Astley Cross Funtry

For anyone who didn’t get more than their fill of cross country last Saturday on the frozen wastes of Knowsley may be interested in popping over to Gin Pits on Saturday.

Our friends at Astley and Tyldesley  are hosting a 5 mile “Cross Funtry” from 11:30 am on this local course. After the Northern Cross last week, many would question the sanity of anyone connecting the words “cross country” and “fun”, but Astley are doing it all in aid of a good cause. One of their number, Alex Foster, is traveling to Turkey to compete for great Britain and the club is aiming to raise a few quid to help him on his way.

Anyone choosing to run will have to fork out the grand sum of £4.00, and remember to take a change of footwear in order to gain access to the Welfare Club after the event. You will also be obliged o submit a report to Graham for inclusion on the site!

Go here for more details: Astley and Tyldesley Cross Funtry

Snow Fun at all: Northern Cross Country Champs 2013

Scoop up a bucket full of snow and dump a generous portion of iced mud into the mix. Allow the snow to thaw slightly, before giving it all a good stir. When it settles to the consistency of partly mixed concrete, but still has that “Slush Puppie” feel, stand both feet in it and stay there for up to an hour. If you chuck in a few hills and a gentle but piercing wind and you will have a general idea of the conditions faced at Knowsley Safari Park on Saturday for the Northern Cross Country Championships!

A heavy snowfall across the region on Friday night coupled with a jump in temperatures on Saturday resulted in a hideous mix of thawing snow on top of a well churned substrate of proper Northern mud! Secret hopes that the event would suffer the same fate as its southern equivalent last week were dashed by slick organisation and an army of volunteers who turned out to make sure the event went ahead. Andy Eccles was fielding a series of tentative text messages checking that the race was still on and no doubt issued the news that it still was with no shortage of glee.

Teams from all over the North of England had braved the conditions to travel to Knowsley. With such a significant fixture as the Northern Championship taking place only a couple of miles down the road, it would have been an embarrassment to the town if Wigan had failed to turn out a decent squad. A magnificent total of 23 runners from Harriers turned out, (16 Senior runners and 7 juniors), along with 2 stalwarts from Phoenix to make sure Wigan was well represented amongst the best in the North.

First to brave the frozen wastes of Knowsley were the U17 girls with Natalie and Danielle Thompson representing Harriers. The girls finished 76th and 85th respectively on the 5.3k course. Mid Lancs League regulars Kim Baptista and Alice Rowe flew the flag in the U13 girls race with Kim recording a very creditable 33rd from 145 finishers. Alice had a good run to come home in 94th. Harriers best result of the day was delivered by Nathan Dunn in the U13 boys race.

Nathan was up against some top class competition and did himself proud with a 15th place. Also showing good form was Scott Thompson with 79th from 125 runners. Rachel Sidebotham was our sole representative in the U15 girls event and came home in 100th place to round off a super showing from the Juniors.

Senior Ladies Start

Senior Ladies Start

mel2The Senior Ladies warmed up as best they could in the arctic conditions. Alongside regulars Julie Plat and Jayne Taylor was Nina Fisher who chose a wonderfully tough race to mark her debut cross country with the club. At this point it seemed the ladies would be one short of a full squad until the appearance of Melanie Wayne. Melanie had arrived sensibly wrapped up for a day standing in the cold and loyally supporting husband Gary in the Men’s event. Unfortunately for her, a quick stock take of spare kit amongst the ladies had her pressed into service as 4th Team member. Within minutes of nervously agreeing to her cross country debut she was shivering on the start line in a Harriers vest still trying to figure out what happened!

jayne1Jayne Taylor lead the way for the ladies setting a fast pace in the early stages. It seems Jaynes’ tactic centred upon getting the pain over as quickly as possible! Looking strong in second place for Harriers was Julie Platt, followed by the two debut runners. Nina Fisher was boosted with words of encouragement from Dave Collins to which she cheerily replied. His support was then quickly qualified with the follow up: “If you can still talk you’re not trying hard enough”.

julie2Next up was Melanie Wayne, still wondering how a day trip to the Safari Park had turned into a endurance slog through frozen slush. Melanie impressed us all not only with her team spirit but the fact that she still managed to run the race with a smile on her face!

Jayne stormed her way through to a 38:35 min finish for 75th overall. Upon returning to the Harriers tent she did little to boost the morale of the mens team with her declaration through chattering teeth that it was “horrendous, relentless and freezing” out on the course. Next to finish was Julie in a superb 89th place.

nina1Julie had been holding a bit in reserve before realizing too late how close the finish was and felt she could have bettered her result had she pushed for the line a little earlier. Nina Fisher covered the 8k course in a fabulous 48:54 for 173rd and Melanie Wane completed the team with her 54:28 for 199th.

