Category Archives: Cross Country

Five Striders close XC season at Pett

(L-R) Scott Hitchcock, Pete Weeks, Dave Dunstall, Luke Borland and Claire Keith. Image: Bob Hitchcock

By Peter Weeks

A calm and dry morning greeted the five Striders who made the trip along the south coast to Pett for the final race of the East Sussex Cross Country League. This is my favourite race in the series because not only is the five-mile course a mixture of all the types of terrain experienced in cross country running, hills, woods, farmland and mud, there is the added bonus of excellent home baked cakes in the village hall at the finish.

The race starts in a narrow country track which means spectators have to get there early if they wish to see us off as we disappear into the wilds. Bob Hitchcock and Pat (my wife) were there in time to see us start and then made their way back to the village hall to check out the after race refreshments, unfortunately Martin was delayed as Harrison preferred to look at the alpaca’s in the field on the way to the start rather than cheer on Mum (Claire).

Our three speed merchants Scott, Luke and Dave all lined up towards the front of the field whereas Claire and myself decide to start at a more leisurely pace in the middle of the field. We entered the woods after half a mile onto a downhill path which in the past two years has been very muddy and slippery, providing an opportunity to overtake runners who do not enjoy fast descents, however this year the going was soft to firm and everyone coped with the descent.

Then it was into the undulating fields before heading back into the woods and hills and as much as I tried to catch Claire she had other ideas and kept me at bay all the way to the finish.

The first Strider home was Scott in 17th position (32:40) another good run especially as he decided to try out a beauty treatment “Mud Pack” on the way round (see photo). He was very closely followed by Dashing Dave Dunstall 19th (32:47) which confirmed his position as 1st overall Male 55 for the series, which meant we had to stay for the prize giving and consume more cakes. Congratulations Dave you are having an excellent spell, all your London Marathon 5 training is certainly paying off.

Third Strider was Luke Borland 23rd (33:27) who is also enjoying the benefits of marathon training, this time it’s for Brighton. Our only lady runner Claire Keith was 112th (40:59), followed by your roving reporter Peter Weeks 114th (41:08) – I was just being chivalrous and ensuring that Claire got home safely!

That’s it for another year – who knows? Maybe some of you will be inspired by the achievements you have read about over the past six months and want to join us for the 2017/18 cross country races.

Taking on the Jog Shop 20

By Hilary Humphreys

The Jog Shop Jog has always been a bit of a cult race and is an ideal marathon training run; however, with race features like ‘Death Valley’, ‘The Snake’ and ‘The Big W’, you could be forgiven for thinking that this race takes place in the Wild West rather than among the gentle green hills of the South Downs national park in Sussex. Yet, as anyone who has completed the race will testify, those gentle hills are not as easy as they look.

The race, which this year took place on 25 March and commences and finishes in Brighton, covers just over twenty miles, most of which is within the quietly beautiful South Downs, with roughly 90% of the course being off-road.  This race is not for the faint-hearted and tests the stamina of the participants to the full, in fact there are many easier marathons around!

Three brave Striders took up the challenge and they all excelled.  Joel Eaton was the first Strider home in third place overall, in a time 2 hours 24 mins and 59 seconds.  He was followed in 8th and 9th places respectively by Dave Dunstall (first in his age group, pictured) in 2:35:35 and Ed Tuckley in 2:36:00.

Strider Claire joins the Maverick Race trail

 by Claire Dean

25 February saw the first in the series of Maverick Race trail running events, with the debut starting in Amberley. In each event, there are 3 distances to choose from – on this day the ‘short’ was 7km with 137 foot of climb, the ‘medium’ was 13km with 226 foot of climb and the ‘long’ 23km with 348 foot of climb. Naturally, I wanted to go for the toughest even though my training did not reflect my choice, having run just 6 times in 4 months at this point.

