Category Archives: XC

Cross Country covers mostly, but not exclusively, the Harrier League.

Occasionally Striders go further afield for regional and national championship events, or simply for races that describe themselves as Cross Country events.

NEHL Lambton Estate Cross Country, Saturday, March 14, 2020

Nick Latham

Photo: Stuart Whitman Photography.

The 2019-20 cross country season saw its fair share of disruption. Lambton Estate was a new fixture this season but the first attempt was rained off and it was rescheduled to March.  Druridge Bay suffered the same fate and by the time Thornley Hall Farm came around in February there wasn’t an option to postpone it and it was cancelled.

Then, with the season heading towards its close, COVID-19 has put its oar in. Lambton wasn’t cancelled but it was reaching a point where individually people were starting to question whether they should be taking part. Men’s cross country Captain Stephen put out a message to the club encouraging everyone to judge participation individually and to be sensible about how we conduct ourselves. At that stage, it was a tricky balance between avoiding unnecessary risk and wanting to contribute and support the club. In the end I judged it reasonable for me to attend. Subsequently, the Harrier League organisers had to cancel the Druridge Bay re-run, so it turned out to be the last race of the season.

We went into the fixture with the mens team 3rd in the league, tied on points with second-placed Gateshead Harriers and 3 points behind Sunderland Harriers in first place. Blaydon Harriers were breathing down our necks just one point behind. We had an outside chance to win the league and a great opportunity to finish in second; we just needed a massive performance.

The women’s team started out equal fifth on points with North Shields Poly. They seemed secure in the league but Heaton and Elswick Harriers were poised within a few points to strike.

I’d picked up new member Tom Dutton and rising XC superstar Alex Mirley to give them a lift.  For once I arrived in time to see the start of the women’s race and there was a good section of the taped area taken up by Striders men cheering them on. Also for a change, I was well prepared and was quickly geared up and ready to go for a warm up, unlike my normal rush to get my number on before jogging to the start, which isn’t the best starting line experience.  I got to cheer on some of the women finishing, right up until the point that the slow pack got called up to the start.

Waiting for the start is always a nervous excitement. I haven’t been a counter for our team yet but I normally try to get to the front of the pack to at least give the other clubs someone they have to get around. And I reckon that extra couple of metres, that odd second, might just come in handy later.

The gun went off and away we charged towards the first turn and the stable block before hitting the tarmac estate road and starting the steep descent towards the river.  There were plenty of people in spikes opting for the grass verges but I’d decided on studs much earlier in the week and was confident in my choice.  There were a couple of brilliant steep drops at the bottom of the hill which took us to the riverside and onto the main track, where I was finally able to settle into a more sensible pace.  

Measuring it afterwards, the track was about 1,200m long until hitting the climb that we knew would come.  I’d settled quickly into a good pace alongside Peter Telford from DCH – we get on well, but there was no chat and both of us had our game faces on.  I could see Geoff Davies’ and Robin Parsons’ vests bobbing around in the pack not too far ahead and I had hopes that I might be able to at least keep them in sight.

I ran the first Lambton 10k back in 2014 and knew the hill back up would be steep and unpleasant and I wasn’t disappointed, with 30m of climb in about 300m. It never sounds as much in numbers as it feels at the time in the legs and lungs.  I was pleased to reach the top, though, feeling strong and able to keep up my pace while I recovered from the climb with others gasping around me.  I picked the easiest line around the field edge at the top to save my legs and we were quickly into the woods heading back to the entrance road. Once there, the tarmac / grass verge choice was only about 50 metres long before heading back into the trees and by far the wettest part of the course (apart from the river). Choosing the right line was critical to balance a longer detour against the strength-sapping mud of a direct route.  

The estate had also generously included a fallen tree to add to the decision-making – drier but longer to hurdle the low part, or straight line through (reasonably) deep water? The first time around I went for the detour and was amazed that the person in front virtually stopped to clamber over the tree – I planted my foot on the trunk and launched myself past him while he faffed.

