Neil Featherby: Cross country racing is running in its purest form

Dom Blake Whitwell XC

Dom Blake, winner of this week's East Anglian Cross Country League race at Whitwell. - Credit: Pat Brightman

I know I keep mentioning cross country running and racing in my columns of late, but for me and thousands of others especially us older runners, it really is such a pure form of running. 

Whilst we are all eagerly looking forward to the Norfolk County Cross Country Champs coming back to Norwich in January, in the meantime there is still plenty of other races going on just about every weekend. 

However, there is also the East Anglian X/C Wednesday League which I have written about before which seems to be as popular as ever. 

Having first started back in the 1960s, it tended back then to be more of a services league what with all the RAF Bases scattered around Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambs and even Lincs. 

Nowadays though and with the closure of so many military stations and camps, the main competition is made up from local clubs, the UEA and just one military team from RAF Marham. There are a few individual runners who take part whilst my business Sportlink also has a team entered into this super winter series of 10 races. 

I think it is also fair to say that whilst the sharp end of the field is now no longer packed out with runners of international status such as back in the days of when the RAF had so many top athletes based in these parts, the competition is still of a very good level. 

Nevertheless, it is further down the field where many of the numbers are made up from those who have taken up running in later life and of course those who have Wednesday afternoons off work who are all enjoying the thrills of running in a league which offers just about everything when it comes to off road running. 

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The courses are made up from anything from beach and sand dunes to that of the hilliest and most muddy terrain.  

Even the crossing of streams as the runners found out in this week’s event which was organised by the Reepham Runners at Whitwell. 

Whilst it is indeed still a very competitive league, it is also about having great fun and enjoying exactly what I said at the start of my column ie taking part in the purest and most natural form of running without a pair of carbon shoes in sight! Well at least I think not… 

With less than a month until the end of another year, so many start thinking of new ideas and good intentions which for thousands of people means getting fit. 

Talking to Chris Mickleburgh this week about his mum and dad who have started the couch to 5k programme, we also discussed the success rate of those who follow this well organised fitness programme against that of others who steam into January with all the enthusiasm in the world going at it hell for leather whereby they either end up burning themselves out before the month’s end or getting injured. 

Alan Mickleburgh

Alan Mickleburgh is successfully following the Couch to 5K programme. - Credit: Marion Mickleburgh

We see it every year at Sportlink when come February, so many people walk into the store demoralised due to trying to do too much too soon in the hope that we can get them back on the road again. 

In some cases, we can, but for many others it’s not a case of we can’t but more a case of we won’t as they really have hurt themselves and it is time (or treatment from a professional sports therapist/physio) which will heal their bodies. 

Our advice will always be to start out very carefully, be patient to not get ahead of the game and make sure you also start out in the right equipment as running shoes do not heal injuries. They help to prevent them in the first place. 

I once again have to say another huge well done to Eva Barton who last Sunday not only won the U15 girls 600 metres at the Lea Valley Open meeting, but also smashed her previous indoor PB by four seconds with a a time of 1:43.98. 

Eva Barton Lea Valley

Eva Barton set a new personal best for 600m at the U15 girls race at Lea Valley recently - Credit: Scott Barton

Anyway, and before I sign off for another week, I want to wish two very good friends of mine - Nigel Arnold and Kevin Lemmon - all the very best what with both of them having been a little under the weather of late. 

Kev, who I wrote about recently, is now home from hospital and Nige too. Nevertheless, and knowing them like I do, I am more than sure that it won’t be too long before we see them out there doing what they both love doing best and that of course is running. 

For anyone who wants more info on the East Anglian Mid-Week X/C League, check out their Facebook page or website