North East Harrier League Cross Country, Aykley Heads – 25th November 2023

Ladies & M65 Race – by Lisa Donaldson

11 Crook ladies & 5 M65’s lined up for this extra tough course and last fixture at this venue. Some may be pleased but I’m sure it will be replaced with an even tougher one!

The start was a bit delayed so

a quick dash back for our coats as we were freezing our what’s its off and no sooner were we back than they were setting everyone off! So off went the slow pack consisting of Helene, Jane, Patricia, Emma, Kelly, Amanda, Gerry, Richard and Mark (making his debut for the club). A few from the other clubs missed their cue though and come scurrying through to try catch them all up whilst Kimberley, myself, Geoff and Andy were waiting in the medium pack to be set off. Off we went and there’s me thinking the ground wasn’t too bad until we were met with the worst boggy bit just 200 metres in, nearly lost the shoes there. We were then followed by the fast pack Kate, Jo and Amy….the hunt was on haha!

As far as conditions go, I don’t think it was that bad and even though it was a bit chilly the sun was actually shining, low wind which was even better and the people seemed to spread out pretty quickly so not as congested in parts where you would normally be stuck. To be fair I was happy for the rest stuck behind people LOL but plenty of space to get them legs moving up those hills and downs of course.

Me and Kimberley

were pretty much together throughout the race helping each other along, well she was definitely not letting me slack off anyway! Passing the lovely Patricia doing her thing trying to make sure she beats her nemesis “George” and then Emma digging in deep up those hills, passing Jane then Gerry both looking strong. Then the dreaded climb approaches and you just know that’s where all the lovely support team are going to be. It definitely helps though to get you up that hill, so a big thank you to you all even though at the time I was cursing you haha!

Finally reached the top to see Amanda and Kelly just ahead after tackling the hills. Looking good and off we were on lap 2 YAY! Seeing Helene on the last half of the course looking strong as ever and took some catching! Last push up those hills and home stretch was near, pushed as fast as my little tired legs would let me and managed to finish 1st counter in a time of 31:37 (course PB by over 3mins) followed by Kimberley 2nd counter in a time of 31:47, then a strong finish by Helene 3rd counter in a time of 35:12 and then Kate storming in from fast pack to be 4th counter in a time of 30:07.

Jo speeding in also from f

ast pack in a time of 32:03, not far behind Kelly came in at a time of 37:23, followed shortly by Amanda in a time of 37:28 and another fast pack finish from Amy in a time of 32:31, Jane came in at a time of 38:59, Emma pushing to the finish in a time of 43:50 and Patricia finishing strong and full of smiles in a time of 53:16 knowing she beat her nemesis “George” and not only that, knocking 5 minutes off her time before on that course!!

Fantastic improvement and its definitely showing how much you are coming along well done!

Kimberley and myself have now been promoted to fast pack I don’t know how I feel about this but can’t knock it till I try it I suppose. Well done Kimberly well deserved. Ladies finished 1st overall, absolutely buzzing and to say I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the day/night is an understatement, so proud of the ladies and all the efforts they put in and all working as a team! Sooooo at the moment we are 2nd in division 3, 1 point behind 1st !!! come on lasses we have got this!! Roll on Thornley Hall!!

M65’s, Geoff was back 1st counter for M65’s coming in at an impressive time of 34:13 from Medium pack, 2nd counter was Mark, fantastic run for your debut well done in a time of 38.18! Next up was Andy storming through medium pack to be 3rd counter in a time of 37:09, Richard was next up and even after his little stop off for a roll about in the mud he came in at a respectable time of 41:45, Gerry had a bit of a tough time on this course but that didn’t stop him finishing in a time of 45:33 and I know he wont be happy with himself on that but he dug deep and finished, so well done!! They now have some healthy competition and came 2nd but are still 1st in their division.

