After a four week break from XC (excluding those who took part in the nationals in London; of which more later), the Poly was back in action at Alnwick, for arguably the most attractive, scenic course of the lot. By kind permission of the Duke of Northumberland, runners were allowed to dash (or in some cases stagger) round a portion of his estate; taking in a gorgeous view of the castle, a slow, steady uphill, a wooded trail section, and a crazy downhill dash reminiscent of, and perhaps even steeper than, the one we so fondly remember from Aykley Heads. I did try to seek out the aforementioned aristocrat in order to say thanks and tug the forelock in time-honoured fashion; but neither Duke nor forelock could be found.
That downhill. Pic courtesy of Peter Gallagher
Alnwick Castle has of course been used as a set for a number of films and TV shows. Celebrities sighted here over the years include Rowan Atkinson, Greg Penn, and Daniel Radcliffe. Thankfully the weather had been kind, and after the recent mudbath at Jarrow, it was nice to find conditions firm underfoot.
First off were the under-11 boys. Josh Blevins led the Poly charge (and finished in an impressive third place), with more than capable assistance from Jonny Kidd, Dan Thorburn and Archie Pennington. Kirstie Nash, Helen Dickson, Winnie Huxley and India Hill all competed well in the under-11 girl’s race. For the under-13 boys, Thomas Sursham and Josh Collinson finished only a couple of seconds apart, with Mark Nash not far behind. Isaac Noble and Jake Hill represented the club for the under-15 boys, while for the girls, Isobel Robinson put in a solid performance to pick up fourth place. The increasingly speedy Jacky Penn, meanwhile, was second under-20 girl to finish.
I’m not sure what they have for breakfast in the Penn household, but it seems Lourdes Bradley has been tucking in to something similar recently. She’s been on a fine run of form, which continued today with a creditable tenth place in the ladies race. She’s now promoted to the medium pack, along with Kelly Gillan. Gina Rutherford put in a display both pacey and acrobatic from the fast pack meanwhile, and there were plenty of other decent performances from the 24 Poly women on the day.
Lourdes showing that Harry Potter isn’t the only one seen flying at Alnwick. Pic courtesy of Peter Gallagher
For the men, 41 runners turned out. Paul West put in a bravura performance to gain promotion to the fast pack, as did Patrick Houghton. Greg Penn, meanwhile, moved up to the medium pack in some style. Again, there were too many great performances to mention every one; well done all!
Some old ruins on a hillside. Nice view of the castle in the background though. Pic courtesy of Shelley Walsh
I referred earlier to the nationals, which took place the week before Alnwick. Chris Waite, David Gilmore and Mark Small joined a sizeable contingent of NE Harrier league runners for the race on Parliament Hill. Chris and David set off on a train at daft o’clock on race day to get there, while Mark had gone down a few days before to reconnoitre. All did well, on a challenging course, involving plenty of mud, and, as the name suggests, a geet big hill. Well done lads!
Only one fixture remains, at Wrekenton on March the 14th. As Lucy has pointed out, the ladies have made the club the most well-represented in the league, with the men only one runner behind Tyne Bridge Harriers. With a big turnout at Wrekenton, we could overtake TBH; it would be great to see you there. Thanks for reading, and up the Poly!
It only remains, of course, to thank the officials (both Harrier League and Alnwick Harriers) who made the race happen, our club captains, the tent-crew, cake-bakers, drivers, photographers, anyone else who helped, and you lot for turning up.