Fell running training sessions

As we head in to the final couple of fixtures of the cross country season, some will be breathing sighs of relief and hiding their muddy shoes away for another year. Although for some in the club, attention is turning to more mud and hills in the fells – with Saltwell’s own Fell Series starting on Sunday 8th March at Brough Law. For those who don’t know what it’s all about, the Fell Series is an internal competition of selected, local fell races across the year. See the post from January 13th for more information on the races and the rules for men/women.
 
Some fell races do require experience – often with technical terrain, tricky weather conditions and the need for navigational skills – and this sometimes puts people off from even thinking about it. However, Keith has kindly offered to lead a couple of Fell training sessions over the next couple of months, in place of the Saturday morning cross country sessions:
 
Saturday 21st March
Saturday 4th April
 
Nearer the time, we will be sorting out car sharing arrangements and times, but we just wanted to give you a bit of notice as you may want to think about whether it is something you are interested in. You would need a pair of trail or fell shoes although ask around to see if people have any spares you could try.
 
Saltwell has a great fell running history and an amazing level of experience within the club – chat to people like Keith, Fred, Jim, Peter, Phil J, Paul Richardson and others for some amazing tales. They would also be able to offer advice on good races to try if you don’t have much experience.
 
Have we twisted your arm yet? 😉
 

National XC – The Ladies Race

10991262_10206335993504334_5937479017588896357_nAlready in London, my nationals started with a 5:30am text from Bill saying that he’d forgotten to bring my wellies. Great. Back to sleep for a few hours before getting up for a pre-parliament hills parkrun. On the way I was blessed with Facetime live from the back of the bus where they all looked like they were having a lot of fun in their Where’s Wally onesies.
 
Arrived at Gladstone Parkrun to find other North-Easterners has chosen it as their nationals warm up.  “There’s people here who have come all the way from Durham” announced the Race Director, “Durham?!” I cried “I’ve come from Gateshead, man!” before I realised just how loud I was.  I reassured the unconvinced parkrunners from Riverside and Darlington that, despite what the race director said, Gladstone’s big hill was no-where near as bad as anything in Saltwell Park or anything we were going to face that afternoon.
 
After the parkrun & porridge I set off to the meet the arriving Hoops.  There’s nothing like lugging 30kgs of luggage up the stairs of the tube to make sure you stay warm!  The slow drag up from Hamstead Heath station was particularly challenging.  Eventually the hoops arrived & we set off to Parliament Hills with Phil James videoing everything for posterity.
 
The realisation of just how muddy and hilly this course was began to dawn on people as we spotted the juniors running past covered in mud.  We found the first spot of grass without dog dirt and the men started to pitch the tent.  Gillian set off to buy a hoody but the rest of us decided not to bother as there was no way anything would be as good as the Del Boy Candlish 2015 Saltwell range.
 
The next hour was mainly spent by the girls sitting in the tent rocking, wondering what on earth we were doing on a Saturday afternoon and worrying about whether we started at 2 or twenty past before the six of us set off down the big hill to our doom.
 
Shivering and complaining about how muddy it was we arrived in our pen.  “I’ve lost my signal” cried Lisa DP.  “Well you’d better get it back because if you can’t uploap this to Strava later then it doesn’t count!” I replied.  We all edged forward and waited, fingers on Garmin buttons.
 
Bang!
 
1000 or so women charged towards the big muddy hill and past the lads with shouts of go on Saltwell ringing in our ears.  Off around the corner I started to panic that I’d done my usual trick of setting off way way too fast and wondered how on earth I was going to pace myself without Jacqui to chase.
 
Even this early into the course it was obvious that this was way worse than either Pontefract or Bedewell.  Muddy, really muddy, and with a beautiful aroma of horse manure.  I had a quick look around to try to spot some more hoops as we hit a downhill section then just as we started to climb an Aykeley Heads-esque hill I spotted someone I recognised, Vicki Thompson of the NEHL, and decided to follow her instead of running with all of these strange club vests.
 
