August beckons!

Tomorrow is August so this means the last round of mid-week races is fast approaching. For those of you who have done these before you will know what we are talking about but here’s a link to a news article that will give you all the essential information as to which ones suit you!

Information on mid-week race fixtures

They are all well organised, great value and highly recommended.

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Knowsley parkrun

Chris Burton tried a couple of new things, Knowsley parkrun and then wrote them a race report. Here’s a copy of it, well done Chris.

Chris had some lovely things to say about our parkrun, so I invited him to write a guest runner report of his visit to Knowsley today, This is what he had to say…..

Today I ran Knowsley parkrun for the first time. I wasn’t sure want to expect.

I had a slight knowledge of what to expect because I did part of the parkrun course when I ran the cross country route on day 5 off the tour of Merseyside. So many memories just came flooding back when I arrived at the start line, as it was less than 3 weeks since I was here completing day 5 of the Tour.

When I was listening to the brief which was given out by the Run Director Richie, he was talking about a defibrillator saying that they still need £200 to reach their target to buy one for their parkrun. As a person who suffers from epilepsy, I think there should really be another way they could get one as I don’t think they should have to raise so much money to buy their own!.

After listening to the brief the run started. I had a good burst of energy which made me run a little bit faster. I was leading the way going into the 1st corner and I thought “oh no I don’t know this course I hope I don’t get lost” but I managed to survive the first lap only with a little scare when I nearly beat the marshal to his post so the fella behind me had to shout to tell me to turn around. Luckily I still managed to keep my position! The marshals were fantastic all the way around and they were very supportive. The photographs which the photographer took of me and the rest of the runners just topped off a brilliant parkrun.

When I got home and I didn’t receive my text message telling me what my time was I was a little worried, but it all got sorted out and my finish time of 19 minutes exactly was added to the results.

I can’t wait to come back and run Knowsley parkrun again with some more runners from my club.

Chris Burton – Wigan Harriers.

 

Rock n Roll Star!

If you can’t beat them, join them by Katie Green.

I started out running just over a year ago. After years of cheering on at the sidelines watching Chris get better and more competitive my loving husband signed me up for my first race while I was still pregnant. He decided that running would be good for me and that I’d be good at it for some reason. Last year I did the rock n roll 5k as my first ever race after 5 months of running and it petrified me so imagine the confusion at running it again a year later as well as the half marathon! It’s amazing the difference a year makes when you are surrounded by supportive, competitive idiots.

The rock n roll half marathon in Liverpool really is a brilliant race to run, especially if your still relatively new to the longer, scarier race distances. It’s a really well thought out route as you get a good mix of flats to get time in the bank and ‘fun’ hilly bits to remind you that you should probably do more hill sessions with the running club. I’m still yet to train properly for a half marathon as things seem to always get in the way (kids with chicken pox, car crash, chest infection) so race day morning I’m still filled with terror at the idea of running 13.1 miles and not being able to time running past the portaloos just right so I don’t wet myself or mess up my race time. Chris as usual was right up front with the other speedy harriers and I was quite happy in coral 5 with the other people aiming for the 2 hour mark. Its safe to say you know you are a runner when you feel a wave of relief when its nice and cloudy in May so you know you’re not going to finish a race looking like a crispy lobster.

The start is always the most stressful part for me because I hate the bottleneck effect of everyone trying to get out ahead of all the other people and trying to set their pace. Luckily at RnR they have enough sense to send you out in waves, yes it takes a little longer to get to the start line but it’s so much better being able to start a race and not be elbow to elbow with every other runner and start out at the pace you want to. The first few miles are really lively with people all along the route and minimal uphill routes. The bands lined up at various points really help to give you a bit of a boost too, especially towards the end when your shouting at yourself in your head for signing up to another of these things after you swore never again at the last one. I tend to get myself through longer runs by setting myself little targets. I managed to get up the hill around mile 6 without stopping, which really helped my confidence as I was surrounded by people going sod it just walk up it and after that you get a lovely few miles through the parks which are really nice flat, shady paths. I think I only ended up finding and passing other harriers after the 7 mile mark starting with Rachael giving me encouragement after I checked she was ok. By mile 10 I was arguing with myself about whether I could keep the pace up I was at but after checking my watch and realising I was in with a shot of getting a 1:50 half marathon it was a case of telling my legs to shut up and carry on.

