A Beginner’s Guide to Cross-Country Racing

The Herne Hill Harriers who lined up in Nonsuch Park for the Surrey Cross Country League on Saturday 1st December were a lively mix of experienced cross-country racers and those competing off-road for the very first time. Everyone, experts and novices alike, enjoyed an exhilarating run.

For those new to cross country, it was the mud that was both glorious and exhausting—and the mud on the turns and bends that was most glorious and exhausting. The sheer number of runners packed tightly on to the course, slipping and sliding on each other’s heels is something you don’t experience in your average road race. But what fun! The course was gently undulating, according to those in the know, so the first-timers were spared the additional challenge of big climbs.

And after the thrills and spills, the HHH team secured eighth place with Karen Ellison being first to score in 21st, followed by Helen Hodgson (41st), Debbie Jackson (54th), Sam Whiting (57th), and Hayley Cook (71st). Gutsy running was displayed from cross-country debutantes Loren Gartside, Cheryl Proctor, Mandy Brown and Natalia Zara. And of course, Eleanor Stringer, Penelope Fixter-Cummings, Susan Gilnska, Cindy Godwin, Sarah Allen and team captain Jilly Dolphin demonstrated all the steely stamina that we’ve come to expect from our practised, cross-country competitors.

And the café in the park afterwards…what a delight! Filled-flapjacks, luxurious caramel shortbreads and the first mince pies of the Christmas season! Oh, yes, cross-country running is a very fine thing. A civilised and noble tradition! Another slice of sponge, anyone?.

Hayley Jones.