English National Cross Country Championships

A year later and the same three Harriers were taking on the Saucony English National Cross Country Championships, Steve Nicholls, Mark Morgan-Hillam and myself Mike Harris. This year they were being held at Wollaton Park Nottingham, ever since it was announced Steve had been saying what a great course it was, so it was hard to resist (well hard to resist if you are mad for a bit of XC!).

The previous month’s Northern XC Champs had dampened my enthusiasm slightly as the course was really tough and not pleasant or enjoyable in anyway. I hoped Steve’s pre-race talk about the course was accurate.

A two hour journey got us to the regal setting of Wollaton Hall. Rolling grassland with a herd of deer complete with an ornamental lake as a back drop. I carefully avoided the muddy patches of the car park after bad experiences of Arley Hall but this was an early indicator that the recent rains might have dampened the course a tad.

Overcoming dodgy mobile signals we eventually found each other and swapped pre-race excuses, nothing like having a team brimming with confidence. 😂

Walking across to the changing room marquee we saw a few younger lads completely covered in mud. Well, we are clever blokes and quickly realised that this was a sign of rather interesting conditions to come. The warm up realised the course to be grassy, undulating with a steep climb in the larger laps but we didn’t see much mud.

The start of the Nationals are always interesting. Last year the ground was firm enough so you could hear and feel the rumble of 1500+ runners storming across a field. This year tussocky grass dampened the enthusiasm of all but the most committed but Steve “my calf feels dodgy” Nicholls decided the best way to ease into the race was to try and get into the lead for the first bend, he nearly succeeded. Mark went off more conservatively (unusually) which meant I could still see him after 100 metres!

Being in amongst 1800 runners means it’s quite tricky to suss where you are on the course, concentration levels need to be sky high as frequently there are fallers you need to dodge. Anyone veering off course could have been followed by a 1000 blokes as we certainly couldn’t see the tapes. A few guys were in trail shoes, which were not coping well with the grassy slopes. After a few minutes we discovered why everyone had looked so muddy. A deep stinky muddy trench, impossible to avoid.💩 Photos afterwards showed people both submerged to their shoulders and face planted in this mud, nice! You will all be pleased to know your Harriers threesome avoided this fate. ☺️

Now the course turned out to be a sort of “inverted russian doll”, every lap got longer but kept all the interesting stuff like the hill and the stinky mud. A decent challenge but certainly very runnable.

Very early in the race an uncomfortable looking Steve came back to me, clearly bothered by his dodgy calf. It wasn’t long after I past Steve that he called it quits and joined the 100’s of spectators.

I was starting to enjoy the race as it became apparent that apart from a few hazards the rest of the course was very good. It was around three miles in that I spotted Steve on the sidelines, he shouted me on and said Mark was just ahead. Now Mark is clearly a much better runner than me so I just assumed he was running to a strategy. Around 3.5 miles I caught him, by this point I was slightly confused just how many laps we were doing. My watch clearly indicating there was a long way to go, plenty of time for GB Sticks to storm past.

Each lap took us past the spectators by the finish line and the noise they created was phenomenal. There was no chance of hearing an individual shout. Thankfully Mark’s family were positioned on the quieter stretch of the hill so provided a welcome morale boost before the lactic burn kicked in. It was clear now a few runners were starting to suffer and it was possible to gradually move through the field. Unlike a normal XC there were a lack of familiar faces to measure your performance against, you just had to try and keep pushing on.

The final lap meant one last big effort. The convoluted nature of the course meant it was far from clear how far you needed to travel to the finish but eventually it came. Not long after Mark crossed the line too to ensure 2/3 Harriers got round safely. 852th place in 53.18 was the reward for my efforts, not often you can be pleased with coming in the top 1000. Mark came 964th in 54.38. To put this into context there were circa 1800 runners and we both ran sub 7 minute miles for nearly 8 miles through plenty of bog. A good effort but the real challenge was still to come….cleaning the mud off. Not sure my toenails will ever be clean again. 😂

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The Magnificent 7 and the Lone Ranger

Knowsley Safari Park was the scene for the Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships, two laps and then the lions are released well that’s what we joked but those poor lions 🦁 wouldn’t have stood a chance of making it through the swamp.