I was actually enjoying the run and feeling ok towards the end of the first lap when we once again passed the lads & their shouts of encouragement.  That was until I remembered that 1 lap wasn’t actually half way on this course because we were running a medium and a large lap.
 
Up, down and back up through the quagmire we went and I spotted another hoop in front of me.  Wondering who it was I picked up the pace to get closer before realising it was an imposter.  Another club rocking the hoops!
 
I was starting to get sick of the relentless mud when we hit a new section and started to double back on each other.  I heard a few shouts of encouragement from other North-East clubs and tried to return them but I wasn’t really in the mood to speak by this point.  Probably for the best, as it meant I couldn’t say anything to the lying marshals who kept telling me that it was all down hill from here.  It wasn’t.  Ever.
 
By this point in the race I decided I wanted to go home.  Being ankle deep in mud had totally lost its appeal and I was getting slower by the second.  Every time I heard heavy breathing on my shoulder I convinced myself that this time it must be a Saltwellian and was disappointed not to see a friendly face.  I kept glancing at my watch wondering just how long 8km was in miles but was too brain dead to do the maths. 
 
I’d cheerily said at the start not to worry and that it was only 45mins of our lives but it felt pretty depressing when I’d been running for 46 minutes and still couldn’t see the finish.  I’d just about accepted that death was imminent when I heard the noise of 3000 blokes trudging through mud and realised that they’d set off and I must be nearly there after all.  What a relief as the course passed through the trees and I could actually see the inflatable arch of the finish line.  More importantly, it was downhill!  As we turned the corner onto the flat I tried to sprint for the finish line but it was probably more of a slow splodge to cross the line in 48.03.
 
I took the chip off and got a celebratory hug from Lisa Atkinson of Gateshead Harriers before walking back towards the finish line to see two more hoops, Nicola and Lisa, running together to cross the line in 50:46 and 50:48 respectively.  The three of us were there to cheer Gillian home in 53:58, Sam in 54:39 and Lisa in 55:02.
 
Excellent running Ladies!!
 
Claire Lloyd
 

Alnwick Cross Country

alnwick_xcMost of you will know that this Saturday is the next Cross Country Harrier League fixture at Alnwick. If you don’t know…where have you been and how have you avoided Jim Thompson’s requests to run!
 
The venue is Alnwick Castle Fields (postcode NE66 1YU) with parking at Alnwick Castle carpark for a small charge – car sharing is recommended. As usual, Ladies off at 1.10pm and men at 2.15pm. For anyone who hasn’t ran in the Harrier League this year, numbers can be picked up on the day (anyone who gets there early can do this although failing this, one of the captains will do this when they get there).
 
It’s a great course and will be a great afternoon – see you all there!
 

The 2015 National Cross-Country Championships – Tales from the back of the pack.

philAre you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin..
 
What a strange Friday night, no alcohol, early to bed and try to get some sleep. No chance I’ve never felt this excitement since I was a kid at Christmas. Managed to get a few hours and then it was Saturday. The day started with the alarm being set for 4.40am, a grumpy wife donned her ‘Where’s wally’ onesie (the uniform of choice for the ladys, surprised it wasn’t on the Oscars catwalk last night).
 
Pack the last items into our cases and off into the Taxi with little Lisa Perry (aka Gob****). Get down to the the leisure centre and meet up with Phil Askew and Bill then comes our tour guide/transport organisor Gillian (aka Brendan off Coach-trip lol).
 
Onto the bus and head for the back seats with the rest of the naughty boys and girls and onto Low fell for our 2nd pick up. The coach drives right past Joe and Naz, who subsequently got an impromptu warm up. Then onto Washington to pick up the ‘skin and blister’ (sister) Nicola who supplied us naughty kids with tea and coffee (thanks sis).
 
The journey was going to be quite long but as with holiday trips it was loaded with excitement on the way down. The obligatory ‘let’s pick on Phil Askew’ started early at 5:50am when pulling into the service station. Phil A “I’m not running to get no coffee”, response “you never really run anywhere anyway”.
 