Miles 10-12 were pretty lonely as there wasn’t much support out and I’d pretty much ran the whole thing on my own but it was a case of head down and plod on. As I got past mile 12 that’s when things got weird for me as I started to spot runners I knew that were faster than me! I got encouragement from other club runners as I was kicking up my pace for the last mile putting in a last ditch effort to get as good a time as possible. Its pretty safe to say I was amazed when i finished with a time of 1:47:45 knocking nearly 8 minutes off my previous half marathon pb from Wigan half! I still find it funny I saw more harriers at the finish line than I did for the whole race too, I finished just behind Jayne who gave me a big hug and congratulations when she spotted me as we’d both been aiming for the 1:50 mark, thou she smuggled more haribo off the table at the end than I did. It’s definitely a race I would recommend doing if you wanted to go for a half marathon and not just because they are some of the best medals 🙂

Marathon du Mont Blanc…..a very big hill!

We arrived in Chamonix on Thursday 22nd June as Warren was to take part in Friday’s Vertical Kilometre race before we both embarked on the Marathon on Sunday. I have never been to Chamonix before and this is certainly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Chamonix rests at the base of a valley with the Red Mountains on one side and Mont Blanc Mastif on the other.

Warren registered for the Vertical KM (with an overall distance of 3.8KM / 2.4 miles) and was given a start time of 16:15 hours. The start was a time trial, with the slowest going first based on each competitors estimated time. The first mile was runnable with a slight incline, but nonetheless took 17 minutes, the second mile was nothing short of brutal with non stop climbing and with the aid of ladders, ropes and a lot of scrambling, took a total of 33 minutes. Finishing in a time of 1 Hour and 1 minute, that was the perfect prep for a mountain marathon in less than 36 hours time, NOT!!

Following Warren’s massive achievement the day before, Saturday was a day of rest and a little sightseeing before the marathon. There is actually so much to see and do but we wanted to limit ourselves, because after all, we were there to race a mountain marathon. We visited the Mer du Glace (sea of ice) which is an ice cave, as this is something we have never seen anywhere else on our travels. There was a 20 minute train ride up the mountain, then 5 minute cable car down towards the ice and then just to keep things easy for me and Warren the day before our race, 448 steps down to the cave entrance. Taking the 448 steps back up to the cable car gave me the first real idea of how different it is to breathe at altitude. I’ve been running up mountains in the Lake District but nothing compares to the dizzy heights of the Alps. Having visited the cave in the morning we spent the rest of Saturday relaxing back at the Chalet as I prepared my Harrier nails. The plan was to have an early night but I have to say I have never had such a restless sleep before a race. Warren was fast asleep from early on, I was too hot, then I was too thirsty, then I had an ache in my leg, all of which was in my head making me more frustrated and less able to sleep.

Our Chalet in Les Pelerins which is about a 25 – 30 minute walk into the centre of Chamonix were the race starts in front of Saint-Michel’s church. We were up at 5:50am and out the door by 6:20am. That gave us 40 minutes to trot into town, we had to jog into town as the bus service doesn’t start early enough for the race. We got about 1/2 a mile down the road when Warren pointed out we had not put any sun lotion on. It had been hot the last few days and even though it was cloudy and drizzling it was forecast to brighten up around midday. Only one thing for it, yes thats right, Warren was to run back for the sun lotion whilst I waited with his pack. I couldn’t possibly go back, that would be too long a warm up and at least I didn’t make him run back with his pack on. Warren returned with the lotion about 9 minutes later and we jogged on to the start with about 10 minutes to spare. As Warren pointed out, “Well that’s my marathon turned into an ultra,” having now done a 2.5 mile warm up, talk about melodramatic, anyway I just didn’t respond.

Warren took the lead, jumping over the barrier so that we started at the front, in and amongst the Pro’s. With over 2,000 runners the queue tailed back around the corner past were the eye could see. He always manages to get me near the front which means a clearer start and avoids all the jostling which everyone knows can lead to a trip. The music was blaring and the crowds were out in force, cheering all their friends and family, the atmosphere was immense.

