2019 Neptune BMC Iffley Festival of Miles – Entries open

Oxford University Cross-Country Club’s Neptune BMC Iffley Festival of Miles returns for the 2019 edition to the Roger Bannister running track on Saturday 13th July. This is your chance to race around the same track where, in 1954, Roger Bannister ran the first sub-4 minute mile.

Entries for the 600m, Mile and 3000m Open Graded races (quickest races to be paced) can be made here: http://ouccc.org.uk/events/iffley-miles/

There will also be the following BMC regional races (all paced):
– 800m
– The Sir Roger Bannister Memorial Mile
Entries via the BMC website as usual:

Entries for all Iffley Miles events will cost £5, as will the BMC races for BMC members, and £8 for the BMC races for non-BMC members, with entry fees payable on the day (please bring the correct change if possible).

This event is sponsored by Neptune Investment Management http://www.neptunefunds.com/Private-Investor/1/About/Sponsorship

BUCS Cross Country 2019 Report


“After speaking to BUCS yesterday they confirmed that the event is still going ahead” – the update from the BUCS XC Facebook group was like music to the ears, allowing the all-encompassing pre-BUCS excitement to keep escalating. Tilly misses her first ever lecture in three years to join a group of eager Friday-day BUCS travellers, the majority of which, we soon realised were members of South West origin. Said members analysed the best service stations in the West Country, while Jamie P (cheers drive) made headway towards an increasingly snow-less Exeter, trying to catch up coach Kyle (from here on ‘KB’) with an upbeat playlist strumming along in the background. The rest of the squad left the following morning at a spritely time of 5:50am, and in the blink of an eye, traded a snowy Oxford for a sunny race venue at Bicton College, Exeter.

BUCS LEAD-UP; SETTING THE SCENE (some background reading to add a bit of context to the 2019 edition of BUCS XC, skip to next section “THE RACE” for immediate race deets, or read on, do read on)

“We created our own lane so they can see our drive” (*drive for BUCS medals) – KB; a moto fit enough for us to realise how we’re part of something special: Oxford Distance Project. A club which is going from strength to strength: smashing gender parity for university sports teams and making Oxford Sports Fed’s mouths drop with the number of entries required to be manually entered for the 2019 BUCS XC campaign.

A record of 70 entries, 37 men and 33 women, reduced to 27 and 22 only through illness or injuries. The latter was not however, about to stop the following mighty squad of Dark Blue supporters (Figure 1): Lucy.W, Belinda, Evie, Hoogsta, Lucy.F, Hannah, PG, Liam, Christian Smith and Eoghan from coming, meaning OUCCC was out in force, a now restored 60-strong contingent with KB + special guests (family, friends, alumni and Holly Hammett).

Figure 1: Dark Blues, those who ran and those who sang

Hilary term at Oxford officially commenced with a session at South Parks on the 12th January, an ideal training venue for the forthcoming ‘biggest race since Varsity’… The countdown was in full swing, and before we read on and re-live how our club took on this year’s BUCS XC Championship let’s have a throwback to Saturday 3rd February 2018 to when the countdown really started. Re-cap: Men’s A team finished 4th on paper but ended up on the podium with deserved bronze medals round their necks after Loughborough’s administrative disaster, then our Women finished 5th, their highest team position to date, while the Men’s B team produced a stunning performance to climb the podium for Oxford’s second bronze medal of the day (this time outright). How the media remembered this:

Cambridge and Oxford have benefited when Birmingham and Loughborough have faltered… Oxbridge universities will be ready to pounce should the third of the big three fall next time out” – FastRunning Magazine’s BUCS Cross 2019 Preview.

Little did FastRunning know that other universities outside the heavily sports-funded ‘big three’ universities also had Ctrl-F + “BUCS…” returning big hits on weekly emails and social media pages (shout-out to ODP and intergender Facebook Messenger groups: you’ve revolutionised the meaning of Facebook). Even vocal reminders of #howManyDaysTillBUCS could be heard serenading the start of the first rep at club sessions.

KB prepared the squad by crafting BUCS-esque #HillyLoop circuits round South Parks, by getting us to practise the fast (MASS) BUCS start, a true art, and by ensuring we all got our individually-appropriate pre-race tapers in. Our race prep was strengthened by run-outs at the Chiltern League and through some especially impressive performances at the regional champs the weekends before. This served to boost team morale and confidence where ‘to dream of where the medals live’ was something now carrying abundant factual evidence.


This year’s BUCS course embodied the ‘best of British cross country’: pitched over four fields with a mix of shallow and steep inclines, where tight turns and narrowly taped sections tested our agility, where patches of tufty terrain and muddy-to-get-moshy patches tested our balance, and importantly also, our abilities to wisely seek out our #ownLanes.

