SYCAA Cross Country Championships 2023 (Fixture 4) – Graves Park

By: Brian Jenkins

Race Date: 10/12/2023

I will admit to being an absolute newcomer to the world of Cross Country (XC), so this report may be rather light on the details that a hardened XC veteran may be expecting, but hopefully I will have a few insights for the “XC curious” tentatively considering “giving it a go”.

I started my XC journey earlier on in the year at Norfolk Park, Richard Pegg hosted a “XC Taster Session”. We were advised to get ourselves a pair of spiked shoes and to turn up for a run.

After a talk on kit and tactics (and suitably shod) we headed to the grass. Walking on tarmac with spikes reminded me of walking in studded football boots (which I hadn’t done for more years than I care to remember). Once on the grass, movement became much easier. The run route was pointed-out to us, we had a light jog around it and were then split into 2 teams and then we were set-off on a relay. The next step (we were told) was to sign-up for the SYCAA XC series (4 races in all).

I noticed that the first 3 of the SYCAA XC races clashed with races I had previously committed to. These were all road races (on tarmac, my preferred habitat) and the last race was on the same day as the Bolsover 10k (a part of the Striders’ Road Championships / Leagues), but by my reckoning, I had done enough of the 12 nominated road races, so something a bit different was certainly a possibility. Later the call-out went out for Striders to attend the XC race if they could (as the competition was so tight over the first 3 of the races, and also because the Striders’ Cross Country Championship was to be run at the same time). This, and the usual peer-pressure that you get in a running club, got me dusting-off my nearly-new pair of spikes.

My XC plans were complicated by the postponement of the Striders’ Percy Pud 10k (road) race the Sunday before (due to snow). I had volunteered for some course marshalling, and then the race was rescheduled to the day of the XC. I asked if it was possible to do both and was told that I could be re-assigned duties to get me closer to the race finish (and a quick get-away) making it possible.

All good. I got my kit ready for the next day, and went to bed.

The next morning I checked Facebook, and was faced with pictures of carnage at the Percy Pud finish line. That night’s storm had wreaked havoc and the race had been cancelled (on the grounds of safety, understandably I might add) but volunteers were required for the clean-up.

I pulled-up at the Percy Pud race village and was tasked (along with a small army of volunteers who had answered the call) with returning the road at the start / finish to its usual state. We then headed to a neighbouring field to disassemble and remove the finishers’ Pud tent (which was blown away in the storm), the next task was to move the road cones at the dam wall ready for collection. We then returned to the race village for the real biggie, the race marquee had been mangled by the wind and blown onto the race storage container (which fortunately prevented it from being blown any further away). The huge tent was dismantled by the army of volunteers and the debris was stacked-up against a wall. All pretty heavy work.

For those thinking that I mention this as an excuse (in the context of the XC race that this report will return to in a bit), what? moi?

The original plan was to leave the race village (after my marshalling duties) and set-off to Graves Park at 11:00. I was giving Strider Chris Reece a lift and his race was due to set-off at 12:00.

We arrived at Graves Park to see the gathered masses of the South Yorkshire running clubs in their club colours with their flags and tents. The Striders’ palace (also referred to as a gazebo) was in the process of being assembled and spikes were being applied to shoes.

There were to be 2 different races that the Striders were to compete in. The first was at 12:00 for adult females and M65+s, covering a small lap and 2 large laps of the park (approximately 6.5km). The second (at 12:30) was for 18-64 year old males, with 4 large laps of the park (approximately 10km).

The later start for my race meant I could watch the start of the 12:00 race and watch the runners disappear into the distance. I then moved to another part of the course where a huge tree had been blown over (possibly in the same storm that was responsible for the cancellation of the Percy Pud) and watched the mud-splattered competitors as they passed-by.

As the 12:30 start neared, runners assembled at the start line. The starting gun was fired and we were off.

Initially the mud was not too bad, the heavy rain the previous day was evident (the ground was largely sodden), the first corner was to be the warning of what was to come. Where the course narrowed the ground had been churned up and I was grateful for the added grip afforded by the spikes. The course progressed downhill into the woods where the going got a bit more “technical” with a narrower trail path (and you guessed it, more mud) then uphill up to a grass section (where mud had largely taken over). The course crosses a tarmac path (where spikes become a liability), more grass (and mud), back over the tarmac path (further up) to the start of the next lap and eventually, the finish.