The Count down from 10 didn’t help my nerves, I mean what is wrong with a simple, quick 1, 2, 3 go. The pause between each number felt like forever as now I just wanted to go. Trois, Deux, Un and we were off, through the streets and then across into the woods and a shout out, go Karen, go Warren, I glimpsed Carol and Richard and then they were gone. Through woods it was undulating, nothing too severe and an 8 and 9 minute first 2 miles but I knew what was to come, Warren had made sure I knew, he wanted me to be prepared. Along the edge of a busy road the heavens opened but it was still warm and the rain was welcomed by all. This marathon lulls you into a false sense of security with a nice and easy rolling first 11 miles. But then the climbing starts with a 4 mile ascent of over 1200 meters. Once we stared climbing it felt like forever, up and up into the clouds, you could see in front of you but nothing more, the beautiful scenery from the days before had vanished into thick grey haze.

Once at the top relief usually follows on a descent with a chance to catch up and get a quick speedy mile in but not on these descents. A sharp, steep descent, made harder by the bracken, the roots and the rocks all slimy and slippery from the rain. Warren has done this race back in 2013 and this descent had loose ropes on it back then, now replaced by wooden ledges for steps which were caked in wet mud.

It wasn’t long before once again we were on the up. From Vallorcine its a relentless steep climb up to Aiguillettes des Posettes which is 23.3km (approx 14.5 miles) into the race and stands at 2,201meters. Next comes another steep descent and by now the sun was beating down on us but the views were magnificent. At this point and a number of other points during this race there is nothing wrong with slowing slightly to take in the awesome splendour or your surroundings. The zig zag descent was technical, a balancing act between picking up enough speed but not so much that you fall off the edge as experienced by the young man in front of me. As he went round a switchback one foot slipped over the edge followed by his other foot and he managed to spin himself around and grab the long grass holding on long enough for myself and Warren to pull him back up. Going over the edge is unthinkable when there is nothing but the side of the mountain. This made me more cautious the rest of the way down and of course putting on the brakes going downhill I knew my legs would pay for it later.

The bottom of this descent took us down to around 1,250 meters were there was no time to rest, no flat but back up to Le Bechar at 1,691 meters. Once at the top there were more switchbacks on the next descent. In and out of the trees and by now I really needed the shade. The problem with the shade was the tree roots because now I was feeling tired and concentration and focus was in order but left me as I stumbled a few times before ending up on my backside. To be honest everyone knows its rare for me to finish a trail race without falling and I was certainly kidding myself if I thought this was going to be any different.

Then from around 33.5km the course again ascends for over 3km to La Flegere standing at 1,865 meters. This climb was so tough and its fair to say I hit my all time low. The terrain was rocky, the climb was steep and the sun was blazing. I remember asking Warren if this was the last climb and this was a huge mistake because he said “no.” This was one of those moments when you ask a question that really deep down you do not want to know the answer to and as soon as I heard the word “no” I was overwhelmed with emotion. Never during any race or event have I felt that kind of emotion, I honestly thought that I was going to burst into to tears. Then I heard Warren “stop and come here.” He wrapped his arms around me and told me I was doing amazingly and that I was nearly there. He knows I hate to give up, I’m far too competitive and so we set off again up and up to the top.

La Flegere is 36.8km into the race and from this point the race becomes undulating and as Warren kept insisting runnable. Run this bit he kept saying and this was now a run, walk, run, walk, run race. The midday sun was now being felt by all and the more fatigued I got the harder it was to concentrate on running and drinking at the same time but somehow I managed it. Mainly because I had to, I felt that if I stopped now I would not start again.

This race is brutal and this is no more so than towards the end of this race. As we were running the flattest part of this course which is undulating I said to Warren that I felt I was doing more down than up and I wasn’t wrong as the route goes from 1,865 meters down to 1,810 meters. This is all for the final ascent to the finish, yes a punishing final 2.5 km up to 2,016 meters. There were lots of spectators along the final kilometres, all different nationalities and all different ages cheering on every competitor to the finish line.

We crossed the line together hand in hand and collected our finishers medals. We then collected a cup of Mont Blanc blonde beer before meeting up with our family whose support and encouragement make any and every race that bit easier. I could not be happier with my time of 6:55:46 and I’m extremely pleased to have come 639th out of 2,091 competitors finishing 38th in my age category and 52nd female overall.

