IT was a difficult afternoon for the male athletes from Dudley Kingswinford Running Club as they attempted to run their way out of a relegation spot.

With the big guns unavailable due to injury DK were forced to rely on the light artillery at Stratford-upon-Avon in the second of four fixtures in Division 2 of the Birmingham and District Cross Country League.

Although they could muster 14 runners, it was that quality rather than the quantity they were lacking.

On a damp and misty afternoon, the blue hoops battled hard over a hilly three lap course which included a thigh shredding incline of a quarter of a mile that had to be tackled on each lap, but it was always too much of a mountain to climb, in more ways than one.

The quality in the race was outstanding, with Cannock & Stafford, Telford AC and Halesowen to the fore, and when a former top class athlete running from Bromsgrove & Redditch – who had represented Great Britain in the World Championships in both Rome and Athens – could only finish 12th it only highlighted the gulf in class.

Stuart Perkins was first home for the hoops in 48th place in 38.51, Darran Bishop was 123rd in 42.30, Dave Norman just got the better of Gary Bonner in an epic battle, with Norman finishing in 43.32 in 148th to Bonner’s 43.40 in 150th – a last bend slip putting paid to his challenge.

Mark Gatenby finished in 175th in 44.57, and Simon Blizzard finished the A team counters in 179th in 45.13.

Mark Homer brought the B team home in 187th in 45.35, Pete Hood was 198th in 46.28, Simon Hughes was 200th in 46.33, Steve Parr was 208th in 47.13, Dave Hickman was 218th in 48.22, Andy Weaver was 229th in 49.50, Graham Wildgoose was 235th in 50.23 and Richard Jones was 244th in 51.04.

In a competition where lowest is best, DK scored 823 points which placed them 17th of the 17 competing teams, allowing Gloucester to leap frog them in the league and place them bottom.

The ladies fared better at the same venue in Division 2 of the Midlands Women’s League but over a lap shorter, meaning they only had to scale the hill twice, but even a lap shorter still made for a tough race.

Helen Tromans made her seasonal debut finishing in 32nd place in 31.26, Hannah McGuire was 80th in 35.13, Jacqui Elson-Whittaker was 122nd in 39.07, Jane Campbell was 136th in 40.13, Emma Whitehouse finished in 161st in 43.47 and Susan Barley was 164th in 44.29.

Despite a better showing, they also remain at the bottom of the league after a low turnout in the first race of the season.

24 hours later Andy Sprague took on a hill of his own, taking part in the Cardington Cracker, a tough fell race taking in some of Shropshire’s steepest inclines coming home in 84th place in 1.43.29.