The excitement of the Cross Country season continues….
We learn about the debutants, the speedy drivers, the prize winners and see the smiley happy faces of those representing the club. 😊
At the halfway point of season 14 ladies and 16 men had represented the club with 2 ladies and 2 men with 100% participation records. There had been some excellent performances before Christmas that had laid sound foundations for the rest of the season. 👏🏼
Burnley – Fixture 4
After a extended break around the festive season it was time for the 4th Mid Lancs fixture held again at Towneley Park. A flat parkland course within earshot of Burnley’s Tuft Moor ground, on occasion we have run during a game and been cheered on by the crowds! Now I’ll be honest, the Burnley course is not anything too exciting and the last few years has often been a low point in terms of turnout but it’s important that points are scored at every fixture so kudos to everyone who competed.
A dull overcast day but thankfully no rain although the new tent was getting a little battered by the wind!
For the ladies we had the Three Amigos..Jayne, Marie and Lisa.
Leading the Ladies home was Marie in 22nd place and 24.02. Then we had Jayne in 68th (26.46) and Lisa 90th (27.51). Thankfully only 3 ladies are required for the Senior Women’s team so they were able to score vital team points. Well done ladies!
For the men it was the “Magnificent Seven” (Nothing like using a few film titles!), sounds better than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White couldn’t make it!
The men ran to form and leading them home in 42nd was big Jon in 38.12, another great run, In 2nd place for the men only a few places and seconds further back was John in 52nd 38.36 which also made him 3rd V50. After 10 days of illness Cross Country was always going to be an interesting challenge but I was pleased with my 42.42 coming in 4th behind Stuart who took 3rd place for the men in 41.54. Mike Casey came next in 48.41, then Tony in 49.44 and then Jeff made up the 7 with 55.50. A decent turnout and performance by the men.
The best part of the day is always coffee and cake and after using the car park of the Garden Centre it seemed rude not too!
Northern Athletics Cross Country Champs – Camp Hill Estate Bedale, Yorkshire
Five Senior men were in action, John Heyes, Jeff Darbyshire, Stuart Towns, Mike “Debutant” Vose and my good self Mike Harris.
The course was an interesting mix of decent solid ground and some awful muddy sections that sapped your strength. I have to say though compared to the Northern Races in folklore this was relatively easy! (Memory jogger….Knowsley x 2, Witton Park were all stinkers!)
We were all under orders to run fast as the Harriers Do was on in the evening plus Driver Jeff needed to go out early, more of that later.
We first managed to watch Harriers speedster Tim Hartley run in the Junior Men’s race. Tim had a great race managing to come home in 34th place in 29:04. Well done Tim. 👏🏼
The quick getaway planned meant no tent or flag just some alfresco changing into race gear outside the car. Numbers collected, warm up done and we were on!
A decent field meant there was the usual Zulu charge as 100’s of runners bounded off enthusiastically to the first bend.
The course had been really well thought through and was a decent mix. It was however one of the courses that you didn’t quite work out the laps from the map. Add in the fact it was long, very long and you get a tough race!
First back was John in 256th place in 54:37. Next was me in 57:46 350th place, then Stuart in 407th in 1:00:32, 4th was Mike Vose in 565th place in 1:15:58 with then Jeff in 574th place in 1:19:11.
Jeff very quickly realised he had about an hour to do a 2 hour journey so the Harriers were then plunged into the 2nd race of the day – Jeff going for it. Pleased to say we managed to get back in one piece and John and myself made it to the Harriers do in good time!
Vegas (Blackpool) – Fixture 5
Time to go exotic and take a trip to the Vegas of the North – Blackpool! Wind that was a common theme of post Christmas races and not the type caused by the Sprouts. Another tough outing for our tents resisting the blustery conditions. The wind had helped dry the course out and apart from a few sections conditions were decent underfoot. It was starting to hot up in the Ladies league with the Harriers in contention for the top spot. 😀
It had been a few years since we raced here (Dave Collins ran last time – that’s how long ago it was!) It’s a short course but the distance made up by doing more laps! It’s a pancake flat mixture of rough grass and playing fields, the wind turned up the difficulty up a notch but otherwise it was fairly benign.
Leading the ladies home in a fantastic 16th place (the track sessions obviously paying off!) was Marie Jarvis in 27:42. Next home and continuing what was turning into a fantastic season was Jacqui Jones in 29:23. 3rd lady was Jayne Salloum 29:58. Lisa Heyes 32:00, Carla Taylor 34:03, Dee Hughes 34:24, Rachel Lawton 36:08, Pauline Foster 36:55 and Michelle Jones 39:22. An absolutely brilliant nine turned out – well done all.
