Neil Featherby: The Norfolk Cross Country Champs are coming back to Norwich

Action from the Norfolk Cross Country Championships on Sunday at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetf

The Norfolk Cross Country Championships will take place at Earlham Park next year. Picture: Mark Hewlett - Credit: Archant

It’s that time of year again, when my thoughts always turn to that of cross country running. 

Years ago, it was always a time after what had been a summer of racing followed by a couple of weeks or recuperation when the long winter build up of training would begin. 

Cross country racing would be a big part of that. At the same time, it would not only help break up what really was a long hard slog of mileage but was also a great way to increase strength and endurance. 

My own first experience of cross-country running was of course at high school where I think it is fair to say that whilst most other pupils would be thinking “oh no” I was really excited by the prospect as it was always something which I had wanted to do. 

Moving up from middle to high school, I just knew that unlike the maximum 60 to 80 metre sprints at junior school, these much longer distances were going to be something which I would be quite good at and to the point where I did indeed win a few area and county titles including the Norfolk Schools Cross Country Championships aged 14. 

What with the last year and half being one of so much uncertainty with events being cancelled or having been re-scheduled to later dates, it really was good to hear this week from both Peter Mahoney, City of Norwich AC Cross Country Coordinator, and Junior Team Manager Rob Machin, working on behalf of Athletics Norfolk, to tell me that the Norfolk County Cross Country Championships will take place at Earlham Park on Sunday, January 9. 

“After talks with Norwich City Council, it has been agreed that this long standing and prestigious event is being brought back to Norwich,” Pete said. “It really is a magnificent location and ideal for cross country offering hills, a little mud and some wooded sections for which we really cannot wait to see athletes of all ages, from all over the county converging at Earlham Park in January.” 

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Earlham Park most certainly will make for a great spectacle and ideal for these championships. In fact, Rob and Pete have already been out there marking and measuring the courses out. 

The Park will also be ideal for spectators with plenty of good viewing points across large sections of the course. 

They have also upgraded next year's championships to include chip timing for all the age categories which should ensure a quick turnaround of results and presentations. 

Norfolk XC

Brief results from the 1924 Norfolk County Championships including the men's cross country. - Credit: Archant

The Norfolk Cross Country Championships go back many years, which I have lots of historical results thanks to Glyn and Diane Long which date back to 1924 just two years before the first ever Inter Counties Cross Country Championships, which took place at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. 

The Inter Counties (along with the English National Cross Country Championships) is regarded as the biggest event within the cross country calendar. 

County teams from across the country field what they consider to be their best representatives for these races, so for those who really are keen to rub shoulders with the very elite, they will be doing all they can to close in on one of the top places in their own county championships to be awarded a coveted county vest. 

Archant

Results and press cutting from the 1933 Norfolk County Cross Country Championships held at Old Costessey - Credit: Archant

Norfolk will usually pick the top five in each race along with three other discretionary places picked on known form and ability with four further reserves waiting in the wings. 

“The county championships are also a key factor in young athlete selection for the prestigious London Mini Marathon Team as well,” said Rob, who oversees the Eastern Region Teams which finished in 6th place overall at the London Mini Marathon earlier this month. 

Whilst Norfolk may not have always had the greatest success at the Inter Counties Champs, we have still had several brilliant athletes who have performed well with standout individual and team placings across all the age groups and categories. 

However, and here in our own backyard, I just have a feeling that come January 9, we really are in for a special day with some keenly contested racing where it will not only give those taking part the chance to go on and represent Norfolk, but for the winners to have their name forever stamped in the record books, just like the men’s Norfolk Cross Country Champion of 1924, G. Branson. 

Managers for the Norfolk County junior teams are still required so for those who might be interested in giving this a go, please do make contact with Peter or Rob or of course Athletics Norfolk. 

For details and entry for the 2022 Norfolk County X/C Championships – https://totalracetiming.co.uk/race/306   

 Or for further information with regards to the London Mini Marathon – https://www.tcslondonmarathon.com/the-event/mini-london-marathon