The course starts with an almost 2 mile climb up onto the South Downs. Added to the challenge of the hills was the task of trying to avoid the weaving runners who had the advantage of being pulled up the hills by their dogs, as the event welcomed the Cani-Cross, and the wind up on the exposed hills was still very strong from Storm Doris which had hit just two days before.

After many undulating hills testing my lack of fitness, at around the 12 mile point I knew there would be some pay back, with a steep long downhill section. Sadly, when I reached this point, I found it was in the form of a long set of narrow steps. All the front runners had slowed right down to avoid cramp or falling and so there was no opportunity to gain any time back. Then came the final couple of miles where it proved to have been a wise decision to choose my ‘very off-road’ trainers as there was mud galore – my favourite!

The finish was back at the Amberley Museum, where you were welcomed with a bottle opener medal, bottle of Maverick beer and an ice coffee. Being almost 19 weeks pregnant, the tea and cake was the safer recovery option for me.

Not knowing at the start whether I could manage, let alone finish the 14.5 miles of the course, having not run double figures since Sept 2016, I was pleased to have clocked a time of 2:14:34. Needless to say, I was very tired that afternoon!

Striders out in force at hilly Heathfield XC

Joel and Josh leading home the Striders

By Peter Weeks

Heathfield Park, where the grounds were long ago laid out by Humphry Repton, the 18th century landscape gardener, was the venue for round five of the East Sussex Cross Country League. A new venue to the series, there was no chance for anyone to have the advantage of inside knowledge. The course was a mixture of tracks, footpaths, meadows and HILLS – what else would one expect of “Heathfield”, and I suspect the route planner was the same person who organises their summer 10k.

Damp and misty weather ensured the mud was at its best and provided ideal conditions for traditional cross country runners – none of the grass track running you see on the telly for us!

Eight Striders competed in the senior five-mile race, which started with a long downhill section on tarmac and track before heading onto footpaths, climbing through the woods and grassland before eventually arriving at what we had been informed was the “Gibraltar Tower”. No time to stop and investigate its history but I later discovered that it was built to commemorate Lord Heathfield’s successful defence of Gibraltar from 1779 to 1782. See what fascinating facts you can learn from competing in cross country!

Back to the race, which continued along tracks to the start line and then onto lap two, taking us back down the hill and this time straight up the other side (no woods), climbing across meadows before doubling back down the hill into a wooded section. Here we were greeted by a friendly marshal advising that it was slippery and to get ready to jump across the stream, which I was later found out one runner – no names supplied – put a foot in (unlike in show jumping there were no penalties for this). Then it was up the steepest hill on the course before heading off to the finish and cake stall (by the way, the banana cake was delicious!).

As mentioned earlier it was very reminiscent of the summer 10k but with added mud. Joel Eaton, making his first appearance in Strider’s vest, had an excellent run and was fourth overall, leading the team home in 32:52. He was followed by Josh Rudd who put in his usual strong performance 33:48 (10th). Ed Tuckley, another recent recruit to our growing band of speedy competitors, finished in 36:04 (35th); Scott Hitchcock was next home (apparently delayed while doing some “Deer Stalking“) in 36.04 (40th). Emily Eaton, also making her debut in a Striders vest, was our first woman home in 42:32 (111th), ahead of Peter Weeks 44:13 (121th), Claire Keith 45:15 (129th) and Tom Roper 60:09 (201st). In all, there were 212 finishers.

I would like to thank our enthusiastic band of supporters who braved the conditions and provided encouraging comments – thanks to Martin Bulger, Bob Hitchcock, Patricia Weeks and a big thank you to juniors Harrison Keith (2 years) and Kaleb Eaton (11 months) – the latter who I’m reliably informed sang and slept through the whole event.

Ashdown Forest XC 2017

By Scott Hitchcock

The weather conditions for the 15 January race on the Ashdown Forest were terrible with rain, ice, snow, mud, mist and wind but that didn’t stop the 400 or so runners from getting stuck into a proper x-country race.

