The Harrier League races are big events for Striders and we usually have around 70-80 members who turn up to run, cheer on their club mates, or usually both! We gather together in the Striders’ tent underneath the purple Striders banner. All Striders are welcome as are their families, friends and well behaved dogs!
The league is over 100 years old so it’s well established and represents traditional, grass roots, competitive running at its best.
Note:The section between marshall points 4 and 5 is part of the race route only, and is not normally open to the public.
Race Parking is at Durham County Hall car park only. It’s free and only 400m from the start – please do not park anywhere else, please do not try to park closer to the course as you will be charged, or worse, and we could lose this venue! There will be plenty of parking for everybody at County Hall but please car share.
THERE IS RESTRICTED USE OF ONE SECTION OF THE CAR PARK THIS YEAR – ONLY THOSE INTENDING TO LEAVE BY 2.30PM MAY USE THIS SECTION SO PLEASE OBEY THE CAR PARK MARSHALS!
There is no parking in the DLI car park this year.
Officials Parking: This will be on the tennis courts adjacent to the new Police HQ. Go north from the County Hall roundabout on the B.6532, turn right at the next roundabout, straight over at the next roundabout & then follow the signs.
Tent drop off We have a tent drop off point adjacent to the course. Go north from the County Hall roundabout on the B.6532, turn right at the next roundabout, straight over at the next roundabout & then follow the signs. Only use this if your tent is very heavy! There is absolutely no parking for competitors here and it is not a drop off point for latecomers. Tents must be left with the tent drop off marshals and competitors return to County Hall to park.
Registration is adjacent to the course in the tented area (look out for Vicki’s big blue tent) – unless the weather is very bad and then it will be in County Hall reception area (Micky Baker to confirm).
Toilets are located in County Hall foyer and there will be portable toilets close to the race start area.
Do not enter County Hall in muddy shoes – they won’t let us come back next year if you do!
The course is walking distance from County Hall car park (follow the signs) & is on the former Durham Constabulary playing fields.
Directions to County Hall (postcode: DH1 5TP)
County Hall is a major landmark in Durham and many of you will already know where it is and how to get there. There are frequent trains to Durham from Newcastle and Darlington. The station is around half a mile from the venue. Please use public transport where possible!
If you must come by car then directions are as follows (please note that due to the Lumiere festival of light taking place in the city there may be traffic restrictions in place including eastbound lane closures on Millburngate Bridge.
Travelling south (e.g. from Newcastle):
Use the A.1m and turn off at Junction 62 (signposted for Durham & Sunderland). At the top of the slip road turn right at the roundabout joining the A.690 into Durham. At the next roundabout (where the dual carriageway ends) stay on the A.690 & follow signs to City Centre & Consett (straight over). At the next roundabout stay on the A.690 & follow signs for Crook, Consett & County Hall (straight over – but get in the outside lane). At the next traffic lights turn right signposted for Consett, Chester-Le- St & County Hall. Turn right at the next roundabout into County Hall – you’ve arrived!
Travelling north (e.g. from Darlington):
Use the A.1m and turn off at Junction 62 (signposted for Durham & Sunderland). At the top of the slip road turn left at the roundabout joining the A.690 into Durham. At the next roundabout (where the dual carriageway ends) stay on the A.690 & follow signs to City Centre & Consett (straight over). At the next roundabout stay on the A.690 & follow signs for Crook, Consett & County Hall (straight over – but get in the outside lane). At the next traffic lights turn right signposted for Consett, Chester-Le- St & County Hall. Turn right at the next roundabout into County Hall – you’ve arrived!
Travelling west (e.g. from Sunderland):
Use the A.690 from Sunderland or from the A.19 for Durham. At the junction of the A.690 and A.1m go straight over staying on the A.690 into Durham. At the next roundabout (where the dual carriageway ends) stay on the A.690 & follow signs to City Centre & Consett (straight over). At the next roundabout stay on the A.690 & follow signs for Crook, Consett & County Hall (straight over – but get in the outside lane). At the next traffic lights turn right signposted for Consett, Chester-Le- St & County Hall. Turn right at the next roundabout into County Hall – you’ve arrived!
