Woodland Challenge 10k – Huddersfield

Graham Millington represented the club at the Woodland 10k:

Sunday 21st October was one of those days sent from heaven for runners; barely a cloud in a sapphire blue sky that spoke of Autumnal freshness and crisp clean air. Having blundered around Witton Park on club cross country duties only 24 hours before, Sunday morning found me packing my race bag and fuelling up the car for another racing appointment. This time it was a trip across the Pennines to the Stadium Runners 10k Woodland Challenge.

The main purpose of the trip was to take my wife to only her second ever 10k event on what I decided to be an ideal event for beginners. Last years results contained a number of runners finishing in times outside her PB of 1:10, and the host club Stadium Striders seemed to have gone out of their way to welcome new runners. I concluded that if I was driving all that way it was a waste not to pin a number on and have run round myself, (although I had no intention of actually racing hard due to the exertions of the previous day).

Harriers’ club mates had suggested that anything in Yorkshire usually involves great big hills, which may explain the slower race times, but obviously I knew better. There was some talk amongst the pack of a hill at mile 4, but there’s always some sort of little incline to tackle in a race and it wasn’t likely to be anything dramatic!

We were met by perhaps the slickest organisation I have yet come across in a race as a Marshall personally escorted us to the check in desks where we registered and paid. For £10 the race supplied chip timing along with a technical shirt and goody bag which is pretty outstanding value. After a brief warm up and recce of the first half mile we were taking our places in the starting funnel. I spent a few minutes calming Sandra’s nerves and assuring her how perfect for beginners this little toddle would be, before making my way towards the front end of the pack.

The first couple of kilometres wound steadily uphill through the forested land surrounding the Race HQ and involved a fair bit of muddy trails. A trail shoe would have been better than an outright road shoe on these sections, but I’d been assured by a Marshal that there were long stretches of road and firmer paths along the canal to come and road footwear would be fine. Sure enough were soon enjoying a speedy downhill section along the roads towards Huddersfield and taking in a scenic panorama over the valley. I decided to take advantage of the hill to put in a bit of speed, particularly as I was bound to slow up at some point when the cross country caught up with me: I definitely wasn’t racing this one flat out all the way.

The descent seemed to go on rather a long time and as I picked off runners on the way down I did wonder a how much of this drop we would have to make up in order to get back to the start/finish point. Once on the flat I reined my pace in a bit from the sub 10k PB pace I was doing and a couple of runners drifted past me. As I definitely wasn’t going to run this one hard I let them gain a few yards before my pace strangely lifted again and I was sitting on the shoulder of a small pack.

The course then hits a canal towpath which at first was very pretty and pleasant to run on. Then the path turned to a churned up mud bath and everyone in road shoes were carefully picking the least slippy route through and cursing their choice of footwear. It was a relief to turn off the path and up some steps onto a cinder road, at which point a lady runner appeared on my shoulder.

“Well done 4th lady” shouted a Marshall.  

“By the heck 4th lady?” though I. “I must be doing alright here… may as well dig in a bit rather than throw away all that good work”.

I upped the cadence to sit on her shoulder for a while and wondered how long it would be before I began to blow and could fall back on my ready made opt out excuse of having run at Blackburn the day before. I kept on wondering as myself and 4th lady matched each other step for step all the way to the 4 mile point when the route turned uphill for a while. This incline did hurt a little and I was relieved when the “dreaded hill at 4 miles” was behind us.

Then the route left the cinder tracks and turned sharp right, and my heart dropped to somewhere near my knees as I clapped eyes on the real “dreaded hill at 4 miles”. I’ve done a fair bit of gallivanting about the Lake District this year, and I do have a bit of a masochistic fondness for running up the odd mountain, (at least a bit of the way). However, never have I encountered such a leg burning, never ending, soul eating incline as the calf creasing drag that the next 2 miles involved.

My Garmin later told me the hill was about 1.7 miles in total, but measured in time it was at least two months. It was steep enough to hurt, and shallow enough to still allow a reasonable 8 min mile pace and rule out walking. Whilst enduring my own agony I did have time to consider jut how bad this was going to feel for Sandra on her “easy” beginner’s race. I then began to consider just how much trouble I was going to be in when she eventually finished….