Then onto the bus comes Phil James with his 1990’s style camcorder and whilst videoing the happy bunch he asked “Where’s Phil Askew??”, to which I replied “Right at the back, as normal haha!!” Phil A was then talking about how he was going to get a selfie with the Brownlee boys and we started to anticipate how the race would go for us and Bill Wilson was talking about Phil Askew again “The race is only 2 laps, but I seem to have been lapped 3 times?” pure gold.
 
Downing our hot beverages and the stomachs started to rumble, right lets crack open them post-race flapjacks nom nom nom! By half-six the first little sing-along ensued “It’s all about the pace, bout the pace” and “Leader of the back” were a couple of songs that made an appearance. Then just five minutes later at 6:35am Sam Robertson started talking about Mojito’s and GNT’s (think someone has a problem lol).
 
Fifteen minutes later and then came the silence, woah this is weird but by 7:15am the banter was back and onto the second wind. The talk rapidly turned to bodily functions and bowel movements which seemed to be the theme of the weekend and it was agreed that no number 2’s were allowed on the bus toilet.
 
A few interesting discussions followed with echoing body parts, furbees and throwing sausages down Northhumberland street, just a few of the highlights. We then stop at Woodall services for a quick toilet break and a chance for us athletes to get a nutritionally balanced breakfast, or a sausage, bacon hash brown and bean sandwich for me #carbloading.

 
10am and we have 100 miles still to go and it’s getting a bit quiet in the back as we grow restless and impatient. Meanwhile down at the front, the grown-ups converse in adult conversations. A tv drops down from the coach ceiling and on comes American Sniper (worth a watch) and we talk about ‘Run fat boy, run’ (one of my faves) and I show Lisa P the blister scene, she almost vomits there and then, now that was funny.
 
Another stop at the services and have a brief chat with John Longstaff (aka dwarf lover), John “Eee it’s like we’re going on our holidays”, I reply “Yeah, but you look forward to going on holidays and dread coming back, where this is the other way round”. How foolish I was as a few of us really weren’t looking forward to the upcoming ‘race’.
 
Sam was loving the ‘back-crack’ and Lisa P was asking if anyone wanted a free-ride, dirty girls. We arrive and get ready for the mud, the weather was perfect not too warm or too cold and a barely a breeze. Whilst walking to where we going to pitch, it was evident that the course was a bit moist to say the least, as we saw the juniors covered from head to toe in the brown stuff.
 
We then proceed to set up base and we erect the tent, the girls then get changed and ready for their run. Off goes the gun and here they come all 865 of them, got a nice wave from the wife as she runs up with Gillian. Wow she’s actually smiling, a little bit of pride is felt but no time for that mush I gotta go pee and get sorted out.
 
Down to the portaloos and I feel like I’m queuing at the supermarket and then the usual happens, I always pick the wrong bloody line to stand in and I got a pooper DOH!! Ten minutes later and I can join the boys in getting ready and psyched up, tie the spikes on extra tight, if you can still feel your toes then they’re not on tight enough.
 
Barely got chance to see the women run but they all done great and Claire’s going to do a report on their run. The call comes over the tanoy and we all need to get to the start line, I enter from the rear (stop it!) and spot the guy who just beat me on the nationals Stephen from Askern RC, handshake and a quick hello then it’s onto find our pen.
 
Handshakes and well wishes are exchanged with fellow Saltwellians and then came the battle cry HOOOOOOOPSSSS!!!
 
The usual strange looks and laughs from a few of the other runners and then a random mud fight between Phil James and Darren commences. As usual we’re too busy chatting and then people start moving forward. Oh this is it BANG!!!
 
Off we go along the 200 metre stretch before we tackle the monster incline which was a real kickstart to the old ticker (really should have warmed up). Off go the fast lads and I settle into a steady hill pace with Naz on me shoulder, a bottle-neck then happens at the first corner and we have to slow down to a walk as it was so congested.
 
Just enough time to get settled back down and we’re off again, round the first corner and down the hill and I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of some 2005 runners. Then onto the long drag of a hill and the realisation that this is gonna be a tough hour of running through some gruelling terrain.
 