The best bit of the course (Figure 2) was the route to the finish line, which was, by both physical and emotional definition an endurance-themed rollercoaster. Imagine a downhill 100m segment towards a water feature (Bicton College’s LAKE) with ‘optional’ crossing potential (Clairo; let us never forget; Figure X, end of report), then, suddenly, a 90 degrees right turn bestows unto you a sharp 80m hill sprint where roaring spectators create an echoing channel to keep you moving upwards, just like the infamous L’Angliru climb in Asturias, a breath-taking final stage to the annual Spanish cycling tour La Vuelta (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFHznUIur88).

Figure 2: Sonya’s Hill’s key features

The appropriately named “Sonya’s Hill” (Sonya Ellis, Exeter Uni’s Head Athletics Coach and BUCS course director) was a multifaceted beast; the hill’s peak (Figure 3) was U-shaped meaning before you had time to take a level stride you were hurtling down an even steeper descent and scrabbling up a zigzag camber to the finish line, with legs swimming in lactic acid and a Heart Rate of (220 – – age) bpm.

What this meant to spectators:

The course lent itself to premium spectator coverage which meant OUCCC TV was as on-point and live as ever, raking in the views back home: “Allez les Blues”- Speed, 3:19. Thank you Woodsy and Charly D for livestreaming to the world how OUCCC took on the three BUCS races. I’ll never forget the genius cheers from that legendary Northern accent: “Come on Eleanor you’ve got this….there’s a tab right behind her! Come on Charly D give her the shoe!” and “come on Millar, come on Lickey Lickey…you’ve gotta keep going mateee” and my personal fave “come on Flo you want this…IT’S BUCS”. Here’s a second moment to shout out to all the OUCCC members who came to support despite being side-lined through injury. You guys contributed to the BUCS experience and your cheers will forever be present in our individual and team finishing positions, next year you’ll hopefully get to see this yourselves.

Figure 3: Top of Sonia’s hill, view of the lake

What this meant for Oxford’s medals chances

OUCCC Women’s race: Packing and Progress in Da Club

Oxford Women became the 4th best British University XC team for the 2019 season, finishing behind the ‘big three’ aforementioned sporting Unis with 50 points (counted by first three scoring positions). This bettered their 5th place with 78 points from last year. Individually, Eleanor Bolton continued the obliteration of her winter season (4th at Varsity, 1st at Northern’s) by leading the team home in 10th place, the highest individual finishing position to date?! Charlotte Dannatt (2nd at Varsity, 5th at Southern’s) also had an incredible run finishing 14th in what has got to be the most competitive BUCS field ever. Important to note is how Eleanor and Charlotte ran side by side for most of the race, recreating the productive #packing seen in recent training sessions. Flo Scrafton completed the scoring team in 26th, sandwiched by Tabs (who likes bread anyway?) in her 4th BUCS appearance. Anna Sharp finished 32nd in one of the most impressive results of the day (throwback to previous years shows off her progress: 243rd in first year, 89th in second year). Cecilie finished a superb 78th, Natalie 94th and Tilly 171st – all three securing BUCS XC PBs while Club Captain Helene (ref: Storm Helene; Figure 4) also dipped into the top 100 for the second time, but in a race with 642 starters this was cracking stuff. A final mention goes to recent alumni and now GB international Dani Chattenton who finished 7th place, an awesome achievement, where her progress through the years (30th last year, 92nd at her first BUCS) highlights the classiness of this ex-Dark Blue athlete.

Figure 4: Club Captain Helene with Vice-Captain/BUCS coordinator/hype woman Flo Scrafton

OUCCC Men’s A race: Oxbridge Domination and Return of the Tofi

Is that, wait no, surely not, again? Oxbridge 2nd and 3rd podium positions? One hates to say it, but the order went: Cambridge in 2nd with 52 points (first four scorers) then Oxford in 3rd with 53 points (Figure 5). However, with Loughborough placed in 4th with 61 points and Birmingham in…please visit the link below for this information as it was beyond the scope of this report, the faith must surely be restored for an accurate prediction and fair credit distribution in next year’s BUCS Cross Preview.


Christofi returns to BUCS to lead Oxford men home in 4th, the highest individual club finish in recent times while Jack Millar secured the club another excellent top 10 finish in 8th position. Jamie Parkinson ran strong for 15th and Tim Harrison completed the scoring tally in 26th, managing to hold on after showing unmatchable dedication to the “BUCS fast start”. Luke Cotter and Oliver Paulin both finished close behind in 36th and 37th positions where again the sights of #packing and teamwork were so inspirationally present throughout. Big congrats to all six guys for bagging the club some more silverware!

