This is the last competitive race of the cross-country season. Posing each year as a (rather literal) warm-up for the club's Annual Dinner., it is traditionally held on the last weekend of the Lent term. Several features of the Roman Road Run contribute to its famed status and render it a fitting end to the muddy part of the year:
- The course is a bit of a Titan. Stretching out over 9.5 miles, it dwarfs our other cross-country fixtures in terms of distance and can come as a bit of a surprise when you've been easing off on the old training.
- It doesn't look like much of a Roman road. It's far from being the straight, flat, effortless ride you might imagine; the route winds back and forth like an angry serpent, plunging through foul bogs and sucking at your helpless road-running shoes with its muddy lips. There's also a surprising amount of undulation, and the terrain is definitely unsuitable for chariots.
- We are treated to a thrilling staggered start, in that four or five groups of runners are set off with 5-minute intervals between them. Interestingly, everyone gets to pick their own handicap; this doesn't affect the final results (as the finishing times are all adjusted to account for this devilish scheme) but it does lend an atmosphere of excitable confusion to proceedings, with runners drifting back and forth through the field and no one ever quite sure of what position they're really in. It also gives more casual participants the chance to take on and beat the cream of Cambridge athletics in a cataclysmic clash of egos. All in all a rather fabulous idea, what what.
Amongst the competitors in this ancient contest, one generally finds a horde of eager beavers from Cheshire Tally Ho and the Thames Hare and Hounds, and in the past even arch-enemy Oxford has been invited to take part. It is a most sociable gathering of like-minded souls, and after the run we are bussed back to Cambridge for a spot of light refreshment at the track pavilion. Then it's back to college for some showering and sprucing, as the social event of the year - the Annual Dinner - looms large overhead.