The pre-Welly 5 BBQ run

Our club holds a 5 mile race annually on the outskirts of our home town of Wellingborough.  The ‘Wellingborough 5‘.  A tradition 10 days beforehand is to hold a ‘test’ event, known to our members as the ‘Pre Welly 5 BBQ run’.  This fell last Thursday evening.

The original idea behind the event is that the race organisers can check the smooth-running of the event and it also gives those who will be marshaling the event on the day the opportunity to run the course.  Our chosen club ‘teams’ of runners for the actual race on the Sunday head out on the course to marshal the BBQ run.

And…it gives us a chance to grab a yearly photo of a large majority of our club runners too!Pre Welly 5 BBQ runMy 5 mile PB of 45:55 was actually set at last year’s BBQ run.  I had a great year of PBs last year.  I’d put in a lot of training and obviously selected the right races to perform well at!  The Wellingborough 5 is a fairly fast and flat course with a lot of PB potential.  It was actually my second 5 mile PB of that year, having secured my first improvement just a couple of months earlier.  2014 wasn’t such a great BBQ run though.  At the time I had been struggling to handle my new addiction to running ultra distances whilst still being able to convert my pacing to short road distances.  You can read about the horror of that run here.

As I’m marshaling at the actual Wellingborough 5 event next Sunday I wasn’t required to marshal at the BBQ run as well.  However, following a lot of thought I decided that it would be wise for me to volunteer to help with the timing on the finish line.  If I raced the BBQ run I knew there would be a good chance that I would push myself too hard, knowing all of the other runners in the event, or that I would be disappointed in trying to pace myself but being unable to do so if the baby wasn’t playing ball.  Both ridiculous at nearly 30 weeks pregnant, but both things I wanted to avoid if possible.  I’m very happy to still be able to run and if that means no races for a few months, just chatty parkruns and social trail running then so be it.  I’m still running!

Pre Welly 5 BBQ runAfter the group photos the runners were started and I moved along to the finish line along with Laura and Lucia who would also be on the timing station with me.  Laura had the stopwatch, so would call out the times as runners crossed the line and Lucia would chase up anybody whose name we weren’t sure of for me to match the two up and list in the results table.

BBQ run results

Although I know most of our own members, it is also tradition for us to invite neighbouring club Northampton Road Runners, and this year, for the first time we also invited our even closer neighbours, Redwell Runners to join us for the event.

Redwell Road Runners

There were a couple of members out on the course with cameras during the event.  I love this shot of some of our runners at the halfway point.

Group 6 at the Welly 5 BBQ runThis runner took some really good pictures.  (Photo envy!)  I shall have to enquire about what settings he uses on his camera!

Runners usually finish anywhere between 32 and 62 minutes – with our faster runners marshaling at the BBQ run in order to save their energy for the real race the following week.  Once the last of the runners has crossed the finish line we head inside the Old Grammarian’s Sports Club for drinks and to put food on the BBQs another non-runner has been busy lighting whilst the rest of the runners are out on the course.

With the course all packed up it’s time to concentrate on refuelling and drinking, and then there is always the club raffle, famous for it’s multitude of prizes (pretty much just bottles of wine, with the occasional multipack of fags on the table too!)

Does your club hold any events with other local clubs?
How do you decide when it is best not to race an event?


Shorts and a vest for cross-country

It really doesn’t feel like Christmas is happening this Friday at all.  I think partly because I’ve not had much to do with purchasing Christmas presents this year, and have left all the shopping to Dan.  Mainly though I think the lack of feeling Christmassy is due to the weather!

How is it so warm by the 20th December that when we turned up for the fourth cross-country race of the Three Counties league, the majority of our club were kitted out in vests and shorts?! (With the odd Santa hat here and there to remind ourselves that it was actually Christmas time!)

Letchworth cross-country WDAC turnoutI have pictures from the fourth event a few years back when it snowed the entire race…Three counties XC 2011…that wasn’t the case on Sunday though!

