Imposter on the Throne: Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships

Race Date: Saturday 11th March.

The Counties Athletics Union Championships were first held in 1926 and since then have been one of the top races in the country. International honours can be the next step with the leaders certainly catching the selectors eye if not already in their target.After  Abbie Pearse had an excellent series of races in the South Yorkshire League, Mike Theobald (Hallamshire) who coaches at the track on Thursday suggested to Abbie that if she did well at the Yorkshire’s then one of the nine county vests available might follow. Yorkshire is always one of the strongest teams in the country (remember the London Olympics in 2012) so it seemed that Abbie had missed the boat when she came in eleventh. However, the machinations of selectors committee meetings are unknown and strong performances at the Northerns (22nd) and Nationals (60th) seemed to turn their heads and Abbie was selected for the Senior Women’s team. So, some of us settled down to watch a live YouTube feed from Loughborough trying to count Abbie across the line, enjoying some fine performances from Sheffield athletes in the other races along the way. We had suggested that Abbie’s target should be to get into the scoring team but we’ll let her take over the story in her own words.

This was the first year that I have really committed to cross country (and actually understood the different leagues!!). Before the Yorkshire County Championships, I was told the competition is the highest in the country and I would need to be in the top 10 for a chance of being selected for the Inter-Counties. The Yorkshires race was a VERY tough, mud filled event at Lightwater Valley and I came 11th. Therefore, it was a big surprise to have to got the call up to represent Yorkshire in the Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships on the 11th March.

Two days before the race; the snow came down – quite a lot. The Grindelford Gallop was cancelled and I started to worry the race would be off. After a fun evening of sledging on Friday night, I checked my phone and had it confirmed that the race was going ahead! Very pleased to come away with no sledging injuries….

After a scary start, sliding down the ice rink of my road; the journey was smooth and we arrived at Prestworld hall, Loughborough: still with three inches of snow stuck to the roof of the car but none to be seen in Loughborough. There was however, lots of mud.

Team photograph, somehow missing Abbie but she wasn’t missing from the scoresheet.

I got given my Yorkshire vest and a large dose of imposter syndrome on arrival to the tent. I got my spikes on, did my warm up and at 11:40 was in a line with the other girls in the Yorkshire team. We started in pens where we were meant to be ordered in predicted finishing time within the team. I put myself at the back of this line and was under no impression that I would not be coming in the top scorers for the team. The route was two big laps with a number of gentle hills.

The start was frantic and slightly brutal in classic cross country tradition. I naturally seem to apologise every time my elbow comes into contact with someone and was told by another Yorkshire girl that I was the most polite runner she had ever met and that apologising is not the etiquette! The field soon spread out and I found myself just behind Ellen, fellow Yorkshire team member, a Rotherham Harriers runner who I am often very close to in races.  Ellen and I worked together the whole race and sticking on her shoulder became my sole focus when things began to hurt on the second lap! I didn’t have my best sprint finish but came in about two seconds behind her and was very surprised to hear that I was fourth Yorkshire girl to cross the line.

The top finishes in each county scores towards the team score and, Yorkshire senior women came home with bronze!! Very, very grateful for the opportunity to race against the top runners in Great Britain and even more grateful to be in such a supportive club. Shout out to Peter Brown (and Mike Theobald ed.) for helping me with my training over the years!

I was 4th Yorkshire scorer and 42nd overall. When adding in the other events Yorkshire also won the Ken Rikhaus trophy for the best overall team in the UK!

P.S A quick note on the imposter syndrome I felt at the start of this event…. the sense that I wasn’t good enough to be there, hadn’t earned what I had achieved, a real lack of confidence and self-doubt.  I expect this feeling might be experienced by other runners at events (or in other aspects of your lives!) Firstly, I think it’s good to remember that you are not alone in the feeling so talk about it, a few words of encouragement from someone else can really settle the feeling. Secondly, in order to get that feeling; it is likely that you are doing something out of your comfort zone so, this, in itself is the achievement and we should turn the feeling into a positive one.

Pos Name Club Time Score
4 Phillipa Williams Hallamshire 32.07 4
29 Becky Penty Knavesmire 34.09 29
39 Ellen Joanna McLeod Rotherham 34.51 39
42 Abbie Pearse Steel 34.55 42
50 Erica Byram Holmfirth 35.10 50
52 Charlotte Slack Hallamshire 35.24 52
86 Mya Taylor Rotherham 36.27
93 Emily Baines Knavesmire 36.42
135 Nik Tarrega Knavesmire 37.51

Full results across all the events Inter Counties Results 2023  Cross Country is a team event with everyone having a role to play, even the non-scorers, and the Yorkshire women had to pack well to finish in front of Middlesex who were only ten points behind.

Abbie, centre, resplendent in blue and white vest.

Link to the YouTube video with Abbie getting a shout from the commentator. There’s a timetable if you don’t want to sit through the other races. YouTube Inter Counties 2023

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