Hand on heart this is the toughest race I have ever completed and even though it hurt towards the end both physically and mentally and almost reduced me to tears, there is not one second of regret. I have only done 2 previous marathons, both flat and both Manchester last year and this year. So yeah, you may think I’m insane but you only get one life and it should be lived to the full. The magnificent beauty that Chamonix has to offer is unbelievable. For me this was a chance to combine my love of running with my love of nature and the beauty the world has to offer. This is why I love off road running and why I can’t wait for my next challenge. To be continued…………
#Lakeland50

Sign up Now and Join the Harriers!

To those of you who have been training with us and thinking about joining the club, then now is the time.

From July 1st, the membership fee for the remainder of the year (end of 2017) will be reduced to just £26. This includes a £14 fee to register you as an official athlete with England Athletics. As an “attached” athlete, you are then entitled to claim the discount (usually £2), that many races offer.

The remaining £2 a month covers your twice weekly sessions, overseen by qualified coaches.

If it appeals to you, then you can run in two cross country leagues (starting in September) for no extra cost.

 

You would also be eligible to run for the club in the road relays which take place in September.

Don’t be put off by thinking that you aren’t good enough to join a club. All abilities are catered for and welcomed, and your support is vital in taking the club forward.

If you want more information then speak to one of the coaches at the sessions, or just reply to this email.

As I always say, you know that you want to wear that famous red striped black vest.

Please note that the discounted price is only available to new members. If you are a lapsed member who hasn’t trained with us this year due to injury, or other circumstances, then ask to see if you qualify.

Thanks.

Dave.

 

Club entries for Wigan Trail 10k

Entries are flowing in fast for the 2017 edition of the Wigan Trail 10k race. We are currently 50/50 Club and non-club runners which is great as we always like a good mix of runners taking part. As usual we have a fairly equal mix of the sexes which seem to show we appeal to all!

One addition we made this year was to add additional prizes available to clubs that had more than 12 entries. The purpose of this was to both reward the support of other local clubs and make our race an attractive proposition to a Club’s Championship schedule. We are pleased to say it’s been popular and that so far two clubs have already met this criteria. St Helens Striders are just a whisker away, so any Striders out there if you manage to cajole a fellow club member to enter there’s a Club prize available for you guys too! The only question now is which club will have the largest number of entries!

Astley & Tyldesley Road Runners 20
Wesham Road Runners 19
St Helens Striders 11
Wigan & District Harriers & Ac 8
Liverpool Running Club 6

Please note as we need to have time to sort PIE logistics that entries will close slightly earlier on 1st May so don’t delay.

2017 Race details

Whizz Kid returns….for now

How Not To Run A Race: Northern Road Relays. Stanley Park, Blackpool – 25th March 2017 by Gary Fitzpatrick

On a familiar running stomping ground, I was pleased that for once in my racing career a sunny Sunday afternoon in Blackpool greeted me as I joined my fellow Harriers representing the Mens & Ladies teams for the Northern Athletics Road Relays.

Attracting representation from clubs across the North of the UK, the relays are my favourite club event by far. Made up of 12 legs for the Men and 6 for the Ladies which alternate between 5k and 10k (approx) the relays offer something for everyone.

The range of talent on show from amateur level (me) to elite was clear just like any race. However, what was without doubt equal across all runners was the effort people put in for their clubs and the sense of camaraderie in team tents. I feel really honoured to run events like this for my club and looking at the effort put in by runners of all abilities at this event I am sure I am not alone in this.

Harriers fielded one team for the Mens and two for the Ladies competitions. Having struggled with injury myself for the second half of 2016 it was a huge relief to be pulling on the red and black again, albeit this was to be my last outing for a while as I will be undergoing surgery in April.

Arriving late (I don’t do late) due to traffic issues the action was underway by the time I got there. This meant I had little warm up and planning time.

Now, I wouldn’t ever advise not warming up but not having time to ponder what was about to happen in a race sometimes works to your advantage. I must admit I was starting to get pretty nervous! I hadn’t raced since Summer 2016 and done maybe four sessions in this time. To be clear, I wasn’t worried at all about time – what will be will be – I was concerned I wouldn’t get round!

I arrived just in time to see Waldu finish his long leg and to hear stories of marshals attempting to nobble what was an excellent run by sending him back towards the finish after just one of his two laps. I knew then I had about 5 mins to get myself together and get to the start.