Once off that ride, the paths dried a bit to vary between flat and firm to deeply claggy, but all still eminently runnable.  After a few twists and turns there was a short drop and we were passing through the gates into the castle grounds. No-one was stopping to admire the architecture from the front lawn, though, and in moments we were back onto the road and turning right into lap 2.

The arrangement of the field was great with the start and finish areas close to each other, which meant we had brilliant support. I was so focused on the race that I don’t remember everyone who was yelling encouragement, but I remember Joanne and Wendy, with Jan and Nina roaming the course as well.  Sorry to those I can’t remember but your shouts made a massive difference, they do every time.

The second descent was fast and uneventful but as I hit the track again I could see Geoff and Robin ahead – was I actually gaining on them?  I’d also realised that in between them and me I had Paul Swinburne’s vest as a closer target to aim for.  Perhaps this thought was too tempting as I overcooked the 2nd climb and went a bit too deep, taking longer than I would have liked to recover at the top.  Going back into the woods, I was more adventurous at the fallen tree, going for the middle option but also spotting some of the Medium / Fast pack runners overtaking on the straight line.

Round we went again and by the third visit to the long track, I realised I had fallen away from Geoff again.  I realised that I’d dropped Peter but I’m not sure where that was – perhaps the first climb, I wasn’t really paying attention, just running my own race.

I got the third climb just right, pushing as hard as I dared but able to recover normally at the top. I was gradually gaining on Paul and at the tree I took the direct (wet) line and came alongside him. My dreams of picking him off weren’t to be though, he started to lift his pace through the woods and I couldn’t match him from that far out.

There was no-one immediately behind me as I passed the castle (confirmed by a quick glance over my shoulder at the bend) and there was a good crowd in front so I knew I was aiming to pick up places in the finish rather than defend from behind. I hit the grass and put the hammer down, driven on by the encouraging shouts from the spectating Striders. I managed to pick up one place but the second was too strong and he held on.

In the end, I finished 6 seconds behind Paul Swinburne, 29 seconds down on Geoff and 35 on Robin, coming in 173 out of 325 and lowest scorer of the Striders D team.  I really felt as though I’d acquitted myself well, an improvement on previous XC races.  Even Jan Young said I was a cross country runner now!

We came second on the day and second overall for the season.  The women’s team managed an excellent 6th and maintained their place in the top division, an even better achievement because we only had 7 runners.  Fiona has already summarised some of the other great club results from the day but I wanted to add a couple of other observations. We fielded 5 male teams – 30 runners, the most of any club.  Gateshead Harriers didn’t manage a full team.  DCH had 7 runners and placed 9th.  Our B team would have placed 5th and every member of our D team (as well as B and C) impacted on DCH’s team score.  This truly is a team sport and all runners can have an impact on the result, even if you aren’t a “counter” for the A team.

NEHL Lambton Results

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Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, Saturday, January 4, 2020

PosbibNameRace TimePackCat
11766Calum Johnson (Gateshead Harriers)28:51SMsen
15476Alex Mirley32:09MMV35
35482Chris Callan33:58FMV35
52501Graeme Watt34:46FMV40
74563Stuart Ord35:57FMsen
103516Lindsay Mcewan37:25SMV45
104507James Lee37:30MMV40
1121589Max Wilkinson37:59Sn/c
190553Robin Parsons40:34SMV40
2011795Stuart Scott41:06SMV35
252537Nick Latham43:11SMV45
260552Robert Thirkell43:31SMV55
262509John Bisson43:35SMV40
266478Andrew Davies43:42SMV40
293528Michael Dale44:19SMV40
322503Ian Butler45:38SMV55
323548Richard Hockin45:44SMV65
364556Shaun Roberts48:23SMV60
365511Jonathan Hamill48:27SMV40
378546Phil Swinburn50:00SMV40
404514Kevin Morson53:52SMsen
408559Stephen Ellis55:11SMV65
PosNumNameRace TimePackCat
1266Amy Fuller (Elswick Harriers)23:53FFsen
73374Nina Mason28:58MFV45
161378Rachelle Mason32:11SFV40
203369Louise Collins33:16SFV35
240352Jill Rudkin34:33SFV40
241398Zoe Dewdney-Parsons34:35SFV40
254342Fiona Harrington-Hughes35:06SFV45
266349Jan Young35:34SFV65
280345Heather Raistrick36:29SFV55
302348Jan Ellis38:28SFV55
328325Alison Smith40:54SFV40
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British & Irish Masters International Cross Country, Liverpool, Saturday, November 16, 2019