Nine was the magic number for the men. Leading the men over the finish line was Jonathan Kearsley in 39:11, well done Jon on another excellent showing of 46th place. Winning his battle with a Preston Harrier and taking 2nd place in the team was Mr Speedy aka John Heyes in 40:02. Not too far behind the younger Jon.
There was then quite a battle between myself and Steve Nicholls with Steve putting in a decent sprint finish to take 3rd place in 41:21 with myself Mike Harris in 41:24. The vets kept coming with Stuart Towns next in 41:56, Mark Morgan-Hillam 42:07, Mike Casey 49:23, Tony Foster 50:39 and Jeff Darbyshire in 55:00. It was a decent scoring performance for all the teams.
Here’s 5 of the men looking suitably pleased with their efforts.
Nottingham – The English National Cross Country Championships 22nd February
The Nationals returned to the fantastic Wollaton Park venue in Nottingham in February. The rolling grounds make a great course, made super challenging with the addition of loads of thick gloppy mud! Horrendous rain in the build up threatened the cancellation (seems a lifetime ago now!) and much of the normal grass field parking was closed. The surrounding streets were very popular but we managed to get the team bus 🚌 close to the action!
The course hadn’t handled the rain too well!!
Steve Nicholls, Mark Morgan-Hillam and myself had raced here a few years earlier so were excited to be returning and had vowed to bring additional numbers. A keen fan of Cross Country over the last few years has been Jeff Darbyshire and he was straight on it when the club email went out. Stuart Towns joined the party along with the speed twins Kearsley & Heyes.
Representing the Ladies was Jacqui Jones who was having a great season in the Mid Lancs League. Jacqui is one of the founding members of the Endurance Group and it was fantastic to see her running so well and so strong. Well done on 460th place in 48:00.
Sandwiched between Jacqui’s race and the Senior Men’s race was the Junior Men’s race that featured Tim Hartley. On a 10k course it was tremendous opportunity for Tim to test himself against some of the nation’s finest XC runners. It was also his last chance to race the Nationals without having to swerve all us slow old men as he lapped us. Tim had a great run managing 84th place in 41:41.
Our warm up consisted of scouting out the course whilst trying to see Tim and Jacqui in action. What we didn’t do on the warm up was experience the full horrors of the mud, just viewing the drier sections of the course, by accident! (Later that evening I saw a Facebook video which made it look like a clip from Zombie Apocalypse!)
A carefully arranged tree provided an additional challenge. Hurdle it or step on it – that was the choice.
John goes for the “Camo” look in attempt to sneak up on big Jon. 😊
Pink arm sleeves aren’t compulsory club kit but they get you noticed!
Attempting to hover over the water…no chance, it was deep!
Mark’s game face, I think he was enjoying it! Sharp eyed will spot Stu Towns attempting to find a drier line….there wasn’t one!
The finishing straight will be a little drier, err no I don’t think so!
The Nationals for the Senior Men are run over the 12k distance and are a tremendous test of fitness. Bringing the Harriers men home was Big Jon in 602nd place with 56:12. Next was John Heyes, 785th in 59:10. I had my regular battle with Steve Nicholls, after Steve made his usual explosive start to the race acting as a target to keep me working hard on the 2nd lap. I finished 892nd in 1:00:36. Judging by the photos Mark and Stuart spent part of the race stalking each other. Stuart triumphed in 1:01:45 (967th) with Steve (1029th, 1:02:54) tucking in between them in. Mark finished in 1:03:03 in 1036th place. Meanwhile a little further back Jeff was getting into a real battle which even including runners being tripped up. Jeff stayed on his feet so I’ll leave the story at that! Jeff finished in 1673th place in 1:24:19.
I’m having you, Jeff on the charge!
Regrouping in the tent a quick squint on Strava told Mark and I that the course was longer and slower for us than three years earlier. On reflection no surprise bearing in mind the difficult conditions. There were 1716 finishers with plenty not able to hack the horrendous conditions. When the results came out it revealed the Men’s team were 81st.
If you ever get the chance, do the Nationals, there aren’t many sports where everyone has the chance to compete at a National level. Well done everyone!