Many have bitter memories of running at Knowsley, for good reason, it’s usually tough and Saturday didn’t disappoint. Let me make one thing very clear, the photographs do NOT do it justice, it was very heavy mud in most of the course.

First up was the Ladies race. First place Harrier was Pauline Foster with a very determined run. Well done Pauline, our lone ranger. Pauline ran the two lap course in 52.28 coming home in 317th place out of 362

When Pauline realised she was our sole female competitor there was no complaints or grumbling, she just got on with it and did herself proud.

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Meanwhile the men sorted themselves out for a team photo in the nick of time. GB “social media” Sticks resisted the temptation to try a team selfie and chose someone slow looking to take the photo. The men had seven so barring two drop outs we were good for a team placing.

Now my warm up had consisted of running over to collect the numbers and then over to the only part of the course that wasn’t muddy so I have to admit a slight tinge of guilt that I underplayed the course to Northerns newbie David Barton. He has recently joined in on the delights of XC experiencing the joys of Towneley Park too. David you now deserve an easier one!

Kev Total Warrior Edwards was ready for the challenge in his trail shoes and white socks (did they wash alright?), fair play to Kev, XC is not his favourite and it never was at the peak of his powers but when he can he joins us and he always makes a great contribution to the team. Thanks Kevin.

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Three laps and 12k of undulating muddy hell. Here’s some action shots…

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Finishing line photos.

I think we all burst down the finishing straight, joyous that it was over at last!

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There was plenty of on course support, thanks support crew. 🙏

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Men’s results then…a total of 676 finishers (plenty pulled up!)

166th Tesfagaber Waldu 50.58

263th Mark Morgan-Hillam 54.23

332th Stephen Nicholls 56.38

349th Mike Harris 57.26

432th Gary Wane 1.00.42

454th David Barton 1.01.49

615th Kevin Edwards 1.11.52

Team result was 34th out of 50 teams. Well done fellas!

Two more Mid Lancs fixtures and the Nationals to go, how exciting!

 

Cuerden Valley Cross Country

This Saturday sees the 2nd fixture of the Mid Lancs Cross Country League take place at Cuerden Valley Park in nearby Bamber Bridge.

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Although the area for club tents is sloping (lol!) we aim to take the tent and flag to claim a small portion of Lancashire for the day.

Cuerden Valley course description

You will notice there is a choice of car parks, all around the perimeter of the park.  The nearest is the one off Berkeley Drive (this is the main car park for the park). If this is full you will be directed to one of the others.  If you are arriving late it may be better for them to head for one of the other car parks.  Clayton Green Asda on the east has a large car park and it’s now possible to use the car park of a closed down hotel; Pines Hotel 570 Preston Road PR6 7EB.

Not sure whether you are ready for this then take a look at this article for some encouragement.

What’s it all about?

We need at least 12 men and 6 ladies so everyone registered with the club is welcome to join us. Coffee and cake to follow!

If you want any further advice then ask the coaches at training.

Marvellous medal haul

The 2015-16 Cross Country season fizzled out into a damp squid, the last race of the season being cancelled due to flooding. This meant however the results after five races stood and with that fantastic success for Wigan Harriers.

The prize giving was again held in Bamber Bridge as customary the weekend of Manchester Marathon. A number of Harriers represented the club and brought back a trailer load of awards.

Leading the charge towards the prize table were the Ladies. In both V35 and V45 classes they swept to victory taking top honours, finishing top of the table picking Gold medals. The senior ladies also consolidated their position in Division One with a great third place yielding Bronze medals. Well done to the ladies for a brilliant season, a real team effort! 🏅🍾

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Although not quite as awesome as the Ladies, the Harriers Men also had a great season. A big turn out for race 5 at Rossall School saved the B team from Division 3 relegation. The V40 men maintained their Division 1 status which with several new recruits joining us over the course of the season bodes well for the 16-17 season. Finally the Senior Men managed to snatch some prizes from that top table, against pre-season expectations they bounced straight back into Division One securing promotion in 2nd place behind the impressive Barlick. Achieving this without a number of Harriers stalwarts was excellent and hopefully bodes well again for next season. Silver medals for the men. 🎖

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Wigan Harriers were not finished though….Jayne Taylor picked up not one but two individual prizes. 🍾 Third in V35 and first in V45 – brilliant! Whisper it quietly but all that was achieved on the cusp of turning 55 (Apologies for mentioning that but it makes the achievement even more special).