For those yet to do a relay event, before you run you must congregate in a pen and wait for your clubs runner to arrive in view before you are called to the start line. My ‘warm up’ consisted of a jog to the pen, a couple of token stretches and a squat or two (to look like I knew what I was doing). I then realised it was really warm, if I didn’t know sensible running was required before, I did now. In no time at all I saw Gary ‘takes no prisoners’ Wane charging around the top bend like he was chasing down a mortal enemy and that was my cue to get ready.

My quick mental preparation was ‘you have been injured, you are not as fit as you were, don’t be an idiot, start easy or you won’t get round’. Off I went, looked at my watch after 200m and realised I was running 4:45 min mile pace. So the plan was out of the window before I even cleared the first bend. This was going to hurt…. I knew this as it already did.

The course had a bit of everything – a short but notable hill, trail and lots of turns but it is still very runnable and would be described as ‘quick’. Long legs are two laps and short just the one.

What wasn’t on the course map was the Thomas the Tank Engine ride which seemed to cut across the course constantly and unruly dogs (or their irresponsible owners dependant on your perspective on this matter). This is the payback for the sunshine I guess.

I eventually eased into a more sustainable pace but by this time I had booked myself a ticket on the pain train (Thomas looked far more appealing) due to going off too fast. One spectator told me afterwards I looked like I was ‘suffering’ when he saw me. Truth be told, he was spot on but what he probably didn’t realise was I had only covered two of my 6 or so miles and had he kept his vantage point he would have seen real suffering on lap two.

The funny thing about relays is that you never really know where you are. The staggered starts and multiple teams submitted by some clubs makes if hard to work out if you should be catching the guy in front as for all you know they may be a lap behind you or have had a considerable head start. You just need to run your own race.

It’s fair to say when I got back on the track to indicate 300m to go I was relieved. Jayne Taylor’s encouragement stoked up one last push to get me home (knowing Jayne I assume it was encouragement but to be honest I was feeling dizzy and a bit sick by now so didn’t really hear it). At the point I saw a streak on pink hair I knew Chris Green was waiting and ready to go and I was home. I was pleased with my run overall and came out with a time that was probably the best I could have expected. I made it hard for myself from the off but I can honestly say I left nothing on the course.

As I left the track a marshal asked with some obvious concern if I was OK (you know its bad when that happens). I slowly got back to the group and got some fluid down me. I had really underestimated how warm it was and on reflection hadn’t drank enough in the morning. Seeing those who had run, were waiting to run or had come to offer support made it all go away and I remembered why we do this.

There were solid performances all round with the men’s team finishing 43rd overall.

43 Wigan & District H & AC 5:03:40

        Stuart Faircloug (61) 36:39
        Paul Bryers      (56) 19:36
        Waldu Gebreselas (51) 34:33
        Gary Wane        (52) 21:02
        Gary Fitzpatrick (48) 33:56
        Christopher Gree (48) 20:36
        Mike Harris      (49) 37:21
        Paul Mason       (49) 19:59
        Warren Moorfield (47) 20:10
        Darren Jackson   (45) 20:47
        Paul Platt       (45) 19:55
        Stuart Towns     (43) 19:06

It was however, as per cross country, the Ladies showing us how its done with fantastic 17th and 37th places for the A & B teams respectively.

17 Wigan & District H & AC ‘A’ 2:48:29

        Alice Alcock     (36) 41:55
        Laura Dootson    (29) 20:30
        Karen Moorfield  (24) 21:38
        Nina Pilkington  (17) 39:37
        Jacqueline Jones (18) 23:01
        Jayne Taylor     (17) 21:48

37 Wigan & District H & AC ‘B’ 3:11:01

        Caroline Rasburn (41) 43:13
        Jayne Salloum    (42) 24:06
        Jenna Moorfield  (41) 25:43
        Shona Taylor     (40) 47:02
        Kathryn Green    (38) 23:13
        Pauline Foster   (37) 27:44

Now I know I have painted an at times pretty grim picture here, but I absolutely loved it. This is what club running is all about. There is a place for everyone in events like these and cross country. There is something about pulling your tripe out for your team – time & speed really doesn’t matter, effort does.

