3rd March 2020 AUTHOR: dwhite CATEGORIES: Event Report

Mad Mary and the Cross-country Championships

First I have to say how sorry I am that for both the Humberside and Northern Cross-country Champs I was the only EHH female runner competing. This sad as we used to field at least two female and two male teams in both of these and they are important events. At one time you could not run in the Nationals if you had not run in the Northerns but things change, I know, so here we go with more epic adventures on the part of Mad Mary.

Sunday 5th January saw yours truly off to Weelsby Woods to compete in the Humberside Cross-country Championships. When I arrived it was to be greeted by Alec Gibson, who was there with his dad, Phil. After a happy ‘catch-up’ I went off to get my number and attempt to warm up properly for the race. Should have done this better as was still not really ready for the start. I know Weelsby Woods well from previous cross-countries there in the past and, also, from more recently having often orienteered there. Since the last time I ran in a cross-country race there they have definitely improved the whole area and what we used to dread as the ‘dead wood’ area, full of fallen trees and undergrowth, is now so much easier for running. The weather was kind for January so we did not have to fight our way against strong winds or in the rain.

The course was one small lap; one medium lap; and then four large laps to make up more or less 10km. Having been racing hard on the Wednesday at an Army orienteering event on the Hob Moor area in York and doing two events the weekend before, I was well-tired by the time I started in what was a very small field really. By the end of the small lap – where I even fast-walked up a small slope up which I would normally have run – I was considerably behind the rest of the field and, when I got to the top of the same slope on the medium lap I had to ask which way to go and was misdirected off to the left. A poor young man eventually came racing after me and I had to go back to where I should have been and go to the top of the field I was on before picking up the proper route.

By the fourth large lap I was definitely way behind the others and was not given an actual time as I finished so had to go and speak to Ed Bellamy and Christine to finally get my time. I was certainly not first and definitely last but it was great to learn that the men had easily won the men’s team and was able to see them as they stormed passed me after starting well before I had finished and the long lap not being that long plus they had to do it twice more than I did.

On to the Northern Cross-country Championships on 25th January. Yet another time when Mad Mary rather overdid things. Drove up to Camphill site, near Bedale and Ripon, without too much bother and, this time, did have time to warm up properly but did have the niggle that I had to get to Ilkley, after the race, and in time for the last of the night-orienteering league races at Middleton Woods on the edge of Ilkley. Nonetheless found the Kingston tent OK and dumped my stuff there as usual and enjoyed a good chat with Gregan. He, too, was disappointed that, although Kingston had a good showing of Juniors running – including the wonderful Becky Briggs – he was the only Senior Man. Also saw friends from Beverley AC and one from orienteering, as well as my good friends Amanda and Brian Ward, who were supporting Charlotte in her run.

There were 356 Senior Women running, which again was far less than it used to be, and we all set off into quite a strong wind to go round the medium lap and then onto the large lap. They had warned us that it would be muddy for about half the course but that was a tad of an underestimation of the amount and depth of mud that there was for what definitely was half the course. In addition, with running nearly last, there had been plenty of time for the mud to become really claggy and adhesive. I finished last in 1:19:07 but was kicking myself when I saw the results, as I had not realised I was only some 6 minutes behind the next runner and should have run through the mud, as I would normally have done, rather than delicately picking my way along the edges of it. Might well have caught up the next woman ahead of me if I had. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Quick snack and change and off to Ilkley. Now, being a country girl, I am well used to tractors on the back roads and make allowances for them but to be three behind a tractor, pulling a slurry tank and going 30 mph at the most, from just past Ripon to the bottom of Blubberhouses was infuriating. Did get to the event centre – an outdoor pursuits centre on Nell Bank – in time for the first, advertised start of 6pm but discovered that they had been letting people start from 5.30pm. This may seem irrelevant but, when the courses closed at 8.30pm and not 9pm as I had read they would, this put extra pressure on me to do well.

What again was worse was that the course was on a steep hillside where the planner had decided to have a good few controls where, between which, you went steep and muddy downhill followed by steep and muddy uphill – and remember you are off-path and truly cross-country – and two what we call ‘bingo’ controls, where there are no real attack points and it is either good luck, or a good knowledge of the area, that means you go straight onto them. Night events on the Medium course are supposed to be easier than day ones with most of the controls with good attack points and relatively near good paths – no way here. Hopefully I am including a map to show my course.

I wasted at least 20 minutes finding control number 3 and a further 15 minutes going from 5 to 6. It was also raining by then and I was knackered so gave up at number 8 and retired. Most annoying as was only 65-74 year old doing the course and would have got the full 100 points no matter how long I took but if I finished. At least the hotel in Ilkley was comfortable and I had a double bedroom to myself with a large en suite the same size as the bedroom, which was by no means small.

More adventures await and was first W70 on the Northern Night Championships at Jesmond Dene Newcastle last Saturday night, plus have now got into Snowdonia Marathon again after second ballot results.

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