In fact, when I got out at the petrol station wearing just my vest and shorts at 8:30am a bunch of bikers dressed in full Santa outfits said they knew they had gotten the date wrong for their Santa ride!  ‘When was Christmas supposed to be again’?!

There wasn’t a huge turnout from our club at the Letchworth event.  The weekend before Christmas is always a tricky one for numbers, as so many runners have family commitments, or are away/fitting in last minute shopping.  This is the event furthest from our hometown as well, taking nearly an hour to get there.  There was still plenty of people to score for our team though.

Cross-country in a Santa hat

The course itself is five and a half miles long and like many of the other events in the series,- mainly run along wide verges at the edge of fields or along farm tracks.  It is essentially an out and back course, although it loops around a large field at the far end of the out and back so you are not turning directly back on yourself.

Letchworth XC

I was running strong from the start of the race and had placed myself just behind another runner from our club who is faster than me.  I was hoping to hold on to her pace for as long as possible, to give me a focus.  I knew that I did at least have a few years of regular off-road running under my belt to give me an advantage over some.

Letchworth XC

I am not a fan of this picture.  I think it looks like I have been photoshopped on – a giant compared to everyone around me!  My shoulders are too hunched up again as well.  No wonder the top of my back is always stiff after a run.

Even though we hadn’t had a huge amount of rain just lately, it seemed that there were large areas of mud out on the course.  There wasn’t any of the thick mud that clogs up the bottom of your shoes, but plenty of puddles and slippery mud at every turn.  Several times I splashed through puddles, overtaking other runners as they cautiously stepped around the edges of the track.

About a mile and a half in to the race you head through a small wood.  Just before reaching the wood the track narrows to single file.  Coming from wide grass verges there then isn’t a lot of space between the person in front, you, and the person behind.  Not my favourite when it comes to running, as I hate having a choppy stride.  From running the race the previous year, I knew there was a small ditch coming up when inside the wood and from a distance I could see the marshal placed there to warn runners of the obstacle coming up.  The ditch is no more than a foot deep and doesn’t contain water.  It is probably two strides across before you jump back out again.  For some reason this year the club had decided to fill the ditch with twigs and sticks.  Twigs and sticks which pointed from the direction we were running from to the other side of the ditch.  Several runners slowed to tackle the obstacle but I would rather push on and keep going.  The guy in front took his second step in the ditch just as I was jumping down.  His step meant that the twigs and sticks (none of which were very thick) rose up at the front to meet the top of my trainer, digging into the front of my toes and tripping me up.

I barrel-rolled into the ditch, instantly picking myself up and continuing with the race.  A guy from Stopsley Striders who was just behind had offered me his hand, but I was up again before he’d fully extended his reach.  He checked I was OK and I was fine, – just annoyed that I’d lost a couple of places from my fall, and my marker from the club was getting away!

The rest of the race went by without incident.  My splits were: 8:44, 9:42, 9:53, 10:06, 9:29, 9:36 pace (over the final nubbin of 0.46m).  A huge improvement on the previous year when my splits had been 9:22, 10:09, 10:54, 10:46, 10:05, 10:18 pace.

Despite knowing I wouldn’t reach the woman ahead of me on the finish straight and there being no other females close behind, the support of the other WDAC club members on the finish line helped me to kick off for a sprint finish over the line.  Cross-country is scored on position, not time, but it’s nice to finish on a high!

It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line and received a lovely purple bag as reward for taking part in the 100th Three Counties Cross Country race that I looked down and realised how much mud I had picked up from my fall and that I was bleeding.

Mud and blood at cross-countryThe perils of cross-country!  I’ve since discovered a lovely turquoise-coloured bruise on my left arm as well and was a little stiff yesterday, but no real damage done.

