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.

 

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…..

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. 😂

Parbold Hill Race

Parbold Hill Race by Karen Moorfield.

This is one of my favourite races and I know it clashes with cross country but I’ve done this race every year since I started running, that’s not some record as its only 3 years for those who don’t know me. On the warm up some guy said it was ten years since he had last done this race and when I hear things like that I am always amazed and it makes me wish I had started running much sooner in life.

The weather was cold but dry at least and I was seriously thinking I’d made the wrong choice in just a vest and shorts. Everyone else seemed to be wearing pants and long sleeve tops, some even with vests over long sleeve tops and there was the odd jacket about. Warren did his usual to put my mind at ease, I can’t help it I still get nervous before any race and I suspect I always will. I actually think it is good for me as it’s not nervous in a bad way, I mean I’m not throwing up constantly or rushing to the toilet any more than every other runner doing the race.

We had the added bonus this year of expanding on the Moorfield racers, yeah that’s right Jenna came with us and this time to race not to watch. if you’re not familiar and haven’t seen her at the odd Tuesday training session Jenna is Warren’s 16 year old daughter. During the warm up and waiting for the start we made sure we explained to Jenna to be careful not to get penned in and to make sure she did not fall or get knocked over. If you have never attempted this race the start can be chaotic, in fact it’s always chaotic but that just adds to the fun. This year took it to a whole new level as there were several attempts to start the race but the starter gun wouldn’t work and so it fell to a quick countdown and then we were off.

The start of this race is on a small field and after about 5 strides there is a quick sharp left turn and then everyone has to funnel out through the narrow channel out of the field and so everyone except those at the front get squished together. I set off reasonably well and was looking but could not see Warren or Jenna but that was fine, I’d see them at the end. I turned the first left on the field and the guy in front of me went down to a chorus of “whoooaaa.” this was a first for me, someone falling right in front of me and I can now say with 100% certainty that when running and the person directly in front goes down there is very little if any time to react. I did try to go right around him with a half jump but as I went that way so did his legs and so his feet struck me on my shins. There was only one way I was going and it weren’t right or left. I sort of tumbled forward which wasn’t that bad, I managed to put my arms out and i seemed to push myself back up pretty quickly. there was of course a second huge roar of “whoooaaa” reserved solely for me but it’s a race and I had a time to beat so no time to be embarrassed.

I felt like I then had to leg it faster than I wanted to down the road past the pub and for those who enjoy the summer midweek races this route turns left off the main road where the Harrock hill race starts. my main goal this time was to get under 1 hour as the year before I finished in 1 hour dead. The long first climb up has on previous years resulted in me walking part way up where it narrows and its easy to stop here when the person in front starts to stop and walk because in some sections you simply can’t get past. Then relief at the top and satisfaction knowing that I had just run up the middle of Parbold hill without stopping and now for the run down through the fields.

The run down has been easier the past two years as this was the wettest I’ve encountered this course and my la sportive bushido trail shoes which I love and would recommend to anyone are clearly not meant for that amount of mud and grass and something like an Inov8 mud claw or even Warren’s Salomon Speedcross would have been better. At a number of section throughout this race my feet were sliding sideways and in some parts the mud puddles were well over the ankles but these are all the reasons I love off road running.

Running down the grass hills, through the mud and divots (and let’s be honest the animal pooh) I think is one of the best feelings ever and I don’t mean running through pooh is fantastic its the feeling of letting go, of losing a bit of control. It may sound stupid to some but to others you might know exactly what I mean, hurtling downhill, a little sense of danger, that you could fall anytime, it’s a thrill or maybe its just me, maybe I am a bit crazy.

Anyway as I’m hurtling down the hill I am fully aware that I have yet again got to climb Parbold Hill, yeah that’s right this race is twice up Parbold Hill and this time its running up the main road past the front of the Miller and Carter and then left back onto the fields. As usual Chris and Andy Nightingale were up near the top cheering everyone one and this always puts an extra spring in my step at what is a tough part of this course. I have now come to expect them at this point cheering and clapping so a huge thank you to them both for this year and every past year they have been there in support.