Ladies Results:

Pos RaceNo Time Name
75 1076 00:38:35 Jayne Taylor
89 1074 00:39:47 Julie Platt
173 1073 00:48:54 Nina Fisher
199 1075 00:54:28 Melanie Wane

A cavalry charge of over 500 male competitors set off up the snowy hill to start the final race of the day. It was a steady start as so many runners tried to keep their footing in the now well churned icy mire. As things settled down over the first lap, almost all our runners reported that their first thoughts were of frozen feet and the seemingly real prospect of frostbite. Kevin Edwards summed it up when he said “you could have amputated my toes and I wouldn’t have felt a thing”.

Chris Smullen took the lead for Harriers closely followed by Mark Rogers as the race headed out into the country. Dave Collins and Chris Burgess followed. Chris had declared on facebook that he planned to “unleash the beast” on Saturday, but thankfully clarified this statement when questions of public decency were posed. Instead he decided to “let loose the Kraken” which may have given Dave Collins a bit of extra impetus to stay ahead in the early stages with a clearly unhinged Burgess having “Wrath of the Titans” delusions behind him.

kev2Kevin Edwards and Andy Eccles came next. Andy hasn’t admitted as much but we all know how much he relishes these heavy conditions that most runners despise. Even Harriers own “Tough of the Track” didn’t get away unscathed though; Andy finished the day with a foot so badly frozen that the loss of feeling and nerves damage in his toes will last for at least a month according to the Doc: yes- it was that bad on Saturday!

Darren “Reaper” Middleton came next running a steady race in the mud and finding himself untroubled by fellow Harriers all the way round.

Darren Jackson is famed for his love of cross country and obviously couldn’t wait to make his return to racing after 6 months off and a knee operation. He set off at a rapid pace showing the speed is quickly coming back in his legs.

Following Darren were Graham Millington and Barry Abram who ran in formation for much of the race. Despite the shocking conditions there hadn’t been a hint of a Harriers man breaking ranks and kitting up beyond the customary vest and shorts, (and with no Mike Harris or Andy Kaufman in attendance – not a mention of the word “baselayer” either). However Mr Millington did flirt with disgrace by donning a pair of socks that were described as being “almost long enough to count as tights”.

Gary Wane almost won the day as the runner showing greatest dedication to the cause when he had to specially purchase his first ever pair of x-country spikes from the on-site vendor. Running with a dodgy ankle over such nasty terrain as well as forking out considerable funds for footwear would normally have earned him “man of the match” status. Unfortunately for Gary he had already been completely overshadowed by the efforts of Mrs Wane as previosuly documented. Get used to it Gary – its called married life.



Heading into Lap 2 there was no sign of the “good quality grassland” promised on the website with runners desperately looking to pick a firm line for some traction through the mush. In most cross country events there will be a section of gloop providing some heavy going. Experienced runners will moderate their effort through such sections and pick up the pace on the firmer sections. At Knowsley on Saturday the gloop was unremitting: the entire 12k was an ankle deep morass of slush with the grip of quicksand and little traction. As Chris Smullen reports, muscles that never normally come into play during a run were suddenly asked to perform heroics as each step forward involved a twist or a lurch or a stumble to stay upright. Chris isn’t the only one suffering aches and pains over 48 hours on.

chris smullen2At the front of the field Mark Rogers had overhauled Chris Smullen at the start of Lap 2 after the pair of them had battled it out throughout Lap 1. Mark then ran scared for the rest of the race, not daring to look over his shoulder with the expectation of seeing Chris poised to re-take top spot. That seemed to given him the drive to open a 1 minute gap by the end of the race at which point he discovered the heavy breathing and encroaching footsteps belonged to another runner and not Chris.

In 3rd and 4th for Harriers it was an epic and almost mythical battle between Captain Awesome and the Kraken himself. On this occasion Dave “Captain Awesome” Collins took his revenge on Chris “Krakpot” Burgess after losing out to a turbo charged Burgess at Hyndburn a few weeks earlier. After a series of stellar performances over recent weeks, Chris was happy to finish 14 seconds behind Dave in the end.