My only consolation was that 4th lady and I were passing runner after runner as they slowed or bottled out to a walk. I did think about walking it out myself particularly as I wasn’t going to run this race hard… but by the time we turned off the road from hell and begin a slight descent across the M62 towards the finish it seemed pointless to back off now. In fact having worked so hard up that hill I decided to go for broke. A spirited last half mile rounded off with a bit of a sprint that saw me overhaul 4th lady along with a couple of other runners I thought had dropped me earlier in the race.

I then had a nervous wait for my better half as I clapped in the other finishers and worried about what kind of state / time she would be in. I was pretty relieved when a good 15 minutes earlier than my most pessimistic forecasts she came into view with a huge smile and still running strong. She even managed a bit of a sprint down the hill to the finish and crossed the line with arms raised celebrating like she’d won it, (don’t know where she got that from…)

Sandra was nearly as delighted with her 1:18 time as she was with the bacon butty and pint of lager I obtained for her at the end! Considering this wasn’t a race I was going to run hard, I did a pretty good impression of it as I dredged up every last ounce of lactic resistance to get me up the hill and pretty much run as hard as I could the whole way round! The result was 45th overall from 220 odd, and 13th in my age group in around 48 minutes. Time wise it wasn’t quick but this is about my best ever finish so far. If Dave Collins is taking note: I had nothing left at all at the end – left everything out there Dave…..!

Witton Park Blackburn Cross Country 2012

Witton Park was the venue as Blackburn played host to the 2nd round of the Red Rose Cross Country League last Saturday (20th October). The park provides fabulous facilities in the form of a Pavillion café, pleasant grounds and play facilities for runners families, and a monstrous great hill known as “The Saucer” in the middle of the course. This is arguably one of the toughest courses on the calendar and proved to be a stern test of the competing Harriers this weekend.

Blue skies and unseasonable warmth greeted the first runners as the Under 11 boys race kicked off proceedings. Performing well for the club once again was Matthew Baptista with a strong 17th place in 6:04 from 75 finishers. Next up was Nathan Dunn who continued his fine form this season with another 2nd place in the U13 Boys event.

The corresponding girls event saw a fabulous team performance with Charlotte Newsham and Kim Baptista following each other home in 5th and 6th place with 12:54 and 12:57 respectively. Hot on their heel in 13:44 was Alice Rowe in 15th place. Their combined efforts clinched 3rd place for the team as they did the club proud.


Jayne Taylor

Carrying on the fine example set by the youngsters were Jayne Taylor, Tracey Dutton, Jaqui Jones and Shona Taylor also looking to notch points as a team for the first time in the Red Rose series. The infamous incline that gives this event its unique character was thoroughly recced during the warms ups when it was discovered that some evil mind had altered the course to make it tougher still. Instead of the single ascent per lap remembered from previous Witton Park visits, the course now included 2 gruelling climbs. With the Ladies race involving 2 laps this equated to 4 leg sapping summits.


Jayne Taylor led the way throughout for Wigan, looking strong and determined all the way round. She steadily worked her way through the field and had enough in reserve to pick up places on the final run in to a brilliant 13th place overall and first L50 in 23:32. Tracey Dutton was next along on a course that varied from reasonably firm on the whole, to borderline bog in places. Tracey continued her return to form with a 25:36 as 3rd L40. This gave her 29th place overall.

Jaqui in the mud

Jaqui Jones is another of our runners battling back from injury setbacks of late, and she will be pleased to get a good run under her belt with 26:13 for 35th place. Jaqui also grabbed 6th in her age group. Completing the team was Shona Taylor who belies the effort she puts into these events with the smile she has on her face as he runs! Shona brought the team home in 30:05 with 13th in her category and 67th overall. Those performances saw the Ladies Team finish in a very promising 6th place from 16 teams. Eclipsing even that result though was the fact that the Ladies Vet team earned top spot in first place from 11 teams.


Lost running vests and hangovers weren’t enough to exempt any of the men from club duties at Blackburn as 7 of our finest assembled to build on the good results at Leigh. Chris Burgess got his excuses in early having conducted a conclusive solo experiment in to the effects of excessive drinking on cross country performance. If it wasn’t bad enough dodging cow pats in the fields of Blackburn the senior men also had to detour around Chris’ breakfast at one point on the course.

