I was always determined to write the end of season Cross Country report before the end of March. Why? Well if it was anything like my recent attempts to blog it wouldn’t happen otherwise. I also associate March with being the last month of the season so it was rather surprising we were all done by the end of February. One month on it was just as well we had finished as March turned into the most bizarre month (with more of course to come!)
Added note – it of course took me ages to complete this blog!
A very wet and muddy and muddy Cross Country season, that is probably the biggest understatement ever! It was just as well we started the season with a couple of brand new tents. Thankfully they survived the season and were reasonably clean when we put them away but more of the last fixture later!
Ulverston – Fixture 1
We started the season with a September away day to Ulverston. We ended the previous season there so it seemed strange to be back there so soon. Now my memory is getting poor with old age but I do recall the savage weather forecast being incorrect and we were treated to some decent sun. A course shoehorned into the space available at Glaxo sports ground, it was the 3rd time we had competed there and it was a decent benign opener to the season. With it being further afield it’s always a good place to earn good team points if you can get a team out. The ladies got their season off to a great start with a brilliant 3rd place overall and 3rd within Division one. Blackburn Harriers taking the win.
Ladies team – Laura Dootson, Kelly Anne Towns, Jacqui Jones, Lisa Heyes, Rachel Lawton and Katrina Hamilton.
The men were able to watch as the course got slowly churned up. There are a few sections of hard ground so it’s one of those courses where the jury is out on which shoes are best.
The men were starting to sweat on whether for the second year running we would only have 5 and not the 6 required for a team score but thankfully 6 rolled up! Steve Nicholls running with a cough, any thoughts of suggesting he sat it out being put on the back burner!
Jonathan Kearsley got his season off to a flyer with a great run although he was aided by some pacemaking for the first 200 metres from Steve “Go out real hard” Nicholls.
Bringing the men home then was the Harriers blond bomber Jon Kearsley (big Jon) in 35th place. His love of the mud only rivalled by his love of his dry robe. Of subtly different dimensions but not lacking any speed was the other John – of the Heyes variety. Apart from a small scare at the end of the first lap John had 2nd place covered off for the team. After briefly surprising John I held onto 3rd place. Although I was reasonably fit from Autumn marathon I have no recollection of actually feeling it as I made my way around multiple laps. A good reminder of how good Cross Country running is for your fitness! 4th for the team was Steve, then Stuart Towns and Steve Pendergrast. I may have remembered this incorrectly but I think it was Stephen and Katrina’s first XC race and it was great to have them there as without them we wouldn’t have managed complete teams. Well done, a great effort as it’s a decent drive for your first outing.
Men’s team – Jonathan Kearsley, John Heyes, Mike Harris, Steve Nicholls, Stuart Towns & Stephen Pendergrast.
It’s at this point I cheat slightly as I wrote a report for the second race, although John Heyes and Stuart Towns said I only wrote one to illustrate they weren’t there! (They were off trying to win the Warrington Way pairs relay)
Hyndburn – Fixture 2
First up were the Ladies team. Represented by Marie Jarvis, Danielle Brearton KellyAnne Towns, Jacqui Jones and Pauline Foster.
Hyndburn is one of people’s favourite courses. It has most natural obstacles you can imagine, not out and out hilly but plenty of undulations. The only thing missing is a stream or river but it trades water for mud and plenty of it. Not the severity of Knowsley or Witton Park (runners of the Northern XC Champs at those venues will be having palpitations at those mentions!!) but enough to make it very very tough.
The ladies had a brilliant day, they might have been light in numbers (come on we need more of you!) but they made up for it in an excellent performance. Leading the ladies home in a brilliant 7th place was Danielle in 27:19. A fantastic result that really got the team off to a great start. Next was Marie (battling a cold as well as the mud) in 32nd and 30:13. Making it home as 3rd counter was KellyAnne 41st place in 30:43. Jacqui was 56th in 31:45 and Pauline was 107th in 37:28, coming home completely covered in mud following a serious case of face planting.