Massive well done to everyone and a great day for the club is all I can say 😊


Senior Mens Race – Brad Wight

Saturday turned out to be a cracking day for the club with Rory Hart winning the U17s race in his first outing in a Crook vest and the ladies topping their division to move second overall in the league table. Also our Men’s V65 team extended their league lead despite coming 2nd on the day to a Durham City Harriers trio. We were helped in no small part by another debutante, Mark Standbridge who was our second counter. Prior to the race I don’t think anyone realised he was eligible for the V65 team!
Lisa and Paul are writing about the Ladies/MV65 and the Junior categories so I’ll quickly summarise the Senior Men’s race.
John Woodhouse is a new member who’s primarily a fell racer with Durham Fell Runners, like Joe Addison he runs first claim for Crook on XC and Roads. Those of you who were at Wrekenton will remember John was up with the leaders when he suffered a painful injury half way round. Well thankfully no such issues at Aykley Heads, John stormed round to finish 11th overall in a cracking time of 39:09 and earned himself a promotion to the medium pack.
The course itself wasn’t as bad as I’d first feared, after six weeks of storms and rain I thought it might have been an absolute mud-bath but there were only really two problematic sections; the 180 degree U-bend on the start/finish field and the lower part of the course along the railway and up the first hill. I passed quite a few runners retrieving spikes from the mud but I think us lot managed quite well with the conditions. Not sure Richard in the V65 race would agree with that though!
2nd counter for Crook was Andy Simpson, putting in a good shift to finish 55th overall out of 552 which frustratingly probably means he’s grabbed the final promotion place.
Ian Thompson was 3rd counter with a typical steady race and an improvement on previous years’ times. Shortly after four of us crossed the line together with Joe Addison leading the way from the fast pack, followed by fellow fast packer Rob Teasdale then myself as 6th counter and new member Dan Staples right behind me.
Other finishers were Sam Etherington who’s fresh back from a post-Amsterdam marathon injury, Steve Mills who ran a solid race, Peter Coser and Joe Hall.
We finished 5th in the division, enough to hold our mid table place in the league. With many runners absent for various reasons I think this was a decent result on the day but one we can definitely improve on with a big turnout.
Finally, I’d like to say a big thanks to our supporters who were dotted round the course shouting words of encouragement and also Colin Everson for marshalling all day. Much appreciated from all of us!
Looking forward to seeing you all at the North Easterns in two week’s time, we’ve had a big improvement in numbers over the last two years with 27 Crook runners registered to run.


Juniors Race, by Colin Everson

After much deliberation of whether to run Aykley Heads North East Harrier League Cross Country or go to Victoria Park to watch my beloved Hartlepool United “entertain” Bromley Athletic FC and after weighing up the pros and cons of both and truth being both options were equally as painful I chose the latter.

However, it was always my intention to make my way to Aykley Heads, which is my spiritual home as it was the back garden of my work place, County Hall, for many years and I still run around there on a monthly basis as it’s the venue for Durham Aykley Heads Runners (works) Cross Country Handicap which has been going for years, since the early 80’s and incidentally is organised by the handicapper Dennis Brown who some of you CrookAC stalwarts will know from his many years at the club as captain. A great runner in his day and all round good egg, and it was indeed Dennis who got me involved and signed up as a Crook member all those years ago back in 1990 …. so blame him for having to put up with me haha! Anyway, I digress and, like my running, I’ve gone off on a tangent, the reason for me being there on Saturday (obviously after parkrun, full English breakfast and a cheeky pint at the Duke Of Wellington) was to see our CrookAC juniors members in action representing the club.

To support, cheer and hopefully enjoy the fruits of our labour of Thursday evenings at Shildon track in all weather conditions, where Clare, Harry, Joe, Colin, President Hope and of course yours truly encourage and coach the kids, will they reap the rewards in a strong competitive environment such as NEHL XC? The answer simply, of course they will and indeed they did.

I’m not usually a one for watching when I’m not running myself, sounds selfish but it’s just so blummin’ difficult, being there and not experiencing the nerves, the atmosphere, the camaraderie and the conditions, which on Saturday were perfect, but I’d made the exception on this occasion to see how well the club’s youth policy would get on.