Dave in the middle

The advice from the Ladies Team was to start steady and keep something in reserve for the hills. With 4 laps to cover the men would have to climb 8 times in total before their ordeal was over. Some team members were still muttering the “start steady – go easy “ mantra only seconds before the gun went off and they set off at their usual suicidal full throttle pace. Dave Collins was once again forced to overtake Graham Millington making his customary bid for the photographers attention on the first lap.

still time to smile

The first climb soon put the brakes on with an ascent up a rugged field that was more reminiscent of a fell race than cross country. A similarly fell race like hell for leather descent then brought the runners round to the more gradual, but longer, haul up the path to the top of the Saucer itself. Dave Waddington was able to confirm that the usual residents of these fields were definitely cows after standing on a rock that gave way with an odorous squelch. The drop back down to the main field took in the muddiest sections of the race and gave the option of the most direct route through the worst of the mud, or a more circuitous diversion via firmer ground. Races were won and lost on this section!

Dave and Chris

Dave Collins stuck to the “start steady” tactic and worked his way through to the front of the Wigan Harriers men. Over the first lap the Wigan runners swapped a few places with the keen as mustard Darren Middleton having a blinding run as 2nd Harrier behind Dave. Battling it out for 3rd and 4th came Dave Waddington still nursing a knee twinge, and Chris Burgess nursing a hangover. Barry Abram made 5th place his own with Graham Millington desperately hanging on to his coat tails as 6th man. Performing heroics as 7th Harrier was Michael Dutton.

Dave Collins was first home for the team in 43:03 and 57th place overall, (6th V50). Darren Middleton is enjoying every minute of his cross country season so far and his 45:07 is evidence of just how much. “The Reaper” was reaped himself last time out having stopped short in the post finish tunnel and having his place pinched. Lesson learned he made absoloutely sure of continuing up the finish lane this time to record his 77th place, (16th V40).

goind downhill

Dave Waddington and Chris Burgess had swapped places during the race with Chris finishing just 18 seconds behind Darren in 45:25 and 80th place. Dave Waddington was 2 places further down in 83rd (13th V45) in a time of 45:38. Barry Abrams isn’t afraid of digging deep and slogging up a few hills, but confessed to a dislike of the downhill plunge that follows. He mad a good job of it on Saturday though and was seen hurtling down the first hill with arms windmilling like a proper fellsman! As 11th V50 he took 100th place overall in 47:23. Having far too much fun for a cross country race was Graham Millington in the final scoring place also throwing himself down the hills like a man with rubber ribs. 108th place in 48:26 was his reward along with 23rd V40.

Arguably the most important place in any cross country team is that of 7th man providing the “insurance” for the team points should anyone else DNF. Performing that role for Harriers was Michael Dutton who received the full appreciation of his team mates as he charged down the hill for the final lap. It must be noted that when he slipped in the quagmire at the gate the most enduring chuckle came from his no.1 supporter Tracey, no doubt seeing justice for the post race chocolate bar that went missing after her Lea Town 10k….

With Michael safely over the line in 1:03:06 and 171st place, (13th V55), there was a quick sample of Traceys lovely muffins before reconvening at a local hostelry for a post race pint and analysis. The team result saw the men finish 10th from 13 with the Vets team 7thfrom 15

Witton Park 2012 Cross Country Results

Team Wigan Harriers – Blackburn 2012

Lea Town 10k 2012 Race Report

The 14th October saw a sudden dip in temperatures and a foggy start ahead of the Lea Town 10k. These were hardly ideal conditions to entice Tracey Dutton away from her birthday celebrations to represent the club over this undulating course. Her resolve was rewarded with sunnier skies and a dry morning by the time of the race start.

Tracey was using the event as another stepping stone on her way back to fitness and was aiming for a steady, injury free race as her primary target.. Although billed as “undulating”, Tracey found the course to be fairly flat excepting the odd rise over a canal bridge. Once underway she found her pace and settled in to a solid performance. Whilst 42:07 is far from her best performance it was still enough to place her 3rd lady and 27th overall. This also made her first FV0 too!

After recovering with muffins and coffee Tracey used the 3 miles warm down to jog to her sisters house for more birthday presents! The race goody bag did include a huge bar of milk chocolate which was immediately spotted by supporter in chief Michael. It isn’t clear if Tracey saw much of that particular chocolate bar!  

Mid Lancs Fixture Changes

Amendments are required to racing diaries following a change of fixtures in the Mid Lancs Cross Country League this year.

The Kendal and Lancaster fixtures have been swapped around so that our trip to Cumbria will now take place on Saturday 8th December at Crooklands.

The corresponding Lancaster fixture has now been moved to 9th February.

Travel arrangements and car sharing to be sorted out nearer the time.

