Photo courtesy of Kate Dyson
It was double helpings of XC for Poly athletes this weekend. While Stephanie Dann, Clare McManus and Guy Bracken were representing England at the British and Irish Masters in Nottingham (see Noreen Rees’ article for details), lots more runners made the short trip to Durham for the second league fixture. On the way into Durham, I couldn’t help noticing signposts for that most poetically named village, Pity Me. Little did I know how apt that name was to be.
After parking up next to the brutalist carbuncle that is Durham Constabulary HQ, we took a walk through the woods, up a pretty steep and muddy hill, in search of the Poly palace. A parent accompanying some younger athletes heading home said ‘Just wait until you see the course!’. We really should have listened…
We’d missed the young ‘uns races then, but it’s clear there were some good Poly performances, on a pretty savage course. Josh Blevins and debutant Jonny Kidd both put in top ten finishes for the Under 11 boys, with Archie Pennington and Harry Robson also in attendance (take note, you’re going to hear more of the Robson dynasty in this report). Lily Robson (told you) and Kirsty Nash were amongst a strong Poly contingent in the Under 11 girl’s race. Christian Sursham led another strong Poly group for the Under 13 boys, with Freja Smith and Marlie Gardiner turning out for the similarly aged girls.
Isaac Noble put in a cracking run to nab third place in the under 15 boys, with Jake Hill also doing well, and Isobel Robinson turning out for the under 15 girls. At Under 17 level meanwhile, the club was represented by Emily Cairns and Alix Pennington.
The course was by now getting quite well churned up ready for the adult races. A few of the lads took a moment to warm up and reconnoitre, and in doing so saw some of the senior women racing up the big hill (all right, just one of the big hills). I wonder if I was the only one who began to think ‘Ouch, I’ve got a sore leg! Perhaps I should sit this one out.’ Despite the tough course though, it was a vintage performance from the Poly girls. Gina Rutherford finished fourth, and I gather she’ll be running from the fast pack from now on. Angela Green meanwhile earned herself promotion to the medium pack. There were plenty more gutsy performances in the race, from athletes too numerous to mention. In all there were 27 Poly women racing, every one of whom worked their socks off throughout. Special mentions should go to Michelle Thompson who, having put in a good run, then positioned herself at the top of the nastiest hill and took photos of the men (er, thanks Michelle), and Sue Hill, who enjoyed the race so much she was later spotted trying to run in the men’s race too. We can’t move on without mentioning Karen Foster, who decided to combine cross country running with interpretative dance, notably at the bottom of the ridiculously steep, hugely muddy, crazily slippy hill with a tight hairpin bend at the bottom.
Photo courtesy of Hippie Nixon Photography – Sporting Memories
There was a fantastic sight not long before the men’s race-captain Vaughan Hemy lacing up his spikes and preparing for action. He was among a strong contingent of 37 Poly men on the day. The two leading Poly finishers were both representatives of the aforementioned Robson clan. William has clearly been enjoying his first senior season, and finished in a good position in this race. Garry wasn’t too far behind. Chris Waite also did well, and was also sensibly attired this time. There were impressive runs too from Sean Maley, from the medium pack, and Scott Ellis from the fast.
Happily, being only a short drive from home, there was no need for Ricky Davidson to find a hotel for this race (he’d only have ended up in Wallington Hall). Ricky’s been on fire recently though, and he followed up his excellent PB at the Leeds Abbey Dash with another fine performance. John Laws, meanwhile, not content with running an XC, decided to get in some tobogganing practice on the big downhill, sliding down on it his back (John; you might want to wait until it snows before trying this again. Also, a toboggan might come in handy).
The men’s performance was aided considerably by the amazing support from Poly women. There were noisy supporters all round the course, but they were particularly noticeable at the bottom of the big downhill (no doubt waiting to see people fall over!) and up at the top of the hill near the finish. I think there’s a lesson for the men here-let’s get out early and give the girls the same support.
Great running all round then, on a very challenging course.Personally speaking, this is only my second season of XC, and that was far and away the toughest course I’ve experienced. Yet, strangely it was the most enjoyable by far. One of my favourite moments had to be an unknown runner going past me at full pelt up one of the muddier hills, then losing his shoe in the quagmire and falling over (no, I didn’t trip him). I’d probably have laughed, if I’d had any breath to spare. It just remains to say thanks to all who helped to make this happen, including the hugely supportive and encouraging marshals, the Harrier League team, our excellent captains, the tent crew, and the cake bakers (I was presented with a cake almost on the finish line this time, and mighty fine it was too). A big ‘well done’ to all of you who ran.
Hopefully see you all next week at Wallington Hall for Round 3. In the meantime, here are the results. Thanks for reading, and up the Poly!