The Harrier League – a Beginner’s View

Jane Ives

After being talked into doing the Harrier League cross country last year (and loving it!) Susan asked me if I’d write a short article for this year from the perspective of the beginner to encourage other new club members to have a go at cross country! I’ve written the following:

Harrier League starts on Saturday and if you’re a new member of Elvet Striders you’re probably thinking it sounds all too serious for you! I was quite shocked to find myself on the start line last year after being a club member for a whole fortnight! More of a shock was the determination on the faces of the 100 serious runners I was lining up with (the first race I’d done without a Scooby Doo costume in sight!) but I was as ready as I could be in a borrowed Striders vest, race number and kindly donated Walshes (all thanks to Susan and Debs). There was no turning back now and the race started with a blistering pace!

This first venue wasn’t too muddy (much to the disappointment of most runners!) and the course undulating rather than hilly, but boy was I glad to finish! What a blast – to have run my first ‘proper’ race! I came 104th out of 106 but nothing could take the grin of my face. Fantastic support from the men during the race and fantastic women’s team support with every runner’s effort celebrated, all followed by cake! So, here I am a year later with my own Striders vest and new trail shoes – I’ll be nervous again and the pace will still be a shock but I can’t wait. If you’re on the sidelines wondering if you should run on Saturday – give it a try!

Hope this encourages a few more to run!

Anita Dunseith

Following the emails from Geoffrey and Susan around this season’s cross country this is to all our lovely newbies and anyone who thinks they aren’t good enough for “the dreaded” XC –

Picture the scene – it’s muddy and chilly at a random XC venue in the NE some time last autumn. The local clubs have gathered with their flags and tents and dogs dressed in club colours. The atmosphere is great and there’s a real buzz. The “serious runners” are doing all manner of weird and wonderful stretches and drills while everyone else tries not to to get too cold before their race.

After the obligatory Striders photo the ladies head to the start line. The fast runners fly off, elbows out, the medium runners set off at their pace and there are some stragglers at the back. At the very back of all of these slow runners is a Strider running her first XC. She’s loads behind and getting further behind as the race continues. The next race even begins while she’s still running her race but she finishes dead last by a long way, absolutely knackered, to huge cheers from the purple army who are waiting at the finish line. No one has anything but words of encouragement for her despite her poor performance.

That week she buys some trail shoes because despite being last she absolutely loved it.

The same thing happens at the next two events. She’s dead last again, though not by as far this time. However, despite her dreadful performances the cheers of her fellow Striders never dwindle and keep her going to the very end.

On the way to her fourth race she starts to cry in the car because it’s not very nice to always be last. To which her husband helpfully says ‘well run faster then’. So she did. She tried the hardest she could, she put her heart and soul into that run and beat THREE people. At the finish line she felt like an Olympian winning gold. Her husband is there to give her a huge hug and her team mates are absolutely over the moon for her. (Other spectators think she’s a bit mental because she came fourth last and is jumping up and down like a jack in the box).

At her final XC race that season she beats six people. No medals or awards but the biggest sense of achievement she’s ever known. She’s absolutely hooked.

Six months or so later this lady completed her first marathon and a couple of months after that she completed her first ultra marathon. She came last in both of those races too but achieved something she never expected to in her whole life.

The reason I know so much about her is because she is me.

I’m not telling you this to blow my own trumpet by any means so I hope you don’t think I am. I’m telling you this so you know it’s OK to be last (I’m making a running career out of it!)

Until you push yourself to try something hard you’ll never know how strong you are, physically, or most importantly for me mentally.

So give XC a crack if you like the idea of slipping and sliding through ankle deep mud in wind, rain, snow and sunshine with the cheers of your team mates ringing in your ears.