Witton Park Cross Country

Next up on our mud spattered cross country odyssey is the Blackburn leg of Red Rose League on Saturday, (20.10.12) Witton Park plays host to our travelling teams and promises the delights of the infamous “Saucer” to test our runners on lap, after bone wearying lap!

The Ladies Team race at 1:35 with the Senior Men starting at 2:15. Anyone wishing to turn up a little earlier to help set up base camp, (the gazebo), is more than welcome.

We are hoping to field as strong a team as possible to build on our soild start at Leigh at the end of September. Don’t forget to bring your Red Rose race numbers ! 

Click to Enlarge

We have been asked to use the overflow car park off Tower Road, (Click the image to the left).

Course Map


Harriers Round Up

It has once again been a busy few weeks for Wigan Harriers with the races coming thick and fast at this time of year. Along with cross country events at Leigh and Towneley Park, the black and red vests have been on display from The Great North Run, to the  Northern Relay ChampionsipsSt Helens and Consiton.

Over the past couple of weeks we have also seen club members taking on the Berlin Marathon, Rivington Pike Half and Full Marathons, the Ormskirk 10k and the Macclesfield Half.

On 30th September, Julie Platt was on International duty in Berlin for her second marathon of the year. Julie recorded a stunning 3:17:17 PB at London earlier in the year which may have been enough for most people in a season! Julie reports a crowded start which prevented her getting into her stride for the first few miles. She also had to contend with a friendly European runner who thought it would benefit them both to run together. With his target time of 3:25, Julie managed to give him the slip to run to her own schedule!

Julie passed the Half Marathon point in 1:36:05 putting herself on a PB smashing 3:12 pace. Far from fading in the second half, her 5k splits continued to fall until she ran her fastest of the entire race from 35 to 40k. Consistent pacing and effort have typified Julies recent Marathon efforts, and with a perfectly judged positive split Julie crossed the line at the Brandenburg Gate in 3:11:34 to shred her PB. It puts her performance in perspective that she was the 105th woman over the line from nearly 8000 female finishers! Even more impressive is that this placed her an incredible 14th in her age group.  Well done Julie from everyone at Wigan Harriers.

On the 30th September Kevin Edwards took on the Macclesfield Half as his last outing before the upcoming Preston Guild Marathon. Kevin wasn’t aiming to break any records for once, with his target being to run a consistent marathon paced 7min mile effort throughout. This he achieved in style, and still managed to finish in 6th place in his age group in 1:30:35. Kevin says he was pleasantly surprised to find the route less hilly than expected. He can be pleased with 56th place from 804 starters.

The Rivington Pike Half Marathon on 7th October saw Junior Club Coach Stuart Holding running a fine effort over our local hills. Stuart covered the 13.1 trail miles in 1:56:14 to finish a fabulous 95th out of 321 starters.

This year organisers also put on a full distance marathon for the first time, and our own Gary Wane was amongst 57 brave souls to take on the challenge. Gary was keeping a good pace over the tough terrain, finding the off road experience to his liking. With bright sunshine all day weather conditions were perfect for running, but the course was wet and muddy throughout. This heavy going began to take its toll with 4 miles left as Gary found tired legs struggling over marshy ground. He managed to push on through the pain and record a Trail Marathon PB of 5:18:10 for 38th place.

Shona Taylor rounded of a busy month of cross country and road relay duties for the club to push her 10k times in Ormskirk on the weekend of the 7th October. The race was well supported by local clubs, but the start still suffered from a little congestion due to a few “non-runners”. It is an indication of how high her standards are at the moment that Shona counts herself slightly disappointed with 5 seconds off her PB! With the way her running has been progressing over recent months it is clear that her times will continue to tumble.

Mid Lancs Cross Country: Towneley Park Burnley 2012

Towneley Park Cross Country 6th October 2012

Just a week after the opening round of the Red Rose cross country season, Wigan Harriers were in action again in the first fixture of the Mid Lancs campaign on Saturday. A boggy course greeted the runners at Towneley Park in Burnley at the weekend as heavy rain over the preceding days ensured heavy going. Several runners were later seen to be taking advantage of the many “ponds”, or big puddles that dotted the course to have an impromptu wash down after their events!

