The National Cross Country Championships 2020

Woolaton Park, Nottingham, Saturday 22nd February.

Or simply "The National" as it is affectionately referred to.

Entry to The National open to anyone who is a member of an affiliated English club. The senior races see those who are GB standard racing alongside others who just want to complete the course that day. It is a race loaded with history; the past winners are all special athletes. A lot of the juniors who place highly go on to achieve great things in their running careers.

A particularly wet winter set the scene for what was always going to be a mud bath. The week leading up it there was a lot written about the state of the course and potential for it to be brutal. One thing was sure though, this event was going ahead regardless of the wet weather and high winds.

John and Steve got there early to set up the team tent, collect numbers, organise the juniors, and provide feedback to those travelling up later on the state of the course.

In the junior races we had a record seventeen Athletes competing all of which completed the course with not a single DNF.

Our U17B were represented by Jack Gunning and Finley Banwell–Moore both boys looked absolutely shattered at the end but can be proud of some decent placings this despite the individual and personal challenges that this type of course threw up.

Our lone U17G was Lucy Spencer who had to overcome all the issues of being in the opening race and the font of all knowledge as everyone was desperate to hear her tell us that the course was not as bad as it looked. All 4 members of the Spencer family Mum, Dad and sister all pulled on the Black and white and competed for the club. Is this first time this has ever happened?

U15G were lead home by Kelly Marie–Marsh despite running nearly all the race holding her detached shoe in the air like some sort of tour guide asking for people to follow her! Katie New was next in and actually finished with the words I really loved that which shows that most runners are in fact a bit mad. Next in were Josie Ryder and Evie Banwell–Moore who despite not being at the front end of the field saw off multiple DNFs and in Evie’s words as she left the tent ‘ I’m going to finish no matter what ‘ It’s this sort of attitude which shows there is more to running than winning races.

U15B Saw us with 4 boys competing with Fletcher Hart first in right in the mix followed by Josh Burns then Harry Edwards and Jack Choules . This was a whole new experience for most of these boys and they should be really pleased with themselves.

U13G saw us field a strong group of girls with the finishing order being Ella Spencer then Maisie followed in by Bella. Those 3 tiny girls were absolutely splattered from head to toe and completed exhausted. On crossing the line Bella donated the contents of her pre–race lunch onto the course as a gesture of goodwill which summed up pretty much how we all felt on crossing the finish line –good girl!

This just left our U13B who were led home by James Bagot who again was right in the business end of the race followed in by Arthur Widows who had a stormer and finally Anubus Molina–Vasquez to whom the course must have felt a lifetime away from the sunny plains of Espanola!

To sum up all our juniors in one word would be Fantastic. I wonder how many other clubs fielded such a large team with no DNFs. We are totally committed to this event and making next year’s team even bigger.

Swindon had one race with no entrants, the junior ladies, although the club is hopeful of this changing in future.

The senior women put out a team of 4. Jessica was the chief mobiliser and ever enthusiastic. As they set off in a stampede of colours, 50 yards in you could hear the screams as the pack hit the first puddles and the women became caped in mud. Approximately 1000 women took to this course. Water features, gloopy, sticky, very very boggy sections, a few logs to hurdle/climb. This course was not for the feint hearted. This was not so much as a race, more a test of your determination. The senior men were shouting words of encouragement, half excited, half petrified of what they had to come. Charlotte produced a strong performance to lead the team home, with Jess in hot pursuit. Felicity was the third team member home, followed by Jane to complete the team. These women all produced on the day. This is the first time for many years that Swindon Harriers has put out a full senior women’s team, and what a team spirit they have. The team placed 67th. This is an incredible performance when you consider a year ago there wasn’t a single senior woman in the Harriers kit on the course. These ladies are a close-knit group, spurred on by one another and are truly inspirational. Well done ladies, please keep it going.

Ethan was the sole harrier in the Junior Mens race. He produced another good performance to fly the Harriers flag against some very strong opposition. Ethan is not a fan of XC racing, and again, he just toughed it out. Well done Ethan, this will help you get stronger for future road/track events.

All the earlier races did a good job of churning up the course for the last race of the day, the senior mens race. It was pretty boggy already, as 2000 lined up to test their fitness, strength, balance and mental fortitude against this truly saturated course. As every lap ticked by, the course got noticeably worse, the ‘good line’ soon became a bog. 12 km of bog trotting, log jumping, some weeping, a small amount of crawling, numerous men pulled out sighting excuses from injury to just plain “I cannot do it”. Not for the hardy Harriers. 14 started, and 14 finished. Courtenay led the Harriers home, followed by Nyle and Luke. Ben and Jason had their typical battle, Ben just edging out Jason by a few places. Simon Jell and Matt seemed to battle through the mud well, Simon Dill will be talking about this for years to come. He doesn’t enjoy XC racing, but he battled through it. Ed continued his recent good form. Ian Spencer had a very good day indeed, the 4th of the Spencer family competing that day. Duly followed home by Matt, Craig, Steve and John. Gentlemen, every one of you needs to feel immensely proud of your achievements. It has been touted as one of the hardest races ever run by some of the most experienced XC runners we have (Steve Connolly – 40+ years of XC’s under his belt).

Full results of all the races are available here:

Special mention to those involved in making this event happen. John Dill and Steve Connolly for getting there early and setting up camp. Simon Dill for arranging the Senior Men’s team, Jessica Pierce for arranging the Senior Women’s team. John also took charge of the junior ranks. Parents/partners involved in getting people ready and stood out on the course spectating.

To all the junior athletes who ran on the day, well done. XC racing doesn’t get much tougher than that. You all competed against some of the best runners in your age groups and just finishing that course is something to be proud of. It cannot be that often that you get that muddy and your parents aren’t mad about it!

It is events like these that really forms teams. On the day everyone was out on the course supporting other Harriers, helping them put kit on afterwards, providing feedback on the conditions, helping collapse the tent, taking videos/photos of those suffering, finishing their race and high tailing it back to the tent to get a beer and run 100 yards back up the course to hand it to your mate so he can cross the finish line pouring it over his head, you name it. This was a proper team event, and it certainly felt like it. Thank you to all for being a part of it.

If anyone is reading this and would like to be a part of this in future, please get yourself on our XC team. Speak to one of the officials/coaches/long time members about how you can get involved.

Same again next year?