NEHL Lambton, 29th October 2022

With the first two cross-country fixtures of the season being essentially dry, heavy morning rain ensured we had a bit of mud to contend with at Lambton (though still not enough for the purists).

20 runners turned out for Claremont this grey and soggy day, with Lena Webster-Costella, Ari Hodgson, Nina Jentl, and Lynne Cornell (who had already slipped in a sub-25 minute parkrun a few hours prior!) making their cross-country bows for the season. It was a full debut for Joyce Zhao however, who embraced the XC spirit by bringing home-made egg muffins along to her first Harrier League experience.

For the first time this season, we had no representation in the junior races, so the senior women led the way after the now customary delayed start time. María Dueñas signalled intent early on, barging her way through from the medium pack to lead the Claremont attack before the first lap was even through, and was rewarded for her barnstorming run with an incredible 20th place finish and promotion to the fast pack! María will deservedly be mixing it with the NEHL-elite at Aykley Heads in a few weeks time, an achievement to be proud of! Our 12-strong ladies team put in a great shift, (mostly) looking as though they were enjoying themselves with smiles and waves for the cameras.

Onto the men’s race, we managed to make the start line with about a minute to spare after an earlier-than-expected whistle. I started off with Tom Tinsley a couple of rows back from the front of the slow pack, where the first few minutes saw the usual bunching of runners trying to find their way through. As promised there was an extended stretch of paved path early on, so our initial passage around the side of the castle was sound-tracked by a cacophony of clattering spikes. After skittering down the drive, we were soon onto the muddy grass, with a couple of short, steep drops to navigate almost immediately as we approached the River Wear.

A nice easy stretch followed, ambling along through the trees and out into the open by the riverside, the overcast skies failing to dampen the picturesque scene. An out-and-back element gave us the opportunity to wave and shout encouragement to familiar faces passing in the opposite direction. Our pleasant stroll around the grounds was soon to be rudely interrupted as we reached the apex of the course: an almost sheer (those who experienced it can decide if this is exaggeration) climb up a long, muddy slope, slowing many runners to a near, if not outright walk. Looping around the top of this hill, the subsequent downward incline back to river-level allowed for some mild recovery, and we were heading back the way we’d come.

With the castle looming majestically into view atop the hillside, the course diverged from the path to lead us toward it up a slightly less severe incline, though there were a couple of false summits to contend with when it seemed like it might be over! Back onto the concrete, we passed through a narrow gateway, and continued on for the second (and third) go round, Claremont cheers ringing in our ears.

Despite the two mammoth hills, I actually found this to be the most enjoyable, least knackering course of the season so far. As expected, fatigue was setting in by the final lap, and each time I heard heavy breathing approaching over my shoulder, I was bracing myself for a potential overtaking by Tom in a repeat of Druridge Bay. No such challenge was forthcoming on this occasion, though I was passed by Kris Axon in his Wallsend colours towards the end of the second lap, rather than the start of it. Minor improvements! Dave Lydall and Dave Roberts continued their inter-David rivalry, finishing within less than a minute of each other for the 3rd straight race (2-1 Lydall, as it stands).

Everyone in Claremont colours acquitted themselves fantastically, with many also contributing a frankly overwhelming array of baked delights (certainly overwhelming for those of us who decide to sample everything, followed by multiple seconds…) Everyone managed to start their race with their original numbers and less panic than last time, and no cars got stuck in the mud… Hopefully, the next fixture at Aykley Heads won’t be taking place in the aftermath of a rampaging storm, after last years’ Arwen experience.

20María Dueñas35:13 (Medium pack, actual time 32:46)
93Julie Cross37:07
177Margaux Robin38:39
200Lynne Cornell39:20
205Nina Jentl39:26
297Mariana Mouzinho42:20
368Gill Milne46:43
385Shilpa Iyanna48:15
388Catherine Robson48:27
424Joyce Zhao52:52
429Elizabeth O’Mahony54:14
433Lena Webster-Costella55:10
201Laurie Johnson47:52
258Tom Tinsley49:03
365Chris Jones52:45
433David Lydall55:47
445David Roberts56:24
478Alex Harding59:10
523Jose Gallego Parilla63:17
546Ari Hodgson80:31
Laurie Johnson -