Harrier League, Alnwick, Northumberland, Saturday, March 4, 2017

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Mud King/Mud Queen Race - click flag for more information.

Dave Forster

Passion. Suspense. Intrigue.

None of these words sprang to mind as I lined up at the start for the final Harrier League cross country fixture at Alnwick yesterday.

I was one of a number of purple first-timers getting their mud on, having been persuaded to do so by some of the regulars, and even after seeing the photos from Thornley – and spending the last few days peeking at the weather forecast from behind the sofa – we were all eager to give it a try. Tim Skelton had even invested in revolutionary ultra-luminescent mudclaws, presumably so that his progress could be visually tracked from the International Space Station.

A number of us had travelled up the A1 on the Striders coach and much of the talk had centred on the possible conditions. Would anyone be taking a tumble? Would we be returning with the same number of shoes as we started with? Would ’27 Hours’ pale into insignificance compared to one of us being stranded waist-deep in a bog? Joking aside, I think most of us were feeling pretty relieved that it was fairly decent weather and we could try and enjoy the race. With both the men’s and ladies’ teams seeking to cement their places in the top division, everyone was steeling themselves to go out and give it their best.

Upon arrival, we made our way over to the course and were welcomed by Geoff, Susan and co. at the Striders tent. Lots of smiling faces, nobody looking too green… even Gareth looked pleased to be back doing cross country, although every time someone mentioned Thornley I could see his eye twitching slightly. Jack, Phil and I had a quick recce of the course and it didn’t look too bad – a bit of a muddy slog uphill for the first half but then a nice, long stretch through the woods to recover and a fast downhill section towards the end of the lap. Unusually for me, I wasn’t feeling nervous in the least – I had been telling myself all week to just keep it steady and enjoy it, without putting pressure on myself to run a particular time. Back at the tent there was plenty of encouragement from the seasoned runners, too, which kept the positivity up for us newbies. Then there were the obligatory team photos – including the men – and the application of Strider face paint to strike terror into the hearts of opposing runners (if the sight of me squeezing into my skimpy shorts and vest wasn’t enough to do so already).

It was soon time for the women’s race and the men all took up positions around the start to cheer them on. Elaine went off particularly strongly from the fast pack and there were plenty of Striders in good positions come the start of the second lap (and only one or two sad faces!). With a strong result needed, there were a few nervous seconds ticking by as finishers started to arrive and no sign of any Striders, but a big cheer went up as Elaine, Rachael and Tamsin all arrived consecutively – pushing each other hard in a tight sprint finish – to place high up the field. Seeing all of the ladies’ team run well gave the boys plenty of confidence and we knew that our fast lads were capable of a great result.

When the call came to line up at the start, I squeezed my petite frame to the front of the slow pack, and when the gun went off I’m certain I led the race for at least 0.46 seconds. There were plenty of runners overtaking me immediately but I’d told myself that I was going to take it steady for the first lap and see how my legs felt. The going wasn’t too bad in most places (although shin-deep bog in some) and there were plenty of Strider faithful dotted along the course to give you encouragement.

The long uphill was pretty energy-sapping and by the final lap I was seriously plodding and being overtaken by a lot of medium and fast pack runners, although I was pleased to see Jason, Phil and Gareth running strongly. I tried to pick a quicker runner to follow through the final stretch through the woods to make sure that I didn’t relax, and then gritted my teeth (and ankles) to throw myself down the molehill-covered descent. I knew from the women’s race that the home straight needed a big finale so I gurned as best I could and made a burst for the finish line. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Jack was right on my shoulder, having made up the time from the medium pack, and almost pipped me to the post. Disappointingly, a runner in blue (Birtley, I think) did manage to get past me – but I bet he didn’t pull as good a face.

I filed along the finishers funnel, legs burning, and went to join the runners who had finished ahead of me. We barely had time to get our breath back when we heard the booming command of Captain Smith to pose for another team photo. We dutifully obliged. I’m pretty sure her exact words were, “I need all of you hunky, sweaty men to huddle together and look hunky for a photo, NOW!” but I was still in a muddy, exhausted haze and my recollection is a bit fuzzy.

Presumably thanks to the chip timing, the results were in almost immediately after the men’s race had finished, and there were celebrations all round as both the men (3rd on the day) and women (8th) retained their Division 1 status for another season! The cherry on the cake was the news that the men had in fact leapfrogged Durham Harriers in the table to finish 6th overall, with the women only a point behind their Harrier counterparts in 7th. Cue copious amounts of delicious Strider baked goods and even a bit of fizz! Credit to Geoff, Susan and all of the Striders who turned out over the last five months to cap an excellent season’s running.

All in all, a great day out and I’ll be looking forward to having a go again next season!

 

results

women
positionbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
1642Carla Maley (North Shields Poly)FV35S29:4529:45
68371Elaine BissonFV35F34:5431:34
69418Rachael BullockFsenM34:5733:17
70432Tamsin ImberFV40F34:5831:38
81372Emma BainFV45M35:1033:30
88419Rachelle MasonFV35S35:1735:17
92431Susan DavisFV55S35:1935:19
102374Fiona JonesFV35S35:3635:36
106411Louise WarnerFV35M35:4134:01
120428Stephanie PiperFsenS35:5635:56
131391Juliet PercivalFV40M36:1034:30
160407Lesley CharmanFV40S37:2637:26
168369Diane HaroldFV40S37:4737:47
192415Nina MasonFV40S38:3838:38
208409Louise BarrowFsenS39:1739:17
214427Stef BarlowFV40S39:4339:43
225434Victoria JacksonFV35S40:0240:02
234352Anna SeeleyFsenS40:3340:33
246353Ashley Price-SabateFV35S41:0841:08
249350Anita ClementsonFV45S41:1141:11
268382Jan YoungFV60S42:1042:10
270376Fiona WoodFV35S42:3042:30
2721120Joanne PattersonFsenS42:5642:56
281359Catherine SmithFV40S43:5043:50
309421Rebecca DoddFsenS47:1247:12
3151269Barbara DickFV40S48:2348:23
321402Kerry BarnettFV40S49:1349:13
328401Kelly CollierFsenS51:0551:05

337 finishers.

men
positionbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
11829Michael Grimes (DCH)MsenS37:4337:43
37520James GarlandMV40S44:1544:15
39556Stephen JacksonMsenF44:1939:19
42534Matthew ArcherMV35S44:2944:29
57533Matt ClaydonMV40S45:0245:02
71521Jason HardingMV45M45:1842:48
134507David GibsonMV45S46:2546:25
157514Gareth PritchardMV35F46:5641:56
166494Andrew HopkinsMV40M47:0544:35
185546Phil RayMV35M47:2744:57
215551Scott WatsonMV50M48:1445:44
2281830David ForsterMsenS48:3248:32
231519Jack LeeMsenM48:3446:04
238515Geoff DavisMV55S48:4148:41
259562Timothy SkeltonMV35S49:0749:07
272525Jon AyresMV40S49:2649:26
280522Jerry LloydMV45M49:3647:06
362535Michael HughesMV45S52:4052:40
366549Richard HockinMV60S52:5052:50
422497Conrad WhiteMV55S56:2056:20
4281603Robin LintonMsenS56:4056:40
431510Dougie NisbetMV50S56:5656:56
4331850Tim MatthewsMV50S57:0057:00
4511749Emil MaataMsenS58:3058:30
460492Andrew DaviesMV40S59:2559:25
475504David BrowbankMV35S61:3761:37
494489Alan SmithMV65S67:2167:21
499564Trevor ChaytorMV50S70:3870:38

502 finishers.

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