The month of February heralds the ever-anticipated culmination of Winter and the equally anticipated climax of the cross-country season. Before it went though, it gave us one more reminder of why this is truly the long-distance runners’ Marmite discipline. The picturesque grounds of Callendar House belay the difficulty which Maryhill’s Harriers were about to endure. A loop and three laps of undulating countryside which totalled closer to 11km for the seniors (kudos there to the surveyor’s wheel of Scottish Athletics) with all the requisite hills, sawdust, flour and mud to match.

Some beautiful conditions welcomed the day’s early runners and thankfully for them, these were the Harriers’ juniors contingent. I was totally taken aback by the standard of the age races and given that a lot of the runners that finished before our Harriers came from vastly bigger clubs with significantly deeper pockets, the future looks bright. As long as Garscube don’t come poaching. Isabella was the sole Maryhill representative in the under-15 girls. She smashed 20 minutes comfortably, posting a chip time of 18.54 which was good enough for 70th on the day, a really solid middle of the bunch finish. There was more cause for celebration in the under-13 girls with Lucy and Maria finishing within 10 places of each other. Lucy managed the course in a storming 17.50 with Maria just behind at 18.37. It isn’t easy being the only rep in a course otherwise dominated by teammates, but that’s again what happened to Fionn in the under-13 boys race. He shrugged this off though and crossed the line in 14.01 in a field that proved to be extremely congested, only around six and a half minutes separating first and last. Huge shout out to the juniors on the day, really encouraging to see such strong running on this course.

In the senior women’s race, each of our runners were competing in different categories. The start proved to be frenetic as the challengers attempted to keep pace with pre-race favourite Steph Twell and as they had in the juniors that morning, Maryhill made camp in the middle of the pack. With less support than usual, Cat, Lynsey, Linda and Margaret had to grit their teeth in the early running but it was Lynsey who set the early pace with Cat not far behind. The frontrunners had set a high pace and by the second lap, Lynsey found that there was still one more to go, much to her chagrin. This was all the motivation Cat needed as she found the extra gear to ensure that she took the maximum 30 points on the day. Lynsey wouldn’t be far behind though, barely 40 seconds separating the pair who finished 58.08 and 58.47. Linda would be next in for the Harriers, an exceptionally strong race posting just over an hour on the full course. It was Margaret bringing it home for the Harriers, clocking 1.04.57 for all her efforts. Really solid displays in the women’s race once again this weekend in Falkirk.

Senior Men’s brought up the rear this time around and only three Harriers made the journey down to see what was what. Scott, Rory and Andrew all ran good races but really it was again the leaders who blew the rest of the field apart. Adam Craig said he was happy to make a race out of it but no-one was willing to go with him. He ended up winning by the best part of a minute. Further back, it was again a case of congestion and there wasn’t too much ground for mistakes. Rory jumped the gun a bit early and by the time the third lap came round, he was feeling the same as Lynsey and there really wasn’t much left to spare. He came home in 41.35, again paying the price on the Sunday. (And the Monday too.) Andrew looked like he was taking it firmly in his stride as he came back on the home straight this year, with good reason as well, as he posted a quick 50.24. Scott was the final Harrier home in 52.38, the decision to stick with spikes paying off as the rain came firmly down in the closing stages of the day.

A great day out for all those involved then. It was a fantastic event and the drone footage supplied by Scottish Athletics showed us just how many clubs and entrants there were. One thing was without doubt though. All of us there would be left with the sounds of “H-B-Teeeeeeeee” ringing firmly in our ears for the remainder of Saturday night. Next up is Balloch again, this time for the Half-marathon to Clydebank.

Pictures are at Scottish National Cross Country Champs 2019

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