Race Report from the women’s race by Claire Norman
This year’s XC season has showcased every single variety of weather that the North East has to offer. However, after today’s Northerns, I feel confident in saying that wind is the absolute worst one.
Twenty-five of us travelled down from Newcastle for the day, with representatives in the U13 boys, U13 girls, U15 girls, U15 boys, U17 men, U20 men, senior women and senior men’s races. We kept checking our phones for updates regarding whether or not the Championship would get cancelled due to the 50mph winds forecast, but alas, it was to go ahead but without the luxury of a team tent.
The senior ladies team showed great initiative in finding a café in a local leisure centre and managed to make four lattes last three hours, giving us great protection from the wind and lulling us into a false sense of security that it might all die down. I popped out to cheer on the juniors that I get bullied by on a Wednesday night, and was super impressed with their determination and perseverance, and the fact that none of them were blown off into the neighbouring Home Bargains car park. Special thanks to Ruby Ditchburn who must have covered the distance of the course a further 8 times by cheering on every single TBH going and running with some of the younger lads from other teams who were struggling.
Finally, it was time for the ladies race to start. Team Manager Ruby directed us to the very centre of the start line to make sure we had the best chance of taking a direct line and winning the race – I’m afraid to say we may have let her down on that front. The race started with the wind behind us which was lovely, but unfortunately that soon changed and we had to get stuck into the slog that was running into Storm Malik.
I could tell from the start that neither my legs nor my heart were in it (and my stomach was definitely in it, but trying to make a dramatic exit), so settled into a steady-ish pace and wondered whether the Start Fitness gazebo had made the great escape it had been threatening. Pace varied wildly depending on which direction you were running, and at one particularly miserable stretch we had to run uphill, into the wind, with the low-lying afternoon sun going straight into our faces. Honestly, this was a voluntary day out. Overall it was a pretty kind course with minimal mud or incline (some might even say “boring”) – but the wind just made it an absolute killer.
Eventually, I completed the second lap (of a course that was 800m longer than advertised) and rallied the troops off to the busiest McDonalds in the entire world. We caught the end of the men’s race and I was very grateful that sexism still continues to prevent me from running three laps at the cross country. I can also confirm that the only thing worse than running in 50mph winds is using a Portaloo in them.
First home was Rachael Perowne (41:17), who left everything on the course, including a reasonable chunk of her bloodied heel skin. Just behind her was Nicole McIntyre (41:19), who had rather awkwardly been running in Rachael’s comfier shoes. After a very strong start, 6th-in-the-NEHL-individual-Grand-Prix Amy Johnson came home in 42:11, having suffered some sort of nasty allergic reaction to an unknown source – grass? Horses? Yorkshire? Final counter for TBH ladies was Marloes Peters (43:32). That left myself (44:54) and Gemma Finnie (47:36) as “reserve counters” – good thing we were there because it sounds like Rachael could well have lost a foot and Amy’s throat was minutes away from closing up.
The women placed 23rd out of 33 complete teams and were third North East team behind Jarrow & Hebburn and Elswick. What was striking was the fact that there were 55 incomplete teams in the women’s race, and overall attendance was half that of the men. As our bus home got redirected through the villages of Co Durham, we mused about why this might be and how we can continue to be a club with a high turnout at local and national cross country events.
If you are new to the club but still don’t really understand why consenting adults would devote their Saturday or Sunday to running around a big field in miserable conditions, please have a chat with one of us who keep on turning out – I promise there are some good bits! For an individual sport, joining in with a relay team or a Harrier League fixture is one of the best ways to get to know your clubmates, as well as develop unspoken rivalries with colleagues attached to other clubs that you never knew even laced up a pair of trainers. Cross Country is for members of all groups and abilities – if you don’t believe me, have a look at the spread of results from earlier fixtures this year.
Our next fixtures are:
Saturday 12 February – Temple Park, South Shields (flat, local, could probably get away with wearing normal trainers that you don’t like very much, scratch race so don’t need to learn what a pack is)
Saturday 19 February – Signals Relays, Hetton le Hole, Sunderland (OK – not XC, but a great team day out and something for those who aren’t yet sold on mud!)
Saturday 5 March – Alnwick Castle – the last NEHL fixture of the year and a big turnout is really important!
If you aren’t sure about footwear and don’t want to spend too much, the More Mile Cheviot Trail shoe series are really good value for money, will be fine for almost any terrain and are currently only £20-30 at Start Fitness.
If you want to take part but haven’t signed up – fear not, Team Captains Becky and Al are still taking entries for all the above events. You can reply to their emails, or Matt will pass on a reply to his weekly one. See you in Temple Park!