A quick peek at the watch and it didn’t make happy viewing, so then came the thought that time is an elephant, or irrelevant, or whatever you want to say. Right change of plan, just settle down, enjoy the support, the views and the run as a whole rather than getting caught up worrying about time and pushing too hard (I saved that bit for the bus on the way back).
 
This mentality stayed in place until mile three when Stephen from Askern sauntered past. Quick flashback to the northerns, I went off too fast and Stephen caught me with just a mile to go and I couldn’t get anywhere near him after that. New plan, stay on his tail and then do him on the sprint finish.
 
I stuck with him for the next mile or so working hard to get through the ground and then he started to power away from me up the hills and build a bit of a gap, DAMN IT!!! I will catch him, so squeeze out a gel and get a little boost of energy, only problem was it leaked all over my hand and I ended up with sticky fingers. I can’t lick em as they’re covered in mud so will just have to grin and bear it.
 
I later found that I needed some water to clean my hands, plenty of that on me salty bonce, job’s a good un. Round the final corner of the first lap and onto see the Saltwell Cheerleaders, such a happy bunch so I strike a pose or two to show just how relaxed I was. Then begins lap 2 of 2 (could get used to doing 2 laps it makes a massive difference psychologically) and two runners from Telford pass me at a pace that’s a little bit quicker than mine, they’ll do.
 
Get on their tale and keep in tight behind them and my new saying comes to my mind ‘If you can’t do any better, keep doing your best’. I manage to stay with them and lo and behold we’re actually starting to pass people, hallelujah!!
 
Up to mile five and Stephen comes back into sight, ‘hmmm catching back up, we are’ I say in my head yoda style. Only two miles to go and 100 metres to make up, this is going to be close. Forget about him and go for a smaller target, just pick off one person at a time. Pick up the pace and get behind the next fella then settle in behind him until I’ve recovered enough for another little burst.
 
This is working and the two Telford guys and I have a little bit banter but continue at a good pace (comparatively speaking). The gap is now down to just 50m , c’mon boys we can do this. Up another hill and past the most annoying marshall I’ve ever met “This is the national championships” he blasted “Do not walk, your running for your place and your number at the end” blah blah blah, just do one mate.
 
Onto the hardest part of the course, a big ditch filled with what appeared to be 3ft of chocolate rice pudding then up an 80% incline (I’m not one to exaggerate) with 12 inch deep sludge. I can’t run up this again, quick walk and ignore the burning screaming muscles and try and get some oxygen into my lungs. This affords me the opportunity to have a little look up and Stephen is powering up the hill like a man possessed, this guys running well.
 
Over the summit of the hill and onto a rare flat-ish bit of the course and I kick on again with my two pacemakers. We pass a younger lad who was struggling and I tell him to join our pack and enjoy getting round “C’mon buddy we can stick with these guys”, he obliges and struggled on with us. Only one mile to go and buddy is struggling “Are you guys firemen or summit?”, then Telford runner 1 pipes up with “It’s okay stick with us and we’ll just do you on the sprint finish” Really??? I think not.
 
Then comes my response “It’s okay, I’ll just clip ya heels before ya start”. I think he took offence to it as they immediately picked up their pace on yet another hill (good timing that and I would’ve probably done the same), I turn to check on buddy and he’s flagging again “C’mon mate this kick won’t last long, stick with it”. I was right (as normal) and a minute later Telford 1 peeks over his shoulder with a look of resignation but they still push on.
 
Over the crest of the final hill and down the boggy bank we go, I then become the meat in a Telford sandwich and then comes the squawk from the hoopettes “GO ON PHYLLISS!!”. Here we go BOOSH!! I’m off, pump my arms and eat my dust Telford and a few other folks who were in front of me. Phew my hearts pounding out of me chest and I underestimated the length of the finishing straight, settle down behind the next guy and recover for a final final kick.
 
No problems get past him hear the beep from the chip and pause my Garmin and I’m done, that was good. Hung around and shook hands with buddy and Telford 1 & 2 and thank them for setting the pace. Then immediately turn and trot off to see the girls and collect my ‘Where’s Phil’ (Askew) T-Shirt which were expertly designed by artist Dave Candlish.
 