Crowd support was good throughout and some Striders had come out specifically to support the runners, their numbers were increased by the 12:00 racers who came out to add to the support once their race was run. One supporter, located by one of the tarmac crossings (not a Strider I might add) came equipped with a loud-hailer, and yes, she knew how to use it.

Seeing as I have nothing to compare it with (with this being my first ever XC race) I cannot say with any certainty whether this was muddier than your average XC race, but I can certainly say that mud was there, and in some quantity.

I was lapped quite a few times. By the look of these faster runners, their chosen tactic was to charge head-first (metaphorically of course) through the worst of the mud, and I was not doing myself a favour by preferring the parts of the course that were less churned up (where possible).

I finished my fourth lap and crossed the finish line. I was later happy to find that, although my pace was more leisurely than most, I wasn’t to be the winner of the wooden spoon.

I returned to the Strider tent for mulled wine and mince pies.

The race was certainly harder than I was expecting, and whilst the course is not particularly hilly, any incline covered in mud will always be a challenge.

I knew what to expect when I got home. In my pre-Strider days I ran Total Warrior (think Tough Mudder, but in Leeds). My resultant broken finger went unremarked from Mrs J, very much unlike the bin bag of running kit adorned with the finest West Yorkshire mud.

I got home after the XC and sneaked in. I put my mud encrusted socks on the radiator in my workroom to dry-out prior to cleaning. This attempt at hiding the evidence was to prove to be fruitless, and I was treated to a display of passive aggressive hand-washing (despite entreaties to let me clean my kit myself).

An honourable mention goes to Strider Jim Rangeley who ran the Bolsover 10k (road) race in the morning, followed-up by the XC in the afternoon.

The races were won by, (in chronological order) Steel City Striders’ own Abbie Pearce in 24:55 (Under-20, Senior and Veteran Ladies race), Kevin Newman (Doncaster Athletic Club) in 28:17 (Veteran Men 65+ race) and Euan Brown (Hallamshire Harriers) in 34:15 (Under-20, Senior and Veteran Men U-65 race).

Striders Results:

Under-20, Senior and Veteran Ladies

Pos Time ( Name Cat
1 24.55 Abbie Pearse FS
6 27.24 Sarah Thorne FS
13 28.21 Simone Young-alls FS
19 29.58 Yasmine Chaffer FS
27 31.00 Fiona Jeffries FV55
31 31.23 Josie Hill FV35
37 31.57 Kathryn Liddiard FV35
44 32.48 Jacqui Herring FV45
52 33.42 Laura Mella FV35
56 34.06 Nicola Rafferty FV55
69 36.36 Kate Scott FV55
72 37.37 Louise Rowley FV65
81 38.40 Karen Clark FV55
82 39.07 Katelyn McKeown FV35
84 39.30 Angela Jackson FV55
85 39.50 Jo Gleig FV55
89 42.11 Christine Booth FV45

Under-20, Senior and Veteran Men U-65

Pos Time ( Name Cat
25 38.59 Naeem Stevens MS
36 40.14 Stephen Schubeler MV35
40 40.22 Liam Brennan MV35
44 40.36 James Wilkins MS
50 41.42 Louis Wood MV45
55 41.55 Seth Kirby MS
66 43.33 Richard Carter MV35
68 43.41 John Kilcoyne MV35
69 43.52 Sam Needham MV35
76 44.26 Malcom Baggeley MV35
77 44.33 Chris Ireland MV55
78 45.01 Phil Gregory MV35
79 45.06 Jed Turner MV55
81 45.11 Chris Lawson MV45
85 45.31 Neil Schofield MV45
89 45.50 Sergei Shkul MV45
101 47.02 Tom Bassindale MV45
106 47.31 Russell Stevenson MV45
112 48.18 Ian Stinson MV45
119 49.16 Paddy Treehowes MV55
130 50.59 Tim Erskin MV45
132 51.07 Nick Burns MV45
143 53.43 Andrew Rowland MV55
145 54.20 Jim Rangeley MS
152 58.34 Anthony Bell MV55
154 61.11 Brian Jenkins MV45

Veteran Men 65+

Pos Time ( Name Cat
13 38.37 Chris Reece MV70


Full (provisional) results can be found at:

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