The 2014/15 North East Harrier League got off to a fantastic start on Saturday at East Cramlington. It was a warm, sunny day (not proper cross-country weather at all!) and this helped an incredible turnout with 333 finishers in the ladies’ race and a massive 591 in the men’s. The course doesn’t have any of the steep, long hills of some of the region’s other venues but comprises an undulating lap of just over 2 miles. It was dry nearly all the way around with just a couple of slightly wet patches, so, despite the grass being long and clumpy in places, all in all it was a day for posting a decent time.
The Ladies were first, and it was an inexperienced Claremont team missing most of the stalwarts of recent years. Charlotte and Mary were joined by three first-time cross-country runners – Colette, Elaine and Karen. Charlotte followed her good run in the Farringdon relays with another impressive performance to come home in a highly commendable 34th place. Colette was smiling every time she passed us and finished strongly. At the finish she declared “That was brilliant, I loved it” – just wait till winter kicks in, Colette! Mary was her usual brilliant self and was followed in by Elaine, who had quite a different reaction to Colette saying that it was “even harder than the Great North Run”. Karen managed to kick on from the final down slope and showed an impressive turn of speed to overtake the runner in front but unfortunately could just not quite keep it going to the end of the long finishing straight.
The men’s team also had a number of debutants and I wonder when the last time was that a Claremont team did not feature at least one of Dave K, Bill and Kenny. The start was frenetic and crowded and it took a while to settle down. Christian was with me down the opening straight but soon pushed on ahead, and I settled into a position just behind Matthew. Part way around the first lap Chris Jones appeared at my shoulder and Matthew, Chris and I were together for a while. I expected Matthew to pull away but it was Chris who made the first move and he started to open up a bit of a gap on the 2nd lap. My watch was set to beep every mile, which confirmed to me that I was gradually slowing down as the ups and downs began to take their toll, but I was still in touch with the other 2. On the 3rd lap I could see that Matthew was catching and then overtaking Chris and by 5 miles I had also closed the gap. Chris and I traded places until the final sprint where he was much the stronger and finished a full 3 seconds ahead of me. The amazing thing to me was that those 3 seconds covered 5 places – I have never been in a Harrier League race with such a close finish.
It was then time to clap the remaining Claremonters home – in particular, a very strong finish by Howard boding well for future races once he gets used to this type of event – before going to the tent for a well deserved slice of Lorna’s delicious cake.
Although I didn’t really see the faster lads, I think special mentions should go to Jonathan Gilroy for a 38th place finish and Christian for an excellent debut time of 41:40 (I’m told that he looked easy at the end). It is also pleasing to see Duncan getting back to his best.
A good start to the season and let’s hope the weather is as kind for the rest of the year!