Jan Young


Our very own Stephen Jackson was selected to run in the MV35 English team at the British & Irish  Cross Country International competition at Liverpool. Running 8k in 26’04”, saw him home as third counter for the team. England finished fourth team, only one point down from N. Ireland.

We know he’s good but he can’t win the Harrier League on his own, so let’s get behind him on Saturday, preferably running, or if not,making lots of noise for our men’s & women’s teams.

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Harrier League, Thornley Hall Farm, Saturday, February 10, 2018

Nick Latham

Courtesy of Joanne PattersonBrutal and brilliant – two adjectives for the North East Harrier League cross-country race at Thornley Hall Farm. All right, brutal may be overstating it a bit, but “quite hard” doesn’t alliterate and isn’t as catchy.
This race was a first for me in many ways. Having joined Striders a couple of months ago, it was my first race as a Strider, my first outing in a Club vest and my first cross-country race. I’ve done plenty of road and trail races before but this was new territory. Cross country was always the punishment, sorry, PE lesson that many of us dreaded at school. Now I’m much older and a little wiser, I reckon that if it’s good enough for current and past pros (Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe, Charlie Spedding, Julian Goater etc. etc.), it’s got to be good for all of us.
I’d arranged to travel with Anna Basu and Roz Layton and was grateful to share the short journey from Durham with them. Parking wasn’t the trauma I’d feared and we arrived with plenty of time to amble along to the top of the race field and find the tent.
I was realistic about my expectations going into this race. I looked at the results from the previous year and had a good idea of where I would likely come out even if it was a road event and it was unlikely I’d be contributing to the scoring. Regardless, I went out determined to race as hard as I could regardless of the (lack of) impact I might have on the results.
We had a good turnout for both teams, with more men arriving as race time approached. The weather was cold but with no rain; there was a chill in the wind, but that seemed to die off while we were waiting to get going; a big blessing. With a fair amount of rain, sleet and snow over the previous weeks and several hundred pairs of feet covering the course before us, it was distinctly “soft & sticky” underfoot. Or a bogfest as our Chairman so elegantly put it on Strava.
The course was also being run in the reverse direction to 2017. One of the marshals thought this would make it easier. I still don’t believe him. The reversed course put a short, sharp grassy uphill after the first couple of hundred metres. Don’t they always look worse from the bottom than the top? The route was both a blessing and a curse – it was great to have the Club tents right at the top of this climb, with loads of encouragement, but that meant I ended up pushing into the red for each of the three laps.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to do it, I wasn’t going to fall into that newbie trap that Mike Barlow and I were talking about beforehand…but I still set off too fast. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who did, but by about half a mile into the first lap I was feeling dreadful – my legs were like lead and I didn’t feel like I could push on at all on the flats and downhills like I’d intended. Sweeping down to the southern part of the course we hit the first of the real mud and I’ve never run through anything like it before. It sucked all the power out of my legs and this proved harder to me than any of the hills. I realised then that I was going to have to adapt my tactics if I was going to avoid a DNF.
I decided that I would do something I hate doing on any run and that’s walk. I allowed myself, provided I contained it to the worst sections and still kept moving as fast as I could. I quickly noticed that anyone who was passing me (other than the fast pack) wasn’t really going much quicker anyway and by keeping my heart-rate in check I could pick the pace back up again when the gradient eased and I would pull away from them again.
The first lap (is that only the first one?) felt like purgatory. Somewhere around the middle of the second lap, either my changed tactics started to pay off or the endorphins finally kicked in; I started to feel better and could push-on harder outside of the uphills. I settled into the ebb and flow, frequently swapping places with a couple of runners from Blackhill and Blyth plus our own Philip Connor. As we headed into the last half mile, I could see Andrew Davies about 12 places ahead of me across the field – too far to make up by that point – but was second in our cluster of four behind the Blyth runner.
I’d sussed on the previous laps that the mud on the final descent was sticky enough to hold my feet so I could pick up speed down into the finish funnel and this allowed me to get away from the other three. I dug into the last of my reserves and made sure I wasn’t going to be caught on the run-in. From the noise, there was a great crowd of purple & green support at the finish and that gave me the boost I needed to wring out the final effort. I don’t remember seeing anyone, I was so focused on reaching the line. I also didn’t see what happened to Philip but he broke clear of the other two to come in a few seconds behind me.
Anna and Roz were waiting when I came through the tapes. It was brilliant to see friendly faces to welcome me back. When I felt up to it we strolled back to the tent to find some very welcome goodies (thank you to those who brought, I’ll know for next time).
In the end, we had 22 men running and I led in the (incomplete) D team as “first” counter, placing 336 out of 414 overall and bang in line with where I expected to be.
The women’s team had a fantastic day. Fiona Brannan was 3rd and the team placed first – brilliant results all round.
It was great to be part of the team and be really made to feel welcome. I just hope that one day I can repay the Club with a result which contributes to our placing in some way!
Will I do it again? Absolutely. Why? Because no matter where you finish, you’re supporting and representing your Club. Even if you don’t count towards the placed team, you can displace runners from other clubs and increase their score; by my reckoning, that’s what 5 of our women’s B &C team and 3 of our men’s B team finishers did. It’s also great for developing your running strength, both physical and psychological. It’s a fair trade for the mud!



posbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
11864Karl Taylor (Morpeth Harriers & AC)MV35S37:1337:13
69545Stuart OrdMsenS44:2144:21
109523Michael LittlewoodMV40M45:1642:46
110485Chris CallanMV35F45:2340:23
138524Michael MasonMV40F46:0841:08
141519Matt ClaydonMV40S46:1146:11
154520Matthew ArcherMV35M46:3244:02
157546Stuart ScottMV35M46:4244:12
162516Mark GriffithsMV40M46:5044:20
215538Scott WatsonMV55M48:2445:54
228496David GibsonMV50S48:4948:49
231525Mike BarlowMV40S48:5448:54
248548Timothy SkeltonMV35S49:4049:40
252507James GarlandMV40M50:0947:39
271534Richard HockinMV65S51:0451:04
286487Conrad WhiteMV60S51:4451:44
305526Mike BennettMV60S52:3652:36
3211826Aaron GourleyMV35S54:1154:11
325481Andrew DaviesMV40S54:2854:28
3381846Nick LathamMV40S55:2155:21
339533Philip ConnorMsenS55:2455:24
354511Jonathan HamillMV40S56:4456:44
375547Tim MatthewsMV50S59:2059:20


posbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
1644Emma Holt (Morpeth Harriers & AC)FF29:2626:06
31317Fiona BrannanFsenS31:1131:11
23412Emma ThompsonFV35F34:2131:01
26451Rachael BullockFsenS34:2734:27
30410Elaine BissonFV35F34:3731:17
86395Anna BasuFV40M36:5535:15
104452Rachelle MasonFV35M37:3535:55
109449Nina MasonFV40S37:5237:52
145461Stef BarlowFV40S39:2439:24
164455Roz LaytonFV65S40:2340:23
169459Sarah FawcettFV55S40:4440:44
173420Jan YoungFV65S41:0241:02
246437Kerry BarnettFV45S51:1751:17

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Aykley Heads Cross Country – A view from marshal point 18, Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tamsin Imber

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!