Gave them a quick break-down of my run (a lot quicker than this) and we didn’t have to wait long for Naz to come in. He soon comes into sight churning though the mud like a diesel engine with a determined look on his face and we’re down to waiting for our last hoop to come in. Get comfortable girls it could be about twenty minutes from now. Just 7 minutes later and Lisa S goes “Wait a minute, there’s twinkletoes”. What on earth, the boys done good, down the hill he comes and he starts to catch his next competitor, a 4’3” 70 year old runner.
 
I then run along with him on the outside of the course after he’s already picked up his pace and he passes the little fella which the elderley gentleman wasn’t impressed with and runners torettes kicked in. Nicola then gave Phil A his ‘I’m here’ T-Shirt and we head on back to the tent so we can get packed up.
 
High-fives, hugs and handshakes exchanged and before we know it, the tent is down and packed and we say goodbye to the course. We then take the longest 2 mile journey in history to the hotel, the driver got impatient and decided to follow a tranny van down some back streets. Big mistake he couldn’t turn and there was no legal way out, so after much deliberation he reverses back to where he started and heads for the hotel.
 
We get near and Phil James in his shortest set of short shorts I’ve ever seen jumps out to start sorting the rooms out, whilst we park up and get our cases. After a few rooms are sorted Phil J then turns around and asks “did anyone pick up my bag?” Uh Oh, visions of Phil strutting round London in his thong would not be a pretty site.
 
Gillian and Naz manage to get in touch with the driver and come back for Phil to get his bag, PHEW!! Into mine and Phil Askews room and I crack open a can for each of us, aaarrrggghhh that tastes good. Suitcase goes onto the bed, Phil A hits the shower and I look down and there’s a puddle forming on the floor (Not from me), balls one of my cans has leaked all over me clean smalls.
 
Time for my shower and a good shower it certainly wasn’t, it had the same amount of power as my dad’s old 1986 rusty Skoda and the same water force as a dripping tap. Finally onto the interesting part where finely tuned athletes come into contact with the demon drink and if you want to know all the juicy shenanigans of what occurred then tough, you should have bloody come.
 
All in all it was an epic weekend and I feel privileged to have been part of it. Thanks for your time and hope you didn’t fall asleep. Keep rockin them hoops guys.
 
Phil Robertson
 

The night before Nationals – A short poem mash-up

Twas the night before Nationals, when all through Gateshead Not a Saltwellian was sleeping, just resting in bed.
 
The bags were packed, with love and with care Spikes, vests and jelly babies were found in there.
 
The excitement was building and just like a child I wished for good weather, not wet and not wild
 
A fun journey was had, we got down in time All talking about that first hill and oh what a climb
 
A great day was had, by one and by all We warmed up our voices and HOOOPSS!! was the call
 
On through the mud, the sludge and the hills We all done fantastic, especially the Phil’s
 
A great team spirit and oh what a team and anyone who was there, will know what I mean
 
Handshakes and hugs and congratulations said then onto the night-time, to get drunk off our head
 
A long journey home, after we all done so well I blame the london beer for the terible smell
 
‘Sorry team’ was said more often than not each time a little gas, escaped from my bot
 
I couldn’t be happier, my smile was like a beam to be a Saltwellian, God I love my team
 
So bring on the next one, we’ll all do good because we’re the hoops and we really love the mud
 
Phil Robertson

SIgnals Race Report 2

riaThe Royal Signals Relays at Hetton Lyons Park was my first event wearing a Saltwell vest and I couldn’t have been more proud!
 
For the few weeks preceding this event I was super nervous, the girls especially will be able to tell you this! So race day came and I donned my vest, some warm clothes and headed to Hetton.
 
When we arrived there was a buzz around the place. All the other teams all standing huddled together like penguins to keep warm. Some even had lovely hats with their club name on…something to think about Davey?! We all got sorted with our numbers and decided on the order in which each team member would run.
 
Soon 12pm came around and it was time for Lois and Gemma to head to the start for the first leg. It was absolutely freezing, but many of the girls seemed to think crop tops and hot pants were suitable attire. I just wanted to go and wrap them up in a blanket!
 