This meant the Ladies were 5th team and 3rd V35 team. A great return on their efforts!
Ladies team – Danielle Brearton, Marie Jarvis, KellyAnne Towns, Jacqui Jones and Pauline Foster.
Next were the men with a turnout of 10 and a serious loading of handsome V40 runners! Hell! Who says the editor can’t show some artistic licence! By now the course was at it’s “churned up finest”. Please don’t be fooled by the excessive clothing in the photo, come race time it was strictly vest and shorts only for these tough guys!
Mike Harris, Steve Nicholls, Paul Fitzsimmons, Tony Foster, Chris Simpson (unusually camera shy?), Sanjay Bisnauthsing, Stuart Fairclough, Jeff Derbyshire and Mark Morgan-Hillam were the male line up.
It’s fair to say that the going was heavy and after a series of races to churn it up downright horrible in parts. There were a few runners who examined the mud in closer detail, Simmo not wanting to be outdone by Pauline doing a bit of a face plant too! Apparently the mud is good for your complexion!
Absolutely blasting round the course for the men was Jonathan, finishing 33rd in an impressive 40:41. Then the pop sensation Stevie Nicks bounced back to form in 72nd place in 43:37. An excellent debut from Sanjay in 81st and 44:13. Next was a steady procession of V40 Harriers. Mike in 85th with 44:30, Mark 91st with 44:41, Chris Simpson (who had adopted camo face paint by this stage) in 100th in 45:12 chased in by Stuart in 101st in 45:14. Then we had Paul Fitzsimmons in 108th in 45:36. Tony was 206th in 53:03 and Jeff was 259th in 1:04:06.10th place team and 6th V40 team.
Men’s team – Jonathan Kearsley, Steve Nicholls, Sanjay Bisnauthsing, Mike Harris, Mark Morgan-Hillam, Chris Simpson, Stuart Fairclough, Paul Fitzsimmons, Tony Foster and Jeff Derbyshire.
A tough but very enjoyable day. An honourable mention to the younger athletes who also made the journey to represent Harriers, well done!
Sefton Park – 3rd fixture
Sefton Park, one of the bigger fixtures on the calendar. A combination of leagues, a National series of events and a European Championships qualifier draws the athletes and spectators in decent numbers.
A fairly flat parkland course that drains well resulting in only a few patches of mud after poor weather. NOT THIS YEAR! After the wet weather we had in the autumn it was muddy on all of the course and very very heavy in parts. It certainly changed it from a course where it’s possible to run at your “road race pace”. It was only looking at the photos that reminded me how bloody awful the mud was!
Danielle had another great run coming home first place for the team and 10th in the ML race. Recovered from her cold was Marie Jarvis in 2nd place (21st) and final place on the ladies A team was Jacqui Jones who was having an excellent season. Overall we had 12 female athletes competing which was a fantastic turnout with a great 6th place.
Ladies team – Danielle Brearton, Marie Jarvis, Jacqui Jones, KellyAnne Towns, Jayne Salloum, Lisa Heyes, Davina Hughes, Carla Taylor, Pauline Foster, Rachel Lawton, Michelle Jones and Sarah Coates.
Now the men got to enjoy the course after everyone else had given it a right good chewing over. One time we should get to go first!
Check out the orange shoes and white socks sported by Jeff “Keen as mustard” Derbyshire. New on for Sefton, it’s fair to say they lost their glow after a battle in the trenches!
It was a tough day at the office but leading the men home was Tim Hartley with a fantastic 33rd place. Next home and 1st Vet Harrier was John Heyes with a super 52nd, this helped the Men’s Vet team to a great 3rd place, We had a strong team out but there was some serious switching around of finish positions from previous races!
Full Men’s team was Tim Hartley, John Heyes, Stuart Fairclough, Mark Morgan-Hillam, Steve Nicholls, Mike Harris, Chris Simpson, Darren Jackson, Paul Carter, Mike Casey and Jeff Derbyshire.
Next was a long break until the January races and a chance for Mother Nature to rustle up some extra mud!
To be continued……