Trouble for Some at Cross Country

Everybody looks forward to the cross country season. This year, for the first round of five in the Chiltern League, there was the added bonus of not having to run up the hill in Horspath in roasting October weather, that race having moved from first to last in the calendar. Instead Gade Valley, along with the other clubs in the Chiltern League, took on the delights of Keysoe International Equestrian Centre near Bedford, including the (in)famous horse water hazard on each lap. Oddly, with Keysoe having hosted the last race of the 2022/23 season, it was the second consecutive cross country race at the equestrian centre.

Where’s the men’s team? They didn’t bother??!??

The day dawned clear and crisp on Saturday morning, and surprisingly cold. The cold weather and the business of the day gave the overwhelming sense that summer had finally gone away after what seemed like several Indian Summers had pushed the mercury upwards.

There may be trouble ahead…

The women’s race is traditionally run before the men, for reasons that have never seemed obvious to anybody, and they set off at 1:15PM for a race of around 6.5k. A large turnout of 20 Harrier women lined up at the start, bolstered by several cross country debutants. One of the debutants was Naomi Carey who arrived just minutes before the scheduled start and joined the others in the start area. Unfortunately she didn’t have her race number but a relay between Ed Price, Roland Kendall and captain Kim Morgan delivered the number on time for the start but without any safety pins.

No number, no time, no points, no point…

Fortunately, the number is compulsory to be included in the results but it being fixed to the front of the vest clearly isn’t as Naomi ran the race holding it and was the third placed finisher for GVH, finishing 51st overall and scoring 93 points for the club. Teresa Reason had already finished first for the club, picking up 122 points with Kim Morgan, clearly benefiting from some excellent recent training, finished only 46 seconds behind Teresa and picked up 113 points.

How does she run so fast with one leg amputated below the knee?

Club legends Vicky Crawley Wise and Claire McDonnel, split by Jenny Stubberfield, made up the other three scorers for the ladies team. They finished within 40 seconds of each other with Vicky scoring 82 points, Jenny 77 and Claire 75. 

Looking good, not far behind Teresa.

Although only 6 runners score points for the women’s team, there is plenty of incentive for the remaining runners to finish as high up the field as possible because each position ahead of any rival club’s scoring runners reduces the opponent’s score by 1. Sam Raffety, Robyn Lower, Katie Ellis, Amanda Barker and Kitty Cole all would have scored at least 50 points had they been in the GVH top 6, and all finished ahead of at least 14 rival runners, improving the Gade Valley position considerably, showing the value of a big turnout to the club.

Ashleigh Taylor (who had been feeling quite ill all week) was next home for the GVH women, a single place ahead of Laura Johnson. Coach Angeline Cottrill finished a minute ahead of Anita Fenoughty, Gemma Tucker and Holly Becket (both making rare appearances in the mud), who finished in consecutive places. Mary McCluskey and Helen Pollard, making her first cross country appearance a week after her first ever race, completed the GVH women’s team.

The men’s race usually follows the women’s race (apart from the last fixture of the season, again for opaque reasons), starting at 2:00PM. The topology of Keysoe is not particularly challenging so this race tends to be one of the longer races at around 9.5k. This extra distance means the men had to run through the water splash 3 times, once on each lap. The men brought fewer runners to the race than the women but looking around at the group at the start (and asking myself if I was likely to score points) told me that we were somewhere near full strength. Curiously, only Matt Ahsby of our 13 competitors, was under the age of 40, the rest being made up of 9 M40 and 3 M50 “veterans” (as they used to be called I’m told by my step dad).

No team photo, just Angry Ashby

Unsurprisingly, given the geriatric ward accompanying him at the start, Matt was the first GVH runner home, by some distance, finishing 44th in 35:35, and picking up 193 points for the team. More surprisingly, he was again upset at the finish. This time the cause of his annoyance (and a bad week coming up for Jenny) was being overtaken on the line. He said to me afterwards, “I felt OK, if I’d have known he was there, I definitely could have held him off. I’m blaming Jenny, she wasn’t at the finish, she was still at the water jump. If she’d have been there she’d have shouted and I’d have been OK.” I checked last night (Tuesday), apparently there hasn’t been a word spoken in the Ashby / Stubberfield house since.

Closest we got to a team photo for the men

Nearly 3 minutes and 48 places (and some shouting starting with “YOU WERE AT THE WATER JUMP!!?!?!”) later, Michael Linden was the next finisher home for GVH. He picked up 145 points. Captain Andy Wells was next, garnering 130, before Nick Crowther, Gareth Tucker and Jon Roberts finished within 19 seconds of each other, each picking up over 100 points. 