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, Saturday, October 28, 2017


Ladies group photo. photo by Carla Clark


11214Amelia Pettitt (Newcastle University)FsenM22:51
58413Fiona JonesFV40M28:36
86462Susan DavisFV55S29:38
91458Sarah DaviesFV50S29:50
961168Natalie BellFsenS30:02
116414Fiona ShentonFV55S30:41
121436Katy WaltonFV35S30:53
125442Lesley HamillFV40S30:58
141461Stef BarlowFV40S31:29
158434Kathryn RogersFsenS32:06
159449Nina MasonFV40S32:07
166422Jean BradleyFV60S32:19
188430Karen ByngFV45S32:50
206459Sarah FawcettFV55S33:22
224427Joanne PorterFV45S33:51
240426Joanne PattersonFV35S34:30
290419Jan EllisFV55S36:41
315453Rebecca DoddFsenS38:32
328437Kerry BarnettFV45S40:09

a few of the Men's team after the race. Photo by Kerry Barnett.


1865Carl Avery (Morpeth Harriers & AC)MsenM29:21
69485Chris CallanMV35M35:30
85546Stuart ScottMV35S36:26
105520Matthew ArcherMV35M37:21
267487Conrad WhiteMV60S42:28
268498David LumsdonMV50S42:30
271525Mike BarlowMV40S42:39
295534Richard HockinMV65S43:14
322505Graeme WaltonMV45S44:17
328511Jonathan HamillMV40S44:29
329481Andrew DaviesMV40S44:38
345533Philip ConnorMsenS45:14
354513Lindsay RodgersMV45S45:45
382486Chris ShearsmithMV40S47:33
403499Dougie NisbetMV50S49:22
424542Stephen EllisMV60S52:32
426484Andrew ThurstonMV60S53:01

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North of England XC championships, Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, Friday, January 27, 2017

Di Harold

My first ever Striders race report and possibly my last when you see the length of it (I type faster than I run – so sorry all!).

On a whim (and because I have rather taken to XC), I signed up to go to the Northern XC championships – in part because Stef Barlow was going (we do 6 a.m. fitcamps together at Transform Fitness) and also because I have done most of the XC (the HL at least I think) to date so thought this would be a fitting one to add to the experience to date.

And it didn’t disappoint! Each one to date has been different, starting from Wrekington back in October (oh the shock of that first one) to pitching up in Stef’s posh new 4×4 jag (think mood lighting and heated seats – oh and mud in a new car) at a safari park on Merseyside.

My first thoughts were I just wanted to go play on the high wire aerial after running.  After running, I just wanted to visit the portaloos portable toilets having had intense “runner’s stomach”.

What does XC give me?  Well a rather good endorphin rush 😉 But note the delayed onset of endorphins (usually up to 8 hours after when I have bathed, eaten and warmed up – and hit the prosecco sometimes..).   I have experienced intense pain (not being able to breathe, runner’s stomach etc) and gurned a bit both before, during and immediately after XC (I believe I snapped ‘I hated that’ after one..), but strangely seem to rather like it and keep coming back for more.

So anyway, back to Knowsley.

It was muddy.  Muddier than any I have been to so far – and Mudman thankfully said after that one of the tougher ones which made me feel better.  Running in it just sapped all energy to put it mildly.  I thought Thornley (2016) was muddy (the one where there were children crying) but that was nothing compared to this one.

The start – XC captain Mudwoman Susan got me all excited by saying the Brownlee brothers were due to run  (they didn’t turn up sadly but to be fair, I wouldn’t have cared who was there after running as just wanted to rest..)  I set off too fast, ignoring / forgetting Allan S’s constant exhortations “don’t go off too fast, don’t go off too fast and don’t go off too fast”.

Then we hit the mud and it was already deep. Tried running down the side, but there was little respite.  And a danger of falling on the posts if you lost your balance. Large swathes of the course were like that which was just brutal.  Lap 2 was even worse as the mud was even more churned up.  I heard a young girl behind me whimper which sort of made me laugh.  Felt like a wobbly weebil.  By the final few miles (was c4.75), my breathing had settled down (it always takes me a while) and could/should have gone faster, but having major stomach cramps.  And just retreated into a world of pain…but determined not to walk as knew I would stop.  Lots of shouts out and encouragement from the Strider men and also other clubs which was appreciated – although difficult to acknowledge even with a smile when you are giving it all – but I think people get that.