As is now customary at awards ceremonies Howard obliged as official photographer. Dave struggled to hide his feelings on seeing Howard produce his phone. 😦

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Well done to all the Harriers who represented their club this year in all age groups from Juniors through to the most senior of seniors! Another fantastic year.

 

A trip to the seaside?

Well that’s what’s on offer to all Harriers on 13th February. The 5th fixture of the Mid Lancs Cross Country takes place at the Rossall School Cleveleys. For a change it looks like it’s destined to be a flat one with the possibility of a refreshing breeze to accompany the sea view.

Can you join us at the seaside?

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Ooh that looks flat for a change?

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Buckets and spades for afterwards? An afternoon at the seaside with a nice cross country run!

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Go on come and join us on the coast. 😎

https://wiganharriersendurance.wordpress.com/fixtures/cross-country-fixtures/

 

Northern Athletics Cross Country Champs

The Northern Cross Country Championships by a traumatised Mark Morgan-Hillam!

Saturday 30th January, 2016. Witton Park, Blackburn.

Before I begin this write up I feel the need to justify myself a little. Firstly, I LOVE cross-country. I am not one of those soft road runners who cries every time they see a hill or, more importantly, a puddle! I love to run on trails, I generally enjoy running uphill (although I will happily admit to hating descents) and, most importantly, I love a bit of mud! It makes you fitter, stronger, faster in the long run. I am not telling you this to show off. I am telling you this so that when I tell you that this cross-country was the hardest hour of running in my life; that the conditions were so bad I wanted to drop-out with every fibre of my being; you know I am not exaggerating! To anyone, of any age or gender, who finished their race today, I salute you!

Saturday 30th January, 2016. Witton Park, Blackburn. The venue and date may be forever etched deep into my soul. When I eventually arrive at the Pearly Gates and some angel is tasked with viewing my life in a timeline of emotions before deciding whether I can enter, they might just glance down my life as a line graph before looking up and asking; “Jesus, what happened in January, 2016?!”

It’s lap 2 of a 4 lap race. Yes folks, FOUR laps. That was sticking the knife in for a start. I have only run a few club cross-countries but my body is already trained to deal with three laps. The first lap is for finding a good pace and learning the route, the second lap is consolidation and adapting your pace now you know where you’re going, the third lap is to expend any remaining energy. What the hell is the fourth lap for???

Anyway, I am already digressing, it’s lap 2 of FOUR laps. The hill is steep, the mud torturous, the wind (into your face, obviously) is bitingly cold, the hail is being driven sideways into every available piece of flesh on show. For the first time in my running life, I am genuinely wondering what the **** I am doing being out in this – for fun. I want to cry. I could get away with crying too. No-one would know; the hail sliding down my cheeks would hide the tears. But mostly, I want to stop running, get indoors and get some clothes on. This has never happened before. And there are two more ****ing laps left – after I get round this one!

Looking back, I am pretty certain that I would have carried on anyway, I am pretty stubborn in these situations, but, at the time, the only thing keeping me going was the team. And this is the beauty of running for a club and not as an individual – the ethic that you cannot let your teammates down drives you on. Both the men’s and women’s teams had exactly the right numbers. One drop out – no team. So on we all went, through the mud, up the hill, into the maelstrom…

The Course.

