Feeling a bit “non-league” in Mansfield

English Cross Country Relays

by Sam Dear


The English Cross Country Relays has been staged in Mansfield since 1989 and LBAC were last there in 2010 and 20011, however on both of these occasions one member of the team had somehow forgotten to put their timing chip on and so the team was disqualified, much to the annoyance of those who wore their chip! Andy must have been one who was left with a DQ next to his name as I got an almost daily reminder to wear my chip in the week leading up to event.

The relays are part of the build up to the trials at the end November to get into the GB team for the European Cross Country  Championships and so there was definitely some talent around quite often has some GB athletes that you may recognise.

Primed and Ready… our fastest runner!

After a 2 hour journey north from Leighton Buzzard, we arrived in the car park and started walking towards the field of tents to find a space to get ready. As we had no LBAC gazebo this year we decided to perch on the slightly muddy grass between the MKAC and Bedford & County tents. Looking around we could see teams of athletes warming up in their matching training tracksuits and having just discussed whether we would be able to squeeze in a Greggs pasty before the run we suddenly felt quite amateur and seriously non-league!


No time to dwell on missed pastry products though as we had to register and sort our team orders out. Tim and Tom Inchley had arrived separately and had already met up with Ben Corfield so with the 5 of us from Leighton Buzzard we managed to have 2 teams competing.

A quick scout of the course to work out the complex changeover system and a wave to Richard Inchley, there in his full chain as President of the English Cross Country Association for this season and then we could hear the ladies race starting.

Richard shows off his bling!

With it being a relay, those running the 3rd and 4th leg had a long wait until they had to get ready, so myself and Pete M found a good spot to watch the ladies. It was becoming clear that although it’s been very dry recently the night of rain that preceded the race had definitely made it a slippy course and some parts were actually a little waterlogged and others boggy. This would be a proper Cross Country race! The sun started to come out which added the extra dimension of being blinded running in one direction.

We watched as Rachel Robinson (MKAC) flew past us along with Emma Coombes (Bedford & County) whilst spotting Jess Judd’s figure surge through the field and being impressed by the form of the Aldershot team. They make it look so effortless…and there was that feeling of being non-league again!


The ladies run 3 legs of 3km each whilst the men have a team of 4 with 5km each leg which is set up as two 2.5km laps. Before we knew it, the ladies had finished and it was on to the men.

Trying to figure out the A and the B teams was a bit of a dilemma as it’s difficult to guess how people will run on the day but the attempt was to put each team in running order, with the quickest on leg 1.

Team A: Billy Mead, Glen Turner, Tom Inchley and Pete Mackrell

Team B: Ben Corfield, Tim Inchley, James Cusack and Sam Dear

Billy and Ben both went around well but came back saying it was tough. Tim and Glen then did the same before it was time to start thinking about putting on my spikes, taking off layers and getting warmed up. Part of our warm up included going to cheer on Tom and James before the usual panic you get in a relay when you go from thinking you’ll be there far too early to suddenly realising you may in fact be there too late and ruin everything for the team! Luckily it was all planned perfectly and Pete went off before I had a quick thumbs up and a shrug from Tom and then I had to get in the starting pen.

The start of leg 1. You can just see Billy

James flew in with a pained expression and I was off. As with all relays the fast is always start as you take over from somebody who has just been sprinting for the line. I ran off beside somebody who I quickly realised was on his second lap and therefore most likely in a faster team. Half a lap later I looked at my watch and realised it was only going to get tough from here! The grassy patches were slippy with boggy areas and the short, sharp hills in the woods were interspersed with the deep sludgy mud. All in all it really sapped your energy, which is what cross country is all about. After a run around a small lake, the route took us into the woods and slalomed around the trees and hills before popping out and running up a long-ish straight up a slope before popping back down. Just as you think you should be speeding up for the finish, another steep hill pops up to kick you in the chest before finally you can finish. I was glad to see the finish on this occasion as although it was only a 5k race each, it being the beginning of the XC season, I wasn’t used to it! Thankfully it seemed that everybody else thought the same and times were a little down on the previous year so it must have been more difficult conditions.

I was a little disappointed to finish outside 20 minutes but with the lack of training I can’t worry too much. It’ll be good preparation for Chiltern League that’s for sure!

Overall though it was a really good experience to be involved in a national cross country race with some seriously good runners. It didn’t matter that we weren’t the fastest and it was all about enjoying the run and being a part of something.

Our two teams finished 60th and 101st overall out of 178 full teams, which considering the winning team had an average time of 15 minutes and 45 seconds for a cross country 5km, we were all pretty chuffed!

I really recommend it for next year so when the email comes round asking if people are interested please do sign up! It would be good to get a couple of teams for both men and women.

Full times for the two teams are below:

Position Total time Leg 1 Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4
60 1:12:41 Billy 17.31.40 Glen 18:07:10 Tom I 18:35:15 Pete M 18:27:85
101 1:19:24 Ben 18:46:40 Tim 19:51:70 James C 20:29:95 Sam 20:16:65



Pete’s post run hunger was too much for Tim’s chips!