Big difference in pace between first and last mile when I looked at the times after too – and a lot slower than my first run at Wrekington, but again, the conditions were far far different and it all depends on how you do on the day of course.

Susan ran amazingly well as usual doing Striders proud (Susan is soo fast!) as did Stef (I could see her in front of me all the way round but didn’t catch her).  Stef was telling me after that a few years ago she once almost caught Susan.  That has to be my aim – give me a few years Susan and try and not get any faster please?!

So once I had recovered, I caught the 3rd lap of the men’s race – and goodness I felt for them as the mud was unbearable by then.  All 4 men (Geoff, Jack, Phil Reay and Mike) did amazingly well.  They had that look of pain on their faces which I now recognise although there may have been a glimpse of a smile on Phil’s face (no smiling permitted – indicates not giving 100% effort!!!).

After, I was starting to shiver a lot as the temperature dropped suddenly so was keen to be back in my chauffeur-driven Jag.  I had promised to let Phil Reay sit in the front where there were heated seats on the return journey but easily reneged on that as felt my need was greater.  Within 10 minutes I warmed up and perked up and then later the decision was just around what level of heated car seat I wanted (we agreed level 1 was quite subtle and soothing on one’s back!).

Huge thanks to Geoff and Susan for organising this – and all the XC races.  And encouraging all to give it a go.  I genuinely think more should give XC a chance and see what it can give them but then I am a convert (I reserve the right to gurn a little – it’s all part of the experience / adrenalin rush before and after I contest!).

Glad Geoff and Susan brought the Striders tent along too – that was appreciated – as it was by the Jarrow team I think who shared it.  And to Stef for driving Phil Reay and I.  We were a small group, but we represented our club and had a good, challenging and great day out.

XC is excellent training, some speed work, great camaraderie and I find myself saying I can’t believe more people don’t do it.  It’s a great day out, great training (and free!) – and if I can do it (I am hardly in the ‘fast pack’) then I genuinely don’t understand why more don’t try it.  Well I do, but I wish more would as I do think if people gave it a try and understood that XC is for all abilities and they could get a lot from it and it opens all kinds of avenues – e.g. fell races, harder trail races.  And I am a big believer in ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’.   That’s a bit trite maybe, but you have to get out of your comfort zone – that’s where the payoff is.  My birthday ‘treat’ this year is a fell race in the Cheviots (the Pendulum I think it is called) and I wouldn’t have tried that without the XC experience I don’t think– or the Hexhamshire Hobble I did in December.

I say all the above, but if you are at Thornley next week, I will still look a bit pale faced before the race (and immediately after) and go a bit quiet or start jabbering a bit.   But I love it really!

Di Harold

Ps there are some pics on FB

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Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, Saturday, November 19, 2016


If it’s Good Enough for an Olympian……

A bright, cold day saw 25 Striders compete over a gentle x/c course ideal for beginners. This one off cup fixture hosted by the HL tends to attract smaller fields than the league matches themselves but, without the usual pack system, we still saw a men’s field of 379 and a women’s of 286.

Thirteen Strider women lined up to do battle with two times Olympic 1500m finalist Laura Weightman. Louise managed to get closest to her followed by Sarah and Helen and these were our counters for the Women’s Vet team (we had no senior team as no u/35 Striders competed!) As ever though there was plenty of support for them from faces old and new such as Jenny Search running for the first time this season and Jan Young running her millionth x/c supported by daughter Nina, in the race itself, and grand-daughter Leigh on the sidelines. The team received some enthusiastic support from Strider children ringing bells and waving purple and silver wavy things. It was much appreciated.

As a warm up to next Saturday’s crucial league fixture at Thornley, a dozen Strider men chose to compete here today for their club and were rewarded with 13th place in the Vet Team competition. Michael led the team home followed by a determined and grimacing James. Phil Ray was our first non vet home but once again we didn’t have sufficient youngsters to make up a senior team. That didn’t stop Richard Hockin from finishing first v60 home though!

