National Inter-counties XC 2017: Report

Excluding the ESAA championships for younger athletes, the CAU Inter-counties is generally the final race of what can seem to be a very long cross country racing calendar. This year, the event was to be held in combination with both the British Athletics Cross Challenge Final and the trials for the World Cross Championships, a tripartite combination which allowed for the very catchiest of event programme titles. Traditionally held at Birmingham’s Cofton Park, this year’s change of venue to Prestwold Hall just outside Loughborough was largely unwelcome in the run-up to the race, a sentiment to be cemented by the discovery of the testing conditions of the new course.

The journey for the Oxford contingent did not start off as seamlessly as would have been liked, with certain individuals apparently disputing the winning of the title of OUCCC’s ‘worst navigator’ at the recent annual awards dinner and sending the trek decidedly off-piste. Nevertheless, after finally reaching the venue and quickly warming up, the dark blue runners in the slightly less dark blue vests of their respective counties toed the line and were ready for the off.

Leading the Oxford runners home in the first race of the day (junior men) was DBJ who, in endeavouring to prove his future OUCCC career will be as successful as will be his rapping, finished in an outstanding 12th place running for Oxfordshire. In her last race as women’s captain Helene Greenwood debuted in the senior women’s category with an impressive 99th for Oxfordshire, followed by Tilly Woods (189th, Devon) and Natalie Beadle (212th, Cumbria); likewise the junior women were well represented by Kathy Peters (73rd, Sussex), Aileen Kearney (116th, Merseyside) and Anna Sharp (129th, Hampshire). To culminate the day’s racing the senior men faced 12k of gruelling Loughborough mud with Olly Paulin (96th, Warwickshire) and Noah Hurton (233rd, Cumbria) also having brilliant runs, ones that are likely to be particularly worthwhile if Vice-Captain Spill eventually gets his way and increases the length of the Cuppers course. All runs reflected two terms’ worth of an intense training and racing cross country schedule, and all should be proud of the achievements of this season.

-Kennagh Marsh, Worcester College

BUCS Cross Country 2017: Report

As January disappeared faster than Howie playing hide-and-seek, OUCCC hit the greatly anticipated highlight of the Hilary term calendar – BUCS Cross-Country.  For those travelling up on Friday night, competitive vibes were already in the air as Jamie calmly guided the minibus to an impressive Full Blue marathon standard of 26:18, just dipping under the minute per mile barrier. On reflection however, it transpired that lessons had not been learnt from recent incidents in Glasgow and the course was almost certainly short due to Alex’s inability to calculate multiples of 1.6 beyond the distance of his long runs, or more simply to set his watch in imperial units.

“It really puts into perspective how far we’re travelling. It would have taken me an hour to run this and we’ve driven it in 9 minutes. We’re still not at a long run yet though. That makes me feel better about how long I run.”

Mathematical controversies and some terrible steel puns aside, it was a smooth journey with Sheffield providing a destination that appeared to surpass the expectations of some members of the group.

“This is quite pleasant. I imagined the North more grim than this.”

On Saturday the rest of the team made the coach trip from Oxford, and by mid morning our 50 strong contingent of runners and supporters had set up camp and headed off to parade the latest addition to the OUCCC stash collection around the muddy fields of Graves Park. With course recces, spike length analysis and windswept hair braiding complete, Ed Sheeran blaring out the speaker system, and face paint, glitter, ribbons and vuvuzelas in full flow, the stage seemed well and truly set for the 2017 edition of BUCS Cross-Country.

The first race of the day was the Men’s A Race, and following encouraging performances at Cardiff a couple of weeks earlier it was clear that both Luuk Metselaar and Jamie Parkinson had carried this fine form through to BUCS. Both ran incredibly well, mixing it with some of the biggest up-and-coming names in British cross-country and coming home 9th and 11th respectively. This set the A team up for a splendid 4th place finish overall. A close internal battle between John Spill (56th) and Dan Mulryan (59th) closed the scoring team, whilst Miles Chandler came through strongly behind in 100th. Despite the somewhat heartbreaking fact that our minty green rivals took team bronze in the absence of several key dark blue names, it is something worth celebrating in Oxbridge unity that we filled two of the top four spots, and a combined team would have placed second only to St. Mary’s.

Onto the second race of the day – the Women’s Race – in which OUCCC had the third largest team behind only Birmingham and Loughborough, with an unprecedented 23 ladies competing. Bethanie Murray kept things interesting with a pre-race blood injury, but medical attention from the official First Aid officer, (“I bet Laura’s got a plaster in her bag”) soon had her on the way to the start line and ready to lead Oxford home in 21st place. Beth was followed by equally impressive performances from Helen Record in 47th and Emma DeCamp in 67th. Next in was newcomer Madeleine Turner, who burst onto the post-Varsity scene with a 74th place finish and in doing so unknowingly signed herself up for, “all future races for us from now on”, (Kyle 2k17). Captain Helene Greenwood was next in 108th, followed by Natalie Beadle (129th) and Becky Robinson (131st). Continuing her upwards trajectory since the start of the year, a sprint finish from Georgie Bingham saw her take 141st just ahead of Cecilie Andersen in 143rd. Kennagh Marsh and Rachel Skokowski were the next two home, followed by one lap track specialist Aileen Kearney, who produced the finish of the day as she used her 400m speed to fly down the final hill and pass an unsuspecting tab in the process. Tilly Woods, Liv Will, Lucy Farquhar, Kathy Peters, Rebecca Pullon, Anna Sharp, Olivia Hawe, Charlotte Robinson, Abi Witts, Kathy Page and Hannah Burrows completed a fantastic showing from the Oxford women.

