Race Report Tanfield Cross Country 26th September 2015


Pretty much right from the point of joining Saltwell back in July there were whispers of this thing called ‘the Cross Country season’. For me cross country was just dim and instant memory; plodding around muddy fields or tracks at secondary school on dark nights in the autumn months. As mid -September approached what to expect and how best to prepare was very much talk of Hoop’s training sessions, particularly what size spike to wear!
After a trip to ‘Start Fitness’ to buy the obligatory pair of spikes, I turned up with the family for the start of the Harrier League Cross Country season at Tanfield, a place I know well, what with living just down the road. For someone new to cross country the field made an immediate impression with tents and flags from different clubs creating an imposing backdrop, as we walked over from the carpark.
As we stood around waiting and talking, lines of tired and very muddy looking youngsters, the odd one in tears, trailed past the Saltwell tent area after their various races had finished. The collective butterflies in the group definitely began to build…
On the Saltwell front there was a huge turnout for both men’s and women’s races with faces old and new, as well as experienced cross country / fell racers right down to the slightly nervous group of cross country ‘virgins’, of which I was one, who had no idea about what to expect. As we cheered the Saltwell women over the line to complete their race, I spoke with various folk about what to expect. It seemed wearing spikes was definitely the best option. As 2pm approached it was time to warm up for the men’s race…


Just after 2pm we lined up in a large group, a good number deep and prepared to start. With a bang we were off, resembling something like a large group of stampeding animals. It was in at the deep end for those of us new to cross country as we quickly approached the first climb, which had a good covering of thick mud. Decisions had to made quickly, even instinctively, about which way to go; up through the middle and the deeper mud or alternatively take on the more uneven path at the edges of the route. I went straight for the edges. Again this was a new challenge learning to stay balanced in spikes which offered little support compared to that usually offered by road shoes.
After reaching the top and several twists and turns we turned sharply and began to descend. Before the race I’d heard talk of a ‘bit of a puddle’ that was too deep to just jump over. Not having taken that much notice or done a recky, the approaching water jump game as something of a surprise!
Again, instinct just seemed to take over at this point, as we jumped into the water and ran through. The benefits of spikes were again really clear as the water quickly drained through the thin material. Then came another steep climb back up into the woods, once again I managed to get to the edge and steadily work my way up. After more twists, turns and climbs the sound of the crowd began to build again; we ran out the woods and into a final loop back round to where we had started. The atmosphere was electric with shouts and cheers, accompanied by the frantic ringing of cow bells.
The second lap seemed to more about learning how to run in and amongst the crowd; overtaking on uneven surfaces, keeping your balance around tight corners – elbows at the ready – and listening out for the shouts of ‘coming through’ as members of the ‘fast pack’ came crashing past.


For me the final lap was about trying to sustain the pace I’d build over the first two laps. The legs were definitely beginning to tire. Entering the final loop once again, there was still enough left for a heavy legged sprint down to the finish. Again the atmosphere drove us on to the finish and the line.
After that first race I was definitely hooked! There were moments of intense competition: chasing down people in front or trying to look out for the next ‘hoop’ on the horizon to run towards. But this intense competition was mixed almost with something very different; a sense of fun, even laughter! When faced with a foot deep muddy climb or water jump what else is there to do, but just smile and run!

Dominic Martin


Temple Park XC Race Report


Well it was another glorious Saturday afternoon, and perfect conditions for our second cross country of the season, and only my second in 30+ years. The memories of Tanfield were still fresh, and the thought of another 6 miles in the mud with my fellow hoops actually brought a smile to my face.
As we rounded the corner towards the starting area, we were greeted by a fantastic sight of another great ‘HOOPS’ turnout. The course looked dry which caused much deliberation over shoe choice, will it be trail or spikes, or in ‘Forrests’ (swanny) case trainers (think he made the wrong choice!!!).
It was Ladies first (as it should be). We watched from the relative safety of the first climb and it was like the charge of the ‘Light Brigade’ as the gun went off and they surged towards us, powering up the hill and off through the trees and into the distance. It was another magnificent effort by all our ‘HOOPETTES’ (Gemma, Sarah, Sandra, Susan, Claire, Charlotte, Lisa, Helena, Helen & Ria Knox), but another shout has to go out to wonder woman Gemma who after her great victory at the Keilder marathon the week before came an incredible 19th place in 25:42. Although I think Ria typified the Saltwell spirit on the day, as she battled through the pain barrier to finish in a time of 37.16, gutsy performance.
Then it was the guys turn, with an unbelievable turnout of 24 (about 5% of the field – wow). Lined up, the seasoned campaigners (Harra, John L & Naz to name a few) offered their words of wisdom ‘ELBOWS OUT’. Bang and we’re off. As in the first cross country, I found it hard to judge what my pace should be on that first lap, so with Naz, Chris and a few other hoops in front I tried to stay on their shirt tails, which lasted about half a lap before they slowly pulled away.
So it was head down and dig in and by lap 2 I was I thought all alone, until a Tyne Bridge Harrier (TBH) eased past me. Lap 2 seemed to go on & on, but as I climbed the last incline towards the finish the shouts of ‘HOOOOPS’ from the ladies spurred me on, as did the faster HOOPS that passed me. The start of lap 3 had seen me close the gap on the TBH guy, although I now had someone else breathing down my neck. As we headed along the back straight the TBH guy had a nervous glance back and I thought, got him.
Coming into the finishing area for the last time I had the TBH in my sights, but by this time an Elvet Strider had caught and passed me. The last 250-300m, and I thought give it a go and see what you’ve got left. A shriek of ‘Rob he’s catching you’ and shouts of ‘go on Andy’ only spurred me on as I passed both to finish with a big sprint and an even bigger grin on my mug.
All in all another fantastic Saturday afternoon with the HOOPS, and no better way to spend it J
Bring on Aykley Heads, mud and all. ‘Hooops Hooops’.
Andy Swanston

Sherman Cup/Davison Shield

shermanSaturday 10th October – Sherman Cup/Davison Shield
This Saturday (the 10th of October) sees another cross country race – a one off fixture where teams are competing for the Sherman Cup (men) or Davison Shield (women). This is a ‘scratch’ race which means there are no packs, everyone starts together.
It is being held at Temple Park at South Shields, just off the John Reid Road. The post code is NE34 8QN and there is adequate parking although as always, please car share if you can. Approximate start times are the same as the Harrier League Fixtures – 1.10pm for the women’s race, and 2.15 for the men.
Remember your Harrier League number and as always, your Saltwell vest!

Kielder Marathon


Massive congratulations to Gemma Bradley for winning the Kielder Marathon yesterday – fanstatic effort on a brutal course. Evening Chronicle article can he found here

Congratulations also to all the other hoops who completed the event, times are below :

3:21:42    Gemma Bradley
3:47:10    Jamie Ferguson
3:55:24    Sarah Garrett
3:59:47    Peter Mullarkey
4:12:53    Paul Steel
4:55:58    Alex Roberts
4:57:18    Samantha Bruce
5:16:49    Anna Allan
5:16:53    Marie-Louise Bozonet
5:25:40    Leigh Ferguson