Thursday, 17 September 2015

There will be mud... hills and a water obstacle! Everything you need to know for the 2015-16 Cross Country season

Forget entering expensive obstacle course races this winter, if you want to get fitter and stronger and have a change from running on the roads then get involved in cross country racing with Striders! 

Below is a list of dates and venues for the forthcoming season with some new courses to keep the cross country veterans interested, as well as many of the old favourites like Parliament Hill.

For those who are new to the club/cross country racing, here's a handy guide to explain the league and championship races we take part in and how you can get involved...
Make a splash: The water obstacle at Keysoe awaits at this October's Chiltern League race
Why do cross country?
  • To improve your fitness: Running off-road enhances your stamina and endurance. Tackling uneven surfaces and hills improves your muscle strength and core stability making you fitter and faster.
  • Less stress on your joints: Running on a softer surface gives your body a break from the impact of pounding hard surfaces like the road and track.
  • It’s scenic: As no course is the same, you could be running round farmland, through forests or pretty parks.
  • It’s suitable for ALL abilities: You don’t have to be super speedy and you don’t need to be able to run a marathon. Distances are usually 4k-8k for women and 8k-12k for men.
  • Contribute to the team effort: Just like the Midweek Road Race League, the cross country competitions we compete in are team events. The first to the last scorer all make a difference to where the team finishes.
  • Earn club champs points.
  • It’s free! Fully-paid up members of the club get free entry into all the league and championship race.
  • It’s friendly and fun! The races provide an opportunity to meet your clubmates, get into the team spirit and enjoy racing in the great outdoors.
    Get stuck in: Some courses will be muddy!


Comprises clubs from Herts, Beds and Bucks, open to all abilities. Men and women race separately - approx 6k for women and 8k for men. There’s also junior races earlier in the day where St Albans AC athletes compete for Striders. The juniors, men and women’s scores are all combined to reach our league position.

Where & when:
Women’s race starts approx 1.15pm, men’s approx 2pm

Saturday 10 October, Keysoe Equestrian Centre, nr Bedford
Saturday 7 November, Milton Keynes (Teardrop Lakes)
Saturday 5 December, Culham
Saturday 16 January, Luton (Wigmore Valley)
Saturday 13 February, Milton Keynes (Campbell Park)
Milton Keynes is not flat! This hill features in the Teardrop Lake course

What to do: We need to declare with the organisers who will be running the night before each race. We’ll send an email and post on the message board the week before each race so please let us know then if you intend to run. On the day, collect a number from captains (Graham Smith for the men and Wendy Walsh for the women). As with the Midweek Road Race League, you must keep this number for the whole league. This year for the first time all races will be chip timed, with the chip being in the runner's number/bib.

More info:
Slightly lower key league so a good introduction if you have never done cross country before. It’s suitable for all abilities and just like the MWRRL but on off-road courses. Clubs from the local area take part with men and women competing in the same race which is approx 5-6 miles. If you take part in four or more races you will be in with a chance of winning an individual age group prize at the end of the league. Individual trophies are awarded as follows: Senior Men, M40, and M50 - first five places. M60 - first three, M70 - winner. Senior Women, W35, and W45 - first five places. W55 – first three, W65 – winner.

Where & when: All races start at 10.30am
Sunday 18 October, Cheshunt
Sunday 22 November, Trent Park
Sunday 6 December, Stevenage
Sunday 17 January, Watford
Sunday 14 February, Royston

Who cares if it's raining?! The smiling team at a wet Sunday League race last season
What to do: We’ll advertise further details on each race in advance. You don’t need to wear a number so just turn up and race. At the finish, you’ll be given a ticket with your finishing position on which should be handed to the captains so they can record the results.

More info:
There’s no official website for the league but results and pictures will be posted on


Herts County XC: Sunday 10 January 2016, Stevenage

Individual and county medals up for grabs here and the chance to qualify to represent Herts in future races. Approx 8k for women and 12k for men.
What to do: You must have been born in Herts or have been a resident in the county for at least nine months prior to the race to compete. Captains have to enter teams in advance so look out for details on the message board or via email in order to sign up. On the day, collect your number from captains.
More info:
Charge! The uphill start at Parliament Hill
Southern XC Champs: Saturday 30 January 2016, Parliament Hill, London
Regional event made up of clubs from the south of England. Approx 8k for women and 15k for men.
What to do: Open to all club members of all abilities but you must be EA registered pre-entered by captains. Look out for posts/emails to sign up nearer the time. The event is chip-timed so you must collect your chip and number from captains on the day.
More info:

The National XC Champs: Saturday 27 February 2016, Donington Park, Leicestershire

Prestigious and historic event which clubs across England take part in. Approx 8k for women and 12k for men.
What to do:
Open to all club members of all abilities but you must be EA registered pre-entered by captains. The event is chip-timed so you must collect your chip and number from captains on the day.
More info:

Vet Champs: There are also a couple of Vets only championship races (age 35/40 and over for women depending on the event and age 40 and over for men) across the season including the Southern Masters Champs on Saturday 12 December (venue TBC), and Herts County Vet Champs on Sunday 13 March at Watford. You must be pre-entered so look out for email/posts nearer the time.

Please note when signing up for championship races we have to pay per entry and it can be costly to the club if we have a lot of drop-outs on the day - so please only sign up if you are committed to racing.


Southern XC Relay: Saturday, 17 October 2015, Wormwood Scrubs.

Team event involving clubs from the South which is a low key, fun start to the cross country season.
Teams: Women, 3 x 3k, Men, 4 x 5k
What to do: Sign up now! Open to all club members of all abilities but you must be EA registered pre-entered by captains. Deadline for entries is 3 October.
Thumbs up! The women's team at the National XC
National XC Relay:  Saturday 31 October, Berry Hill Park, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
Well-supported national event where clubs from around England compete in teams around a course that’s not challenging and is great for spectating.
Teams: Women, 3 x 3k, men, 4 x 5k
What to do: Sign up now! Open to all club members of all abilities but you must be EA registered pre-entered by captains.
And finally here’s a list of essentials you will need for cross country racing…

  • Striders vest: You must compete in a club vest for all the above events.
  • Layers: Wrap up warm with hats, gloves and a waterproof jacket before and after the race. Some courses can be exposed to the elements and races will go ahead come wind, rain or shine (only very heavy snowfall has cancelled races in the past).
  • Spikes/trail shoes: Some courses will be suitable for trainers, but if the weather gets wetter and ground gets muddier, trail shoes or spikes are essential. If you only plan to buy one or the other, trail shoes are more flexible as they give good grip in muddy sections but are more comfortable on courses which include harder surfaces such as gravel. Cross country spikes can be bought for around £40 so are well worth having in addition to trail shoes as they give better grip on courses which are entirely grass/mud. Invest in some different length spike pins to insert in them so you can adapt the spike length according to the course (12-15mm best for very muddy courses like Parliament Hill).
  • Pins: For attaching your number.
  • Change of socks: The socks you run in might get wet and there’s nothing worse than travelling home with stinky, damp feet!
  • Wet wipes: Great for wiping all that mud off your legs (and arms and face!). Don’t worry about getting muddy, it’s all part of the fun and it all comes out in the wash!
  • Cake: For feeding your teammates after racing.
  • Sense of humour!
Don't forget wet wipes... and a sense of humour!
If you have any further questions about cross country running or want to find out more, contact men’s xc captain Graham Smith at or women’s xc captain Wendy Walsh at

Stayed tuned to the blog for a future post with tips on how to prepare for cross country racing!

We hope to see to you at the races,
Graham and Wendy,  XC captains

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