I hadn’t run at Alnwick before and I’d been looking forward to this run following good reports from Claremonters who ran last year when it was used for the first time. It was a gloriously sunny day and the race is held in a really picturesque location just across the river from Alnwick Castle, so it made for a good afternoon out. I also liked the fact that the start and finish line were right next to the club tents, which I think helped to create a nice atmosphere.
The course is 3 laps that start on open land, skirt the hill and gradually climb up and through the woods before a long descent to the finish line. It was great watching the younger runners come pelting down the hill in the earlier races. So I got my excuses in early, telling everybody that I had an injured foot, and was ready to run.
The first couple of hundred metres were a bit chaotic with several hundred runners charging off through a field full of molehills (some of which were huge) but we were soon on better ground – fairly dry and flat. There were a group of us from Claremont in close proximity, I was just behind Jeremy, Chris and Alasdair and could see Matthew a bit further ahead. Having been lulled into a false sense of security by the benign conditions, suddenly we were ankle deep in mud! It was only a short stretch but it took me completely by surprise. This was to be the pattern for the rest of the course – nice long stretches of dry land interspersed with short patches of very deep and cloying mud. One patch was particularly nasty as it was on a sharp bend just at the start of a steepish climb, so that it caused you to lose all momentum and made the ascent that much harder. Still, it wouldn’t be cross-country if we didn’t finish caked in mud, would it?
By the end of the first lap I was beginning to fall a bit behind the Claremont runners who were in front of me, though I could see Alasdair and Chris on the more open stretches, and I was feeling really tired by the time I reached the top of the hill on the second lap. I didn’t feel I was running well at all, but unfortunately I couldn’t blame my injured foot as I only felt the odd twinge on the downhill bits. I think the problem was more a lack of running and too much good food and alcohol during my recent week off work! It was a relief to head downhill and know that I was on the last lap. I then noticed that I was catching Alasdair and took him before we started the final climb. He was tiring having had a very heavy week in Italy representing Great Britain in the World Cross Country Skiing championships. As far as excuses go, I suppose that trumps a week on the lash in Edinburgh, so I think we can forgive him a dip in performance this time.
I managed to dig up enough energy from somewhere for a reasonably strong finish, but I have to admit that I found the course much tougher than it looked. At the end I realised that I hadn’t even once looked across at the views of the castle at any time during the 3 laps – I think I was mainly looking at the floor. I was also too tired to take much notice of the rest of the Claremont team finishing. The results say that Luke Woodend finished immediately behind me and I am sure that I would have noticed if he had. I didn’t even see Luke there. I also see that Adrian Conlin is down as having been first Claremonter home. I don’t know Adrian, but all who congregated at the tent thought that Jeremy led us home.
Robert Brand deserves an honourable mention for making his cross-country debut even though he had done parkrun in the morning. Unfortunately he turned his ankle on the first lap and stopped for a bit before deciding that he could continue and complete the course. Hope it hasn’t put you off, Robert.
There was a 5-strong ladies team. As they passed me near the end of the first lap, I thought all the Claremont ladies looked strong – but I was on the downhill stretch. Mandy was very well positioned and Julie was also having good run with Kate not too far behind as well and then there was a bit of a gap to Mary with Debbie nearer the back. One lap later it was still pretty much the same but all had lost a few places due to the medium and fast pack runners making their presence felt.
Mandy had a very good run and brought some very nice chocolate cake, but for some reason doesn’t appear in the results. I hope that this will be corrected.
The winning female was a young lady from Durham who won by a massive margin – nobody else was in sight when she crossed the line. I’m sure that she won’t be in the slow pack again. In contrast the men’s race was won from the fast pack by Weynay Ghebresilasie from Sunderland. I couldn’t help but notice him as he went effortlessly by early in the 2nd lap, he just looked like a ‘proper runner’ – different class.
The results, as published, are:
131 0:44:49 SMITH, Jeremy
180 0:46:13 KINGSTON, Matthew
195 0:46:51 JONES, Chris
209 0:47:19 TINSLEY, Tom
227 0:48:00 NAYAK, Sumanth
229 0:48:14 WILSON-CRAW, Alasdair
291 0:51:10 LESLIE, Graham
320 0:53:03 WOTTON, David
332 0:54:08 BRAND, Robert
352 0:57:00 MILBOURNE, Bill
356 0:59:08 KEAR, David
359 1:00:04 MCCORMICK, Ken
37 0:33:12 HERWORTH, Mandy
48 0:33:44 CROSS, Julie
64 0:34:16 SERGEANT, Kate
146 0:39:52 MARTIN, Mary
160 0:43:38 MCRORY, Debbie
EDIT: Added Mandy’s excellent time and amended men’s results to show final times.