Participation in cross country running in our region has ‘gone through the roof’ judging by Saturday’s HL fixture at Blaydon! Numbers have been growing quite dramatically over the past couple of seasons but the previous record for the Senior Women’s field was exceeded by around 50% on Saturday and the men’s jumped by around 40% as well! Just incredible, and of course, Striders broke their own records with 20 women and 31 men competing for their club. Gone are the days when it was just a few diehards who braved the mud – X/C now seems to be ‘main stream’! So someone must be doing something right somewhere – but success can also bring problems and the organisers (all volunteers) were put under considerable strain on Saturday by the sheer weight of numbers.
Nevertheless a great day was had by all in the unseasonably mild weather and on the surprisingly dry course. Striders gathered around the new giant sized club flag that Alister and Jacquie had kindly brought along. The Striders’ tent was bursting at the seams with debutants and the old girl looked a little weather beaten among the new marquee style jobs on display that were housing runners from Blackhill, South Shields and even DCH! But our new women were not to be put off by a mucky tent and the formidable four (Helen, Jackie, Kerry and Sarah) joined 16 other Strider ladies on the start line among hoards of runners from all the other local clubs. The course itself was a little shorter ‘than advertised’ with only one or two muddy patches (in spite of last week’s rain) and the ‘hills’ weren’t too slippery this year. So all in all it would be a fairly gentle introduction for our newbies – but would they agree?!
Katy Walton’s intentions were clear from the off – she was going for it and she sped off near the front of the field on the crest of a sea of purple and every other colour vest imaginable! ‘What Katy did’ was to maintain that high flying position and finish first Strider home – well done! But all the other 19 women battled equally as hard with Helen Tones having an excellent debut finishing third counter and Fiona Jones coming in as second counter in only her second X/C race. It was great to see Greta and Anita giving it their all as well as Debs beginning a new comeback trail! I’d like to mention everyone by name but with such a big team there just isn’t space – although Rachel Terry deserves a mention for powering through from the medium pack to finish where she did. This wonderful team effort resulted in Striders finishing just above the relegation zone in what is a mega competitive Senior Women’s Division 1 – it’s going to be a tough season!
No less than 575 runners competed in the Senior Men’s race and it was quite claustrophobic standing in the middle of that hoard as we waited for the starter’s gun. After the off it was difficult to get going in such a crowd and there was some ‘gentle’ pushing and shoving as everyone struggled to get into their stride before the field stretched out a bit. After that it was just a matter of head down and battle round those three laps, watching for the best lines, trying to keep rivals at bay and getting to the end ahead of as many runners as possible – simple! Paul Evans did those simple things the best finishing as first Strider home with Jerry not far behind. Striders had an incredible eight men making their debuts (Dave, David, Innes, Jon, Lindsay, Mark, Mark & Matthew) each with their own tale of effort and sacrifice to tell at the end! It was good to see some old faces out there as well such as Dougie and John Hutch (did you really do a marathon the next day?!) and was that your best ever HL Phil? Well done the lot of you (partic Will and Tom weaving through from the ‘Medium’) – your efforts were rewarded with 7th place in Division 2 – reasonably comfortable but we can do better and must keep putting out these big teams if we want to do well.
Well finally, a big thanks to all the runners and all the Striders that were there taking photos and shouting support (it was like a football crowd in places although much more well-mannered!). Thanks to Roz who was held up in traffic and missed her race and thanks to all the cake bakers – they were delicious! Who knows, I might start watching ‘The Great British Bake off’ – but don’t ‘bake’ on it!!
|1||Adrian Whitwam||Morpeth Harriers||24:54|
|166||Will Horsley||30:37 *M|
|292||Richard Hall (1)||33:00|
|306||Tom Reeves||33:10 *M|
|379||Marco van der Bremer||34:25|
*M Medium pack – 2m30s handicap.
*F Fast pack – 5m handicap.
575 finishers. Men’s team finished 7th of 11 in Division 2.
|114||Rachel Terry||23:39 *M|
|283||Nicola van den Bremer-Hornsby||28:48|
*M Medium pack – 2m handicap.
309 finishers. Women’s team finished 8th of 10 in Division 1.