An eventful, enjoyable and successful cross-country season came to an end with a good day out at Alnwick. The season had a bit of everything – sun, rain, hard dry ground, ankle-deep mud, thigh-deep streams to cross, logs to jump over, olympians for competition, broken tents, mini-tents, massive ground sheets, cars that wouldn’t start, Roberto getting lost and, most importantly of all, great camaraderie and cake! Claremont Ladies also had success to celebrate – an under 20s silver medal, a top 5 finisher and promotion to Division 2. As for the Men, well …
The season opener is now traditionally at Farringdon, where the men compete in a 4 leg relay and the ladies in a short, individual race. The heavens opened that morning and proceeded to drop vast quantities of water onto what had been dry ground, thus catching a few runners out with the wrong choice of footwear. The small stream on the course had swelled to become an alarmingly deep one, meaning that the men had to step into water that was up to the thighs. This was deemed to be too dangerous for the gentler sex, and the ladies race was diverted on to the road – cue spikes now being the inappropriate footwear!
The Harrier League season started with events on two consecutive weekends – at the contrasting locations of Wrekenton and Druridge Bay. Both races were notable for warm, dry weather, hard ground and excellent performances by young Claremont ladies. Wrekenton saw the first outing of the very promising and enthusiastic Grace Scott, not quite 7 and competing against much bigger girls in the under 11s, and Druridge marked the debut of Hannah Mainprize in the under 20s. Grace did herself proud, while Hannah made a clear break with Claremont tradition by coming second and winning a silver medal. Who knew that medals were awarded at the Harrier League?
The Claremont team tent had not made such a good start to the season. The “blow-up” tent was in need of repair, so Bill kindly lent us a tent for Wrekenton, but it was a tad on the small side! The repair made, we looked forward to having a proper tent for Druridge Bay but that went pop too – we blamed Rose! – but luckily it was nice and sunny and none of were too shy to change in the open air!
The good weather continued into November as the Sherman Cup was contested in glorious sunshine. We now had a proper tent but, in a sign of things to come, no men’s team. The girls did very well though, finishing 9th overall.
Next up was the first of 2 events at a new venue – Thornley Hall Farm. I couldn’t make this one but was told that it was a tough course and quite muddy. I should have listened!
Then it was on to the NE Championships which this year was held at another tough and quite muddy course, Aykley Heads. The weather had changed by now and was much more wintry, as we expect for the cross-country. It was also the third event on the trot where the girls did well but we failed to field a complete men’s team.
The first opportunity to run off the excesses of Christmas and New Year was at Herrington Country Park. With Penshaw Monument as a backdrop, this is a lovely course around lakes, over the hill and back through the woods. Mud was now the order of the day, particularly in the woods, but this didn’t stop Catherine Young storming to a 5th placed finish on her first cross-country outing for a few years. We even had a full men’s team!
The Durham Cathedral Relays offered a break from the Harrier League. It had been so wet in the buld-up to this that it had to move from its usual course to Maiden Castle. This was a momentous occasion for Terry Welsh as it was the first time that he had competed in the sky blue in a team event in over 30 years as a member! In true Claremont spirit, Terry ran through the pain barrier to claim a silver medal in the over 65s with the other gadgies, Dave and Ben.
On a cold, wet, windy, miserable day in February it was Thornley Hall Farm part 2. Bill’s car wouldn’t start, Catherine got a flat tyre but they were the lucky ones! Those of us who did make it there were wet and caked in mud even before we got the tent up. Then we had to drag ourselves up and down hills through ankle-deep mud – not fun, so let’s move on.
We had a good turnout for the season finale at Alnwick with 9 of each gender. Though wet and muddy in places, it wasn’t a bad day for racing. The Ladies knew that if they performed as they had all season, then promotion was in the bag. Even with 3 runners starting from the medium pack, they were led home in style by Robyn Wynn to confirm that they will be in Division 2 next year. This meant that we could all enjoy a glass or two of plonk at Antico’s in Jesmond to celebrate the end of the season (thanks to Howard for organising an excellent evening out).
In total 35 Claremonters participated in the Harrier League with an additional 4 turning out for the relays. Mandy Herworth, Rose Hawkswood and Sarah Bowen were ever-presents in the Harrier League, with Rose and Sarah running in 9 of the 10 events in total. There were no ever-presents for the men, but David Lydall only missed one run overall and I joined him in running 5 out of the 6 League races.
However the cross-country season is a team event and all who took part made a contribution. In the words of the legendary Mary Martin, “everyone did brilliant!”.