The Wigan Harriers Juniors were first out to test the bogs, with Matthew Baptista notching 8:13 for 20th places in the U11 boys. A fine showing in the U13 girls event saw Charlotte Newshall taking 10th place in 12:11, and Kim Baptista close behind in 15th place and 12:27. Nathan Dunn notched a superb 2nd place just 2 seconds away from outright victory in the U13 boys with a scorching 11:42. The U15 boys saw Henry Lucas home in 17:22 for 29th place.

A fixture clash and illness in the ranks looked to have jeopardised our chances of fielding a full strength mens’ team for the event, with Richie Noone considering a heroic appearance straight from his sick bed. A commendable act of self sacrifice from Darren Middleton ensured a minimum of 6 runners for the mens’ team as he abandoned his pre-paid entry into the Coniston Trail race to represent the club.

No such luck for the Ladies Team with long term injuries and marathon recoveries ruling out regular team members. The burden representing the club in the Ladies race thus fell to Tracey Dutton, returning to competitive action for the first time in some months since recovering from a persistent Glute problem. Despite not being anywhere near her usual prime racing condition Tracey notched a fabulous 22nd place overall to finish as 7th in her age Category with 27:32

As Tracey returned to the Gazebo the mens’ team headed out for Wigan Harriers first appearance in Division 2 of the League after winning promotion in style last year. New to the team for 2012 and making their x-country debut in the vest were Mark Glynn and Andy Kauffman with Chris Burgess making a welcome return to Mid Lancs after a few years away from Harriers. Completing the team were Darren Middleton, Andy Eccles and Barry Abram.

In the photographs of the event it is clear that Andy Kauffman had far too much fun for cross country as he ran with a relaxed smile on his face! Andy was unsure of his pacing ahead of the race and with the benefit of hindsight believes he had enough left in the tank at the end to have justified going harder on some of the earlier laps. That’s a remarkable statement after leading the team home in 36:50 and 22nd place overall.

Mark Glynn was next man home in 38:50 showing he hasn’t lost any pace in his marathon build up. His strong performance resulted in 42nd place overall and an impressive 10th V40. Mark promises great things if his cross country debut is any indication. Andy Eccles defied a niggling calf to grab 16th in the V50 category with some early season form. Andy usually improves as the season progresses so 41:38 for 78th place overall represents a promising start from which to launch his campaign.

Chasing Andy down over the closing miles was Chris Burgess who was ideally placed to dodge the clods of mud thrown up by Andys distinctive “heel-flicking” running style. Chris pushed hard over the closing stages in an attempt to haul in the coach, but as fatigue slowed his own cadence he described Andys progress as like that of a “spring lamb”. Never one to wallow in praise Andy retorted that he felt more like “a stubborn old goat”! Chris made an early start in his preparations for the race by rising from his bed at 5 in the morning to begin a series of interval sprints… to the toilet. A badly timed dose of food poisoning had him gulping down the re-hydration salts before heading for Townley Park to compete. That does tend to make his 41:54 for 83rd place all the more impressive.

The Reaper

Next across the line was the Reaper himself Darren Middleton who had given up a 15k trail in the beautiful surroundings of Coniston to help out the team at picturesque Burnley. Darren is well and truly fired up for this season of cross country and his enthusiasm showed in a 42.30 for 96th place and 26th V40. He reports having thoroughly enjoyed every lap of the race except perhaps the final few yard from the finish line to the marshalls recording final placings. Darren had held out in a photo finish with 2 other runners tracking him down with sprint finishes. Unfortunately he wasn’t aware of the need to keep to finishing order in the funnel, and thus had his placing cheekily taken away on the walk-in: a bitter lesson learned!

Crossing the line in the vital 6th man slot was Barry Abram ensuring that the efforts of the rest of the squad converted into team points in the league competition. Barrys run bagged 43:32 for a very respectable 27th V50 and 113th overall. Julie Platt may not have recovered in from her blistering Berlin Marathon effort to take part this week, but she was still on hand with her magic tin of goodies post-race. It has been reported that everyone enjoyed her muffins in the Gazebo afterwards.

The combined efforts of the mens team saw them finish in a fantastic 9th place from 26, with the Vets Team and even more commendable 7th from 26th.  This means that with one event gone Wigan Harriers top the table in Division 3, whilst lying 2nd in the V40 Division 2.

Next up for Mid Lancs is the big McCain UKA event at Liverpool Sefton Park on 24th November with everything to play for!      