It’s always great to be a Harrier, but days like this make it even better.

I would urge all of my fellow Harriers to give the relays a go and represent the black and red army. Let’s get two or even three teams out next time.

Wigan Run Festival 2017 photo call

Sunday 19th March sees the first Wigan Run Festival. Three distances, Half Marathon, 5k and Family mile. Harriers will be involved in all three events, both running and marshaling.

As is customary there will be the obligatory photo call.

2015 10k photo call.

2016 10k photo call

We will meet just by Starbucks and then move around the corner on the slope outside the Grand Arcade shopping centre.

Meet time for the photo is 8.45am which should mean we give everyone time to warm up and get changed. Please note Sam’s shop will be open for bag drops and comfort breaks.

Hopefully we can include as many people as possible from all events, both runners and marshals.

All the best to everyone, do yourselves proud. ☺️ ⚫️🔴⚫️

 

 

Danger mouse!

My first Cross-Country season with Wigan Harriers by Kevin Rex.

I have been a member of Wigan Harriers for almost 18 months now. I love running and the sense of achievement and satisfaction you get from racing and competing. Being a member of this club, whilst wearing the black and red colours and representing Wigan Harriers, is a great feeling.

So imagine my surprise on one Thursday night after training in late October 2016, when I was informed by Mike Harris, Gary Wane and Mark Morgan-Hillam that, if I wanted, I could come along to and take part in the Mid Lancs Cross Country League and represent Wigan Harriers.

I, like a lot of members of Wigan Harriers, assumed that the cross country league was for, shall I say, the more elite members of the club. However, I was advised that this was not the case, and that all paid members of Wigan Harriers are welcome to come along and compete for the club. As Mike Harris said, “No-one is invited, all club members are entered and can take part. Why pay X amount for a race when you can do it for FREE once a month throughout the cross-country season”.

Needless to say, I was sold and so I decided that Cuerden Valley in Bamber Bridge, Preston, would be my first attempt at doing an XC, as I now call them. The day of the race started early as I had already previously agreed to go along to Haigh Hall Park Run with some of my running buddies to celebrate their 1st birthday. I took the run very slowly as I wanted to save my legs for the XC race that afternoon.

When I got home, I fuelled up on some banana porridge and changed into my Wigan Harriers running kit. Before I set off I was a little unsure on a few details. So I messaged Mark Morgan Hillam who was more than helpful and advised me on what I needed to do and where I needed to go when I got there. I was even involved in a bit of team banter when I, being the newbie, stupidly asked the question that shouldn’t be asked to experienced XC runners. I asked, “Can I were a T-shirt under my vest?” The response was hilarious and this little bit of banter made me feel like I was part of the team and helped to settle some of my pre-race nerves.

When I arrived at the event there was already a race going on. I watched a bit of this whilst trying to find the Wigan Harriers flag and tent in the crowd. When I got there, members from the men’s and ladies teams helped me find my race number. They informed me that I needed to keep this number and use it again for future Mid Lancs XC events. I put my number on and I was ready to race.

Before the race started Mark and the guys took me to one side and showed me the route and explained what conditions and terrain to expect during the race. From where I was stood it looked like a tough and very hilly course. I was informed that I had in fact picked one of the toughest courses in the mid lancs fixtures for my first go at cross country.

With that said the pre-race nerves came back. However they were settled again by the encouraging words and comments from everyone. We then had a little warm up and went to cheer on the ladies team in their race. Then it was time for the team photograph and, yes, I still had my t-shirt on under my vest. What can I say? It was cold out there…

Race time arrived in no time and, before I knew it, I was on the start line waiting to go. There were some last words of motivation from Gary Wane – and then something terrible happened that could only happen to me. Whilst limbering up, I stepped backwards only to hear some guys behind me shout, “Watch out!” I wondered what was going on – I had only gone and trodden on a field mouse… it had the whole of Cuerdon Valley to roam around, but it had to go and choose to stand behind my shoe. I was mortified, and a little embarrassed, but at least it took my mind off the nerves and amused my teammates…

Moments later, the starting gun went and we were off. Immediately I was slipping everywhere as, being the inexperienced and less equipped member of the team, I had no spikes to wear. I got around the first corner and was headed straight towards and through a ditch of thick mud. As I stomped through the muddy ditch I almost lost one of my trainers. I just about managed to keep it on and I was off and running.

