My first cross country race was at Tanfield back in September 2013, a beautiful sunny day and we all went to the pub afterwards and sat outside enjoying a drink. Afterwards I bought my first set of spikes having never done cross country before. Since then I have completed 14 cross country races for Saltwell (Ranging from hailstone/rain in Liverpool to snow in Sedgefield). For all I can moan about it, I do enjoy cross country, it is literally for runners of all abilities (for those of you who have recently joined the club, you should definitely try it!), a completely different challenge, and nothing beats cheering on your team mates and vice versa.
I had put my name down to run at the Northern Cross Country in Blackburn on 30th January 2016. With one thing and another, it turned out that Lois and I were the only ladies representing Saltwell, but we were still enthusiastic to give it a go.
Lois and I travelled down on the day with Naz and Andrew Swanston, following Andrew Softley, John Longstaff, Chris Watson and Phil Askew in another car. Lois and I questioned what on earth were we doing giving up a whole Saturday/day off work to run around in the mud, although it actually turned out to be a great day. We arrived at Witton Country Park, with it starting to rain and very dark clouds rolling in. As soon as we had got out of the car, the lads had stopped to help push a car out of the mud (Not a good sign!) Hilariously though, as they were doing this, Lois and I very helpfully couldn’t stop laughing as John Longstaff had somehow managed to drop his Saltwell Vest and stand on it in the mud. We then arrived to the club tent already set up (Thanks Scott, Phil James and Jim!)
Lois and I were nervously looking at how hilly the course was and decided to go and have a walk around. As we were walking up the steep hills, the hailstone came across and it was absolutely freezing. We decided that we had plenty of time, and went for an actual warm up, although we did get a bit carried away and as we jogged towards the start, we could see all the ladies lined up. Our jog turned into a very fast sprint, and as soon as we joined the start we were off. Not the greatest race prep almost missing the start of the race! The course consisted of 3 loops for the ladies (4 for the men!) with very steep hills and deep mud all the way round. As usual my Garmin decided to only pick up a signal about a mile into the race. At times, the hailstone was so bad that I couldn’t really see properly. The support on the course was excellent, with many people shouting Saltwell and a great shout from George Routledge of Heaton Harriers with ‘Come on the hoops’.
The ladies course was 4.5 miles, which sounds like nothing but definitely felt like 6 or 7! One of the hills was so steep that many people had to just walk up it. I felt like I had spent the entire race worrying about keeping my spikes on, as I had came across several lone spikes in the mud. It was slightly disheartening coming to the end of my 2nd lap and many of the faster ladies were finishing, but I decided just to plod on as best as I could.
The course was so muddy that I couldn’t really get a good pace going at all or even a sprint finish in at the end. We were grateful to have completed it and Lois and I went to find a good spot (after we had warmed up of course), myself with a hot chocolate in hand and Lois with her famous cow bell to support the men’s race.
To our amusement we watched many of the men either slip over or were covered in mud from head to toe. After the men had finished we then had a great team building exercises taking down the club tent in the dark, and the 2 and a half hour journey back in the car. Well done to everyone especially Phil Askew for showing us all true grit and determination and thanks again to Andrew for driving and taking the club tent home.
305 Lois Lincoln 0:50:36
314 Charlotte Proud 0:51:53
305 Jim Thompson 0:59:09
459 Andrew Softley 1:05:20
485 Scott Garrett 1:06:39
557 Phil James 1:10:05
665 Richard Townsend 1:20:51
670 Christopher Watson 1:21:41
672 John Longstaff 1:21:51
682 Nazir Bashir 1:23:38
707 Andrew Swanston 1:33:08
718 Philip Askew 1:50:45