The ladies leading the charge for QPH at Milton Keynes.
The rain stayed away on Saturday 9th February—an auspicious day for the Queen's Park Harriers heading to Campbell Park at Milton Keynes. Unusually, the men were running before the women, leaving us to run last on the muddy uphills and downhills.
The gazebo was up when we arrived—standing fast despite the blustery wind. The great Neil Hutchison's fold-up chair habit is spreading so despite his absence (in South Africa, so a valid excuse) there were a few chairs.
President Bill was, as ever, giving out numbers to the runners. Some of the men were "running" a bit late, so numbers were prepared and handed over with little time to spare, and then soon, the 19 Hoopster boys were heading to the start after a swift photo by the flag.
The women spread out to cheer at various points on the course and the men were flying around. However, on the second lap, Sam Sutherland came roaring down the hill and shouted out to Monica, Georgey and myself: "Matt's down up over the hill, get help."
Matt had turned his ankle badly on a rut somewhere on a downhill section and was understandably gutted and in pain. We got him back to the gazebo with his strapped-up ankle thanks to the paramedics dropping him at the door. A chair was set up and stool for his foot (thanks Will and Laura) coats, blankets, tracksuit, socks etc sorted as well as some painkillers.
Meanwhile, the other men battled bravely on. Sam Sutherland had a Cinderella moment in the ditch and left his shoe behind...but after a short search in the mud, and a round of applause from the crowd when he found it, he was off again chasing after the competitors ahead.
Nathan Pask was first over the line in a speedy 30:38, with Ed Mooney next, with 16 further Hoops arriving safely home on a tough course.
The women's race started further down than the men's, with a nasty hill to get us going almost immediately. The gun fired and with coach's advice, lots of us were pushing forward at the start line.
It was two laps for the women (at the moment!), and Jen Armson was first over the line with Shell Maddick in second place. A special mention should be made of new club member Frances Sutherland. who was running her first cross country. and despite the challenge of working out where the course was towards the end finished with a big smile on her face.
Some people headed off, including Matt,who happily and understandably got out of the cold to continue his rehab in front of the rugby. Many Hoopsters stayed for the results as Bill was sat for ages with the other officials churning the numbers, working out the winners and teams for medals and trophies. Ella and Jessie Braine sat quietly in anticipation, working their way through all the bubble wrap bubbles for all the trophies!
Finally, Bill, the president of the Chiltern League, took his place on the stage and announced the winners for Division One and then Two. QPH had individual winners, with Bill himself coming 2nd in the Vet-70 category, Jen Armson earning 2nd in Vet-35 and Sophie Barnard 3rd in Vet-45.
The final moment when the teams for relegation and promotion were announced finally arrived. There was some confusion when it was announced only two teams were being promoted...but no, it was official! Queen's Park Harriers had been promoted
We have had a fantastic Cross Country season, and the numbers have been impressive. Thanks to everyone who has taken part, to all the people who have done it for the first time and smiled up the hills and enjoyed the mud. It's been worth it.
Get back running soon Matt.
Check out the results for the Hoops in this race here.