Orion 15

Tough run, a win for Holford and glass of Bucks Fizz!

For anyone who has not run the Orion 15, a test of x-country stamina and technique, then you really, really should sign up and have a go if you think you’re hard enough. It’s not a new race; 2016 was the 62nd event and its set in ancient Epping Forest, with sharp inclines, swooping downhills across wetlands, woodland and wet and dry heathland. Actually, it’s a Badland with copious amounts of heavy mud, brambles and some hard trail for recovery.

In the car this day were Clarke, driving, Holford, talking, Smith grinning and Rodgers relaxing. At registration we met Al and Fay Smalls and we snacked under glorious blue skies and signs of sunshine. “Will it be muddy” “What shoes are you wearing” “Why isn’t my name on that trophy” were particular conversational memories before we headed to the start.

There’s obviously a real London feel to the competition, with Essex clubs providing 40%, London 40% and the rest unaffiliated. None of us wanted to stand in the mud at the start, as we all claimed dry land and stood to either side of wet muddy puddles waiting for 10.00. Before the race even started the photographer ‘accidentally’ kicked mud at me so there was no way I was going to stay clean and after 100m surely no one had not ‘gone under’. It was a bun fight to get away and search for the cleanest line, as straight ahead did look pretty awful!

I couldn’t see Angus, but I spied Al and Paul for a while slip sliding away and taking the corners wide. A particularly bad point was on a flat section before the golf club (4miles) where the path is wide with relentless mud and there’s no obvious good path, so straight through I lost my shoe once and couldn’t release my foot another time which meant I sat down. No face plants for me, though plenty did. Around 6 to 10, I think, it was a chance to run properly as it was firm underfoot on hoggin and some wetland and a pretty steep climb. After this we’re in what looks like drier forest, but the leaves hide the mud and it was still a bit awkward.

My group of 5 went wrong around mile 10 and retracing I met Tiptree and Witham faces I knew; we climbed another steep one together and made our way back, twisting and climbing and looking for the drier ground. Plenty of chances to lose footwear, especially after the final drinks station, until we hit open ground and the final mile and the finishing tape.

Al and Paul had finished in terrific times; especially considering what many claimed were the worst conditions for many years; ironic considering it was actually a lovely day. I bumped into Angus at the top who couldn’t hide his delight to tell me he had won. Brilliant performance and he navigated most of it himself from the front! Young Simon shimmied his way through minutes after me, cruelly pipping several on the way. We grouped and applauded the finishers and scraped mud from our legs and tears from our eyes. Al said he wasn’t going to wait for Fay and so we headed back.

At the clubhouse there was a cheeky glass of bucks fizz on offer. It was a great atmosphere and warm too. Too warm for a scarf surely! Al pointed out that in the results Paul had run for Orion and knocked a few years off his age; when corrected (without proof of age) we had won the 1st men’s vet team! Angus, of course, was the winner of both the event itself and person who ate the most cakes and sandwiches on the day. Fay arrived just as a bottle of champagne was being opened, and we all celebrated with her!

Filthy dirty we headed back to the car; legs were seizing up due to cramp and mud. Simon and I helped Paul get dressed and sat him in the front for the drive home, the radio playing some top tunes from 1973, the year he was born. Or was it …..


Angus Holford 1:38:43 (1st)
Allen Smalls 1:48:44 (7th)
Paul Rodgers 1:52:29 (14th)
Martyn Clarke 2:05:47 (54th)
Simon Smith 2:08:47 (62nd)
Fay Smalls 3:15:01 (292nd and happy as ever!)


Martyn Clarke, Allen Smalls, Fay Smalls, Angus Holford (race winner) and Paul Rodgers

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