Travelling East (e.g. from Crook):
Use the A.690 from Crook to Durham. At the Neville’s Cross traffic lights turn left onto the A.167. At the first roundabout turn right (4th exit) following signs for City Centre. At the next roundabout go straight over. At the next roundabout go straight over into County Hall – you’ve arrived!
Sarah, Emil and I stood at our marshal point the top of the hill, just before the entrance into the woods. We were as ready as we could be! Two layers of everything, high vis, Sarah’s flask of tea, and food. All would be needed for this four-hour stint. Alas, I had not been able to locate my camping chairs from under my neighbour’s pile of stuff in the shed, but never mind, it was probably too cold to sit down between races anyway!
The kids’ races had been lovely to marshal and to cheer them on. I saw Oscar and a few kids from junior parkrun. The organisation of the emergency system was tested out as a girl in the Under 15’s race threw herself to the ground halfway up the hill and lay on her back! The response from a nearby spectator to summon a medic was immediate. Luckily all was well. As soon as she saw the medic rushing towards her she leapt-up, springing to life, and continued running up the hill! It had just been a power nap!
It was nearly quarter past one. Sarah had gone off to the start area. From our viewpoint, Emil and I could see the start area and tents in the distance. We saw a HUGE crowd of runners gathering near the start of the senior woman’s race! We waited in suspense. Bang! And they were off! It was like watching a handful of stones that have been thrown into the air, in that some were moving off faster than others. Interestingly, after a very short distance, the runners at the front of the pack seemed to spread out a lot quicker than everyone else. Was this because they had more space? Was this because they had planned a fast start? …?
The pack ran around the top of the field and then disappeared from our sight over the brow of the far hill. I was surprised at how long it seemed before the medium pack were started, and then again at how long it was until the fast pack were started. Normally it feels like thirty seconds when you are waiting to start yourself but from the position of a relaxed marshal, it was all a bit different! Once the fast pack had disappeared from sight, it all went a bit quiet from that direction, and Emil and I waited in suspense! When would we see the head of the first runner coming into view?! I suspected that this hill from a runner’s perspective would be long and gruelling! Sarah and Emil were both running today so were going to have to become additionally ‘at one’ with this hill by the end of the day!
When the first runners came into view it was brilliant!! Very exciting! Especially as Laura Weightman ran past and I’ve only ever watched her run on the TV before! There were two runners in front of her. I wondered if Laura Weightman was just biding her time. I wondered if she feels pressure to win every Cross Country race and if so, how does she cope with that?
Much better than that though was seeing Sally charging up the hill in fourth place!! Totally Awesome (please leave the capital A)! And then more and more Striders! In fact, as a whole, every single Strider was way up in the field! Fantastic running from everyone! Everyone was putting in their all! Brilliant, brilliant efforts all round! We heard the cheers from the finish area as people started and continued to finish. Well done all of you!
Emil then left to get ready for the men’s race. I had a silent ‘disco for one’ to warm up. Sarah returned in due course, and after some recovery hot tea, she was ready to marshal again. The men’s race started perfectly on time. There is a lot of them compared to the woman’s race! In fact, from a stationary point, it is like watching one of those very long goods trains go past! On lap one they were fresh and determined. On lap two it was clear on their faces that they were feeling the pain, but still giving it their all. On lap three they had renewed strength, perhaps from the fact it was the final lap! Maximum respect. I would like to try three laps to see if I can also get through the punishment of lap two! I really enjoyed cheering everyone on. Everyone ran brilliantly! As with the woman’s race, the front of the field was as spread out. Is this because it is a pursuit race and people have yet to be moved up? It was interesting to watch. And Sally’s friend was super impressive, …he was lapping people on his third lap!
As the race came to an end my hands were stinging from clapping and I was craving central heating. But it was brilliant to support and be part of it, and to see everyone try their best! Massive well-done Striders! You should be proud!
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!
So the day had arrived. I had been awake most of the night listening to the rain lashing off the windows and dreading the fact that I had to face my demons and have my second try at this NEHL fixture. My first attempt at it (in fact, my first attempt at XC since I was at school) hadn’t gone great. As is probably common knowledge by now, I got too carried away and had a nasty fall around 100m from the finish, and so didn’t get to cross the finish line.
