Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships over the years have delivered some very trying days out. Slushy icy snow, heavy mud, hail stones have been just a few of the interesting conditions “Mother Nature” has thrown at us!
Did this cause our four Harriers any delay in signing up? Hell no! They were on it “like a tramp on a kipper”!
The setting was in the parkland grounds of Harewood House just north of Leeds. A quick google on the morning of the race confirmed the venue as being rather posh with a very large open parkland estate.
After a decent journey the four Harriers managed a rendezvous in the car park. No mean feat as a thousand cars, trees and plenty of grass don’t lend themselves to be very good indicators of where you are! It was also useful that although we were in the middle of nowhere there was actually a mobile signal!
We then attempted to work out what the course was like. This proved to be a tough ask as the course for the men was two laps of 6k each, rather long for a warm up. We contented ourselves with just getting a flavour of it and figuring out the start and finish areas.
In essence the course was rough open grassland with a few swampy areas. As usual the more heavily trafficked areas had cut up a little. It twisted and turned over a vast area of the estate managing to take in plenty of climbs. It certainly seemed like it was going to be breezy in the exposed areas (the whole course!!)
We watched the start of the ladies race. The photos don’t do justice to either the spectacle of hundreds of ladies charging across a field or the toughness of an UPHILL start!
Newcomer to the fold was Rick Rose-Coulthard. Rather impressively wasting no time in getting involved and representing the club at Cross Country. Rick was joined by three Cross Country stalwarts…Mark Morgan-Hillam, Kevin Edwards and Mike Harris. It promised to be an interesting battle, Kev and Mike certainly felt like they were lacking a surname in the fight!
Mike nearly missed the start after undergoing an emergency last minute dash to the portaloos! At least a few fast strides were managed as warm up getting back to the start line!
The men do the full course which is the outer perimeter of these pretty coloured loops.
Rick shot off at the start and took an immediate lead among the Harriers. The course was fantastic but tough going in places. There was some mud, spongy grass, breezy exposed areas and hard climbs. It was however constantly changing in character which kept things interesting. Rick maintained a decent lead throughout the first lap, hundreds of runners means it’s often hard to see your clubmates out on the course. Lap two really closed things up. Mark was creeping up on Mike with Mike in turn closing in on Rick. With a couple of miles to go it was really hard to call how the Harriers order would pan out. Meanwhile Kevin was having a fantastic run picking his way through the field.
With about a mile to go Mike got in front of Rick and by the time of the switchback hill climb it was easy for the three Harriers to see each other! Mike was desperate to avoid any “sprint finish shenanigans” against younger legs ran hard downhill. Mark ” Week long taper” Hillam-Morgan finished strongly to bag third spot with Kevin nowhere near where he feared he might be – “The back” Those dozens of Haigh parkruns meant Kev was strong for those cheeky climbs!
Out of 761 finishers our guys were…
336rd Mike Harris 52:08
345th Rick Rose-Coulthard 52:25
362nd Mark Morgan-Hillam 52:44
660th Kevin Edwards 1:03:58
As you can tell from the after race photo we were well pleased with ourselves. A tough 12k but satisfying nevertheless. The event was a trial run for holding the National Cross Country Championships in 2019. It was definitely a thumbs up from Wigan Harriers and we should definitely make sure we enter teams next year! A great day out was then rounded off with the Harriers party night! Happy days! 🍺🍷🎟🎉