I stuck around for a roll and cake at the finish.  The event before Christmas always has Christmas-themed food so there was a great selection of salmon and cucumber, ham and mustard, turkey and cranberry rolls and then amongst the wide selection of cakes there were also some mince pies to be had.

Position: 313/376
Gender position:

If you fall when out on a run do you pick yourself up and carry on, or do you assess the situation before continuing?

The cow slurry cross-country

I’ve never had been available to run the weekend of the Wing cross-country, but this year the third race in the Three Counties Cross Country season actually fell on a day that I could make and so I found myself travelling over with a friend for the 10:30am start on Sunday.

I had intended on wearing a very thin top under my club vest, but the one I had planned on wearing was still in the wash and after glancing out at how bent over the trees were just outside the window I thought it best to throw a base layer on instead.  A decision I was glad I’d made later on.  Apparently the winds got up to 40 mph whilst we were out on the course!

The Wing course is known for the thick slurry that you run through 100 metres before the finish line.  There are always some fantastic shots that go up on Facebook following the race each year of runners knee deep in the stuff, with splashes of mud everywhere!

Here’s the picture of our club chairman making his way through last year…

Tony at Wing cross-country

The start is a five minute walk from the school where registration is held.  Once out in the open field we were all made quickly aware just how strong the wind was out there – with runners getting blown in every direction!  I must remember to buy a hairband to sweep my hair back off my face for the next race as I was tucking my long grown-out fringe back behind my ears for the first couple of miles.  My hair is so thick that when it blew in front of my face I could see nothing!

The race begins by running twice around the large field that the course starts in.  The first side is fairly flat, two sides are on a gradual incline, and the final side is a nice downhill slope.  (Which was welcomed after the uphill!)  The second time round the field, we headed through a muddy puddle and out into another windy field, before crossing a road and following the outside of a series of fields which disappeared off into the distance.

Last week the weather had been rather wet and drizzly, so the ground was muddy and slippery.  I did wonder briefly how much time I could have made up by wearing a pair of cross-country spikes, but by only running in a couple of cross-country races each year I’m not sure I can justify the cost.

I started out fairly steady and picked off several runners around the course.  There are two longish inclines towards the end.  The first at around 3.5 miles and the second a mile later.  I ran the entire course, although a lot of runners had broken into a power walk along the hill sections and I overtook them here, along with some runners that had lost their impulsion going up the hill.

As we turned into the final field, I got caught up behind a group of three runners and struggled to keep my stride where I wanted it to be, – feeling rather cut up behind the pack.  The track opened out eventually though, and with the cheering from our club members (loudest club in the world!) I overtook the two guys just ahead of me.  Evidence below, in the one photo online I can find of me at the race…

Me at Wing XC

I powered through the slurry.  It wasn’t very deep at all this year – perhaps a little deeper than ankle high, and my trainers, despite being rather old and ready for retirement, have a pretty good grip so I trusted them to take me straight through the middle.  As I ran along the final straight towards the finish funnel the rest of my clubmates were screaming at me to take the woman in front before crossing the line.  Something I am normally very capable of doing.  I like the thrill of the sprint finish at the end!  This time though, she outsprinted me, although I did make up a lot of ground between us.

Great race, and from the looks on the faces around me, it was one that everyone seemed to have enjoyed, despite the whinging about the wind and the mud!

And then there was the cake.  Cross-country races know how to do cake right!  😉

I was really happy with my performance on Sunday.  The run was tough in the wind but I persevered.  Something I’ve been trying to concentrate on just lately is my form when running and my leg turnover and I think I managed to bring both of those to the race at the weekend.

Distance: 4.89m
49m 08s
Position: 258/305
Gender position: 77/114

Time doesn’t matter in cross-country races, it is about the position you finish in.  You come away with your position as a number of points.  The first seven men and three ladies (including Vets) score for a team, and even if you don’t make the team (I never will!) you push the scores higher for other clubs with scoring runners who finish behind you.  It’s nice not to worry about time in a race!

