The first destination for the new Cross Country season was the pleasant leafy surroundings of Astley Park in Chorley. It was unusually early first Mid Lancs fixture catching out a few regulars away on holiday. Dry weather in the run up kept things drier than they might have been although still sticky enough to trap one of the senior men! We have promised to go and look for him soon.
With such a large Wigan Harriers participation in Cross Country writing up an account of the proceedings always takes some doing, here goes…
First up were the U11 Girls race. There was plenty of representation for Wigan Harriers with four runners which was fantastic. First home in a great 5th place was Maisie Burns with 6:32. Next in was Gabrielle Hodson in 7:12 with 21st place. 3rd Counter was Hannah Culshaw in 7:38 in 34th place and Aimee Stock Came home in 9:22. The girls managed an excellent 5th place team finish, a great start to the day’s proceedings.
Just two boys in the under 11’s so no team result but good to have representation. Tom Bartholomew and Oliver Morgan with 7:00 and 7:41. Well done lads.
Three girls started the under 13’s. Lara Wilson was first home in 16th place with 11:40, Amelie Bartholomew in 12:19, Daisy Hilton in 13:51. This was enough to get Harriers on the team scoreboard with 6th place, a great performance.
Under 13 boys saw another three Harriers and another complete team – get in!! 8th place for the lads, excellent stuff. Jack Hughes 21st 14:01; Lewis Bryers 35th 15:06 and Will Morgan 45th 16:26. Trivia for the day there were a total of four boys called Lewis who finished within 9 places.
Keen to splash in the mud too were the Under 15 Girls – five yes five runners!! 4th place team finish too, black and red vests everywhere! Sarah Elsden had a great run with 11th place 15:09 swiftly followed by Grace Walters 17th 15:39. Within a minute there was a procession of Harriers. Aimee Taylor 25th 16:27, Rebecca Jones 26th 16:37 and Olivia Smith 27th 16:47. Ten second gaps – very consistent. Well done girls!
By this point I’m usually done with the Juniors but there’s more of them – a real Wigan takeover of Chorley!
In the Boys under 15, two finishers, Ben Hughes 12th 16:08 & Sam Bryers 17th 16:51. Well done boys great effort!
Finally before we move onto the seniors, Sophie Elsden clocked up 9th place in 19:43, a great run.
Senior Ladies time, a fantastic 8 runners, two teams with 6th and 21st team placings with 2nd L45 team and 3rd L35 teams too! A great start to the season. Well done to those making XC debuts. Leading our ladies home was Jacqui Jones picking up last season’s form (finished in a knee op since then too!) in 23rd 29:00. Next in was Nina Pilkington in 29th 29:24 closely followed by Kelly-Anne Towns 31st 29:30. It didn’t take long for more Harriers to appear, April Morgan in 35th 29:38. In 80th was Catherine Fisher in 34:37, Pauline Foster 100th 36:36, Pauline Taylor 40:01 and Amanda Borthwick 41:45. With absentees the team showed some real strength in depth which bodes well for the season ahead.
Now I’ll hand over to Wigan Harriers newcomer Mark Morgan-Hillam who not only made his racing debut at this Cross Country but also wrote us a report. Cheers Mark and welcome to the club…..
The stunning Astley Park, Chorley, was venue to the opening Cross-Country fixture of the year. Beautiful autumnal sunshine ensured spectators would be as enthusiastic as competitors – perhaps more so in some cases! The weather had been fine for weeks, ensuring a fast course with little or no of the ‘mud-fest’ conditions typically associated with the winter running season.
A fine setting, then, for a slightly nervous newbie to Wigan Harriers colours making his debut. It had been a bit of a rush job to get to this point. I’d only attended two training sessions and, next thing I knew, we’re scrambling round trying to source a vest in the right size! In the end I borrowed Mike Harris’ vest which was guaranteed to make me run like a gazelle. (He told me to say that.) (Editor’s note – I actually said the only time my vest would go that fast again is on my bike!)
I arrived with supporting wife and youngest daughter quite late in the day, (due to my 4 year old having an infinitely better social life than me – birthday party taxi service.) One of the perks of not knowing anyone or anything is that I didn’t really have any expectations of myself or anyone else; I just decided to get stuck in, run my race, and see what happened.
There was just enough time for brief introductions, get a bit of local knowledge of the course, admire shiny new ‘metro-sexual’ spikes (you know who you are!) and then we were off.
The course was a 3 lap affair with a short tag-on at the start. The pace was noticeably quicker than I was used to, so I decided to simply try and run my normal race and ignore everyone else! After a gentle downhill alongside football pitches, the course swung round into the woods and became much more interesting; weaving along single track footpaths, jumping streams, climbing stairs, tiptoeing tree roots and generally becoming very ‘trail’ run in nature. In short – right up my street!
One of the immediately noticeable things about running for the club was the support on course. I am so used to running individually in my own little bubble that it took a couple of shouts of “Come on Wigan!” before I realised they were actually shouting at me! It definitely gives you a boost. A couple of switchbacks on the course gave you chance to encourage teammates in front or behind, a couple of marshals were familiar faces and the ladies, fresh from their race, were out on course too. I apologise for not name-checking anyone – I need to do some serious swatting up on my new team-mates’ names! But thanks to you all! (My personal favourite was “Go on, Mark! It is Mark, isn’t it?!”)
The lap ends with a short, but pretty brutal, scramble up a grass bank and climb back onto start/finish level. By the time we reached the climb on the second lap, nerves now long since gone, I was realising that, be-it club race or fun run, some things never change – a large number of participants will always set off too fast! Looking at my lap splits I ran almost identical times for all three, but in the last lap and a half in particular I was overtaking at a reasonable rate. I could have done with a few more hills to really take advantage, but was pleased that the race generally came back to me in the second half.
I tagged a couple more runners on the last climb before the sprint for home. I glanced quickly over my shoulder to make sure they weren’t chasing me down – “Don’t worry, Wigan, he’s not coming back!” (Another perk of running for a club – helpful information from the crowd!)
67th of 248 on my debut was personally pleasing. Years of coaching children as a primary school teacher and screaming “Every place counts!” for 15 years meant that I was very aware that, this time, it wasn’t just for me, it was for the team.
Once again I apologise for not being able to comment on the many excellent performances of the team, whether in my race or the ones that preceded it. All I can say is thanks to everyone who has made me feel so welcome. I have always been a ‘loner’ by choice when it comes to running and I genuinely wasn’t sure if I would enjoy joining a running club. But I already know I have made the right decision and chosen the right club.
All I need to do now is tell Mike he can’t have his vest back…
Ten Harriers men so just short of two full teams but still a very decent turnout. Our men were 9th team home and were also 9th V40 team, great effort. The roll of honour were Abraham Afeworki 37:30, Dan Gray 38:33, Mark Morgan-Hillam 41:59, Steve Nicholls 42:41, Stuart Towns 43:32, Paul Bryers 44:15, Kev “very muddy” Edwards 47:36, Gary Wane 48:40,Stuart Holding 49:28, Daniel Saunders 52:17. Well done everyone including the debutants again.
Next stop on the XC calendar is Red Rose League, take a look at the fixtures and add them to your calendar now!