The cross country road show moved from Pontefract to Jarrow this week and onto yet another very muddy course. Although the snow held off it was feeling pretty damn cold when the Sea of Purple, numbering 18, assembled for the Senior Women’s race.
Cruelly robbed of medium pack qualification by one second at Wallington Mudwoman, with her toe on the start line, was determined to right that wrong. And right it she did with a magnificent run from the front to finish in 21st place and first Strider home. In Susan’s first few X/C races some 15 years ago she finished in last place – which makes this promotion even sweeter and a fine example of what can be achieved through hard work, determination and application. Well done Mudwoman – we’re all proud of you!!
Susan’s promotion wasn’t the only one on Saturday – Rachael Bullock (Wee Rach to Mudpeople) had an absolutely storming run from the medium pack taking her flying into the fast pack and second counter on the day. But that wasn’t all! Fiona K-J showed how much she’s improved by also qualifying for the medium pack – absolutely brilliant!
The place for fourth Strider counter came down to an eyeballs out sprint between Sarah D & Katy – which Sarah just about sneaked on the line. It was even more encouraging to see Lucy, Elaine (from the medium pack), Lesley, Steph P, Penny (from the fast pack & with a bad back!) & Camilla all finishing within a minute of Sarah & Katy. But there were brave Strider performances throughout the field and it was good to see Stef B back in the fold and Kelly giving X/C another go and enjoying every minute (it looked like she was anyway!) Well done everyone – you all contributed to Striders finishing 3rd on the day and now 4th for the season so far. We have an excellent opportunity for a podium finish at the end of the season!
It was a hard act to follow for the Striders men’s team but with a good turnout (18 Striders) hopes were high. Personally, I had my worst X/C race for years so the least said about that the better! At the front our road specialist, Gareth P, developed a taste for the mud to be first Strider home, achieve medium pack qualification but all the while being incorrectly labelled and so disqualified – oh dear! There was plenty of support though with Stephen Jackson having a fantastic run from the medium pack to finish in 56th place and next Strider while a grimacing James G, a happy Graeme, a recovering Rob, a satisfied Scott and a determined Matt C made up the rest of the counters.
As always there were other fine performances throughout the field such as that by Danny Lim, who gave his absolute all, Innes who was delighted to beat 72 men! Gareth Cardus, on debut, in his lovely new yellow shoes and a welcome return by Richard Hocking. Well done to you all! The team results are just provisional as I write and we may well have slipped into the relegation zone – so we’ll need an absolute supreme effort by every senior man in the club to keep our heads above water, prevent a slide down the slippery slope, stop us sinking into the abyss, keep us out of the red etc etc! Come on we can do it – lets pull out all the stops at Alnwick & Wrekenton!
… Gareth Cardus
Well, today was the day – my first cross-country race! Having only been a member of Elvet Striders for a week, I was keen to get involved and sample the delights of cross-country. I have been running for the last two years, exclusively on roads and have run a few 10K events as well as the Great North Run. However, I have to say that nothing can prepare you for a good mudfest!
I arrived early at Bedeswell Park to obtain my number and Elvet Strider colours. As I trundled over to the club tent the severity of the mud/sludge that awaited me became apparent – and that was just crossing the field! At the tent I was met by friendly faces, all of whom made me feel welcome and part of the team. I was ready – or so I thought.
The events began in earnest with the young guns taking centre stage – the girls’ and boys’ races in the different age categories. Parents lined the course cheering whenever they got the chance and as I watched from the sidelines I remember thinking, ‘these guys are quick’ and I prayed I wouldn’t come last when my race began.
Once they were finished, it was the turn of the senior women. There was a strong contingent competing from Elvet Striders, with five of our runners finishing in the top fifty. By this point, the course was cutting up badly and I was sure the mud was getting deeper by the minute – or maybe that was just my imagination!
At last the time had arrived – the senior men’s race. I had my number and was looking the part in purple and green, not to mention my brand new yellow Mudclaw shoes. I had been warned numerous times throughout the day that they would not be yellow for long and so it proved to be.
The race began and my heart was pounding as I set off too quickly, like all keen beginners – rookie mistake! I hadn’t gone half a kilometre before – yes, you guessed it – my lovely brand new yellow Mudclaw shoes were black! No time for sentiment though and as I pushed on, the cheering and support of the crowd was pulling me around the course. Parts of if were very boggy and it was hard going; there were a couple of moments when I thought I might lose a shoe but just managed to keep them on my feet.
About three-quarters of the way around the first lap I encountered the one and only steep hill on the course. It was tough but I made it to the top in one piece with the Mudclaws doing a great job at stopping me looking like Bambi! Before I knew it the first lap was over. I dropped my pace for the second lap and tried to run more efficiently but it didn’t work. I was exhausted by the time I started the third and final lap, the mud having sapped the energy from my legs, but I gritted my teeth and smiled, ‘I so love this’ I thought and pushed on. At last, after what seemed like countless twists and turns, the finish line came into sight. I sprinted for the line like a cheetah chasing its prey; well, maybe more like a turtle, but it is a story after all!
Then that was it, in the blink of an eye the race was over. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I made my way back to the tent where there was a feast of food: doughnuts; pies; cakes – all sorts. ‘I could get used to this’ I thought, munching on a doughnut. Finally everyone said their goodbyes and went on their way. My first cross country event was over and I hadn’t finished last! It was a great experience and one I can’t wait to sample again.
|1||Robert Balmbra||Morpeth Harriers & AC||S||MSen||35:05|
466 finishers. Gareth Pritchard was first finisher for Striders but was disqualified for running with last year’s number!
|1||Charlotte Whickham||Gateshead Harriers||S||Fsen||28:07|