Another great x/c day out was had by all, and it was particularly pleasing to see certain children of Strider parents perform so well in their orange vests. Potential Olympians of the future sharing the stage with an Olympian of today. If x/c is good enough for them then it’s good enough for me too!


position bib name cat race time
1 852 Carl Avery (Morpeth Harriers & AC Msen 29:10
82 536 Michael Littlewood MV40 36:09
112 520 James Garland MV40 37:21
172 546 Phil Ray MV35 39:31
215 515 Geoff Davis MV55 41:15
227 535 Michael Hughes MV45 41:33
234 497 Conrad White MV55 41:44
287 549 Richard Hockin MV60 43:46
315 561 Tim Matthews MV50 45:21
317 492 Andrew Davies MV40 45:23
357 496 Chris Shearsmith MV35 48:54
364 555 Stephen Ellis MV60 50:54

379 finishers.

position bib name cat race time
1 1172 Laura Weightman (Morpeth Harriers & AC) Fsen 21:29
49 411 Louise Warner FV35 28:00
81 425 Sarah Davies FV45 28:57
169 379 Helen Thomas FV40 31:47
172 384 Jenny Search FV40 31:55
177 369 Diane Harold FV40 32:07
179 356 Camilla Lauren-Maatta FV50 32:08
181 382 Jan Young FV60 32:19
190 415 Nina Mason FV40 32:38
206 434 Victoria Jackson FV35 33:17
215 351 Anja Fechtner FV35 33:44
254 389 Joanne Porter FV45 35:46
273 402 Kerry Barnett FV40 40:14
277 390 Joanne Richardson FV40 40:27

286 finishers.

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English National Cross Country Championships, Donnington, Saturday, February 27, 2016

Paul Evans

This race failed the Scott Watson test of travelling time vs race length, in that he generally insists upon a ration not much greater than 1:1. However, this was the nationals and an exception deserves to be made for the right race, which this most certainly was. Seven Striders were joined by a similar number of DCH runners on their very empty bus, leaving Maiden Castle at just the right time to spy several parkrunners looking a little sheepish when offered a seat, including Rob Everson, late of this parish and running strongly again.

The journey to the East Midlands was unremarkable, the bus roomy and the day bright all the way to Donnington, where we pulled in under the flight path to the airport and next to the famous racetrack, where we found that Geoff Watson had already set up the DCH tent amongst over a hundred others from as far as Morpeth, London, the South West and and the Welsh Borders, and was contemplating turning out for them with less than 100% enthusiasm. Think the usual XC atmosphere, but more so: mass enthusiasm and personal reluctance.

1420hrs came rapidly and we watched Steph and Susan recede into the distance, swallowed by hundreds of other runners as the starting funnel narrowed and the sharp right took them out onto the course proper. The next 40 minutes were unpleasant, nerves increasing despite the knowledge we didn’t even have the numbers to make up a team, then 1500hrs was upon us and, from the pens (13 for Striders, tactically-positioned behind the faster chaps) freedom rang with the shotgun blast and it was time for us to cross the grassy, rutted field to the copse turn and get out there.

The course, with hindsight, was a beauty: one bottleneck of any note for those in the middle of the pack (the turn from the start onto the main course) and a design that allowed spectators to see multiple turns and loops at once from one of several vantage points. It started fast, with a left-hand bend taking us through an uneven turnip field, a little drop off to the right, a sharp left and climb then two descents in succession, one a straight, fast plunge and one a gentle left-hand curve lasting a good 400m. Then the fun stopped: the easy bit was over and the back half of the loop began, with the ground getting wetter, the mud thicker and the overall theme becoming ‘uphill;’ reader, it was here (on the final left-hand curve of lap 1, this one giving the runner the option of ‘direct-but-slow’ or ‘lengthier-but-firmer’) that I realised I’d made the classic XC mistake of letting adrenaline hold me to a pace I could not sustain.

