Probably the Toughest Cross Country Race in the World?!
Saturday saw 36 Striders compete in the English National Cross Country Championships held this year at Herrington Park near Penshaw Monument. To simply say that it was a tough race doesn’t do it any justice. It was probably the most muddy, most gruelling x/c race Mudwoman and I have competed in during our 24 year x/c careers! For those who chose this race to make their x/c debut I can only say an extra special “well done” and “it’s not usually this bad”! The mud was deep and unrelenting. There were very few ‘good lines’ through it, so experience counted for little, and there was no respite from the grind – no easy sections – it was just heads down, get round and compete where you could – so hats off to everybody who ran! If ever a race deserved to come with a medal on completion it was this one (although, as Alister pointed out, with some bitterness, there were no medals!)
The day started with fears that the whole event would be called off because of the heavy snow that fell over night and in the morning. But that wasn’t to be and we arrived at a snowy venue with the course still largely covered in the white stuff. Adam’s u/17s race was first up and the mud claimed its first victim – one of Adam’s shoes! He managed to find it and put it back on but lost a bit of time although still finishing well in the highly competitive field. There was a gap of nearly two hours before the senior women’s race and the covering of white gradually turned into a covering of brown as more and more people began to arrive and trample the snow underfoot. The tent proved a welcome haven from the elements as more and more Striders assembled and, in spite of a degree of overcrowding, the ‘tentless’ Crook runners were invited to share our space. A huge wave of women runners set off on their race and included 15 Striders, two of whom were making their x/c debuts – Greta Jones & Joanne Richardson both of whom ran with great determination. Fiona led the team home but every single one of the Purple Tide made a super human effort on that course – well done everyone! It was good to see Debs back in the fold and Barbara seems to improve with every race. It was great that everyone got round in one piece and Striders had one of the biggest teams on the day.
The senior men’s field of over 1,000 runners assembled for the final race and it was good to hear the old ‘Shipman Roar’ once again as we all stood eager for the off. As the field was forced into a narrow section after the first 400m it was like running in a football crowd but things did begin to ‘thin out’ as the race progressed. There were hills on the course, unsurprisingly, but the mud was the biggest challenge. It covered the whole course – not just certain sections – but the whole bl##dy thing! And it was deep! Too deep to obtain any real speed on the downhill sections and too deep to be able to develop any sort of rhythm as you ran . So well done to those making their debuts; including Tom Spurling who had a cracking race, David Brown who made it round unscathed and to Mike Elliott who bravely fought on for two laps – well done! And well done to all the 21 men who set off and were led home by Will – you should all be proud of your achievement(Brian and Alan particularly)! Well done too to all the Striders who spectated (Jacquie, Stan, Nigel, Simon, Louise & Mandy)- at least we could run to keep warm!
So the Nationals are over for another year. They are always tough – you would expect that in a National Championship – but some are tougher than others and this year really took the biscuit for toughness – real ‘hard tack’! What a contrast to last year when some of us got slightly sunburnt on Hampstead Heath! We look forward to seeing you all for another dose next year, where ever it is and whatever the conditions – it couldn’t be as bad as this year – could it?
|1||Keith Gerrard||Newham and Essex Beagles||0:41:21|
1085 finishers. Men’s Team 58th of 79 (6 to count), 35th of 37 (9 to count).
|1||Louise Damen||Winchester and District AC||0:29:31|
427 finishers. Women’s Team 32nd of 46.
Under 17 Men
|1||Adam Howard||Oldham and Royton||20:32|