NEHL Aykley Heads, 2nd Nov 2019

Last cross-country I heard a number of people bemoaning the lack of mud on the courses – they will certainly not be able to make the same complaint this year! I thought that no course could ever be muddier than my first experience of Thornley Hall Farm a couple of years ago, but I was wrong. This one was and I have now seen enough mud to last me a lifetime, thank you very much!

Following all the recent rain, the last thing we wanted was another wet day, but it didn’t start well. At least we managed to get the tent up in the dry, but we were soon huddling for shelter from the next shower. Our 12-strong ladies team got ready and ventured out for the start only to be delayed by a few minutes – luckily it had stopped raining and wasn’t too cold.

It was another strong performance by the Claremont girls. Mandy Herworth had a great run to finish 20th (so will be promoted back to the medium pack) and was followed in by two of our younger runners – Vicky Moore and Maria Duenas. This was Vicky’s first time with the big girls, having run as an under 20 last year. The “A” team was completed by Sarah Kerr who made light of the mud to plough through the field from the fast pack. The Ladies were once again 2nd in their Division and are now joint leaders with Newcastle University.

Our other fast pack lass, Catherine Young, was just a few seconds and a few places behind Sarah to lead home the “B” team. Sarah Bowen was next (from the medium pack), followed by cross-country debutant Nina Jentl and cross-country veteran Julie Cross.

Hazel Juggins, Kat Truong, Cath Robson and Gill Milne made up the C team, which notably finished ahead of the A team of two other clubs. I think that this was an excellent achievement by Cath and Gill as both were making a comeback from illness and injury and were unsure that they would get the distance – this was a tough course to make a comeback on! Bill Milbourne also made his way though the mud with the ladies as an over 65 runner.

There were seven men, so just enough for a team and a spare! I made a real schoolboy error and was late for the start! I usually try to take photos of the Ladies race and generally have plenty of time to see most of them home before stripping off the layers to run myself. I thought that I would de safe seeing the first 4 counters in, so made way to the tent after that. However they didn’t delay the men’s start even though the ladies had started late – nor did I hear the whistle so I started a good 10 metres behind the back of the field. I think the other Claremont lads had just got there in time too.

As I wanted to get a reasonable position before the paths narrowed and we hit the muddiest stretches, I tried to weave through the field but it soon became very muddy. I steadied myself and thought that I would still be able to make up ground, but I hadn’t quite realised just how horrendous the course would be! There was very little grass and it was just a case of trying to find a path where the mud wasn’t too deep. So I very quickly gave up any notion of “racing” and the strategy was a simple one – don’t fall over and get to the finish! The downhills were treacherous and, for once, I was happier going up than down. Gill had told me to take a tea-tray as it would have possible to sledge down the slopes, but unfortunately I didn’t have one (would this be a disqualification?)!

Our temporary resident from Switzerland, Phillip Manser, was the first of the men home. Philipp only had road shoes, though I suspect it didn’t make that much difference as they don’t make spikes big enough to cope with this mud! He says he enjoyed it (really?), and will have tales to tell when he gets back home of how these mad Brits spend their Saturday afternoons!

I was next in, holding off Roberto Marzo who was running (well, slipping and sliding) from the medium pack. Richard Slack, David Lydall and Dean O’Brien completed our team with Kenny McCormick as our “spare”. We were all much slower than previous years – for example, David ran the same course in 47 minutes last year and 62 this!

Many thanks to all the cake bakers for an excellent spread as ever – it almost makes it all worthwhile!

20Mandy Herworth36:06
60Vicky Moore38:17
67Maria Duenas38:33
81Sarah Kerr39:08 (fast pack, actual time 33:53)
95Catherine Young39:29 (fast pack, actual time 34:14)
108Sarah Bowen39:48 (medium pack, actual time 37:23)
123Nina Jentl40:08
164Julie Cross41:32
192Hazel Juggins42:12
216Kat Truong42:49
299Bill Milbourne47:19
345Cath Robson51:47
347Gill Milne51:58
140Philipp Manser51:17
265Tom Tinsley54:59
312Roberto Marzo57:15 (medium pack, actual time 54:40)
371Richard Slack60:32
409David Lydall62:18
427Dean O’Brien63:53
524Kenny McCormick85:18
Tom Tinsley -