I had arranged to travel to Thornley with Tamsin, she picked me up early and we agreed that we must be mad. It rained the entire journey. Pictures were being posted on Facebook of the mud and the conditions, which did nothing to calm the nerves and dread.
We arrived at the farm and it was immediately obvious that this was going to be tough. Everywhere you looked there was mud. Nowhere near as much grass as I remembered from the first time.
I hunted out the Striders tent and a few of us huddled inside to keep warm. The tent filled up, the chattering and laughing started, and I didn’t feel quite as nervous. Knowing that even you seasoned XC pros were dreading it just as much as me, really helped! I popped out with Kerry and Catherine to cheer on the U11’s, so we could see future Strider Lewis Littlewood having a really good run. Lots of U13s passed in the next race, minus one or both trainers in some cases – Christ. I was going to lose my new trainers wasn’t I? Another thing to worry about! Shortly after that we headed back to the tent to take off our multiple layers of warm clothing ready for battle. A few team photo’s (in the warmth of the tent) and we heard the call for the ladies to line up!
We all huddled together (with hardcore vest-wearing Lesley in the centre of the huddle) to try and keep warm, as the rain turned to sleet and we were told there was a 15 minute delay.
This soon passed, and the gun went off. The first part of the race seems to pass in a blur. Lots of fast ladies passing me, but I felt I was holding my own in my part of the pack. Off the grass and through the biggest, icy cold puddle I have ever experienced – wow that was actually fun. The first hill was slippy slidy mud – I tried to run up it the best way I could, but I don’t think you could describe it as running. I hear cries of “I can’t do this” from other runners and I immediately feel in good company! There was literally no avoiding any of the mud or puddles, and I just ended up embracing it, with my main worry being to stay upright. It was horrible. It was hard. My feet were so heavy, the hail bounced off my face like someone had just thrown stones at me. I can’t do this. It’s too hard, it’s not for me. I won’t make a difference – all the faster ladies are way ahead – they make the difference for us. Not long after these thoughts, I see 2 purple vests holding up an injured Mandy. Oh no somebody is hurt. Oh no they’re some of our fast ladies. She seems really hurt. I should stop and help. No Joanne, she has help, she will be ok. But if I help, I won’t need to run anymore. But we have potentially lost 3 ladies. You need to run, you need to do all that you can for the team. So I keep running.
Massive huge hill. Jan Ellis has placed herself perfectly in the middle of the hill. You can’t stop now, she will see you. You can get up the hill. I imagine Jon Ayres shouting at me about my arms, and I get up the hill with Jan’s support ringing in my ears. Wow that was hard. I think I am going to die – oh great, look here’s Phil and Di with a camera….I carry on steadily, always worrying about falling – I will look like such an idiot if I fall again. My favourite part of the whole course, is the downhill bit which leads upto the hill next to all the tents – for some reason, I really like that hill. I take at least 2 ladies with the men shouting support as I went. I think I may have sworn halfway up, but I didn’t stop. Crap. I have to do that whole thing AGAIN?! For all my mile times on my garmin were a lot slower, it felt like the second lap went so much faster. I was back around to my favourite part again in no time, met by more male Strider support, plus some comment from Jon about my arms (supportive I’m sure). I didn’t look over, I just put everything I had into that last hill and passed another 2 ladies (who I think promptly took their places back on the downhill but still…). Running along that last bit to the finish seemed to take forever, but shout outs from the already finished ladies kept me going. I have never felt anything like crossing that finish line and stopping my garmin (which for the first time ever I could not have cared less what the numbers were). I did it. I blooming did it. And I wasn’t last!
Now, where are those brownies?
I never understood the love/hate thing that people have for XC until now. I can’t wait for Alnwick.
