NEMAA Cross-Country Championships, 3rd February 2024

It was a very windy day for the North East Masters’ Cross-Country Championships, held this year at the Rising Sun Country Park. Open to all over 35 runners, not just members of the NEMAA, this is very much like a mini-version of a day at the Harrier League, with no packs and far fewer runners. In fact, I think it is a shame that the event is not better supported, but at least that means there is much better chance of winning a medal! You’ve gotta be in it to win it, as they say.

Nina Jensen had to pull out with a bad cold, so that left Julie Cross as the sole female Claremonter, but she was joined in the first race by Kenny McCormick and myself. In this event, the over 65 men run over 2 laps with the women, so this was a rare opportunity for me to compete just against men my own age – and to easily see my age-category opposition.

On the start line, I realised that this was a double-edged sword as I could feel more pressure to do well! Straight from the start, a Sunderland Harrier man was off like a whippet, up with the leading ladies. Initially my thoughts were to keep him in sight and hope that he had gone off too fast, but hopes of this didn’t last long. As we ploughed through a muddy section full on into the wind, I could see that he was pulling further clear and by the top of the first hill he was out of sight. Resigning myself to at best 2nd place (itself a very strange feeling), I settled down into what I thought was a more comfortable pace. As the run went on, I was finding it increasingly tough, battling with the wind, mud, hills and sections on stony trail not really suited to my spikes, so, another rare thing for me, I started checking who was behind me. Not seeing any other men nearby, I was now confident of finishing 2nd and thought it best just to keep a steady pace rather than risk pushing myself and blowing up. As I approached the finish line, I really appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to run a 3rd lap as per the Harrier League – in fact, I am not sure that I could have!

Laurie Johnson was our only representative in the “young men’s” race, though he was joined on the start line by two of our second claim runners, Jonathan Gilroy and Dave Nolan. All were going well until Jonathan turned his ankle on the uneven ground and withdrew from the race in some pain. That left Laurie as our leading runner as he finished 3 places in front of Dave.

As well as the runners, Claremont supplied two marshals – Gill Milne and friend, Verity (Verity has been part of our Great Run marshalling teams before) who were placed at the top of the hill to offer us encouragement just as we most needed it. I think they earned their post-race cuppa as they were stood in the coldest, windiest spot possible – at least we could keep warm by running!

Afterwards, we retreated to the Sports Club lounge for tea, cake and the presentation. Much to our delight, all 3 of us in the first race claimed medals for being in the first 3 in our age category. All that mud and wind suddenly seemed worth it!

Women & Over 65 Men
11 (2nd M65)Tom Tinsley26:14
32 (3rd F55)Julie Cross29:40
65 (2nd M70)Kenny McCormick43:20
Men under 65
31Laurie Johnson37:21
Tom Tinsley -