DSCF9438Kevin Edwards had only one target on Saturday and that was to complete the race without repeating his swan dive at Hyndburn a few weeks ago. For 3 laps he battled frozen feet and treacherous conditions but stayed upright all the way…. all the way to the final 100 yards where he face planted magnificently in front of the crowds assembled on the final run in. Kevin doesn’t take great comfort from the words of a Marshall who stifled his amusement to remark that, “you’d be amazed how many have done that today!”

eccy2Several runners admitted that if it hadn’t been for the team, and knowing that every runner over the line mattered they would have considered stepping off the course on Saturday. Andy Eccles’ commitment has never been in doubt, but running with feet so frozen that we now know he suffered lasting damage must have given even him cause to consider calling a halt to the whole daft process! Andy powered home as 6th man for the A Team and spent another half hour or so struggling to get his shoes off without the help of scissors!

Darren Middleton realized towards the end of lap 2 that he was in danger of being lapped by the incredible Steve Vernon of Stockport who was on his way to a 5th straight victory in this event. That prompted a sudden spurt of energy and the Reaper narrowly avoided being reaped himself. It does offer some insight to the talent of those at the front end of this race to see them close up and, in Chris Smullens words, “dancing over the surface like it was freshly cut grass on a summers day”.

Graham Millington got a closer view than most as he couldn’t avoid being lapped at the end of the 2nd circuit. Barry and Graham had overhauled Darren Jackson part way round Lap 1 and settled down to their own race for the next couple of miles. Barry edged in front  shortly after the race leaders had passed them both, only for Graham to find a good line down the hill after the start straight and pull away a little.

Similar to Mark Rogers at the front of the race, albeit at a more sedate pace, Graham then “ran scared” expecting Barry to appear again at any moment, and not daring to glance behind to check. A final surge over the last mile saw him finish in front by 60 seconds dead.

They both then waited to cheer home Darren and Gary who had been locked together in their own struggle throughout the race. Darren was struggling with a lack of hill training after his long lay off and conceded his position to Gary on the drag uphill at the end of the second lap. Gary was finding it impossible to take advantage of the downhill sections due to his dodgy ankle and gave up his place in turn on the drop down towards the end of the loop.

It was Gary who eventually prevailed, putting his strength into the soggy climbs and making the best of those brand new spikes! For Darren this was a display of sheer grit and endurance and on a day when giving up would have been easily justified, he stuck it out to the end to finish just a minute behind.

Somewhere en route Harriers lost Steve Nicholls to a calf injury.  Given the conditions it can be considered fortunate that the crocked runners list wasn’t a lot longer! Unfortunately this meant Harriers were one short of getting two complete senior mens teams across the line with the heroic B Team being just one short.

Back at the gazebo none of the ladies were offering their muffins this week, but despite the cold Julie still had some lovely donuts up for grabs. Mrs Wane then confirmed her claim for performance of the month by producing her own delicacies to the delight of everybody – and lovely scones they were too! Cross Country just doesn’t get harder than this.

Click here for Videos of all the Northern Cross Races

Mens Results:

Pos RaceNo Time Name
186 1760 00:52:21 Mark Rogers
216 1761 00:53:35 Chris Smullen
255 1752 00:54:54 Dave Collins
269 1751 00:55:08 Chris Burgess
351 1755 00:58:04 Kevin Edwards
366 1754 00:58:41 Andy Eccles
380 1757 00:59:29 Darren Middleton
431 1758 01:02:01 Graham Millington
445 1750 01:03:01 Barry Abram
493 1762 01:05:31 Gary Wane
505 1756 01:06:39 Darren Jackson

Inskip Half Marathon 2013

Whilst the rest of the Harriers were resting up ahead of the Northern Cross Country event this weekend, Tracey and Michael Dutton were braving the first wave of snowy weather to take part in the Inskip Half near Preston. In her own words:

It was bitterly cold on Sunday, I was praying the snow would stick in Preston, but no snow in sight. I didn’t have man suit on, I had compression socks, leggings, shorts, thermal baselayer, long sleeve top and vest, hat and gloves and was still absolutely frozen!

After 9 mile mark we turned a corner and had a icy wind right at us all the way to the finish. It was a lovely course dead flat through Inskip and surrounding areas. I was struggling with my breathing all the way round and struggling to get under 7minute miling. I finished 1:36:41 which is not good for me, (91st from 317). I have not raced this distance since Wrexham.

Michael did really well 1:57:04. We had a goody bag at the end of a bottle of water, medal, large bar of Aldi chocolate and a woolly hat. The hotpot served up after in the HMS Inskip Marque hit the spot and warmed us both up! Michael suffered with 1 really large blister on the bottom of his foot and kept complaining that his zip had got stuck on his shorts and he couldn’t get is sis gel out for energy.

Well done Duttons!