There were no facilities apart from a gazebo to put your kit in and register for the race but there was food and drink there for us when we finished. Photo below courtesy of Debbie Plant – nine brave Striders before they set out across the mud… and snow and mist and ice and wind and rain!

We all gathered for the start cold and wet but raring to go, and we headed out with mud, ice and water flying everywhere but I was absolutely loving it! Runners were trying to find the best route but there wasn’t one as it was boggy everywhere. There was a massive downhill, passing two ponds where I wasn’t far from falling in. Then it was through woodlands and back up a massive hill about four miles in, where runners were really put to the test. I started to lose ground and thought I would lose positions but managed to stay strong and get to the top without doing so. This was followed by a slight downhill to the welcome of the finish line.

There wasn’t one person who wasn’t covered head to toe in mud and we all loved it! What I liked most about this event was that we ran as a team: me, Luke, Ed and Dave all stayed together during the race and helped one another throughout.  What a great Sunday morning, with all the Striders demonstrating great sportsmanship to one another and I even had runners from other clubs saying what a close connection our club has. Every single one of us was there until everyone had crossed the line, even though it was freezing.

Once finished, the faster runners ran back along the course to help and encourage their slower team mates. Striders performed very well indeed with the first five runners arriving within the first 35 finishers.

First home was Josh Rudd finishing 12th in a time of 32:54. Next and in quick succession were Scott Hitchcock, 34:25; Ed Tuckley, 34:32; Luke Borland 34:42; Dave Dunstall, 34:53 – earning him first place in his age group.

Next, making his debut in cross country was our youngest senior, Joe Plant in 43:31. Peter Weeks crossed the line in 44:16, ahead of the only female Strider in the race, Carlie Watts, in 50:07 and Tom Roper in 64:00.

Given these excellent results, I think this year will be a great season for us. Well done Striders!

Enter six cross-country races for £12!

The East Sussex Cross Country League (ESCCL) races are about to start, and Striders can pre-register for all six races, for a fee of £12 (if EA affiliated), £18 otherwise . That’s £2 a race. The races for 2016-17 are as follows:

Sunday 9th October   – Snape Wood

Sunday 13th November – Whitbread Hollow

Sunday 11th December – New Place Farm (TBC)

Sunday 15th January – Ashdown Forest (TBC)

Sunday 12th February – Heathfield Park

Sunday 12th March – Pett (TBC)


If you want to take advantage of this, please contact Tom Roper, our cross-country rep, before 23 September so he can register you with ESCCL. He’ll need to know your name, date of birth, and EA number if applicable. Bring payment on a Wednesday night.

New Place Farm cross-country

The third race of the 2015/16 East Sussex Cross Country League took place in remarkably mild conditions at New Place Farm, near Framfield.  Mild temperatures enhanced the viscosity of the mud, making the going difficult. Scott Richardson of Crowborough won in 30:17, and first lady was Sue Fry of Hailsham in 34:03.

Phil Robinson was the first Strider home, and third in his category, in 36:07, Luke Borland was not far behind in 37:51, Peter Weeks managed 41:20 to make him first in his category, Anna Norman, the sole Strider lady, finished in 45:42 and Tom Roper was the fifth of the quintet in 55:00.


2015-15 East Sussex Sunday Cross Country League

The dates for the 2015-15 East Sussex Sunday Cross Country League races have been announced:

Sunday 18th October – Warren Hill
Sunday 22nd November – Snape Wood, Wadhurst
Sunday 13th December – New Place Farm nr Uckfield
Sunday 17th January – Ashdown Forest
Sunday 31st January – Firle Beacon
Sunday 21st February – Pett
All races start at 11:00 and there are juniors races of about 2k too. Runners can turn up on the day and register.  However, there is also the chance to pre-register for all races by Sep 30th to save money and also to save time standing in line outside on the day. More details from Tom Roper, Cross Country rep.