BANG!
 
The start gun goes and off the first leg goes. And my goodness don’t they go. Those girls are quick! Our girls came round the bend towards the end of the first lap and the Saltwell Cheerleaders could be heard above everyone else. This signalled that it was time for Nicola and me to make our way to the holding pen for the 2nd leg. It was at this point I thought I was going to wet myself I was so nervous! Gemma got back first for Saltwell with a superb time of 14.02. My heart was almost jumping out of my chest as I waited for Lois to come round the top bend.
 
Lois appeared and it was my turn to get to the start line. I waited and in a time of 17.34 Lois crossed the line and I was away! As I set off on my 2.2mile leg I heard a supportive shout from Lois. This really spurred me on and I pushed myself to what I thought was a fairly respectable pace for the distance.
 
Not knowing where I was going made the first lap difficult to pace and I didn’t know what to expect with regards to any hills that might pop up! As it turns out, they weren’t too terrible. On my way round I had some support from the men’s team who were walking the route in reverse. This made the fact I was being overtaken by some very speedy women a bit more bearable! As I came up the 2nd hill in my first lap I heard “Well done Saltwell” from a few spectators and then some very loud cheers from my fellow hoops. This spurred me on to keep pushing through that second lap. Nicola finished ahead of me for the vets team in a smashing time of 17.30 and I crossed the line in 18.21.
 
I quickly joined the rest of the team ready to cheer on the third leg runners, Claire for the seniors and Susan for the vets. Both ran amazingly well and finished in 18.25 and 17.28 respectively.
 
The ladies had 4 legs to run, and last up were Ria C finished in 15.29 for the seniors and Karen finished in 16.11 for the vets.
 
Final positions were Vets 52/79 and Seniors 67/79. AMAZING EFFORT GIRLS!

 

The men’s race started at 1.15pm, and lucky for them they had 6 legs! Which meant a lot more standing in the cold for the rest of us. Luckily there was a supply of yummy gingerbread biscuits and choc chip cookies!
 
Graham zipped round first for the seniors in 12.52 with Bill hot on his tails for the vets in 14.21. Both looked strong and like they meant business! We even had a smile (or was it a grimace?) from Graham. Nat for the seniors, got round quickly and got a time of 12.46 with Matt coming in at 14.25. Third leg runners were Jim and wor Phyllis in times of 13.14 and 16.16.
 
Before we knew it the fourth leg runners were already crossing the finish line for their legs! Dave got round in a super speedy time of 12.48 and Chris coming in at 15.20.
 
The fifth leg runners Dave Horsfall and Darren got round in 14.02 and 15.25.
 
And up for the last leg were Kev (in a time of 13.19) and Andrew (15.06).
 
The Vets finished 51/59 and Seniors 28.59.

 

As a first race for Saltwell, I don’t think I could have asked for anything better. I had an amazing afternoon, even though it was so cold! Maybe some Saltwell gloves would have been usefull…
 
Ria Knox
 

Royal Signal Relays Race Report

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A few of us had decided to spend our valentine’s day competing in the North East Road Relay Championships also known as Royal Signal Relays at Hetton Lyons Park.
 
The course was 2 laps of the country park totalling 2.2miles with two steady uphill climbs which
were harder than had been expected by all.
 
Despite the February chill, the uniform of the day seemed to be teeny tiny hot pants and all of the
Saltwell crew had obviously missed this memo with the outfit of choice being the all new Saltwell
hoodie.
 
The question everyone was asking was what pace do you run a 2.2mile race?!
 
After it was decided who was running which leg, the women lined up at 12 midday with Gemma and
Lois first to run. The 1st women shot off at a rapid pace and Gemma put in an amazing performance at 14.02 finishing 20th out of a field of 79 and Lois was not far behind at 17.34.
 
Second up was Ria K for the seniors and Nicola for the Vets finishing in 18.21 and 17.30 respectively and both were chasing Steve Cram’s prodige Laura Weightman! Claire and Susan ran the third leg for the ladies and put in great efforts of 18.25 and 17.28. Last up for the seniors was Ria C and Karen for the Vets finishing in 15.29 and 16.11.
The Vets finished in a total time of 65.11 placing 52/79 and the seniors placed in 67/79 with cracking
efforts from both teams.
 
