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