Last Saturday’s Harrier League fixture at Herrington Park saw around 70+ Strider members in attendance. There were Strider men, women, young , old, fast, not so fast, new members, long servers, coaches and committee members all there wanting their club to do well and for everyone to have a brilliant day. It gladdened even the hardest heart to see it and it showed just what this club is all about. We Striders are able to come together no matter who we are, what we are or where we’re from and give our all in the service of the club. It was absolutely magnificent and all who were there should be incredibly proud!
The day itself was cloudy, mild and calm if a little damp and the tent and banner was soon up along with many more from our sister clubs. Some of these clubs have long histories stretching back to the nineteenth century such as Heaton Harriers; our next door neighbours for the day, while others are ‘new arrivals’ like Derwent Valley Trail Runners in only their second HL season. It was great to be among them all.
The Striders tent filled up quickly in anticipation of the senior women’s race. We had veterans such as Roz and Jan, welcome returners like Karen, Nina and Emma, fresh faced speedy Striders in Tamsin and Olivia, new devout converts such as Diane and Helen & tough campaigners like Mudwoman herself, Stef & Camilla. We also had one slightly apprehensive debutant, Carla, who quickly shed that apprehension and enjoyed her day to the utmost.
Although it was dry overhead the course was quite muddy in places with a couple of challenging hills and a long woodland section which contained a few obstacles for good measure. Not an easy course by any means. Nonetheless, well over 300 women lined up to do battle with purple vests well in evidence at the start particularly in the front rank of combatants.
Rachelle and Mudwoman were first to show followed by Lesley and they hurdled the fallen logs with eagerness and élan. Emma, on her long anticipated return to the Striders x/c fold, battled her way steadily from the medium pack to finish ahead of Rachelle & Mudwoman with another medium packer, Olivia, powering through at the end to finish as 4th counter. But what support they had from their team mates including the ever improving Helen, a determined Rachael, a committed Vics, a dogged Denise and many many more. No less than 30 Striderettes competed and they all ran their hearts out. But Harrier League is a savage and unforgiving arena, particularly the first division, and with some of our regular ‘counters’ absent through injury or illness our women’s team finished 9th on the day and slipped to 8th for the season just above the relegation zone. We now have a fight on our hands that we’re determined to win!
As well as fielding 57 runners across the two main races Striders had numerous members there who came along to cheer their club mates and have an enjoyable day out. An injured Conrad gave his impression of the ‘Shipman Roar’, Anna, Katy & Allan cast their coaches’ eye over proceedings while Catherine S, Jan E, Stan, Jo P & Diane W all did their best to spur on the purple hoards. Many thanks to them!
One or two of our male runners were so far into the zone during their warm ups that they failed to hear the whistles and shouts that heralded the imminent start of the men’s race. Consequently they had a bit of catching up to do after the gun was fired! Fighting through that 500+ field on what was now a very muddy course couldn’t have been easy but Striders were fielding a very strong team. An absolutely magnificent run by Stephen, coming from the fast pack, saw him finish in 35th place overall and first Strider home. Scott too did his fare share of bursting through finishing second Strider and being closely followed by Matt A (his best X/C race thus far?!), Gibbo, Phil Ray and Jason (from the medium pack).
These guys also had some fantastic support from our other fast packers Gareth & Michael M plus Michael L, Mark & Jack from the medium pack. Pictures on social medium have also shown the grit and determination displayed by the rest of the magnificent team particularly David Browbank (retaining his shoes), Douglas Jardine (putting his body on the line in his debut race), young Emil (thrown in the deep end on his first outing) and Richard Hocking (beating over 150 younger men).
This was Striders best performance in the first division so far. All 6 counters finished in the top 80 places – an excellent display but, such is the quality of our opponents, our 6th place on the day still keeps us in 8th place for the season but with a 2 point cushion over the relegation zone and now just 2 points behind the 7th place club. Like the women we too have a battle on our hands and one that we are equally determined to win.
So we have just two fixtures to go and if any one who manages to read this far and hasn’t yet run this season, particularly those for whom we already have numbers, then I urge you to turn up at Thornley and Alnwick and run for your club. You really are missing out on a fantastic experience if you don’t!
Ps I would like to give a special mention to Kerry and Denise for an act way above and beyond the call on duty – the removal of all the goose poo from the Striders tent!