After the first lap I felt like I was starting to finding my stride and I began to relax and enjoy it. My favourite part of the course was running through the stream. The ice cold water cooled my feet and made it feel like a proper cross country race for me.

After four hilly laps (one short, one medium and two long,) of what is probably one of the toughest runs I have taken part in, I approached the finish line. I could see and hear the rest of the XC team cheering me on. This made me feel good and I pushed myself all the way across the finish line.

Even though on the day I finished last out of the men’s team they thanked me and congratulated me for my performance. I left the race feeling included and proud of myself for getting through what was a very muddy and tough race.

The positive experience of the day, and the fun I had, made me want to try more XC fixtures. However, before I did, the more experienced members of the team advised me that I really needed to get some spikes. So with that I was off to the sweatshop to buy myself a pair.

My second, and the next race of the season, was a British Athletics Cross Country event at Sefton Park in Liverpool. This was an event where professional athletes took part and competed alongside amateurs. I learnt from some of my fellow Harriers that apparently, in the past, Olympic champion Mo Farah competed in this event. So of course I was going to go along and compete, if only to say I ran on the same field as Mo Farah.

The weather on the day was absolutely freezing. So needless to say it was t-shirt under the vest again for me. However, the more experienced members of the team still went out there in the freezing cold in just their vests.
I was more at home this time around and felt a lot more relaxed. I knew what to do and how things worked. The nerves I felt at Cuerden Valley Park were gone. So I focused on trying to put in a good performance for the team.
Before the race we did a warm up run and watched the some of the ladies race. I was pleased to see that the course was flat and not as muddy as Cuerden Valley. It was boggy in some parts, but overall it was a lot better.

After the warm up we made our way back to the tent for the team photograph. There were a lot more people representing Harriers for the men’s team at this one – 14 to be exact. This made it possible to have an A and B team, meaning more points for the team.

After the photographs we all went to the start line as a team. There were lots of pats on back and encouraging word from fellow team members. This made me more confident and pumped up for this one. I was determined to run as hard and as fast as I could for the team.

The gun fired and off everyone went. A mile or so into the race I felt good and I was even managing to keeping up with one of the more experienced members of the team, Kevin Edwards.

As the race went on it was lovely to see flat surface after flat surface in front of me, not a hill in sight. You could even see some of the faster athletes in the distance. I continued to push on and felt like I was keeping my composure well. That along with support from some of the ladies team spurred me on for the final couple of miles.

Approaching the final stretch I pushed hard and move my little legs as fast as I could over the finish line. I stopped my watch and got my breath back. I felt as though I had run well and gave everything I had for the team. Little did I know that I had actually smashed my PB for this distance on all surfaces by just over three minutes, clocking an official time of 46 minutes and 6 seconds.

To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement. I still to this day do not know where I got that performance from. It still stands to this day as my personal best running performance ever and probably will for some time. If I can put my performance down to anything, I think a mixture of the atmosphere of the day, the flat course, wearing spikes for the first time and the amazing support and encouragement from my fellow Wigan Harriers XC team was the main reasons for my mind blowing results.

After Sefton Park I’m sad to say that I missed the next two races in Towneley Park, Burnley, and Cleveleys School, Rossall, due to family commitments and a race clash with the Parbold Hill race which I had entered before I started taking part in Mid Lancs XC events.

The next race I would compete in would be the final XC fixture of the season at Leigh Sports Village. Rather worryingly, a few weeks prior to this race taking place, I was suffering with tendonitis of the Achilles. However I was determined I was going to make it to the last race of the season and I am happy to say I did.

Although my performance was not as strong as I would have liked, I still enjoyed being back with the XC gang and competing in the black and red once again. The appreciation I received from fellow Harriers for coming and taking part again reminded me of why I now love these events so much.

Lastly, because of the positive experiences and feeling of inclusion I received in my first two XC races, I took it upon myself to return the favour and try and encourage some of my running buddies at Downhill Runners to come along and give an XC a try. I am glad to say one of them did. So Jayne Salloum became the newest member of Wigan Harriers ladies XC team.
She was a great addition, and she really enjoyed it. I know Jayne, and hopefully some other new members, will be there competing next season. Needless to say, so will I…..