With the inter-club PECO XC series not taking place this year, we decided to build on the success of our 2020 virtual club championship and create a short Striders’ virtual cross-country series to get our members with a mud-lust through the dark winter months.
Our committee members headed out and planned five excellent and diverse courses to challenge our Striders.
1 – Conyngham Cross
We began on familiar territory with a 2½ lap challenge around Conyngham Hall, Macintosh Park, Foolish wood and Horseshoe fields. Whilst some of the course was familiar to parkrunners, the added cross-country sections were as hilly as they were scenic. Fastest around the course was Gary Webster in a blistering 32minutes, however once the age grading adjustments were applied, it was Sima Lowery who claimed her first win in the overall standings, from Nicola Carter and Catherine Morland – all names which would feature prominently throughout the female-dominated championship!
2 – Bilton Blast
We then moved onto a very different course centred around the Bilton Greenway. The two tarmac ‘blasts’ on the old railway between the off-road sections were brief and flat respite from the veritable mud baths which were on offer at either end! With weather deteriorating throughout the duration of the event, the mud thickened, the hills seemingly grew steeper and the times became tougher! Just to finish this one seemed a victory in itself! Familiar with trails and hills, it was again Gary Webster who set the fastest time, chased in again by a very strong run from Martin Brock. This time though it was the turn of Nicola Carter to top the age-graded results, with Sima and Carla Reddish completing the podium.
3 – Jacob Smith Park
An game of two halves, this one! Two weekends and two startlingly different sets of weather left those ‘leaving it late’ wishing they had ventured around the park a little sooner. The park was bequeathed to Knaresborough several years ago and continues to grow in popularity with walkers, runners and sledgers of the town. The lap of roughly a mile climbs to the highest point (affording great views in good weather) which our Striders would need to conquer three times. Martin Brock found his way around in the fastest time of 31:58, with Sima finishing just 1 minute behind to record her second overall win in the series and the ever-improving Steve Ellmore clocking third-fastest.
4 – Crimple Valley
Site of an actual PECO event over the previous two winters, our version featured much of the same route, including ‘that’ muddy climb through the trees which was not quite as wet as it had been previously, yet still sapped the contenders! The novelty this time was that the course would be run in both directions with a fantastic 180 degree turn at the highest point. Aidan McNab showed great agility and speed to clock the fastest time of 35:32. The age-graded podium once again had a familiar look, this time comprising Nicola, Sima and Catherine!
5 – Birkham Woods
Only at this final round would the direction of the overall championship be decided, with a tie for 1st and a tie for third. Three laps around Birkham woods and along the side of the River Nidd would be decisive. The opening blast down through the Lido would be familiar to anyone fondly remembering the Crag Rat Run, however dreams would quickly turn to nightmares! Turning off the beaten track, our Striders made a winding and sticky climb through the woods before descending sharply down to the riverbank – still puddly and slippy – before the steepest climb of the series, the seemingly-vertical scramble behind the Leppers’ Bath back up into the woods. The person responsible for suggesting that part remains anonymous, but their foot features in the picture above… Now really hitting form, Aidan repeated his fastest performance (31:37) chased closely by Sima and Beyhan.
The full results of each event can be found on our VXC21 page.
So to our final standings! With Sima and Nicola sharing the five wins between them, it was Sima who took the crown by just one point, whilst similarly Carla pipped Catherine to take the final step on the podium. A quick look down the top ten in our Overall Standings after all 5 rounds shows the variety of strong performances from our Striders, and dare we say a championship where experience was as important as youth!
2021 CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPION: SIMA LOWERY
2nd place: Nicola Carter
3rd Place: Carla Reddish
Female Senior Cross-Country Champion: Beyhan Akyollu
Beyhan put some incredible times in throughout the series and richly deserved the Female Senior category crown.
Male Senior Cross-Country Champion: Aidan McNab
Aidan was one of nine Striders to complete every event of the series and as he hit form later, he climbed to the top of the category pipping some strong competition.
Female Veteran Cross-Country Champion: Sima Lowery
Once again our most strongly-subscribed category, with six of the ten ladies completing all the events, one wonders what our Veteran Ladies would have done in the PECO championship. We await a 2021/22 series with great excitement.
Male Veteran Cross-Country Champion: Steve Ellmore
Category wins in the Male Vets were shared between Steve Ellmore, Martin Brock and Nik Forman in another strongly-contested category.
All the individual category standings can be found here: Category Standings after all 5 events