged over 40, followed closely by another veteran, Sgt Martin Underdown of RAF Odiham. The ladies were having an equal battle, with eventual winner Cpl Mandy Meacham of RAF Brize Norton slowly gaining the upper-hand.

The leading runners headed towards the final hill. Sitting just at the top of Bonham-Carter Road, which runs through the middle of RAF Haltonís main site, Legless Last is the final twist in this gruelling experience. True that once at the top it is downhill to the finish, but first the runners have to get there. By this point there would not have been many that had not at some point been reduced to walking, but still great pride could be had from having got there at all!

Being a low-key event the winners took away only small trophies and the main winners were photographed receiving the perpetual trophies. A handful also received spot-prizes donated by another sponsor, Ian Kevan, of Ultrasport sports outlet.

The Halton Hills has become a sporting tradition, if not legend, in RAF running circles. First run in 1979, its founder Don Cobley was an RAF PTI and British Olympian in the Modern Pentathlon. One of the most gruelling hills on the course bears Donís name and in 2000 his son, Sqn Ldr Lee Cobley, donated a trophy to be awarded annually in his memory to the first RAF Halton team. In 2003 the trophy was awarded by Sqn Ldr Cobley to Provost and Security Training Squadron.

Next year will see the 25th consecutive running of the Halton Hills and will incorporate a ramble, but with the event being held in late May.