Pontefract XC Race Report

Race report from the Northern Cross Country Championships at Pontefract at the weekend courtesy of Phil Robertson.

The day started with the debate of what time do you set off for a Northern Championship race at Pontefract.
Some of the elderly fraternity decided upon leaving at 9am to leave time for coffee breaks on their 90 minute journey??

I got a lift off Bill Wilson, with the company off Claire Lloyd and Phil Askew who’d all just done the Riverside Park run.

We arrived at Xscape in the lovely town of Cas Vegas by 11:30 and luckily met up with the rest of the gang and we then saw Scott Garret tucking into a beast of subway (I was totally jealous but had a shake already prepared)
Not far to walk for the shuttle-bus and then off the bus we went and we were confused with the amount of people that were leaving Ponte racecourse only to realise that they were there for the Junior runs.

I got stuck with the big tent which was on wheels so I didn’t really mind (at first) then off we go onwards and upwards to find a suitable pitch.

We were slip sliding away before we got anywhere near a pitch. not a good sign of things to come, I ended up having to pick up the tent and lug it over the boggy field whilst we found our bearings.

The wind was blowing and it was a very icy wind and the task of setting up the tent began, all the team rallied round and before we knew it we had a base for the day.

Once up everyone started to get organised and get their game face on, well apart from Phil James who had a small pep talk with me and the other Phil (Askew) #teamphil. So I thought balls with this I’m not hard enough to stand out in the cold, I’ll have me a little seat in the tent, at the same point the girls decided to get changed, not a problem I’m facing the opposite way and I’m the perfect gentlemen, a few of the guys had just returned from their a little warm up just at the point that Gemma was stipping off (coincidence?) and then Phil James wanted to see what the commotion was about so he was enjoying the view.

Fred (the chairman) suggested us boys headed off for a scouting mission to view the course, good idea for the fit lads, me and Phil Askew thought balls with that I’ll view the course on the 1st lap, after all that’s why we do three, not that we like to mention it.

In the end me and Phil A decided to go for a little toddle about and view the course, so we wander on round past the burger vans (aarrrgghhh!!!) and down towards the lake, this is when we start to realise how big these laps are.
We try to pick out the racing line and the line that’s got the best ground “keep to right” then see a mahoosive puddle “ball’s with that keep to the left”.

We then had a moment and realised ‘hey no matter what line we pick it ain’t gonna make much difference to us so lets just get round in one piece’
BANG!!! and the girls were off, “where shall we stand? Where else than right next to the big puddle to see if anyone has lost their sight and ends up face plantin!” Unfortunatley it wasn’t to be and they all just swayed round it, disheartened we headed off for a little pee then off to cheer the lady hoops round.

Seen the elite girls come round looking quite comfortable and fast, about four minutes later super Gemma Bradley came round, Woah! they must be quick we said, we then waited in anticipation for the rest of the ladies team to come round.

Claire Lloyd was next with a face that appeared to be showing exactly how she was feeling (oh dear this isn’t going to be good if she’s like that after 1 lap). We cheered on a few of the other clubs Jarra and Gateshead mainly and then lovely Sarah Jones was next to come up who said at the end “I’m really sorry for throwing my buff at you”, what she really said was “Please can you hold this for me Thank you”.

To be fair she looked comfortable but was obviously feeling the increase in body temperature due to her efforts, then came Lois who didn’t look happy at all followed by Gillian who’s always smiling . Really proud to watch the girls go by.

Gemma was our first lady in with an excellent time of 35:29
followed by Sarah 43:47 who managed to catch and pass Claire 44:20, then came Lois 46:06 & Gillian 49:06. A thoroughly fantastic effort by the ladies in very challenging conditions.

Back to the tent I go, off comes the base layer and the jacket and on goes the Saltwell top, take off me harrier league number that I put on last night because I thought I was being super prepared. We were then greeted by Joe who was stood in the opposite corner and said in his lovely Liverpool accent “Alright lads, I’m really sorry but I’ve gotta get changed and get the auld fella owt”, then he come and stands reet above me head, WTF?? ‘you’ve got all the tent and you place your backside above me bonce?? I move and finish off getting changed and then later realise he was a teensy bit scared in case the women came back and caught him with his pinky out, so he needed a corner to hide his modesty.
Start time approaching for us blokes so a general trot up to start pen and after a few ‘good luck’ handshakes comes our new war cry of ‘HOOOOOOPPPPSSS’ we got a few funny looks and we’re almost ready to go. Then Phil James turns around and says “Hands up the puffs with gloves?” a few raised hands from our Saltwell gang and get into position.