Muddy legs after Wing XCI was rather mud-splattered by the end!  Time for a bath!

Do you prefer a bath or shower after muddy runs?!

The first XC of the season: Wellingborough

Yesterday morning was the first cross-country race of the Three Counties Cross Country (3CXC) season, of which our club are members.

3CXC mud: Wellingborough

The first race of the season is always held by our club, Wellingborough & District AC and falls the first Sunday of the October half term holidays.  Until this year I’d never had a chance to run it.
In 2011 I was ill, 2012 I helped to marshal, and in 2013 and 2014 it has fallen the same weekend as the Dusk ’til Dawn ultra.  I was excited, and also a little nervous that I would finally get the opportunity to run the home course this year.

The home course is arguably the toughest of the five that make up the cross-country series, as our course is incredibly hilly, and contains four brook crossings!  I had a rough idea of the course from marshaling back in 2012, but wanted to take a look at the brook crossings before the event to decide my best line of attack and to judge just how deep the water was as it had rained pretty solidly the afternoon before!

I walked down to scout things out with another club runner and it seems we weren’t the only ones out walking the course.  Lots of the runners had decided it was a good idea to check out the crossings before tackling them.  The dozens of runners out walking the tricky sections of the course reminded me of when I was younger and would head out to walk an equestrian cross-country course to decide how different jumps should be approached before going round on horseback.

The weather was perfect for cross-country yesterday – just warm enough for shorts and a vest, with no wind, rain or sun in sight.

Each of the five cross-country events that make up the season are approximately 5 miles in length and cover a variety of terrain.  Our home cross-country is a two and a half lap course run on grass, although it crosses over a tarmac path a couple of times and there are two brook crossings on each of the full laps.

Wellingborough XC - brook crossingsCan you guess at which point of the course each of the four crossings took place?!

I set out at just under 9 minute miling and soon found my place within the pack.  There were 316 runners on the course yesterday, and several had set off too fast so I overtook them within the first mile, before settling into the event and running comfortably hard.

The course runs a smallish loop of approximately one mile, before circling infront of the Race HQ and then back out again for two laps of a larger, two mile route around Croyland Park in Wellingborough.

3CXC mud: Wellingborough

My heart leaped a little on the approach to the first brook crossing.  The first crossing is narrow enough that you can jump it, although I knew by the time I got there (especially on the final lap) it would be rather muddy and the approach/getaway would not be very easy.  With a slightly weaker ankle following my recent ankle injury, and the Dusk ’til Dawn ultra booked in for next weekend, I had already decided to play the safer option and jump into the brook, then run out the other side again. Thomas J. Lavin, Esq. was very helpful when my ankle was injured.

3CXC mud: WellingboroughAs I arrived though, there was already a Leighton Fun Runners member balancing on the step down so I couldn’t get the run up to jump in that I wanted and ended up jumping down onto my bum and then sliding into the water before running on out the other side instead.

3CXC mud: Wellingborough

You can tell where the best spot is for spectators on the course!  And cameras…all the cameras seem to be directed at the brook crossings!3CXC mud: Wellingborough

After the first crossing, the course takes you back up a long hill slog, before a nice downhill again the other side, then back up again, then down…repeat…all the way until you get over to the other side of the park, head into the trees and then down a steep hill through a very muddy section into the second brook crossing.  Although it is possible to jump over the first crossing on the course, it is not the second.  Those that I had been out walking the course with earlier on that morning had decided not even the best British long jumpers would have been able to jump the width of the stream here.  This meant that all runners had to jump into the crossing and then scramble up the other side.  The water here was quite shallow but like quick sand on the bottom of the bank, and it was incredibly steep to climb back up the other side again.  There were four members from our club marshaling here – two up on the bank pulling runners up and two in the brook itself – pushing runners up onto the bank the other side.  You can see how muddy it had gotten by this point!

