A Beginners Guide to Sunday Cross Country League

"Cross Country ... Is not about running in the rain round a field while the PE teacher is watching from the window!"

It has evolved into something far more sociable on a Sunday morning.

200 odd people (and yes some are very odd) massing at the start of a run through some of the beautiful Essex Country Parks. The run distance can vary between 4 or 5 miles. Yes, there is the odd hill or six, and yes there are some muddy puddles if it has been raining a bit, but on the whole you run through some beautiful scenery with some like minded people - before finishing and discussing over tea and plenty of cake with the same like minded people how you would have finished in front of the old man with one eye and a limp if you had different trainers on, not been out the night before or had not broken a nail.

However, for those who have a slightly competitive edge, there are also plenty of gazelles amongst the crowd to test your fitness out on. These can be found at the front of the pack, skimming through the course at breakneck speed making it look very easy.

And then the rivalry, whether you are at the front or the back there will always be one person at each event you just have to beat. It may be because they had you on the line last time, or because he wheezes all the way round the course like a rhino with one lung, whatever the reason you must be in front of him next time!

And then the other clubs – and this is why we need you!

The team with the lowest point score at each event wins – teams score points from the position in which their runners finish. IE - first place = 1 point, 120th place = 120 points.

Ten people from each club score – 7 men (2 of which must be vets (over 40’s)) and 3 ladies (1 of which must be a vet). Although the ladies and men race together, they finish in separate tunnels at the end and results are split into genders.

The race consists of twelve teams split over two divisions. Currently we are in Division 1. The other clubs making up the league are local running clubs who have their own rivalries going. Promotions and demotions are determined at the end of the season, after the last race.

“Why run if I am not fast” I hear you ask? Because you are still needed!

Even if you don’t make the scoring team, you are extremely valuable. Remember that guy on the line? He could be a scorer for the opposing team and you have just knocked him back a place or two making their score higher! If two or three EETC members have finished in front of him, and he is wearing black, even better!

In the event of a tie with another team, the next runner position is used – so we need to put out a team strong in numbers. Every club member who runs is valuable.

Other reasons to do it!

It is a great way of keeping fit through the off season. Works the cardio-vascular system. Is a great resistance session for the legs. Strengthens the core. Is a friendly way of staying in touch with the club. League points up for grabs. Is a great hangover cure.

And some answers to frequently asked questions!

Clothing – Club vest or t-shirt and shorts. If it’s very chilly, a base layer of long or short t-shirt, under club colours, and leggings. Dark socks are better on wet days! Hats and gloves are welcome on cold days and remember to bring plenty of layers (tracksuit, hoodies, jackets, spare socks) to put on afterwards.

Shoes – Trail shoes, spikes and off road running shoes are the most appropriate footwear, they all provide additional grip. It is worth bringing dry footwear to change into.

Payment – £2 per race – Payable to the team manager on the morning of the race. This then goes towards the expenses of the host club, including venue hire, first aid cover and of course the tea and cakes.

Other charges – the only other charges are parking at some venues. Check the forum before each event which will have details.

Venues and Dates – Details will be published on the club website and facebook pages prior to each event

What do I do when I arrive at the venue? - Look for the team manager for the day (Deborah Clark, but check on forum before the event) who will take you name and payment. Follow the blue jackets to find the team manager – often standing next to an East Essex Feather Flag!

Numbers – which, just to cause confusion, are actually letters! These will be given out by the team manager at the first race you take part in. Please use it for the season if possible. We are letter T. It is particularly important we stay ahead of anybody with a letter F.

What do I do with the silver disc at the end? - This records your finish position. Pass to Deborah (or other team manager), who will be waiting at the end of the finish tunnel. It is important you do this as soon as possible and not wander off with the disc.

Age Limit - You must be 17 on race day to take part. No upper age limit.

I’m too slow - No one is too slow – every runner is a valuable member of the team. There are athletes taking part of all abilities and all ages. The efforts of everyone are appreciated.

I’m a fast runner ... will I be challenged? - There are runners of all abilities taking part, at the front end of the field you will find yourself among County and National standard athletes.

I don’t like tea! - Coffee and hot chocolate are also available.

England Athletics - Runners must be members of England Athletics and would have been encouraged to join when applying for membership of the club. Please contact the membership secretary if not.

Second claim runners – if you are a second claim runner for a club not in the league (ie Basildon AC) you are free to run for us.

If you are first claim for a club entered in the league (ie Benfleet Runners) you have to run for them. However; if you do don other colours be prepared for gentle ribbing, and do not expect help if you are stuck in the toilets before a race.

The other teams are:

Today’s Runner League – this is what the league was known as a number of years ago and some of the mature among us still refer to it as so!

Where do I find the results? – they will be on our website and facebook pages when received from the host club – can sometimes be a day or two.

So come along and enjoy the runs!

Zena Shean

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