The Mountains of Brighton

For those who don’t know much about the event, the Southern Cross Country Championships (SXCC) is a prestigious event in the cross country calendar attracting runners from all over the south of England to compete over a gruelling cross country course.  Most years the SXCC are held at the dreaded Parliament Hill Fields, reputed to be one of the tougher cross country courses around, however this year Parliament Hill hosts the National Championships, so Stanmer Park in Brighton stepped up to the role.  Many might have naively thought that the move away from Parliament Hill would be a treat, with a shorter, kinder course…..oh how wrong we were!

So on Saturday 24th January, fifteen brave souls (and one interloping second claimer) made their way down to Brighton to represent the club against the rest of the south.  Following days of cold and wet and wind and more cold, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with blue skies and sun, and only a light breeze – sounds almost perfect for racing……

High spirits buoyed by the fine weather and trouble free commutes took a body blow as we walked onto Stanmer Park and looked up…..and up…..and up…..and that was only the small hill!  At this stage some of us started to realise that we may have made a mistake in attending this race, a fear that was confirmed when we saw the routes that had been planned by the dastardly race directors.  Routes took competitors up multiple steep climbs, down treacherous declines and through twisty wooded paths, leaving nowhere for runners to catch their breath on the long courses (which culminated in a 9.1 mile multi lap course for the senior men!)

First off were the U13 girls, with LBAC represented by Ellie Rabbitts, Sadie Towell and McKenna Keefe.  The girls worked hard to finish in very respectable positions of 186th in 13:37, 231st in 14:46 and 242nd in 15:58 over a tough course and a competitive field.

Scott Towell was the sole LBAC runner in the U13 boys race, finishing in 195th place in a time of 12:51, again competing well over a challenging course.

Our ever present U15 girls, Sarah Plummer and Megan Westrope were once again donning the LBAC colours and produced good performances to finish in 150th in 17:16 and 210th in 19:03.  Both good results in a tough field, Sarah’s recent step up to join the seniors with the weekly speed training is clearly starting to show.

In the U17 mens race, Sam Nicholas competed in a tough field and finished well, just outside the top half in the bottom year of the age group in 100th place with a time of 24:03.

Two stalwarts of the club, Jordan Clay and Charlie Mead, who seem to have taken part in just about every race and every training session available in the last few months were once again taking on the other U20 men.  It is worth pointing out that the male U20s category has always been an incredibly high standard field, all the way from Chiltern League, through county and up to national level, and this field in the SXCC was no exception, with many of the supporting senior men feeling a little intimidated by the speed at which the competitors seemed to pass.  Jordan finished in 38th place with a time of 29:19, and Charlie battled through to 84th place with a time of 32:30, both excellent times and placings over the gruelling 5 mile route.

Fiona Towell was our only lady representing LBAC in the senior women’s race, over the same horrible 5 mile route as the lads, with plenty of hills.  Fiona put in a great performance and battled the terrain to finish in 281st position with a time of 45:07, beating a host of runners from our local clubs which bodes well for our next Chiltern League.

Finally, late in the day as the sun started to drop, the senior men lined up on the start for possibly the toughest cross country race they had ever run – 9.1 miles and over 1,400ft of climbing in three punishing laps! Most of the pre-race conversation revolved around the hills that we were to tackle, but can’t be printed here due to the high levels of expletives and profanity, though Nick Clay and Richard Inchley were on hand to provide some coaching and try to explain the concept of cornering to Chris Norman.  Leading the senior men home once again was Pete Mackrell, finishing in 156th place with a time of 58:32, closely followed by Andy Inchley in 229th place with a time of 1:00:27.  Chris in 326th with a time of 1:03:24, James Bell in 448th with 1:06:57 and Gary Stratford in 651st with 1:14:18 rounded out the LBAC contingent.  Oh and that second claim interloper we mentioned earlier was Simon Coombes who finished just ahead of Pete in 137th place with a time of 57:52.