Longer standing members may know the Witton Park venue. Apparently the usual Red Rose league route involves a similar lap of the flat field at the bottom of the course and the climb behind the Pavilion cafe. However, with this being the Northern Championships, an extra climb was added, also behind the cafe. The route was now, in my opinion, the perfect cross-country route – a 1.6 mile lap, half through flat fields, the other half a double shark fin of climbing and descending. The first climb (the additional one not on the league route) was particularly tough; steep and unrelenting on an adverse camber meaning you couldn’t even aim straight up it without being sent slithering off course again, before a hilarious vertical descent in shin deep mud down a bank that would make the most graceful of runners look like a Wildebeest during a lion attack!

So, all sounds good so far, what’s to moan about? Well, it is very difficult to describe the conditions underfoot without being accused of exaggerating. But I can tell you, hand on heart, that the entire course was mud. The best conditions were ankle deep mud. The worst conditions were shin deep and, for some people, knee deep mud! For the entire route! There was no ‘ideal line’ to be had. Believe me, I did four laps and never ran the same line twice! It made no difference. Pile straight through it was the only option because the other options were merely a longer route in the same conditions!

In the changing rooms afterwards, more experienced runners than I discussed if these were the worst conditions ever experienced. The only event comparable, they decided, was a Northern Championships at Knowsley in similar mud and heavy snow. This was, however, largely dismissed as (and I was not there to confirm this) apparently at Knowsley there were some sections of the route solid enough for actual running to take place. This certainly was not the case at Witton Park!

Oh, and one added bonus – this was the Northern Championships, so it’s longer than usual! For the women: a lap of the field section, then three full laps – 8.8km. For the men: the same with the bonus fourth lap (have I mentioned the fourth lap?!) – 11.5km.

The Teams.

The women – Jayne Taylor, Shona Taylor, Pauline Foster and Lisa Atherton.
The men – Steve Nicholls, Dave Collins, Mike Harris, Tony Foster, Gary Wane and Mark Morgan-Hillam.

The Build-Up.

The first thing that cannot go unmentioned was the team ‘carb-loading’ session the night before the race! Thanks to our Social Committee of Nina, Mel and Becki for a great night at the Christmas/NY bash! However, this may not have been the best preparation for the following day…(!)

Mike and I arrived nice and early and soon found Jayne and Dave huddled behind a large tree! Almost immediately the first squall of biting wind and hail came in. The weather pattern would remain consistent throughout the day – 15 minutes where the sun would appear and it would seem to be a reasonable winter’s day. Then 15 minutes where the wind would blow, the hail would bite, and the temperature would feel to drop about five degrees. Initial disappointment at the absence of our team tent soon disappeared – many teams have the same one as us; most of them were blown down during one or all of the squalls which blew through!

One by one the team arrived and all began the same mathematical equations in their heads; ie. ’Until exactly what time can I leave every item of clothing on my body without actually missing the start of the race?!’

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The Women’s Race.

I could only look on with sympathy as the women finally had to don their race gear whilst I remained in my six layers of clothing. Off they soldiered towards the start line; framed from our vantage point by the next menacing black cloud looming over the hill.

The much larger number of runners is certainly an impressive sight and, after a lap of the field, the women swept past us, round the bend and off towards the first climb of the race. It is always worth attending these larger events just to watch the front-runners. They are so impressive – a different breed. (More on this later!)

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Then the hail came.

I tried to stay out and support them! I really did. Honestly! I saw Jayne come round again the first time, then Shona. Every runner’s face bore the same haunted look – it was like a scene from Platoon! And this was the first lap! But the hail was driving and it hurt your face to look up, so the entire men’s team took the soft, unanimous option and decided that we needed to prepare for our own race – in the changing rooms!

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I therefore cannot comment further on the women’s performances, other than to reiterate that anyone who finished that race, in whatever time, deserves respect. The women undoubtedly copped for the longest, most prolonged hailstorm of the day. Brutal.

Jayne Taylor – 92nd – 38m19s
Shona Taylor – 259th – 46m48s
Pauline Foster – 303rd – 50m27s
Lisa Atherton – 304th – 50m27s

358 finished. (There were a lot of retirements, so I don’t know how many started.)

38th place of 40 complete teams.

The Men’s Race.

We got changed slowly. No point going outside unnecessarily. We had a team selfie – inside, (that took up a couple more minutes.) We went to the doorway. We stood in the doorway looking out for a bit. You get the picture. We weren’t keen.

