With another cross-country (XC) season just around the corner, here are four reasons why you should get involved this year, and Smita Ghosh, who ran her first XC races last year, shares her advice for XC first-timers.
1 It doesn’t matter how fast you are. XC races are run over changeable terrain, often in muddy conditions, and are rarely exact distances so your time really doesn’t matter. Lots of runners take part in each race, so wherever you think you’ll finish in the field, you won’t be running on your own. Teams are also awarded points according to where their runners finish rather than individual times. So, the slower runners are just as important as the faster runners
2 They’re team events. Love them or loathe them, hills and mud bring people together. You can expect a palpable sense of excitement from the moment you find us in the club tent and, most importantly, a tremendous sense of camaraderie and achievement once we’ve all crossed the line. Also, because every fixture includes junior and senior races, you’re always guaranteed a cheer from your teammates!
3 XC can make you a stronger runner. All those hills and that uneven terrain mean you’ll be using more core and leg muscles than if you were just running on the flat. Not to mention the mental boost you’ll get from knowing you can keep going right to the finish!
4 They don’t break the bank Unlike large-scale road races, Gwent League races only cost a few pounds to enter. And though we would recommend that you invest in some spikes, if you’re really not sure whether XC is for you, there’ll always be someone who can lend you a pair for your first race (our Facebook group is a good place to start).
Advice for first-timers
Still not sure whether to give XC a go? Here’s what Smita Ghosh, a newcomer to XC last year, has to say about her experiences:
‘I decided to try XC because my eldest daughter was taking part in the U13 races. I was already there, so thought I might as well give it a try too. It was also a good excuse to buy some spikes!
‘I hadn’t done any XC races before – the closest I’d got to XC was running through Blaise. I didn’t know what to expect, and felt nervous before my first race. There were loads of women on the starting line so it did seem daunting, but most of them were smiling and their words of encouragement helped to dissipate my anxiety. The race itself was cold and muddy – there were places where it was a struggle just to stay upright, but that made me realise that XC isn’t always about trying to run fast!
‘What I enjoyed most though was the team spirit among Westbury Harriers. The more experienced runners always offer words of encouragement, and Tamsin is a great manager who always keeps you smiling. I do train with the club, but as I’m often rushing around in the evenings, I never get a chance to talk to people much. At the Gwent League races, the encouragement and team spirit is fantastic. It makes me proud to be part of the Westbury Harriers family.
‘If you’re thinking about trying XC this year: go for it. The courses are around 6K so don’t take forever – once you start, you will finish and feel a great sense of achievement!’
Calling all juniors
Anyone aged 9 and over can take part in XC, so we’d love you to get involved this year. Last year, our U11 and U17 girls were Gwent League champions, our U13 girls came second, and our U15 girls fourth. So please do join us for what promises to be another successful season!
Each junior race is just £1 to enter, and there are five fixtures over the course of the season: please pay £5 in advance to your team managers (Simon or Neil) before Thursday 8 October.
How to sign up
First, get in touch with your team manager to let them know you want to take part:
- Senior Ladies: Tamsin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Vet Ladies: Eithne and Sarah (manager.vets.women@
- Senior Men: Robin (email@example.com)
- Vet Men: John (manager.vet.men@
- Junior girls: Simon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Junior boys: Neil (email@example.com)
Then, put all the Gwent League dates in your diary. You might also want to join our Facebook group to make sure you find out more about individual races and lift shares, and check out Neil’s advice for what to pack for XC races.
Still have questions? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your team manager, or pop your question on Facebook.
We look forward to seeing you in Bridgend on Sunday 11 October!