Lancaster – Fixture 6
The last fixture in February – unheard of but with what was coming a few weeks later it was perhaps just as well the season was all wrapped up before March. By now most runners were deep into their marathon training and Cross Country was a tough distraction.
Seven ladies made the trip north with a very serious chance of claiming a league medal or even the title if results went their way.
A dry day but the wind! Both tents were flattened by the wind. In the end we persevered and pitched one behind a huge oak tree for protection. A few tweaks to the course to when I last ran there but enough in it to keep it reasonably interesting.
It was the return of the Magnificent Seven for the ladies. Vera Schleiffer joined the stalwarts with her Harriers XC debut!
Apart from the wind the conditions weren’t too bad for decent running with just a few patches of mud to dampen any over enthusiastic running! 😊
Vera made an impressive start to her Harriers XC running coming in just under a minute behind super Jacqui Jones. Jacqui was 39th in 29:18, a great result to cap off a fantastic season, clinching the Silver medal with a 2nd 🥈place in the L55 category. Well done! 👏🏼⚫️🔴⚫️👏🏼
Vera was 51st in 30:12, hope you enjoyed it! Next was Lisa Heyes in her 5th outing of the season coming in 68th place with 31:55. Dee Hughes was 90th in 33:38, Rachel Lawton was 10th in 35:29 and Pauline Foster was 109th in 36:08. Great running from our ladies team.
Leading lady for the season was Marie Jarvis who ended up overall in 17th place, well done! 👏🏼
The performances from the ladies were very consistent over the entire season and they were well in contention for the prestigious Gold medal. In the end they were only denied that on countback of race times as their points tally matched eventual winners Blackburn Harriers. A big congratulations to the Ladies on winning the Silver medal.🥈
Representing the men in the final outing of the season were Paul Carter, John Heyes, Tony Foster, Mike Harris (scribe), Sanjay Bisnauthsing, Jonathan Kearsley, Steve Nicholls and Mike Vose.
The Ladies did a fantastic job of capturing the men in action.
There was some swapping of positions in the middle of team.
Mike Vose wasn’t put off by his Northern XC outing and was ready for more action.
As ever John kept his happy face on, he loves his XC that lad! Going into the last race John was well in the hunt for a medal in the V50 age category.
Amongst the men there was some trading of positions a few times between Sanjay, Steve and myself. Always good racing against team mates as well as other clubs, as it forces you to push on with some extra effort. XC is more about places than times so each athlete you pass boosts the team position.
Inevitably Jon Kearsley led the men home again in 29th place with 37:49. This gave Jon a great 22nd place in the season’s standings, a brilliant set of performances.
Next in was John Heyes, clinching a bronze medal 🥉with 50th place in 39:17. Next was myself in 40:40 in 70th place (Really enjoyed that season!), closely followed by Sanjay in 74th in 40:53 and Steve in 76th in 41:02. Nothing much between the three of us. In 186th place was Paul Carter with 49:07, Tony Foster in 192nd with 49:58 and finally new regular Mike Vose in 212nd place with 54:50.
For the season the men did enough to retain their position in Division two but with a strong showing from their old codgers managed an excellent bronze medal 🥉in the V40 league. Well done Gents! 👏🏼
I would like to take this opportunity to do a shout out to Juniors and parents who turned out for the Harriers this season. I’ve not mentioned them in the reports but it was always great to see them amongst the results. Well done all.
Finally with a word count approaching 2,500 I would like to thank all the senior athletes who turned out this season. We wouldn’t be a team without you. ⚫️🔴⚫️
Ladies roll of honour in no particular order (numbers are XC appearances)
Vera Schleiffer 1
Rachel Lawton 4
Katrina Hamilton 1
Jacqui Jones 6
Kelly Anne Towns 3
Lisa Heyes 5
Laura Dootson 1
Marie Jarvis 4
Pauline Foster 4
Danielle Brearton 2
Sarah Coates 1
Jayne Salloum 3
Davina Hughes 3
Carla Taylor 2
Michelle Jones 3
Men’s roll of honour in no particular order (numbers are XC appearances)
Steve Pendergrast 1
John Heyes 7
Mike Harris 8
Steve Nicholls 6
Jon Kearsley 6
Stuart Towns 6
Paul Fitzsimmons 1
Tony Foster 4
Mike Vose 2
Sanjay Bisnauthsing 2
Stuart Fairclough 2
Jeff Darbyshire 6
Mark Morgan-Hillam 4
Chris Simpson 1
Mike Casey 3
Darren Jackson 1
Paul Carter 2