Garstang 10k and Witten Park XC


Shona Taylor has been busy racking up the races over Christmas and gives us the following update:

After 10 days of not running a step Em and I turn out for the Lancashire xc Championship at Witten Park. The Chorley under eleven girls team get silver (she was well made up) and – highlight of my career – I get bronze in the V45 category (I did beat at least one other girl to this title)! I don’t often get my race strategy right but this time “run yourself in and then start picking folk off” worked a treat especially on the down-hill muddy bits where I overtook several and managed to stay upright – unlike one poor guy who got a great cheer on the last lap after taking a full frontal dive into the mucky stuff. 


All fired up for the Garstang 10k on the 13th. Last time round I’d really enjoyed it – its hilly in parts with a short nasty at 5.5miles – so not an obvious flyer but somehow knowing exactly where you are and what’s to come means I don’t have to save anything. The temperature soared to about 2oC before the start – dilemma “what to wear?” Longs and I’d have warmer leg muscles but I’d think I was training; shorts and I’d know I was racing… shorts won and off we went.

It was chip timed this year and there were about 600 runners. The first two miles were spent ducking in and out trying to find a clear space. What’s the best way to handle a big field? Rudely push to the front at starting even when you know you’re at best a mid fielder or start way back at the back and let the melee sort itself out before you try to come past?? Answers on a postcard or email please.

Again found a nice rhythm – might even have been too comfortable in parts. One guy sat on my shoulder for the first half of the race breathing like he was going to die but passed me on a hill. Pulled him in on the down-slope – hah – then he overtook me again, tush. On the last hill he came to a walk half way up. Couldn’t beat him like that so I shouted him on and the whatsit overtook me and I couldn’t get him back. Staggered to a curb and sat down head between my knees, gasping, engendering the usual concerned “are you all right?” comments.

Looked at my watch and realised I hadn’t stopped it on the line but I must have taken at least a minute off my pb so yes I was all right! (officially clocked at 52:30 against 54 dead previous best). But the star of the show must be the blind lady vet 40ish who was coming in just over the hour on the arm of a guide man. Didn’t catch her number but well done that girl!


Hyndburn Cross Country this Saturday

Its back to business in the Mid Lancs Cross Country League as we head off to Hyndburn this weekend to resume our 2012/13 campaign. Wilson Playing Fields is the venue, just off Junction 7 of the M65 on the way to Burnley.

With just 2 fixtures left after Hyndburn this is a critical race in the season with our teams poised for glory in more than one division. The ladies Vet 35 team are in second place just 3 points off Southport Waterloo. The ladies have scored in 2 out of a potnetial 3 races this year so a good result on Saturday could make a huge difference.

The Senior Mens Team are currently in 3rd after failing to put out a full scoring team at Kendal last time round. This makes it all the more critical that we make the effort to field a strong team on Saturday and get back in contention for those all important top slots.

The Mens V40 Team top the table in Division Two with a real chance of gaining promotion and honours for the second season in succession.

The ladies head off at 2.00pm, with the men following at 2.30pm. We will be sorting out the usual transport arrangements over the course of the week so anyone needing a lift should make it known and we can make sure we get as many runners to toe the line as possible.

Knowsley Cross Country Championships

Saturday 26th of January sees the Northern Athletic Cross Country Championships held in the exotic surroundings of Knowsley Safari Park. Wigan Harriers are intending to submit a healthy squad to represent the club at this headline event, and racing members are asked to confirm their availability as soon as possible.

The deadline for on-line entries is Friday 11th January with Club Coach Andy Eccles co-ordinating our submission. With that in mind, can all members looking to run please let Andy know as soon as possible either by facebook, email, or at the next training session.

Those with families may be pleased to note that free entry to some of the Safari Park attractions will be available for guests on the day. This includes the Sea Lion show, Birds of Prey, and animal walk around area.

Every fit and able competing member is encouraged to make space in the diary for this spectacular fixture. If Andy has your phone number then expect a phone call pressuring you into running! If he hasnt, you will be tracked down and pestered via other means!

More details available HERE.

Membership 2013

January 1st has come and gone, meaning it is now time to renew Wigan Harriers Membership for the forthcoming year.

Amongst the many benefits of membership are reduced entry to the track, free club sessions, training advice from our fully qualified coaches, discounts on all UKA affiliated races and 10% off at Sweatshop and other local running stores along with free entry to club cross country competitions.

Fees for the Endurance Group are a very reasonable £35 per person for 2013, which also includes your affiliation to England Athletics. This is a fab saving of £10 on last year! With numbers increasing every week at the busy Thursday night sessions we hope to see yet another increase in paid up members this year.

Click the links below to download a membership form and get your completed applications back to Dave Collins or Mandy Borthwick by the end of January.

Existing Members Form 2013 renewal  –   NEW Membership Form 2013