Next up the men set off at 1.15pm with a 6 leg race.
 
Graham ran first for the seniors with a super-fast time of 12.52, Bill wasn’t far behind for the Vets in 14.21. Nat raced around the field in 12.46 and put in a mighty sprint finish and Matt followed at 14.25. The third leg was Jim in 13.14 and Phil R in 16.16 with his “Phyllis” top getting the biggest cheer! Speedy first timer Dave Scribbins was the fastest male in 12.48 and Chris followed in 15.20.
 
Dave Horsfall and Darren ran the fifth legs after a long stand in the cold and put in times of 14.02
and 15.25. Last but not least Kev zoomed around in 13.19 and Andrew finished in 15.06.
 
The vets finished in 90.53 placing 51/59 and the men’s seniors finished in 79.01 placing in a very
respectable 28/59.
 
Thank you to everyone who came and watched and stood in the freezing cold!
 

Ria Chaston

Bedewell Park Race Report

front1Report from the latest cross country race at Bedewell Park courtesy of Darren Smiley.
 
It was Saturday the 31st January, 9 o’clock and my alarm woke me up. For a minute the realisation didn’t hit me. Why is my alarm set for 9am at a weekend I thought? then it came apparent Cross country weekend. The happiness of ithe weekend soon turned into despair ‘oh no’ I thought (that’s not what I thought but I’d best tone it down).
 
Now wide awake I jumped out of bed raced to the curtain like it was Christmas morning…perhaps it’ll be sunny and warm I thought. As I drew back the curtain I let out a little sigh, wet, windy and cold, of course it was, what was I thinking It’s January and its cross country weekend!
 
Breakfast ensued, the token cup of tea, small bowl of cereal and a couple of slices of toast, it was going to be a long day after all.
 
I’d agreed to pick up Katy, Claire T and Shuanak next to Saltwell Park, after last year’s trouble with parking we decide it would be best to get the metro over. We parked up into Heworth metro where we met up with Gemma B, Dave & Jacqui (it was planned not some sort of fate).
 
Tickets bought we headed off to the platform, the usual ‘looking forward to this’ was met with glares. To coin a lethal weapon phrase ‘I’m too old for this (blank)’, I thought. As we strolled onto the platform a white pigeon was pecking around, all feet in order, I thought that’s weird especially since its Heworth. ‘Perhaps it’s a sign’ I said to the others, ‘maybe it’s telling me to go home?’
 
The Metro journey didn’t take too long especially when the conversation descended into how to actually get to Bedenell Park? Despite the midweek organisation none of us actually looked into how to get to the course, yet another sign my head was telling me.
 
The Doc (Katy) decided that google maps were the way forward and of we went. The walk was no more than 15 minutes, every step taken the fear grew, it almost felt like I didn’t like cross country or something!
 
As we approached Bedenell the usual racers procedures took over, there was the knowing look no-one had to say anything but we were all thinking the same, toilet. We met up with Peter, Helen and Phil after we left Monkton Stadium and we slowly walked into Bedenell Park with the masses.
 
As we entered the park one of the junior races was on, everyone commented on how muddy it was, sign number three I thought, my head was telling me to turn back. As we approached the rendezvous point the other Saltwellians were just finishing putting the tent up, perfect timing I muttered under my breath.
 
‘Nice day for it’ someone said cheerily, it was probably Fred he loves this stuff after all. I looked around and thought is it, is it really. Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any worse then came a bolt from nowhere, the forth sign. ‘Your turn to take the tent home isn’t it’ said Fred. ‘oh poop’ came my reply (nb: not my reply but see above), Kill me now.
 
The usual standing around complaining of the mud, cold wetness etc ensued and then it was time for the Ladies race. The obligatory Ladies team photo was taken (the boys must be camera shy as we never seem to do one!!) and then they all lined up, Bang they’re off!
 
