In the Bleak-Midwinter
Saturday started wet. The rain then turned to sleet, the sleet turned to wet snow, the wet snow to ‘full on’ snow and by the time the senior men’s race started there was a two inch carpet of snow on the course. Thus the scene was set for this year’s North East X/C Champs at Sedgefield.
Striders were there in reasonable strength and Sally Hughes was first out in the junior women’s race. Unable to hire a taxi from the tent to the start line she was escorted there by Mudpeople and her father. She looked a forlorn sight as she lined up with the other young athletes, most of who were shivering while others were shielded by umbrellas held by more devoted parents or club captains. The sound of the starter’s gun was almost drowned out by chattering teeth but off they went all eager to get going and get warm – or slightly less cold. Sally held her own in the challenging conditions finishing in 28th place in a highly competitive field. Understandably, she made a hasty exit from the field seeking hot food and drink and a more substantial shelter than that offered by the Striders tent!
As these races represent the North East Champs the senior men still get to start before the women and Striders were fielding a company of twelve of their finest brave men. As the young tend to know no fear Jack Lee went out at the front into the blizzard followed by two more senior comrades Neil Sleeman and Capt Evans. As some of you will know Neil hails from slightly warmer climes than Sedgefield in December but he took to the snow like a koala to a gum tree finishing second Strider home behind Jack and ahead of Capt E after an exciting tussle. Old Tom was next home holding off a challenge from the baseball hatted Aaron who was in turn followed in by James Garland making a welcome return to the fray.
Innes must be benefiting from his own grass sessions as he had a good run as did newbies Alex W and Peter H, the latter supported by his understanding family. Shaun the Sheep’s trailer had been held up in the snow bound traffic so he came out of the pen some minutes behind the rest of the flock. Once other runners were nipping at his heals though he was soon trotting merrily along, although at the end, after braving the blizzard, it looked like he’d been ‘dipped’ if not sheared! The two Mikes made up the team with Mr Bennett resembling a festive Santa speeding round the snowy fields and Mr Hughes covered in the white stuff and thinking Sally had had the best of the conditions. And, as it turned out, she had – so well done lads, a great performance – it’s what the club is all about: great days out and shared experiences in face of adversity!
Well, if the men had to face adversity then the women were facing something even tougher! By now the snow was really meaning business not only covering the course in a thick blanket but also trying to bring down the Striders tent with a duvet size overlay. A field of over 220 snow women lined up for the start. Relieved to get under way Penny of the Antarctic skied off with the front runners followed by Elaine, Sarah and Mudwoman. Debs wasn’t far behind and the hangover she was suffering was soon “washed away like the snow in the rain” as she battled through the white stuff. There was no “compromising” either by any of the Striderettes today: Catherine Elliott made a determined effort to duck the snow flakes, Steph P was making a return to form as conditions become more to her liking, our debutant Fiona Wood smiling (or grimacing) in the knowledge that “things can only get better” and Rebecca serenely floating through the white mud dreaming of Mandalay.
They all contributed to another great performance by the women’s team who, cheered on by Jan and many of the men’s team, finished in the top half of the table in a race where the first three finishers were all international runners and household names (they are in our household anyway). What a great day! Yes it was cold, wet and uncomfortable and the race was hard and tough but that’s what makes x/c so rewarding – the harder it is the more we enjoy that post race glass of wine or beer and the more we feel at one with our club mates. We can’t wait for the next time!
|1||516||Philippa Stone (Middlesbrough Athletic Club)||20:33|
|1||1498||Patrick Martin (Stockport Harriers)||40:53|
|1||715||Rosie Smith (Durham City Harries &AC)||31.55|