Unfortunately that’s not the end of the climbing as it’s a climb up from the road across more fields and this section was probably the worst, it was energy sapping thick mud this year and the stiles are so slippery when coated with mud. Everyone queues nicely for the stiles and gates with the odd person jumping the gate. I am far too calamitous to even attempt to jump a gate that high besides you are asked to not jump the gates and keep in the order you arrive at the stile in and so it’s all very sporting and everyone is so friendly. The queues at the stiles provide respite, a chance to catch your breath back but also to chat and have a laugh with other runners. If you want to get to the stile first then you simply have to run faster than everyone else its simple.

At one of the last stiles I was in a queue and the guy behind me squeezed the butt of the guy in front of me, so when he turns around I am the first person he sees. Thankfully his mate said something they said hello to one another. I said “I’m relieved at least he didn’t think it was me” to which he replied “you can have a feel if you want” as he climbed over the stile. Now I know racing is about having fun but I don’t think Warren would want to give me carte blanche to go around grabbing everyone’s bottom and so on this occasion I gestured to squeeze his butt without making actual contact. All of this seemed to amuse the marshal manning that stile and its good to have them laughing on such a cold day as the marshall’s did a tremendous job on this race, they always do.

The race route then goes past the Highmoor Restaurant and left on a tarmac section and over the dreaded cattle grid. I am going to rant now as I feel strongly about this, there is nothing I hate more than cattle grids, they are not animal friendly which is of course there purpose but they are not people friendly, nor are they bicycle friendly or even car friendly and so my conclusion they are pure evil. have got over the cattle grid alive and in tact there is then a wooded section which is rough under foot with millions of tree roots (ok millions was a slight over exaggeration there may have been 999,992 at a guess, that’s what it feels like).

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I know I’m on the downhill finish when the route hits the very narrow section where there is slippy mud and rocks under foot and on one side are trees and the other a wire fence and at this point no one can pass anyone but it leads out to a field which is then a free for all. the field is quite a steep downhill and its were you have two fence jumps. I felt last year’s set up was better. Last year there was a hay bale on the near side of the fence so you could stand on the bail and jump over the fence. this year the bale was on the other side which I though made it harder. I hope they rethink this for next year. anyway I was back with the freedom feeling as I picked up speed going down the hill passing other runners with my arms almost windmilling.

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Then there is the last couple of fields to cross before a quick few metres on the road to then cross the finish line on the field were the race started. it was Moorfield PB’s all round, Warren with 52:24, me with 57:37 and Jenna with 1:18:16. Still can’t believe at the start l was going on and on and on to Jenna about being careful and not getting tripped up only for me to be the one to end up on the ground, well that will teach me. I love off road running and I’m always hoping to convince other’s to take it up or even just to give it a try, as it’s not for everyone. I love trying to beat my previous years times but that’s not really what this type of off road running is about as you can never judge the conditions or terrain.

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Jenna it has to be said was undoubtably the star of the Moorfield household in this race. She is clear testament that anyone of any ability can do these types of races and all you have to do is decide to go for it. Yeah sure she is only a kid at 16 and so has bags of energy but the furthest she had ever raced before this race was the 5K Haigh Hall and Pennington Flash Park Runs. She was supposed to have a hockey match and when it got cancelled on Friday night, we asked her if she wanted to race with us and to be honest we didn’t expect her to say yes. Both me and Warren warned her about the hills and the mud and explained over and over how it would not be an easy course but she was resolute in that she wanted to run. She wasn’t pre-entered but we managed to get a number swap on the day (thanks Marc) and even though we drove down Parbold Hill to show her how big it was still she would not be deterred. She absolutely loved it and completely SMASHED IT!!!!!

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!

 

Petzl Night Runner by Karen Moorfield

Petzl Night Runner

2nd weekend in January means only one thing…. UFO’s! Well that’s how the race is sold but actually its the Petzl Night Runner Rivington 10K.