3CXC mud: Wellingborough

As you scramble out of the brook you immediately hit a steep climb to head up out of the other side of the small patch of trees.  All your energy has just been sapped getting through the crossing!  Once at the top of the park again you head along several mini-hill-bumps in the track, running the entire length of the park before zig-zagging across the field, descending sharply, turning sharply and then heading back up parallel to the original track again.  You reach the outside of the field once more and run alongside the edge, being careful not to trip over any tree trunks along the way before sharply descending and heading past the finish for another lap.  The front two runners overtook me here, storming along the course to head in for the finish.

I had gradually overtaken a few runners on this lap, with no-one really passing and then staying past me.  I was close to three Bedford Harriers runners for most of the race that I yo-yod with quite a lot.

The first brook crossing is at the beginning of the second/third laps, so there were quite a crowd of people there by the time I reached it the second time.

3CXC mud: Wellingborough

The approach was now very muddy, as was the bank the other side.  Time for another slip and slide in…

3CXC mud: Wellingborough

Although one of the other nearby runners managed to make it across with a jump, most of those around me were also now sliding in on their bums.

3CXC mud: WellingboroughMy attempt wasn’t so great this time though and I ended up going right in!

3CXC mud: Wellingborough


3CXC mud: WellingboroughGood job it wasn’t too cold out there yesterday!

3CXC mud: Wellingborough

Despite now being absolutely soaked and my hands covered in mud I couldn’t stop laughing!3CXC mud: WellingboroughI gained back a couple of places on the long uphill drag again, down the steep hill, up the steeper hill, and then along the gradual descent across the tarmac path.3CXC mud: WellingboroughI was still feeling super strong – looks like I was really using my arms here as well.  Probably the reason I ended up with chaffing under my left arm from my vest.  :(3CXC mud: WellingboroughWhen I reached the final brook crossing I seemed to arrive as there was a backlog of runners in front of me, still struggling to get out the other side.  There was no-one to help me initially so after jumping in I stuck my knee up onto the bank ready to scramble out before one of the helpers grabbed my arm and pulled, as our club Volunteer Co-ordinator pushed from behind and I slithered out onto the bank the other side, picking myself up and continuing along the way.

I was on the final stretch now, (although still with plenty of sharp up and downhills to go!)  As I made the final turn across the top end of the field I could hear club runners shouting my name despite being so far away and I managed to pick up my pace.  It was all downhill from here and with the three Bedford Harrier runners just in front of me now I stormed past the first lady.  As I came to the bottom of the hill I also glided past the Bedford man just ahead, but there was no time for me to overtake the lady in front of that.  A really strong finish I was proud of though, after a tough cross-country course.

Mile 1: 9:21
Mile 2: 9:23
Mile 3: 10:08
Mile 4: 10:01
Mile 5: 10:31
Nubbin (0.12m): 6:30mm pace << Happy with that! :)
Total time: 50:13

3CXC mud: Wellingborough3CXC mud: WellingboroughThat hand print was the mark of being helped up out of the brook at the final crossing!

Final position: 259/316
Gender position: 78/124

The way that cross-country works is you don’t get given a time at the end of the race, but instead a red or blue token with a number on.  The number corresponds to your gender finishing position and you give this in to your club scorers.  The scores from the top seven men (of which at least two must be aged 40+) from each club count towards your team score, and the top three ladies (of which at least one must be over the age of 35).  Scores are given to each person dependent upon their gender finishing position.  So if you were the first lady to finish, you would receive just one point.  The team with the lowest score wins.  Even if you do not count as a scorer for your team, you could help to give higher scores to runners finishing behind you.  If a club cannot produce a full team for an event, (which is sometimes the case for the later races in the season) the missing runners are automatically given one extra point than the last person in the event, pushing their team standings right down.

I enjoy cross-country running anyway, but I absolutely loved yesterday’s event!

(All pictures taken from the WDAC and Olney Facebook pages.)

Will you be running any cross-country events this season?
Are you a fan of the mud?!