Nothing reminds you that Summer is a distant memory more than the start of the Midlands/Birmingham Cross Country leagues, and race conditions on Saturday 9th November resembled Winter more than Autumn! BPJ men and women were racing at the same location, so at least we all knew that we would receive plenty of support to counteract the tough conditions.

The venue was Burton Dassett Hills, a location we had raced at back in January, which on a clear day provides stunning views of Warwickshire. However, it was far too wet, windy, cold and gloomy to see a great deal of the surrounding area on Saturday, so we swiftly assembled the gazebo and then took shelter from the conditions until it was time to brave the start line.

As usual the ladies’ race was first and there were 11 BPJ ladies ready to enjoy their first Cross Country race of the season (and in some instances their first Cross Country race for BPJ). We were all in good spirits, keen to get going to warm up and when the starting whistle blew we all headed off, part of 214 runners. The course is a brutal one, basically involving running up and down hills relentlessly. Factoring in the mud, wind, rain and chill factor, it was pretty hardcore. One particular downhill section was extremely steep and muddy and claimed a few victims, as runners fell over and seemed to skid down the bank.

The ladies race involved two laps (approximately 4.25 miles) but on a course like that, it was hard to distinguish when the first lap finished and it seemed to morph into lots of twists, turns and hills. The finish line was different to last time we raced, so was a bit of a surprise to some but also a huge relief.

Meg Judge was the first BPJ lady to finish in 33:56 and 86th position, followed by Becky Dillon in 34:59 and 104th, Helen Ciancio was next in 35:54 and 116th then Katie Downing in 36:47 and 128th. Emma Oldham was close behind in 36:49 and 129th, Alison Walker in 36:59 and 131st, then Jemima Lowe in 38:12 and 150th, Lorraine Griffiths in 38:37 and 155th, Ewelina Skolimowska in 42:26 and 186th, Rosie Bligh in 43:06 and 194th and George Dransfield in 44:35 and 200th. The team was 17th and the Masters team was 12th.

After we had thoroughly churned up the course, it was time for the men to line up for their race. The men had to run three laps, which is approximately 6 miles and I think it might’ve been even colder and wetter when they lined up amongst 225 runners. We witnessed a great many men slipping over on a particularly treacherous downhill but thankfully all BPJ men finished without injury.

First to finish was Tony Farnsworth in 38:39 and 7th place, Nick Drabs was next in 39:22 and 11th place. Mark Thomas was next in 42:41 and 45th, John Newey in 44:29 and 73rd, Scott Collinson in 44:33 and 76th, Chris Attwood in 45:21 and 91st, Matt Moon in 45:47 and 98th, Ryan Little in 45:55 and 101st, Darren Salisbury in 46:20 and 111th, Marcus Mingins in 47:13 and 128th, Thomas Hunt in 47:14 and 129th, Simon Griffiths in 47:16 and 130th, Nick Adams in 47:16 and 131st, Nick Hooper in 48:58 and 151st, Dan Scolari in 50:56 and 171st, Kevin Garness in 52:37 and 182nd, Dave Bessant in 55:26 and 202nd. BPJ A team finished 10th and BPJ B team finished 5th. The races couldn’t have gone ahead without the brilliant volunteers and I’d like to say a special thank you to Gail Berry and Mark Dillon for braving those conditions as the BPJ’s designated volunteers.

It was a solid performance by both the mens and womens teams in very tough conditions and a great bonding session, as many of us went to a nice, cosy pub nearby to dissect the race afterwards. The next Cross Country race for both men and women is on 7th December at Welcombe Hills, Stratford, it’s a venue we’ve raced at a few times before and offers plenty of challenges and fun. If you would like to join us contact Lorraine Griffiths (womens’ Team Captain) or Chris Attwood (mens’ Team Captain).