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Eventually, there was no alternative. The run from the changing room to the start line was our warm-up. And even then Dave and Tony nearly managed to miss the start! The start line was the best bit. Being huddled in a large crowd was the only time I was warm all day.

Then we were off. My general strategy is to bolt off a bit at the start and try and find some space. “Bloody hell, Mark’s buggered off already!” was the last thing I heard Mike say from behind! (He was upset at leaving his Garmin at home, so I’d told him just to run next to me and I’d record it for him.) However, this was a large field, a fast field, so there wasn’t going to be any space. It also became very quickly apparent that the nice, flat lap of the field to get your legs moving was going to be nothing of the sort. Already we were up to our ankles. ‘It’ll settle down in a bit!” Nope. Ankle or shin deep mud every bit of the way to the tented area. Less than one mile down – the four laps only now commencing. Jesus. No wonder the women looked so traumatised. My legs and lungs were already burning and we hadn’t technically started the laps yet!

Up the first climb we slipped. Two steps up, one slide right, course bearing left. Into the wind. Adrenaline already waning. Down the bank desperately trying to remain upright. My shiny new 15mm spikes no match for this terrain. (“Never mind 15mm spikes, you needed javelins in your soles!” Steve afterwards!)

Up the second climb. Slightly less room, absolutely no ideal line. Onto the second descent, described as the ‘muddy field’ by those in the know pre-race! So yes, shin and knee deep mud all the way – but at least the gradient was more gentle, so this part of the course was actually quite enjoyable. At the bottom there is a gate where you emerged back into the lower field and a large crowd was assembled here. I know why they were there! There was a particularly deep bog right at the bottom on a camber. There must have been some hilarious full-body-bog-dives there! For anyone out-of-control, tired, going too fast or simply not picking their feet up there could only be one outcome! On the four occasions I went through there were audible groans from the crowd when I emerged unscathed!

Round the field. This should be the easy bit. But it’s not. It’s torture. Now you feel like you should be running properly but you just can’t get going.

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Onto lap two.

Up to that point us gents had got off lightly weather wise.

Then the hail came again…

I have already described my emotions as I began climbing again. Insanity. What were we doing out here? Get your head down, try and keep moving.

Up. Down. Up. Down. Field. Repeat.

Lap three. By now the top of the first climb is like the Somme. As with the women’s race, I have no idea how many dropped out of our race, but I have never seen so many runners walking back down the course in the wrong direction or simply stood at the side of the course with their families. I am now starting to lap a lot of people. Usually, by this stage, you have an idea of the guys around you, the ones you are vying for position with. But not today. It’s impossible to tell who’s on your lap and who isn’t.

Gary said it was at this point that (his words) “I did one of those burps where you’re sick in your own mouth!” He wasn’t sure if it was the party beer, his morning bacon and sausage butties, or a combination of the two…

Into the field and heading for the finish area to begin my last lap. Funnily enough, as if to prove the point that running is as much in the head as the legs, I am undergoing a recovery of sorts. I feel pretty good. I’m starting to revel in what, after-all, should be my kind of conditions. But really I’m just delighted that there is only one more lap to go!

Then it happens.

It’s the vociferous shouting of the crowd that alerts me to it first. Then it’s the sound. It’s like galloping horses hooves! S*** – I’m going to get lapped!!! Into the final straight I turn, right where the finish funnel splits from the course proper. But there he goes in my peripheral vision; a blur of Sale Harrier green. Then the second place guy. I never saw the third place bloke but he must have been right there as the crowd were shouting three different names!

As I said before, one of the amazing things about these big races is seeing the elites in action. The other Harriers said it was amazing to watch these guys appearing not to touch the ground at all, even in these conditions. I was stunned. But, mostly, I was just jealous that they could stop running and I had to go round again!

Lap four – the unnecessary lap!

The top of that penultimate climb was only bearable because I didn’t have to do it again. Most were walking up. I maintained the pretence of running only because I was determined to be able to say afterwards “I didn’t walk!” – not because I was actually travelling any faster than those who were walking!

