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101st Annual Mob Match v South London Harriers

Tradition: (noun) a belief, principle, or way of acting that people in a particular society or group have continued to follow for a long time, or all of these beliefs, etc. in a particular society or group.

Such is the definition of ‘tradition’, as found in the Cambridge Dictionary. And after 141 seasons of running in and around the local area, it would surprise no one that Ranelagh Harriers, as other running clubs, has many ‘traditions’; practices that have been carried down faithfully, and dutifully, through the decades by members.

According to Ranelagh annals, the traditional route used for Saturday’s 101st Annual Mob Match vs South London Harriers was first run in 1909: two laps starting by the tree opposite King Henry’s Mound, down Queen’s Ride, through Duchess Wood and Queen Mother’s Copse before a sharp right in Treebox Wood, to emerge behind White Lodge, down the side of Pen Ponds, running along before a right by Pat’s Mound, to appear around for a finish by Sidmouth Woods. In total, approx. 12+ km of cross-country.

At stake? Club pride and the reward of taking the Stubbs Cup home.

The latest day to see the running of this race was glorious; cold but bathed in splendid sunshine. The night’s ground frost had melted ever so slightly, enough to yield that heart-in-mouth muddy slip-and-slide so familiar – and loved – by many a cross-country athlete.

24 South London Harriers (SLH) athletes made the journey to West London. A confident field led by one Ollie Garrod who, in and amongst his many international achievements, is also the European Record Holder for the fastest 5k dressed as Santa (16:51). As this was a home match, Ranelagh was able to truly define the word ‘mob’; with 59 yellow & blue vests present to make up a fine field of 83 runners in total.

In line with the traditional mob match system, that meant 21 from each team would score. The odds were slightly stacked against Ranelagh: to date SLH boasted 72 wins to Ranelagh’s 28.

Ranelagh President Ted Mockett and Ranelagh ‘personage of note’ Mike Peace led the club chant, a crescendo of voices ending with ‘Ranelagh, Ranelagh RAH RAH RAH!’. After a few bits of race housekeeping, RD Andy Bickerstaff set them off with a succinct, ‘Ready… GO’. And off they went.

After the earlier frenzy of registrations, numbers, and gathering – ready for the race start – there was a lull in the air, punctuated by some gentle bird song and the genial chit-chat of race officials and time-keepers. The sun was warm and the air crisp. Whatever was happening on course was somehow a distant thought but not for long.

Soon after, that familiar cry – RUNNER – was heard. Not just one but two SLH runners came past – Ollie Garrod and Gary Laybourne – pushing hard as they started their second lap. Clearly, they were taking no prisoners and their pace was blistering. A little later, a smattering of Ranelaghs – Marc Leyshon, Ted Mockett, Dave Lawley, Ross Macdonald and James Riley – came through, interspersed with SLH’s Start Major, Alex Lyne and David Williams. It was still far too early to call but SLH were looking very strong indeed.

As the rest of the field came through to begin their second lap, the challenge of the course was clear to see. Splatters of mud created another layer of moisture wicking but for many, all they could do was to dig in and go again. The tension was building. The excitement was palpable. Would our boys catch their boys over the last lap? Would there – could there – be a Ranelagh wave?

After some time, the cry – RUNNER – went up again. Coming in hard and strong was Gary Laybourne for SLH, sprinting up the rise to take 1st place and the course record in 40:52. A whopping 1 minute off the previous record set by Ranelagh’s Ben Anderson.

2nd was Ollie Garrod in 42:24, held up by a wardrobe malfunction (laces undone) at mile 2 but still finishing strong. Such was the strength of pace of these front runners that it was a full 3 minutes before Marc Leyshon came through for Ranelagh (45:28).

Not long after, an epic sprint battle for 4th ensued between Ranelagh’s Dave Lawley, Ross Macdonald and Ted Mockett, with SLH’s Stuart Major. Buoyed by the cheers of those assembled, Dave, Ross and Ted dug in and came through 4th, 5th and 6th, in 45:59, 46:01 and 46:02 respectively – a welcoming trickle of blue & yellow. Valiant Stuart took 7th in 46:03.

SLH’s Alex Lyne claimed 8th in 46:13, followed by Ranelagh Men’s Captain, James Riley in 46:36. Then 3 SLH runners came through in 10th, 11th & 12th – David Williams (47:12), Jono Wood (48:05) and Jack Harrison (48:35). It still wasn’t clear who would take the Stubbs Cup home.

The next 6 places saw 4 Ranelaghs: Duncan Bell (49:00), Jonathan Moore (49:19), Chris Lepine (49:55) and Kris Davidson (50:10) interspersed by 2 SLH athletes: Daniel Gillett (49:49) and Graham Lane (50:21). 9 SLH in with 12 more needed to score. Would the next few minutes see a sea of white & maroon or a wave of blue & yellow? It was still all to play for.

At 50:45, Ranelagh’s Andy Starr romped through leading our boys Rick Jenner (50:45), Tom Cameron (50:57), Mike Morris (51:08), Tris Thornhill (51:18), Jordon Mungovan (51:19) and Ed Perry (51:32). David Ogden for SLH crossed next in 51:49 but then another wave of blue & yellow crashed through, led by Peter Haarer (51:52) followed swiftly by the first lady, Ranelagh’s very talented Imogen Parker-Elms (51:57).

It was clear that Ranelagh had done it – the Stubbs Cups was ours to keep for the year! Eventually all the runners came through, exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure, and everyone decamped to the clubhouse for some well deserved tea and a jovial prize giving. A huge thank you to SLH for making the journey over and we look forward to travelling to you for next year’s rematch.

It was a fabulous day of traditional cross-country, made possible chiefly by the dedication and commitment of all assembled – both the old guard and the new. Shout out as always to the volunteers and marshals who braved the cold to make the event a success.

But the final kudos must go to those in attendance, who helped pave the way we steadfastly continue to tread: Steve Rowland, Sonia Rowland, Ken Powley, Mike Peace, Gordon Whitson, Andy Bickerstaff, Clive Naish, Carol Barnshaw and Trevor Maguire – key Ranelagh members still doing their utmost to keep our much-loved traditions alive.

💛 Results (PDF): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RlXol5Ei9KkeDNFWqmyCtQMgAm5WTThg/view?usp=share_link >

💙 Official times: (PDF): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fV9Im5hVN5mQk2QWA2CkAd4WMn3ivMwj/view?usp=share_link >

june, 2024

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In this section:

Surrey cross country league standings

LeagueTeam PositionFull details
Ladies Div 17/15league table
Men Div 18/9league table
Ladies Div U159/16league table
Men Div U15/U1716/18league table

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