NEHL Prudhoe 23/03/2013 Race Reports

Last year this event took place in unseasonably warm conditions with the mens team narrowly avoiding relegation due to an effective recruitment drive and an heroic effort on the day. This year, however, could not be more different as bitterly cold and blustery conditions saw the mens team finally succumb to the inevitable as relegation to Division 3 was confirmed. With quite a few of our regulars missing our biggest hope was for our closest rivals to not turn up.

Meanwhile the ladies team goes from strength to strength with six of them finishing in the top third. Tracey Etherington in particular having an excellent run to finish 13th. A more consistent turnout next season will surely see them vying for promotion.

It was touch and go as to whether the event would take place with the course being subject to an inspection in the morning, but with the heavy snow which covered most of the rest of the country somehow missing this part of the North East it was always likely to go ahead. Changes had been made though, and with the furthest part of the course not being used, the senior’s race was extended by an additional lap, an extra turn on the steepest part of the hill being the reward. The course itself was a challenging mix of terrain ranging from hard rutted fields to a stream of ankle deep mud directly before the nastiest hill.

It has certainly been a season of extreme conditions. Very well done and thanks to everyone for turning out.

– Matthew

Graham Leslie kindly provided the next report:-

This season’s cross-country programme began for me back in September with the Farringdon Relays in hot sunshine and ended with Prudhoe on Saturday in near-Arctic conditions. If the relay was an enjoyable run on nice dry grass in great weather, Prudhoe was definitely cross-country at its most hard-core. Even putting up the club tent felt like we were training for a Polar expedition; only the deep snow was lacking. At least our part of the country had been spared that this time but the bitter wind on the exposed hill at the start and finish area was just relentless.

Any hope that the freezing temperatures would mean the inevitable mud would be nice and firm was soon dashed as the race started and we descended to lower levels. There were large areas of the really deep gooey stuff to wade through. On one particularly steep muddy bank I lost any little cross-country credibility I may have had by holding on to a tree on the way down to stop myself flying head-over-heels. This must have been where a couple of Claremonters, a bit braver than me, overtook as I was surprised to see them ahead of me a bit further on having passed them earlier.

Not having the best balance in the world, I spent a lot of the race just trying to stay on my feet. Quite a bit of the course at higher levels was frozen rutted farm tracks, not easy to get into a nice rhythm on. And not helped either by the quick lads from the medium and fast packs thundering past. I’m not a big fan of the pack system and can’t help thinking it must be frustrating for the best runners to have to constantly work their way past us slower types. I’d prefer keeping the handicap system but having one mass start, or even the faster packs setting off first.

I forgot to mention the Horrible Hill, such a feature of Prudhoe. This year the organisers decided just doing it twice wasn’t enough and they made it three laps for the men, two for the ladies. Sadists. As if tackling such a steep hill wasn’t enough by itself, the start of the worst part involved struggling through shin-deep wet mud. A good spot for spectators and photographers though.

It was a great turn-out by both the men and women from the club, especially in such bad conditions. Unfortunately it didn’t stop the men being relegated to Division Three, a fate we just avoided last year by the skin of our teeth. I’m sure we’ll have a chance of bouncing straight back though, especially if a few more of our younger runners can be persuaded to have a go.

For the ladies though it’s been a very successful season and it’s been good to see a few new faces coming along to join the regulars.

Perhaps most impressive of all on Saturday though was to see a couple of men from the club who had done the Town Moor Parkrun earlier, in conditions described by Sumanth as being possibly the coldest and windiest ever. Completely bonkers but well done lads!


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