Possibly TBH’s most improved runner of the year (that gets the debate going!), Chris ‘I was nominated by Rooney’ Graham gives us his ups and downs of the first cross country event of the year.
Arriving early, John Hurse and I busied ourselves putting up the tent and flag. We had not slotted together a pole before a gentleman from Morpeth Harriers commented upon passing by: “there’s usually some little bloke with sunglasses and a cap on struggling to put up your tent, it’s normally a battle between the two of us to get our tents up first.” Realising we were hours behind schedule and that we should have stayed there the night before to guarantee first tent status, John and I hung our heads in shame. The line was drawn in the sand; it had just gotten personal. To make it worse, not only was our time keeping skills under question but nobody had arrived with any cake.
Soon enough the tent was up and the flag hoisted in time for the black and white masses to start emerging. The TBH hub was a buzzing hive of nervous anticipation. Captain Hilton started handing out the numbers instructing everyone to keep them for the whole season as around us the cream of the north east had converged upon this field at Hedley Farm, Tanfield, ready to get the new season off and running. The course itself was expertly designed with a good combination of every discipline, plenty of ups, downs, running across uneven terrain, a few long sections to cruise around at top speed and tight turns that bring you to an almost complete stop. There was an area that everyone would be able to focus their own personal strengths on to get the best out of themselves. The weather was fine and with very little rain in the past week the course was relatively dry. It was to be a great introduction into the cross country season this year.
The first competitor for TBH was Mini Mac who after putting together a great summer of training with our new youth section found himself battling at the front of the field to come home in a fantastic 7th position, the highest in a TBH vest on the day. Well done Leodhais.
The next race of the day featuring a TBH vest was the senior and veteran women, this year going off earlier than the men. There were some fantastic performances. Continuing her fantastic form from the Great North Run Kym Eden stormed home in 14th position with Rebecca Harrison and Sophie Marr both coming home in the top 35, with that 5th team position was secured the vets placing 9th overall. Of course cross country is very much a team competition as every runner edges your competitors down a place so all nine runners should be proud of a sturdy performance and look forward to hopefully another victorious year in the harrier league.
Final event of the day was the men’s senior and veteran competition which featured the largest field of all the races. Among the 324 runners were 29 TBH standard bearers. However the competition was very high featuring a who’s who of north east running.
Once under starters’ orders instructions were given to the athletes, which was typically only heard by the first row. I believe there was something mentioned about cakes on lollipop sticks but before I could comprehend it we were off. The course started with a long dogleg to the right gradually descending to the bottle neck of a first corner where it was time to get those elbows out and vie for position. I took the inside line and powered up the first hill. This was undoubtedly my favourite part of the course and where I had previously decided to put in a lot of effort on the short ups and downs of which there were three sets in the first half of each lap.
Feeling strong I tried to hold position relative to those around me, as after a good few weeks training I was confident I could put in a good performance. After the first lap I decided I would try and start picking people off ahead of me and enjoyed a real battle with athletes from Durham, Morpeth, Elvet Striders and Sunderland Harriers all of us trying to steal a quick gap at every opportunity. This is what I love about cross country: you forget about how fast you are running and instead try to beat whoever you are next to.
This battle continued until the final lap when the field started to spread out. Coming down the third and longest descent I caught a glimpse of a TBH vest in my peripheral vision. It was none other than Kenny ‘The Recruiter’ Mac eagerly gobbling up the terrain with apparent ease. I tried to hold onto his tail but he left me for dust moving strongly through the field passing the group with whom I had been battling. Holding position I managed to finish strongly in 48th place.
At the sharp end of the field Keith Smith came home 19th overall and 3rd vet closely followed by Tony Carter and Dave Moir. Kenny’s final lap moving through the field guaranteed first position for the vet’s team prize with the senior men replicating the women’s performance of 5th overall. There were also excellent performances from James Dunce, Paul Hilton, Louis Goffe (in his first race for TBH in a long time, now he’s on parenting duties), Andrew Dougal, David Daniels, and Rob Wishart all finishing within the top 100.
Once all the racing was over everyone set off back to the tent where it was time to sample the assortment of fine cakes supplied by our resident bakers. With a selection of cupcakes, brownies and lollicakes washed down with a cup of tea all present were superbly catered for. Many thanks to all who baked, boiled kettles and transported stuff over from various cars!
All in all it was a great day at the races and hopefully in the years to come Tyne Bridge can field teams in all the events to contest the overall honours. With the youth section just beginning this year we will certainly have more to offer in the future.
Next up… Sat 26 Start Fitness NEHL (1) Blaydon, Shibdon Pond.