The last climb – oh the joy of cresting it! I pretty much laughed all the way down the ‘muddy field’ and attempted a finishing spurt of sorts round the field.

The finish line. Thank **** for that. It was one of those finish lines where there was a marshal specifically charged with the job of making runners move away from the finish line and through the finish area. To a man every runner crossed the line and stopped dead, there and then.

Mike was the next Harrier in, narrowly seeing off Dave (again!) in their personal battle! Steve, Gary and Tony soon followed and finally it was over!

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Coffee and cakes have never been so deserved!

Mark Morgan-Hillam – 261st – 57m13s
Mike Harris – 310th – 59m31s
Dave Collins – 314th – 59m39s
Steve Nicholls – 405th – 63m03s
Gary Wane – 569th – 70m39s
Tony Foster – 645th – 78m14s
719 finishers (a lot more started!)

39th place team of 52 complete teams.

Mid Lancs XC needs you!

And of course you need it!

This coming weekend is the second fixture in the Mid Lancs Cross Country League on Saturday 24th October. It takes place at Towneley Park in tropical Burnley. After a very successful opening fixture at Chorley it’s a great opportunity for the Mens and Ladies teams to build on those results.

Please do your best to run if possible, it’s great for strength, stamina and it really does help promote the club. We need plenty of runners as we would like to score A & B teams. It will be marvelous fun and there are plenty of team mates on hand with shouts of encouragement. Afterwards there is usually time for a quick pit stop in the cafe next door!

Race times

12.30pm u11 girls
up to 2K
12.45pm u11 boys
up to 2K
1.00pm u13 girls
2.5K
1.20pm u15 girls and u13 boys
3K
1.40pm u15 boys and u17 women
4K
2.00pm u17 men, v70 men and jnr, snr & vet women
6K
2.30pm jnr, snr and vet men
9-10K

 

Venue map

Course map

If anyone needs a lift please ask as I’m sure it can be sorted.

A few pictures from the Towneley Park fixture in January this year. I don’t think it will be quite so muddy this time or cold!

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Wigan Harriers Endurance – 2012 in pictures

Year one of the website…who can you see?

Wigan Harriers - Barrow

Wigan Harriers Cross Country Team at Barrow 2012

Tim Pilkington

Tim Pilkington

Julie and Darren

Julie and Darren

Andy and Tracey

Andy and Tracey

 

 

Graham in the home straight

Graham in the home straight

Dave Collins

Dave Collins

winners!

Wigan Harriers Cross Country celebrations

xc-ladies

Ladies XC Team

Shona

Shona

Kev taking it easy again

Kev taking it easy again

Chris Smullen leads the way for Harriers.

Chris Smullen leads the way for Harriers.

Team Wigan Harriers - Blackburn 2012

Team Wigan Harriers – Blackburn 2012

Mark

Mark

Andy

Andy

Spring Lamb

Spring Lamb

Wigan Harriers

Wigan Harriers

Statto debut

Statto debut

Turbo vet Mark

Turbo vet Mark

Richie

Richie

Harriers Mens Team: currently taking bookings for hen nights

Harriers Mens Team: currently taking bookings for hen nights

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

80's heart throbs Bros ageing badly

80’s heart throbs Bros ageing badly

 

Mid Lancs Cross Country Astley Park

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!)

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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.

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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.

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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 imagewith 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 imagegenerally came back to me in the second half.

 

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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!)

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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!

https://wiganharriersendurance.wordpress.com/fixtures/cross-country-fixtures/

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Lancaster Mid Lancs XC finale

The final stop for the Mid Lancs Cross Country season was Lancaster. With a lengthy drive an effort was made to car share which contributed to a great race atmosphere. Everyone collected we set off from a very sunny and mild Wigan and after crawling through traffic in Lancaster arrived at a chilly and wind swept Ryelands Park.

We parked up and were greeted with a friendly phone call, “Where’s the tent we’re bloomin’ freezing here!” or words to that affect. Never one to upset Mr Collins we raced over and battled the gusty winds to erect our rather tired looking tent. Continue reading