James Birnie was next to finish for GVH having had a bit of a battle, not for the first time, with Steve Newing. “Steve caught me and was on my shoulder about halfway through the race but I pulled away. Then he caught me and passed me just before we went through the water for the third time. I shouted at him and told him to push on but then found a bit more and managed to get ahead again. Hopefully I pulled him along a bit, he certainly pushed me on”, was something like how I described it afterwards. In any case, I finished only 14 seconds and 4 places ahead of Steve.

Somehow the water felt worse than normal to me

Patrick Carey, also making his debut in the Cross Country (and wearing a borrowed vest that was clearly designed for somebody about a foot shorter than him), was the next scorer for Gade Valley. He scored 60 points. The last scorer for the club was Roland Kendall. Although he has competed in Cross Country before, this was the first time he had scored points and he was rightly proud of the achievement afterwards, saying he was, “really happy, never thought I’d score points.” Roland picked up 55.

Roland doing his Jesus impression is worth points in anybody’s book

The final three members of the men’s team, Jono Marval, head coach Ed Price and Phil Mercer all finished high enough up in the order to reduce the points scored by all 3 of the teams below GVH in the table thus ensuring that all the men who competed on the day made a meaningful contribution to the club’s league position.

Proper knee deep, none of that Jesus stuff

And so to the league table. The women scored a total of 562 points. This placed them solidly in mid-table, in 8th position among all the women’s teams. The men scored 1088 points which was good enough to place the club 13th out of 16. The only table that really matters though, is the overall table as it will ultimately decide whether or not the club stays in division 1, where we have been for 7 of the past 8 seasons. In the overall table, Gade Valley Harriers are in 12th position (most other clubs pick up points in junior races in addition to the senior women and men), just 11 points ahead of Silson AC but nearly 200 ahead of Redway Runners in 14th, 252 ahead of Buckingham & Stowe and 290 ahead of Watford Harriers (for whom SJBT was nowhere to be seen, unfortunately) who occupy last place in Division 1.

Only one Jesus per runner per year

Overall a hugely successful and enjoyable first cross country outing of the season for the club. Brilliant to see some new faces, great to see such a good turnout from many of our experienced athletes and great to see some people raising their game for the cross country challenge. Performance of the day (in my unscientific and not voted for view) in the women’s team goes to Kim Morgan for running Teresa pretty close and in the men’s team to Roland for scoring points for the first time in his club career.

League Table after 1 race
1 Chiltern Harriers 3702
2 Bedford and County AC 3696
3 Marshall Milton Keynes AC 3657
4 Wycombe Phoenix 3101
5 St Albans Striders 3023
6 Dacorum AC 2841
7 Headington Road Runners 2416
8 Leighton Buzzard AC 2298
9 Vale of Aylesbury AC 2265
10 Northampton AC 1923
11 Tring Running Club 1725
12 Gade Valley Harriers 1650
13 Silson AC 1639
14 Redway Runners 1458
15 Buckingham & Stowe 1398
16 Watford Harriers 1360

Women’s Race

Position Time Category Cat Pos Points scored
25 Teresa Reason 24:41 F45 3 122
34 Kim Morgan 25:27 F35 10 113
54 Naomi Carey 26:44 F45 11 93
65 Victoria Crawley-Wise 27:58 F35 17 82
70 Jenny Stubberfield 28:20 FS 35 77
72 Claire McDonnell 28:38 F45 17 75
81 Samantha Raffety 29:57 F35 19
88 Robyn Lower 30:37 F35 22
91 Katie Ellis 30:57 F35 23
94 Amanda Barker 31:05 F45 26
95 Kitty Cole 31:18 F35 25
97 Sandra Flynn 31:21 F45 28
111 Ashleigh Taylor 32:40 FS 43
112 Laura Johnson 32:46 F35 30
127 Angeline Cottrill 34:12 F45 38
131 Anita Fenoughty 35:09 F55 13
132 Gemma Tucker 35:16 F35 34
133 Holly Beckett 35:17 F35 35
136 Mary McCluskey 36:06 F35 36
146 Helen Pollard 44:05 F35 40

Men’s Race

Position Time Category Cat Pos Points scored
44 Matthew Ashby 35:25 MS 31 193
92 Michael Linden 38:11 M40 26 145
107 Andrew Wells 39:00 M40 33 130
119 Nick Crowther 39:58 M40 38 118
120 Gareth Tucker 40:00 M40 39 117
133 Jon Roberts 40:17 M50 16 104
152 James Birnie 41:21 M40 51 85
156 Stephen Newing 41:35 M40 52 81
177 Patrick Carey 42:47 M40 60 60
182 Roland Kendall 43:17 M50 29 55
189 Jono Marvel 43:52 M50 32
191 Edward Price 44:15 M40 64
221 Phil Mercer 49:22 M40 72