Cold start again for the second year in a row but sadly no snow this year. It had been forecast earlier in the week and I had been really excited about running in whiteout conditions but in the end is was not to be, it was very wet underfoot but thankfully the rain held off for the race itself.

7pm start meant us arriving at Rivington School an hour before for a standard mile warm up which turned into two followed by the compulsory briefing under the start gantry. Warren of course ushered me up to the front with my usual protestations of “ I can’t start up here with all these, I will slow them down.” I think Warren’s reply was along the lines of well don’t let them go past you. Following the countdown we were off, a downhill start (for at least 20 meters) and then a relentless energy sapping, leg trashing, uneven underfoot climb of approximately 2 miles. Now I know what your all thinking reading this, that bit has just sold it to you.

Next the flat bit along where the pigeon tower is and I’m sure most of you may well be familiar with how rocky and uneven the path really is and how that makes it just as challenging as the ascents and descents. It’s not flat for long before the route takes you up around the back of the Pike, thankfully not up to the top, that was my mantra at this point “ at least it’s not to the top, at least it’s not to the top.”

It’s a decent descent then back to the road past the Dog Kennel’s before a sharp left onto the footpath which then climbs all the way up to the top road and for those not familiar with the area, that’s the road that leads to the mast. On this climb I was aware that I was 3rd female and this particular stretch is one which Warren has had me spend many a training session doing. Warren’s theory being that this is good Mont Blanc and Lakeland 50 training. It was also fantastic training for this race, as whilst I did not close down on the second female I was happy to pass a number of runners on this section. Usually when training when I hit the road I have a breather for a few seconds and a quick look back at where I have come from but not in the race, no time to stop I had to head up the road before turning back off to the left onto the footpath up to the Two Lads.

This section from the road up to the Two Lads and then back down to the Dog Kennels has seen me fall a good many times on both races and training runs. Last June on a warm, dry, clear, light summers evening during the Henderson’s end race I fell face first scrapping all my shoulder which still had the scar a month later on my wedding day much to my Mum’s annoyance, but at least the dress covered it. In fact that is clearly a life long scar as its visible today. We had done a training run just over a week before during the day when the ground was thick with ice. Now I bet your thinking I slipped, which is logical but when I fall it aways seems to be spectacular. My foot went through the thick ice breaking and as my leg went down into the deep bog the broken ice pitched up and my knee slammed into the edge of it. This time I had to do it in the pitch black with just a head torch for company and it’s really hard to get used to running with a head torch so that you’re not blinded by your own breath bouncing off your beam.

I headed up to the Two Lads and carefully down to the Dog Kennel’s, sorry guys no tumbles on this occasion it passed easily and without incident. Once I hit the Dog Kennel’s I knew it was a straight descent back to the school and I could pick up some time. The two thirds is no technical trail as the terrain is uneven to say the least but you know your nearly home when hit the smooth tarmac for the final downhill just before the finish. It is on this part i was flying in fact the stats show that I managed mile 6 a second faster than Warren (I’m sure he understands that I have to get that point in). I over took the second female on the road descent and as I rounded the corner at the bottom i could then see the first female as I got closer to her she spotted me and accelerated off, I tried my hardest and finished strong but I had nothing left when I crossed the finish line.

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As it’s a chipped race on corrected times I finished 3rd female overall. I’d like to be able to share with you my prize for coming 3rd but it was cold and more importantly I had a homemade lasagne waiting for me at home that I had slaved over earlier in the day and that was now on the top of my agenda.

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I finished in a time of 01:01:16 which was 7 minutes faster than last year. Warren finished in a time of 57:31 which was 2 minutes faster than last year. This is always an epic race from Epic Events and well worth a go to get you out of your comfort zone. As for UFO’s I’m sure they were out there up on Rivington but I couldn’t see as I had my head down focusing on the terrain.

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This is a race for everyone, just check it out, Epic Events even encourage fancy dress so even if you just wants something that is fun but a bit different then this is definitely a race to consider.