Club Class

Running in November doesn't have to mean dark evenings, cold mornings and grey skies. Here's why one runner has been to Lanzarote's Club La Santa for 12 years in a row, and taken 3 generations of his family


Posted: 20 December 2002

Running in November doesn’t have to mean dark evenings, cold mornings, and grey skies. The 300 runners who took part in the 2002 Club La Santa International Running Challenge swapped all that for glorious sunshine, sandy beaches and stunning scenery.

For the 14th year running the International Challenge held at Club La Santa on Lanzarote saw runners of all abilities and from all over Europe (including a couple of chaps in a different, risqué fancy dress costume each day), tackle four fantastic races in four days.

The Challenge began on Sunday, November 24 with a 10K around the Club’s sailing lagoon. The three-lap route is flat, but the wind blowing in off of the Atlantic can make for a testing run, but fast times are possible as proved by clear women's winner Shona Crombie-Hicks from London (37:02) and Jonas Brandsbjerg, the Danish winner of the men’s race (31:50).

Day two is when the Challenge really comes into its own, with the spectacular 13KM Ridge Run. This saw runners head up onto the Lanzarote’s famous volcanic ridges and, in gorgeous sunshine, provided them with spectactular views of the Island. Once again Shona Crombie-Hicks comfortably led the women home, but the men’s race came down to a sprint finish with Jonas Brandsbjerg edging out Holland’s Aart Stigter by just five seconds.

Five kilometres on the beach might sound easier than the previous two runs, but many find themselves surprised as to how challenging day three’s race in the soft sand of Playa Los Pocillos is. Crombie-Hicks took a commanding lead in the overall women’s event by winning again, but the overall men’s title was far from decided after the race as this time Stigter finished ahead of Brandsbjerg to close the aggregate gap to just 20 seconds.

After three hard races, the fourth and final event is an amazing way to complete the Challenge. The 23KM Trans-Island race starts at the bottom of a long, steep hill in the pretty village of Macher. It’s a tough start, but once it’s out of the way you’re treated to a breathtaking run through the volcanic rock-strewn lunar landscape. In the women’s race there was a shock, of sorts. Crombie-Hicks didn’t win! Instead, 2001 overall women’s winner Anna Critchlow, edges first place by just half-a-second. That second place was enough, though, to ensure that Crombie-Hicks – whose next big goal is the incredible Flora 1000 Mile Challenge in March – was crowned women’s champion. And by beating Brandsbjerg by over two-and-a-half minutes, Stigter claimed the men’s title.

For the second year running, Runner’s World presented the winning teams with trophies. St Edmunds Pacers from England were top women’s team, while the men’s award went to Germany and TSV Ronsahl.

Don’t worry, though, there’s plenty to do other than race! "There’s so much more to do than just run at Club La Santa," says Richard Inchley. "There’s cycling, tennis, yoga, a well-equipped gym, and squash. And you can either attempt a length of the 50-metre pool or just sunbathe next to the leisure pool!"

In fact, Inchley enjoys the International Running Challenge so much he has returned every year since 1990 with his Leighton Buzzard AC team mates and three generations of his family. And others keep coming back too. "The atmosphere is always fantastic," he says. "There are friendly faces around every corner, there is no ageism, there are no cliques, everyone supports and cheers, and friendships and rivalries continue every year."

Inchley has already signed up for the 2003 International Running Challenge. Interested? Visit www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk or call 0161 703 8161.


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