Last to toe the infamous BUCS start line were the athletes for the Men’s B Race. Oliver Paulin led proceedings for OUCCC in this one with an excellent 30th place finish, and Alex Gruen was not too far behind in 44th. James Sewry (64th), Peter DeWeirdt (65th), Jed Marshall (76th), Mayank Agrawal (97th) and Noah Hurton (100th) were the next group home, all making the top 100. James Collins, Max Schwiening, Rahil Sachak-Patwa, Sam Garforth and Lawrence Percival completed the three strong Oxford teams and all finished well inside the top two thirds of the race.

With the races done and dusted we made our way to the hotel in search of showers and non muddy shoes, and then onto a rather nice (ie. crew date rules probably not acceptable) curry house. Despite being highly confused that Luke was not Libby, refusing to allow an order of side dishes without a main course, and insisting we leave without a trace by 7pm, our Indian friends sent us on our way suitably refuelled. Next stop was back to the Jury’s Inn, where the other hotel guests (including Christofi in the room above) were treated to a full cover to cover performance of the OUCCC songbook, featuring some stunning solos from Chris DBJ Martin and Jamie Leprechaun Parkinson. Once pre-Varsity poetry and plenty of other classics had been exhausted it was time to hit the pubs, and eventually clubs, of Sheffield. The events that unfolded over the following hours (until 5am for some) are of course far too extensive to detail in their entirety here, but highlights included resident Sheffield man Aidan taking everyone to see what, “proper northern pubs are like”, Lucy and Pot clocking an impressive 1am 10 minute tempo between clubs, and LC seeing his dreams crushed yet again but still managing to record a solid 9 miles on Strava.

The following morning provided perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend, as DBJ and Jamie, not content with having run back from the race as a cool down the previous afternoon, embarked on a 15 mile adventure in some kind of strange attempt to ward off a hangover. Many others also embraced the traditional morning-after-the-after-party run and by 9:30am we were all sharing stories over a well earned multiple course breakfast before saying our goodbyes to the north and heading on our way. Thanks to Sheffield for hosting, to Rachel for organising and to Kyle for making the trip up to support us at another memorable weekend for OUCCC.

Laura Fenwick, Lady Margaret Hall

Cardiff Cross Challenge 2017: Report

If you have only ever known cross-country the Oxford way, you could be forgiven for thinking that the season runs from mid-August to December. However, despite the best efforts of one of oldest and most prestigious running conventions on the calendar, races do in fact continue into the New Year. Believe it or not, there is life after Varsity. And so on that note a diminished but determined team of dark blue vests (and the tent) travelled to the Cardiff Cross Challenge on January 22nd.

On an otherwise uneventful journey, DBJ (with Noah’s help) managed to prove once and for all that he is from Yorkshire and not Wales, as their questionable navigation to John’s supposed homeland took the minibus via Herefordshire, Somerset and ‘Berkfordshire’. It would seem, however, that Sam and his car took an even more roundabout route as he somehow managed to arrive later than the speed limited vehicle, despite departing earlier. Not that the minibus passengers minded the wait too much – this provided the perfect opportunity to use the luxury toilet facilities at the Cardiff Museum (who even supply their own toilet roll), and consume just the right volume of good quality coffee to reach the LC performance enhancing caffeine limit.

The women were first to toe the start line, with Bethanie Murray leading the way in 16th place, and also claiming individual bronze in the Celtic Cup whilst representing Ireland. Cecile Anderson put in a strong performance in 37th, with Kennagh Marsh, Natalie Beadle and Tilly Woods all finishing close behind in 38th, 40th and 46th respectively. On the men’s side Luuk Metselaar (anyone not singing in their head right now is in denial) finished an impressive 8th, with Jamie Parkinson also running well in 11th on a disappointingly non-muddy course. Luuk and Jamie were backed up by close packing from the rest of the Oxford men, who all finished around halfway through a strong cross challenge field.

Overall some great performances from a depleted team that was not missing the tent (even though it didn’t get used), but was missing some key names. Christofi was the most organised person in Cardiff, despite not being in Cardiff, via proxy as he provided a register for bus driver and stand in team leader Jamie to tick everyone’s names off – a task that was completed diligently and with photo evidence to prove it. Disappointingly the tent was left off of the register, but luckily made it back to Oxford (probably something to do with the fact that it never left the minibus). In search of a blue team to return home with (as opposed to the green one she arrived with), Bethanie was incorrectly directed to ‘the portaloos’, which weren’t actually Portaloos®, but everybody breathed a sigh of relief as by some miracle she managed to find the bus and avoid abandonment in Wales.

Having chosen not to race in Cardiff, Grumpy Howie was called out for his name-defining personality trait at an athletics workshop, although one can perhaps forgive his mood upon realisation that if he had taken part in the race he would have finished 2nd, according to a recently discovered, fully reliable, mathematically accurate, and logically sound formula known as the “1 minute per mile rule” – you heard it here first.

Congratulations to all who ran. Thanks to Kyle for his continued support and to the drivers for getting everyone (and the tent) across the border and back in one piece. Next stop, Sheffield, where Luke will be taking on the challenge of topping Jamie’s toll bridge and car parking expenditure with a simple taxi ride. Not to be missed.

Laura Fenwick, Lady Margaret Hall