Towneley Park Cross Country Results 2012

Coniston Lakeland Trails 2012 Race Report

This was to be my second time around the challenging course of the Lakeland Trails 15k at Coniston, having finished last year in 1h 33m18s. This is, in my opinion, about the toughest of the Lakeland Trails series with a gruelling 4.5k of continuos climb almost from the start. Whilst I had designs on bettering my previous time, I hadn’t worked out any particular race plan based on prior knwoledge of the route. All I knew was that lactic threshold was sure to be pushed to the limit on the unrelenting ascent, and to run it fast meant it was going to hurt!

My own pre-race nerves were settled by the pre-occupation of supporting my wife in her very first race as she took on the 10k Trail race event. She was understandably a little daunted to be lining up with the fear of 6.2 unknown miles of trail ahead of her, but set off at a sensibly steady pace.

Her training best around the streets of Wigan had been around the 1h 20m mark. Given the roughness of the terrain and the fact that this was her first off road venture, we were hoping she would get somewhere near that time boosted by a bit of race adrenalin. When she re-emerged onto the school field at John Ruskin 1 hours and 10 minutes later we could hardly beleive it. Covered in mud, and still running hard she charged to the finish determined to hold her place from the runners challenging from behind. It was quite impressive to witness the moment a casual runner became a real racer! We’ll have a Harriers vest on her yet.

After congratulating Sandra it was time for a quick warm before I was toeing the line myself. I chose to place myself towards the front of pack based on my top 30 finishes in the last few races of the series. The importance of a decent start cant be underestimated, but when I found myself heading out of the school grounds in 3rd place I began to suspect I may have overdone it a little. I passed the family on the road into the village and mouthed the word “third” at them and shrugged my shoulders aopologetically – this wasnt going to last!

Amazingly enough I held my position through the village and felt like a real, elite runner to be applauded through by people who had no idea that I had no right to be so far up the field! I managed to maintain the fantasy until about 3 quarters of a mile into the climb when I dropped to 4th, and very shortly afterwards plumetted to 10th as the burn began.

The route winds its way up the broken concrete of the Miners Track where it then veers left and heads off up from the Coppermines valley under the shadow of Coniston Old Man. I had dropped further to about 15th place when I began to wonder if they had altered the route his year. We were veering off to the right of the cottages on a path I was sure headed over towards Weatherlam instead of the route I knew. When the guys in the lead suddenly came to a bewildered halt it became clear that the race had gone the wrong way.

The route goes to the left of the hosue – I went right! (pic by keithwoodphotography.co.uk)

We all stood about confused for a moment or two before it dawned on us that this definitely was the wrong route. I can only assume it was due to a missing or misplaced marshal that should have been at the fork in the path. It was quad breakingly disheartening to have to run back down the hill and lose hard won altitude and end up at the back of the pack of runners who had seen the mistake and gone for the right route. When you are suffering on a tough run its too easy to find an excuse to back off  – I wasnt going to that happen so I mentally gave myself a slap and decided not to let it spoil my run.There were few opportunities to grab back the lost places and time over the next mile or so as the track narrows to a technical rocky stairway up the mountain. I did manage to make a few overtakes when the track opened up enough to get around the runner in fornt, but it wasn’t until we neared the top of the climb that things opened up enough to get some speed going and get past other runners.There were a few others around me who had been in that group that went the wrong way, and once we reached the fast descent towards Walna Scar car park the pace picked up and we settled down for some proper racing! I spent the next few miles swapping places with a chap in a white t-shirt, (from the results it was either Carl Cross or Craig Lammas). He had the legs on me on the flat, and edged it slightly on the uphill; I had the advantage on the descents and was able to haul him back and make a move ahead.

Coniston Old Man

We continued like this for most of the race until I began the very fast descent towards Torver with about 2.5 miles to go. I chanced my luck on the broken rocky ground and hit full speed in true fell runner style, (ie one mis-step and its a trip to casualty again!). Once back on the tarac I gave it full whack to get enough of a gap to give me a chance of holding my lead to the finish. At this point I made the absoloute classic racing mistake and risked a glance over my shoulder to see how far behind my competitor was.He was to tell me afterwards that the glance backwards gave him the hope he needed and he knew in that moment that he could haul me back in. Oddly enough, as I looked back and we made eye contact I knew instinctively that I had just given him the race and could have kicked myself for such a basic mistake.