Figure 6: Men’s A BUCS XC Bronze medallists (top). Photo of Tofi featured in AW (bottom)

Men’s B Race: Noah Hurton’s Army

Noah had been demonstrating increasingly meaner form over the last few months (debuted for the Blues at Varsity) and in incredibly cool fashion, over a course fit for a Cumbrian, never ever looked back until crossing the line in 2nd (just to see th satisfying gap created), Figure 7. Oxford men’s B team finished 8th overall with 125 points (four to score). The team comprised 21 members with eight finishing in the top 100. Robbie Brown was the next Oxford scorer in a very promising 29th, followed by American visiting student Kenneth Marshall in 38th and Joe Morrow in 56th. Another notable individual performance was Joseph Dugdale finishing 4th! Figure 8.

Figure 7: Individual silver for Noah Hurton Men’s B race podium

Figure 8: Joseph Dugdale back on the scene


Emotive Smokehouse and Spoons

After the medal’s ceremony presented by British distance legend Jo Pavey and the last round of team chants about Oxbridge lacking social skills and how Loughborough can’t do admin, OUCCC broke away for some down time before the big night ahead. OUCCC’s Best ever Social Sec Tim Harrison lived up to his own high standards by taking us to dine at Zita’s Smokehouse. The setting was perfect, smokey satisfying flavours and thick cut chips with pitchers of beverage proved hugely moving for OUCCC’s Woodsy. Next stop, Spoons. Imagine a Spoons Empire, this was their HQ and we and several other Unis including The Tabs were weary, beer-goggled and parched travellers who stumble across an extraordinary discovery. Like a reduced version of the ‘wow’ people feel when they trek up the Peruvian Andes and spot the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. All this Spoons tucked just a stone’s throw away from OUCCC’s very welcoming and excellent weekend residence, The Great Western.

BUCS XC Afterparty

“The events that unfolded over the following hours (until 5am for some) are of course far too extensive to detail in their entirety here” – BUCS Cross Report 2017… but highlights this year were: the extra hill reps put in just to get there; the first impressions of the venue being another lit Student Union, and the new or re-establishment of relationships between our present and former Club Captains with some of Cambridge’s finest athletes. However, the initially perceived ‘beautifully busy scenes’ were conducive to shoulder joints being displaced, teams getting stuck in the sludge or fed to the moshpit or sliding around the edges of the dancefloor in spilt sins. The playlists in the two dance rooms were not really up to OUCCC (potentially too high?) standards but given the class A company of the squad it was impossible to not enjoy it, and for some, the pure joy of cracking open a cold one with (or all over) the boys got seriously lit.


The following morning a small group of better-for-wear athletes made it out for an inspiring long Sunday run, while the rest of us slept in or made the most of the hearty elaborate food for a 3-hour breakfast session. Without pre-warning the coach driver turned up 30 mins early (or 1.5 hours early for some who weren’t aware – apologies) and kicked up a grumble in his smoking hot coach. We arrived back to Oxford in great spirits, with blurry eyed and DOMS from a 24 hour stint to be very proud of.


Thanks to Great Western Hotel for hosting us, to the committee for organising, to to Kyle for making the trip up to support us at another memorable weekend for the OUCCC. Lastly, thanks to all you Dark Blues who participated in any aspect of the big BUCS weekend… BUCS XC 2020 anyone?

Figure X: Clairo’s BUCS XC course recce heroics

-Floren Scrafton, Worcester College, OUCCC Women’s Vice-Captain

Blues Varsity Report 2018

On the final Saturday of Michaelmas, the Oxford and Cambridge cross country clubs descended on Wimbledon Common for the Cross Country Varsity Match.

The action for the day kicked off with the traditional ‘old gits’ races. Former OUCCC Club Captain Miles Chandler warrants a special mention for storming to the top spot in the Men’s race, although Cambridge took the overall victory 91-158 with their strength in numbers.

In the first of the Varsity matches for the day, the Blues women took to the course to tackle a grueling 4-mile loop. This race was the first where the women competed with teams of 8, up from 7 in previous years to match the numbers in the men’s race. Both blues races are just a single lap, which makes it incredibly difficult for spectators to see all the action so we got reports from runners in both races to see how they played out.

Charlotte Dannatt (the eventual silver medalist!) recalls the women’s race:

‘The race started fairly briskly with people starting to slow before the bottleneck into the woods en route to the water jump (which this year was a river at least 12 feet wide and some 3 feet deep). Post river crossing a small pack of 2 Cambridge Runners, Alex Shipley and I broke away. This group dropped down to just two tabs and myself after about a mile which was pretty handy for the ascents and descents on narrow paths. Nearing the half way point, Nancy (Cambridge) and I had a decent gap on third place and a reasonable one on the majority of the field. I was just focusing on trying to stick on her shoulder and not let the space between us stretch, aided by the tremendous support from current and past Oxford athletes.’