Lap 2 was not fun. Let’s not talk about lap 2, other than to state that a few runners appeared to be having even less fun than me, as they were simply walking off the course with looks that did not indicate a good day. Let’s go to lap 3, where the race stabilised for me, in that I was no longer going backwards and was even regaining a few of the places lost on lap 2) and the end was in sight – literally so, from a couple of points on the course, when my eyes could be taken off the ground. By now, the ground was getting much more churned than it had been earlier, the air was colder and the light was fading a little, but each and every turn was taken with the knowledge it would be the last, the descents were joyful again and the climbs were productive for me in terms of places, every vest seen at NEHL fixtures particularly satisfying. It was something of an anti-climax to find that the finish was long, straight and flat (though very muddy) and that unfortunately a handful of others had a better sprint for the line than I did.

A few minutes later, David Gibson crossed the line, with Geoff, Mike Hughes and Mike Bennett after him, one short of a team yet all, once again, part of a satisfying day’s running. A very quick change was followed by a walk back to the bus, the drone of motorsports still renting the air and the passengers flying a couple of hundred metres above doubtless wondering what was unfolding below them as they came in to land. Back in Durham a couple of hours later, walking up North Road on ‘payday Saturday,’ we pondered if anyone we passed would understand why we’d done what we did that day. We thought that they probably would not. Which is fine, as nor did we. But we had done it, and would do so again in a heartbeat.


pos name time
1 Jonathan Hay (ALDERSHOT FARNHAM & DIS) 0:42:09
901 Paul Evans 0:58:49
1206 Dave Gibson 1:03:24
1259 Geoff Davis 1:04:18
1299 Mike Hughes 1:05:02
1417 Michael Bennett 1:07:35

1730 finishers.

pos name time
1 Lillian Partridge (ALDERSHOT FARNHAM & DIS) 0:30:35
403 Susan Davis 0:43:02
472 Stephanie Piper 0:44:32

739 finishers.

junior women
pos name time
1 Harriet Knowles-Jones (WARRINGTON A C) 0:21:21
Sally Hughes DNF

129 finishers.

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North East Masters A A Cross Country Championships, Wallsend, Saturday, February 6, 2016

Conrad White

Fiona through the Mizzle (Mizzle?!)For harrier league mud lovers (over the age of 35) who have been deprived, this was the place to be – a wet, damp and muddy Saturday afternoon in Wallsend for cross country. It could have been the harrier league, but smaller and with no tents. It was where we had the harrier league many years ago.

A select band of striders made it to Wallsend for the North East Veterans championships. I arrived, having driven through the wet grey mizzle that was Saturday morning in time to see the women and over 65 men and give a cheer to Fiona – who looked like she was giving it her all. Her summing up at the end suggested the downhill was OK but the uphill was for walking. I met up with Jason – who is just returning to running after a break of a couple of decades and I think his first cross county outing for striders. The atmosphere at the race was friendly and low key – until the start and the leaders setting off like whippets – the mud did not seem to have the same effect as it had on me. We had three laps, each of which included a straightforward descent, a slightly greasy descent and two uphill sections of slippery mud – nothing if you are used to hill races I suspect, but taxing enough. Fiona was right – I ended up walking for a short stretch – but so was everyone around me.

One of the good parts of the veterans race is that you run with your age group on your back and as far as I was concerned if it did not say 55 then I was not too troubled (except when a couple of 60s came past – but that will be me next year.) The course allowed a couple of opportunities to see the race so it was possible to give each other encouragement and thanks to Fiona for the cheers. After race was catered for with hot drinks and the results did not take too long in arriving, apart from the age group team results. Not surprising considering the complexity of trying to work out all the different age categories. Unfortunately striders did not reach the podium on this occasion but hopefully a good time was had by all. Maybe next year.


Race 1: Veteran Women (and men over 65)
Pos Name Age Time
1 Joasia Zakrzewski (Durham City Harries & AC) 40 to 44 0:21:32
50 Fiona Wood 35 to 39 0:31:41
Race 2: Veteran Men 35 – 64
Pos Name Age Time
1 Kevin Jeffress (Sunderland Harriers & AC) 35 to 39 0:29:13
29 Jason Harding 45 to 49 0:34:01
74 Conrad White 55 to 59 0:39:36
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