We both ignored the water station and plunged into a leg sapping and lung busting muddy field that will rival anything the cross country season has to offer this year. Calf deep mud seemed to suck the life out of legs that had been battered for miles of fast descending. The gap between me and the guy behind compressed as we both slogged through the mire…and then I fell! Nothing spectacular, just a weary stagger and a plop to my knees to cover me in muck. I got up and tudged on as Mr White Shirt caught and passed me .Fair play – he did give me a word of encouragement as he went by and gave me the impetus to pick up and chase him again.

Much to my surprise I found myself catching up as we headed into a wooded section of tree roots and tricky rock paths and a sudden descent. Once again my speed on the downhills paid off and I re-took my place. I did manage to say “see you in a minute” as I went past him though!

Path home along the lake, (pic by lakelandtrails.org)

The last mile and half of the race goes through a campsite and follows the shores of Lake Coniston itself. On such a crisp, bright day it was a glorious sight, but even the beauty of the lake and the majesty of the towering fells couldnt take my mind of the deep, aching weariness that was making its way up from my legs. This was the point in the race where the desire to pass the runner in front is matched by the creeping fear of being caught by the runner behind as the stamina begins to give out, and you are consumed with the wish just to finish and have it over with!  Me and the guy in white had passed a few other runners as we duked it out with eachother, but he had enough left to draft past me and slowly pull away on the long flat run back towards Coniston and the finish.Just outside the final run-in he reached a closed gate and had a panicked few moments as struggling to operate the latch and open the gate. Another runner we had caught managed to open it, by which time I had closed dramatically and was suddenly within reach again. It would have been totaly unjust to have taken the place thanks to a sticky gate, but he still had enough in his legs to consolidate the place and beat me on the last slog through the school field to the line. I made a move on the guy who had opened the gate to take one more place before the end, only to have him come flying past with a stunning sprint finish to the line!

I had a good chat with the guy in white as we agreed what a superb run it had been with us pushing eachother, and both of us wondering what could have been had we not all gone the wrong way near the start. My eventual tim was 1:20:23; over 13 minutes up on my best efforts of last year with which I have to be quite pleased! The talented Pete Lashley came home less than a minute later having had a blinding race, and was shortly followed by St Helens Strider Gary Spriggs. Perhaps my favourite part of these events came next with a couple of pints of Guiness sat in the sun watching Pete and his guitar play a full set, (after a run like that!). Highlight of the day though was winning a family cruise ticket round Coniston in the prize draw…which had nothing to do with the child pulling the numbers out of the box being my own daugher!, (well done kid!)

Townley Park Cross Country – Burnley

The opening round of the Mid Lancs Cross Country takes place at Townley Park Burnley this Saturday 6th October. The Senior Ladies race begins at 2pm, with the Men setting off at 2.30pm.

Jaqui Jones will be in attendance extra early to collect race numbers for both the Juniors and Seniors. All runners make their way to the Cafe area where Jaqui will distribute the numbers. Please dont leave it too late!

Andy Eccles and Richard Noone will be carting the blue Gazebo to the event and will appreciate as much assistance as possible setting up camp from around 1pm onwards. 

Fixture clashes and a few other races have placed demands on our runners this weekend, so anyone still making their minds up about taking part is strongly encouraged to do so! This is a great Cross Country series at which we performed well last year, so we are hoping to consolidate, if not improve upon our promotion up the divisions from last season.

Getting there: Townley Park Map

The Course: Course Map

Mid Lancs Website

12.30pm u11 girls
12.45pm u11 boys
1.00pm u13 girls
1.20pm u15 girls and u13 boys
1.40pm u15 boys and u17 women
2.00pm u17 men; jnr, snr & vet women
2.30pm jnr, snr and vet men

Red Rose Cross Country – Leigh 2012

The cross country season got off to a flying start at Leigh Sports Village this weekend with the first fixture in the Red Rose League calendar. A total of 11 Senior Wigan Harriers turned out along with a further 9 juniors in a magnificent showing for the club. The rain finally gave it a rest and temepratures bordered on the downright mild as teams from across the region gathered to take on a fast, flat course.

The Harriers blue Gazebo made its first appearance of the year and kept the Senior Men busy for a good 15 minutes of organized haplesness as they shuffled around the field with a half built tent tryng to find shelter from the breeze. Only having 3 tent pegs left over from last season didn’t give great confidence that the gazebo would last the day. Fortunately Darren Middleton returned from a forgaing mission with a handful of extra pegs he had “borrowed” from around the venue. Darren again proved his blagging credentials in securing a set of safety pins for Mike Worsley who was contemplating how long spit and best intentions would hold his number to his vest.