‘Our gap continued to grow as we hit the fastest flat point of the course, but the terrain was far wetter, muddier and slippier than the previous year, making this part of the course more challenging. At one point, when I was slightly ahead, I thought I was going to take the win but coming down the last hill with about a half mile to go Nancy passed me and produced a small but significant gap. I continued to push to the line, closing the gap slightly but didn’t quite have enough to take her and clinch victory. Turning around I watched a stream of tabs come through before our next runner and knew that it was likely we wouldn’t be the victorious side this year.’

Cambridge were announced the winners in the women’s race (46 -33) but that should take nothing away from one of the strongest women’s teams Oxford have fielded in recent years. A special mention must also go to our contributor Charlotte for her outstanding run which landed her a silver medal, as well as Eleanor Bolton who overcame the heartbreak of being blues reserve last year to finish 6th and be the second Oxford runner over the line. The Oxford depth was also outstanding with Alex Shipley, Flo Scrafton, Anna Sharp, Laura John and Hannah Plaschkes all packing well and completing Oxford’s scoring team before Cambridge’s 6th runner – unfortunately, Cambridge had done the damage with 4 of the first 5 runners in.

So, with one match left to race, the overall Varsity Cross Country series was tied at 3-all. It all came down to the 128th Gentleman’s Match. 7.5 miles of brutal and lonely racing on the common. Tim Harrison recounts the ordeal:

‘Cambridge controlled the pace from the start with Phil Crout (Cambridge) leading through the water jump, although this may have been impacted by an early fall from Tim Lefroy (Oxford). George Gathercole (Cambridge) took the lead through the early wooded areas, ignoring shouts from his teammates to slow the pace down. However, as the race developed Oxford’s front men (Lefroy, Parkinson and Millar) emerged and were fully in control of the pace by the second mile. It was around this time that Noah Hurton (Oxford) and 3 of the other Cambridge athletes started to slide off the back of the pack.’

‘Positions were traded along the valley floor as there was no favoured racing lines across logs and ditches, but as the runners ascended the hill to the memorial there was a clear separation developing between the main pack and the back group that had fallen off. The pack gradually split up along the relatively flat section though the front 4 stayed tightly together. Oxford’s middle section seemed to struggle on the hard-packed gravel from miles 3 to 4 with Metselaar, Christofi and myself all sitting outside the top 8 positions.’

‘True to form, as the course hit the tussocky grass behind the windmill, Christofi woke up from his steady start and drove forward through the Cambridge runners. The change in terrain combined with the dark blue cheers drove me and Metselaar onwards. By the start of mile 6 Christofi had passed and dropped Cambridge’s Shreeve, Cox and Crout and was rapidly closing on Ryle Hodges (Cambridge); while Cotter (Oxford) and I sat with Crout (Cambridge). The front quartet of Gathercole, Parkinson, Millar and Lefroy sat tightly packed with the large dark blue presence ensuring that Oxford kept control of the pace and whilst denying Gathercole the best lines. Noah Hurton by this point had dug deep and dropped the 3 Cambridge backmarkers and was reconnecting with Luuk Metselaar. The final steep downhill section with just under a mile and a half to go allowed meant allowed me to pass Ryle-Hodges and extend a small lead on the undulating terrain that followed.’

‘Across the last mile, the front 4 remained tightly packed. However, anyone who bet against the class of Jamie Parkinson was left sorely disappointed as he unleashed his sprint finish, taking victory for the second year in a row. Gathercole narrowly edged out Tim Lefroy on the line leaving Millar comfortably in 4th place. Christofi followed through soon after and I managed to hold off a challenge from Cambridge’s Ryle-Hodges in the last 100m. Next in were another three Cambridge runners with Metselaar closing the Oxford scoring 6 closely followed by Cotter and Hurton not far behind.’

This incredible performance meant Oxford had managed to get all 8 of their team across the line before Cambridge’s scorers (first 6). The 50 – 30 scoreline is a testament to the high-level performance of the men’s team this year and, of course, sealed the Overall 4-3 Varsity Victory for the club. This capped off a fantastic series of races and, although we seem to say it every year (because the standard just keeps on improving), the standard of this series of Varsity matches was among the highest anyone at the club can recall.

We’d also like to thank our sponsors Neptune for helping us over several years to make events like The Varsity Match possible.


Charlotte Dannatt, St John’s College, and Tim Harrison, Keble College
-Adapted from the Blue Bird: https://bit.ly/2QM0MnH
-Photos by Helene Greenwood and Claire Hammett