Peter, Helen and I tried to find the best vantage point to cheer on the ladies and one by one they passed, getting the customary Hoooops. We were joined by Fred who after wratching through his pocket (the thesaurus doesn’t seem to know wratching – see fumbling) pulled out a Mars bar, from what time period no one knows, he offered a bit to me and Peter, we politely declined. Then the conversation took a twist, at want point I do not know, but it turned into old chocolate bars and ended with Fred giving me and Peter a rendition of the old club biscuit song ‘if you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuits join our club’ or at least that’s the one I remember.
 
Anyway I digress, by this point the girls were on their last lap, the Queen of Saltwell (Gemma) heading up the pack with Sarah G, Jacqui and Sue Lowes a minute of two behind. At this point I had to leave to get prepared for my race.
 
Back at the tent the Saltwell men were all getting ready, the initial tippy toeing around in your spikes soon turned into trapesing, after the first puddle of mud rose above your shoe level. The token warm up followed as a group of us ran up and down in order to stay warm and then came the shout 2 minutes, by now it was too late, no turning back I was in it for the full 10k.
 
Bang, the gun went and the masses set off. The usually barging and jockeying for position started and there was me just thinking arrrggh just get through it man, then reverse logic set in, it’s not a race do your own thing. It’s not a race? What a stupid thought, that’s exactly what it is!! It killed a few steps thinking about that one though.
 
The first lap went slow there was much overtaking mostly by other people on me. I could see some male Saltwellians slowly getting further and further away, it’s at this point I always look around and think I wish I was where they were, especially when you see someone at the top of the hill.
 
My next thought is as I’m stating my second lap, and it’s always the same thought whenever I run cross country, is this would be the ladies last lap. A mini wave of depression always follows that one.
 
I think this may have been the lap that Rob overtook me, he gave me a little pat on the back as he hovered over the mud and said a few words of encouragement. It’s was at that point I thought, I hate you. I don’t actually hate him, it’s just jealousy as he makes it look so effortless but as you’re trudging through the cold, wet and mud and people are a lap ahead of you jealously is easily manifest.
 
Another lap came and went and finally I was onto the last lap, only 3k to go. As I passed the far end of the course or the Somme as I likened it to it was only then I notice Dave Candlish, not running as I would expect but cheering, there was another person on the hate list. Once again I drifted, I felt like I was back at school, how did he get out of cross country?
 
Occupied by another thought which accounted for a minute or so I approached the final hill, once more unto the breach, hill done and soon I was heading downhill (metaphorically and literally). The start line passed on my right and the countdown begun only two minutes to go. The two minutes seemed like 5 minutes then the finish straight came into sight.
 
I could hear the Saltwell cheerleaders on the side and then it came apparent there were three saltwellians all together, you could almost put a blanket over us. Go for it I thought, alas my legs couldn’t do what my head was thinking, I retrospect I wouldn’t have felt right even if I could. I was just happy to get through it.
 
It was good to see all the men at the finish waiting to congratulate those coming in. It seemed apparent, to me at least I may have been mistaken, that no other club seemed to be doing that and that’s why I believe Saltwell Harriers is the best! Fast or slow we’re all there for each other showing encouragement and shouting everyone in.
 
By now tired I walked back to the tent, thank God that’s over I thought, home, hot shower, heating on, footy, some nice food and a few drinks. Then I saw Fred, ‘remember your turn for the tent’.
 
I’m ‘too old for this….’
 


 

Internal Cross Country Standings

As most people will probably be aware we have an internal cross country competition within the club. Every runner is awarded points corresponding to the position they finish in the race (from a club perspective), so first place gets 1 point, 2nd place 2 points and so on. The runner with the lowest number of points is the winner, and anyone not taking part on a race is given the points of the lowest placed runner + 3.

 

The current standings can be found here – as you can see its pretty tight at the top for both the men and women. Dave is toppled from the top of the mens competition after missing the weekends race leaving Scott and Rob tying for top spot.

 

Sarah is leading the womens competition with Gemma hot on her heels and Jacqui and Claire both tying for 3rd spot.

 

With 2 races remaining its still all to play for!!!