So onto the race and the gun goes again, I’m running side to side with Bill and Naz and Phil Askew breathing in me ear. I thought balls with this I’m gonna run my race, keep it steady and pick em off on the last lap (PAH!!).
Got down by the lake and the massive puddle and gave it a swerve and kept to left and I thought all’s going well. I’m keeping up with my road race pace of 8:30 miles, more than happy with that and Naz and Jo are still in my sights.

Round the boggy bits and a bit of respite, downhill (but what goes down must come back up!!) onwards we go on the ascent and I can see Naz, I can smell Naz, I can touch Naz, “You alreet Naz?”. Off I go in search of the next pacemaker then someone actually passes me, Derby AC where did you come from, you’ll do, if you can pass me then I’ll stick with you. I then get to that awful double back part where you get to see everyone that’s that fitter,faster, slimmer than you, head nod from Scott Garret, “go on Phyllis” from Bill, thumbs up from John (reciprocated) and a big wave from Joe (thumbs up in reply) and off we go round the corner towards the long uphill slog of the first lap.

Head up towards the end of the first lap and I hear a familiar voice of Fred (who pulled out of the race before the start with a sore calf) “Go on lad keep that pace you’re doing well” (that’s exactly what I was thinking) then of to see the girls at the top, “Go on, you’re doing great” gotta love their enthusiasm.

Now came the 2nd lap, time for a gel methinks this will sort you out and get you round and off onto the quagmire downhill part, which line do you pick? If you run straight you can’t fall over I thought and it worked. Down to the lake and which way to go? towards the puddle or left, yep left it was and another runner picked off, onto the next competitor but then I get caught by a heavy breathing bloke that had been disturbing my peace for the last ten minutes or so, go on then get past and I’ll do you on the sprint finish (or so I thought)
This is the time that I start to get lapped by no less than Alistair Brownley (Olympic champion, worl champion, commonwealth champion etc..) and the other front runners OMG they’re pretty fast like, it was like I was sat down watching them.

Up again towards the top of the hill for the last time to see my girls and they’re all loud and encouraging. I’m like, this is horrible, what am I even doing it for, well suck it up boy one lap to go that’s all. I got to 6.4 mile and could sense people starting to catch me and I can’t physically do anything about it, that’s it I’m gonna walk!! Then a voice in me head says ‘we’re not a walking club son’, so I try to pull me legs up and plough through the 8″ of clarts and try my damndest to catch the bloke in front, but it’s like a role reversal of that R Kelly song ” My mind’s telling me YES, but my body, my body’s telling me NO!!”

So then it’s just a case of convincing yourself you’re doing well just to survive, just settle into your pace but WOW it hurts. Then it’s into sprint finish territory and I’m beat, I don’t care where I come or who beats me or anything else, I finished, I’m proud of that and not a lot else.

A little sit down and reflect on the fact that these courses don’t agree with us larger folk, cracking to have a good bit banter with people you’ve never met before and may not ever meet again but we have a common goal.
Thought I was in hell until I seen Naz coming in not too far behind me, valiant effort and then the wait for super Phil Askew, hats off he’s still there and he’s still competing, he will get there.

Thanks to Fred who turned up even though he couldn’t run and gave a lot of support to his team mates, all the hoops stayed behind for super Phil A to come in (Eventually lol). What a team.

We couldn’t believe the marshalls started taking the course down before the last runner had come in, Respect to the other clubs who gave Phil the biggest cheer of the day when he finished, he is determination personified.

The winner of the race Andrew Davies got round in a time of 37:44 followed by the Brownlee boy just 6 seconds behind. Our times were:

Kevin Kendall – 53:17
Scott Garrett – 56:06 (he wasn’t well at all and looked grey)
Phil James – 57:49
Peter Mullarkey – 59:35
John Longstaff – 1:00:41
Richard Townsend – 1:03:16
Jo Reed – 1:06:23
Me – 1:07:37
Nazir Bashir – 1:14:06
Phil Askew – 1:33:33


Full results can be found here
Phil Robertson