NEHL Aykley Heads, 27th November 2021

It takes more than Storm Arwen to stop the Harrier League! Although numbers were down, probably due to travel difficulties, there were still plenty of hardy souls prepared to take on the wind, mud and snow at what is always a tough course at Aykley Heads in Durham.

Although we didn’t have enough to make up a men’s team, the Claremont ladies continue to show us how it is done. It was another strong performance from the lasses, led home by Sarah Kerr despite starting from the fast pack. They finished 2nd in their division on the day to move up to 4th overall. Well done!

I think we should also give another big “well done” to young Grace Scott for braving the elements in the under 13 race. And finally to Laurie Johnson who chose this for his cross-country debut, and sends us this report:

“We arrived at Aykley Heads late morning, the very strong possibility of cancellation due to the previous night’s apocalyptic storm having failed to materialise. 

A cold, piercing wind continued to prevail, frequently accompanied by driving snow with the occasional break for some watery sunlight. 

The Claremont contingent decided we’d join the other clubs and pitch our tent to provide some respite from the arctic conditions. This decision was made despite having just witnessed the first aid tent lifted out of the ground by a particularly fierce gust, though quickly chased down and reclaimed. 

Young Grace was first to face the madness, and afterwards set the tone by looking unconvinced on being asked whether the race had been ‘fun’.  

The women were up next, after a short delay, with several opting to keep jackets on right up to the start line. The 9-strong team (plus Ken) all powered through the wind and mud impressively. 

Closing out with the 3 men, the middle of the race was especially tough, dominated by a driving, horizontal blizzard. Despite the churn of the thousands of feet that had come before, the mud wasn’t as deep or hazardous as expected (though as a first-timer I had no point of comparison!) though the odd slip did happen, sometimes in tandem with frustrated swearing. 

The last couple of climbs were particularly arduous, the penultimate hill seemingly never-ending… but finally it was done. Tiredness and frostbite was soon remedied by amazing carrot cake from Cath, and one last blizzard helped us take the tent down. 

Next time is sure to be easier… ”

It will get easier, Laurie. I promise you that they are not all as tough as this!

Under 13 Girls
15Grace Scott20:41
30Sarah Kerr36:16 (Fast pack – actual time 31:01)
61Maddie Day37:03 (Medium pack – actual time 34:48)
66Julija Stoniute37:13
85Maria Duenas37:43 (Medium pack – actual time 35:18)
95Nicki O’Brien37:58 (Medium pack – actual time 35:33)
98Liz Denyer38:03
109Catherine Young38:30 (Fast pack – actual time 33:15)
151Hazel Juggins40:38
211Cath Robson47:23
221Ken McCormick (Over 65 men)53:14
102Kris Axon46:25 (Fast pack – actual time 41:10)
285Duncan Scott52:41
307Laurie Johnson 53:56