Whilst the Senior Teams busied themselves with camping skills, Mathew Baptista was representing the club in fne style in the Boys Under 11 event. Mathew stormed home to 19th place in 6:34 to set the standard for the day. In the U11 girls race, Shona Taylors’ daughter Emily did her mum proud with an impressive 7:37 to secure 24th place.

Perhaps the result of the day went to Nathan Dunn who won the U13 boys event outright. Nathan ran a strong race to finish 9 seconds clear of the second place runner in 7:29. Well done Nathan. Kim Baptista and Alice Rowe took on the U13 girls race and both ran well. Kim came home in 6th place with an 8:38 run, and Alice was close behind in 9:01 and 13th place. Henry Lucas was our only runner in the highy competitive Boys U15 race and came home with a balanced 15:15 in 28th place. Rachel Sidebotham recorded a 16:18 in the corresponding girls U15 race for 18th place.

With the juniors having set the standard it was over to Jayne and Shona Taylor to follow suit for the Endurance Group in the Ladies race. Jayne put in a fine performance to come home in 21:58 and 18th overall amongst a very strong field. Her efforts secured 2nd place in her age category. Shona Taylor followed up her sterling performance in last weeks Relays at the same venue with a quality run for 70th place overall. Her 27:28 meant a fabulous 13th place in her category.

Wigan Harriers

Upon returning to the Gazebo, Jayne helped to inform the raging debate amongst the mens team over Spikes or Trail shoes when she reported heavy going on the big lap out into the country. With that hot topic settled, discussion then switched to Andy Eccles disturbing undergarments, and the possible benefits of Viagra in a cross county context. Disappointingly Andys girdle / nappy turned out to be a back warmer, and apparently the only sporting benefits to Viagra are to un-nerve the opposition.

The stirring sight of 9 of Harriers finest Senior Men took to the field wearing the red and black vests with no small amount of collective pride. For once it was a steady start with Dave Collins and Andy Eccles leading the way round the first small lap before the 180 starters headed out on the first of 3 big laps. Chris Burgess worked his way through the field to lead the Harriers charge with Darren Middleton and Barry Abram formed a pair running as 4th and 5th Harriers.

As the course re-enters the main field the Wigan runners were releived to see the Gazebo still standing, before checking ahead to guage the distance to the next Harrier. A few performances were boosted with both the prospect of chasing down a fellow Harrier, along with the the prospect of being chase down by the Harrier behind!

The ground began to cut up on the second and third laps it became clear that those who had opted for full cross country spikes had the advantage ver those shod in trail shoes. The benefits of a trail shoe on the firmer gravel path sections were lost by the lack of grip across the soggy fields and thickening mud.

Chris gives blood for the cause, and shows us what happens if you dont wear socks!

The first 3 runners home for Wigan Harriers crossed he line within 50 seconds of each-other. Chris Burgess marked his return to cross country in style as first Harrier in 39:37 and 51st place overall. Hot on his heels was Dave Collins in 39:42 as 4th V50 and 57th overall. Just 40 seconds behind Dave was Andy Eccles in 66th place and 6th V50 in 40:22.Similarly, there was barely more than a minute covering the next 3 team members with Darren Middleton in 42:02 (87th), Barry Abrams chasing him down in 42:15, (90th), and final scoring member Richard Noone in 100th place in 43:10.Unable to bridge the gap for a scoring place was Graham Millington in 112th place, who was compensated by an unofficial PB over 10k in 43:58. Also notching his fastest time over the distance was Stuart holding in 44:27 and 119th place. Not only did Stuart run a fabulous race, he achieved his main target which was to stay stayed upright throughout!

As all true teams should, the Harriers gathered on the finish straight to cheer each of our runners home. This team loyalty was rewarded as cross country debutante Mike Worsley made his way up the final few hundred metres looking like he had given everything for the cause. Club mates cheered him on and began to shout their warnings as a runner came charging from behind to make a bid for Mikes place before the line. Mike seemed oblivious and the charging runner quickly closed the gap and looked a cert to overhaul the Harriers runner until Mike suddenly realized the danger, and did a passable impression of a scalded cat  for the comedy finish of the day and a 50 metre sprint to save his place.

Mike Worsley smashed his previous 10k time recorded at the Great North Run with a fantastic 46:47.

A fine team performance all round and a hugely enjoyable day out for those who took part.

Red Rose Cross Country Results – Leigh 2012