Club tent expertly erected, I know because I watched from a distance as Harry, Adam and others wrestled with extendable poles, guy ropes, pegs and canvas, well done chaps and yellow and red trickled in to meet up with team mates all in the shadow of Durham Constabulary Headquarters. It was great to chat to club teammates but, no disrespect, I was here to see our youngsters, to try and make them feel at ease as we all know only too well how daunting these events can be, although our young stars seemed to be taking it all in their stride from what I could see. I did attempt to give a few pointers and words of wisdom and advice but I not sure any of it actually went in the little shell like ears, all they wanted to do was just RUN!! Nothing wrong with that, basically, that’s all you need to know, that’s all you need to do, the hard work has been done on the track on Thursdays, although last week, Clare suggested instead of our usual age category groups, we formed a special cross country group, which I totally agreed with and embraced and an hour of specialised XC training was enjoyed/endured by the lads and lasses. I shall refrain from divulging the specialised training techniques in case the information falls into enemy hands, you never know, God forbid Durham City Harriers find out our secrets or even our secret weapons.

The biggest problem, problem maybe not quite the correct word perhaps, was the chaos of getting our young athletes on the start line. With there being so many different age groups along with fast and slow packs and boys races, girls races and setting off at different times it was mayhem and confusion, a word of praise to our juniors’ parents who stepped up to the plate and seemed to have it all in hand from pinning their numbers onto their racing singlets to getting them to the correct starting pack at the correct start time, so well done and a pat on the back to you Mams and Dads.

Blue skies, bright sunshine, a wee bit on the chilly side and cheering across the expansive green green grass of Aykley Heads, Durham Cathedral in the background and young runners aged from under 11’s up to under 17’s was a sight to behold. The youth seem to get a lot of bad press this day and age, but this is the other side of the coin and doesn’t make the headlines, the fact they are out there active, competing and not a games console insight or a mobile phone with the exception of proud parents and coaches, myself included trying to capture them in running action, I did succeed on all apart from one, apologies to young James, you took me by surprise and flew past before I could take your picture.

How the heck I managed to capture our ‘secret weapon’ was more luck that good photography skills, plus the fact he was easy to spot, as he was way out in front. Rory Hart, who at 16 and puts all of us seniors to the sword on Tuesday evenings, roared his way around the course making it look effortless on his way to his 1st place in a scintillating time of 18:38 and will be promoted up into the fast pack at the next event. Alex Merryweather stoically stuck at it and completed his age group race, showing all of the attributes that saw him lift the Male Club Athlete Of The Year Award at the CrookAC juniors presentation ceremony the following day.

Young James Emery who was too fast for my mobile camera work finished his U/11 race in 22nd position in a time of 5:46 and his fellow under 11 slow packer team mate Joe Hall giving his all wasn’t too far behind clocking 6:52. Our 3rd under 11 runner was to add a touch of glamour to proceedings Meadow Winham always smiling and always trying her best gobbled up the ground in her cross country spikes posted and impressive time of 7:28 to grab herself a top 50 finish.

Under 13 boys had our dynamic duo of Rowan Norman (slow pack) and Matty Richardson (fast pack) battling it out, I’m sure Rowan’s tactic was not to be caught by Matty, and Matty’s tactic was to attempt to catch Rowan, tactics that worked for them both as Rowan came 5th smiling in a time of 14:50 and Matty worked his way through the field to clinch a top 20 place coming 18th 15:34

Buzzin’, that’s the word to describe these brilliant youngsters of ours as they stood there splattered in mud, fresh faced and looking as if they could go back out there and run it all over again, ahhh the exuberance of youth and it is our job as coaches, parents and as club team mates to harness and nurture that potential to see more performances like this and hopefully the athletic antics of Rory, Alex, James, Joe, Meadow, Rowan and Matty at the weekend can spur and encourage more of our juniors to take the step up and compete, to represent their running club and not only make their parents and us as coaches proud, but also themselves, well done kids.

As for Hartlepool United… don’t ask! Put it this way, I made the wrong decision, I should have followed in our juniors’ muddy footprints and ran Aykley Heads NEHL XC if only HUFC’s players could have shown the same athleticism and passion as our United Kids.


A good turn out for Crook Juniors on a bright and sunny but cold day at Aykley Heads.

Good performances from all our young athletes with an outstanding first place from Rory running his first ever Harrier League race. Alex also made his Harrier League debut.

Rowan and Matty both had very good runs.

Rowan finished fifth and gained promotion to the fast pack and a very good time for Matty already running from the fast pack.

Meadow , James and Joe all had good runs in the youngest age category.

At Aykley Heads a lot of our athletes were competing against runners who are a year older than them. If Crook Juniors can keep our present group of cross country runners together and add 3 or 4 more then we should do really well next season.