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Helsby Running Club

Why cross country?

It’s that time of year again! Cross country season – a mix of league and championship events open to all. Cross country is a fabulous low stress experience that gets to the heart of why we run. No times, no race numbers (apart from champs events) just plain old tussles against people of a similar standard. The people at the front really want to win, but you’ll find some equally good natured battles to secure 187th position. The races generally include a great spread of abilities, from fast to more ‘ponderous’. The people at the front could often have changed and gone home by the time the tail enders heave into view, but they don’t. They’ll often be cheering in the slower people.

What do I need?

Club vest, some offroad footwear and a determined attitude. Local league races are generally 4-5 miles on looped courses of 2 or 3 laps, champs races a touch longer. So as you get familiar with the courses you’ll know when to save a bit and when to nail it. Spikes are the best tool for the job, fell shoes are good, trail shoes with a decent tread will also fit the bill. The real geeks will be adjusting the spike length for the course conditions, but don’t worry about that just commit and get involved.

There’s a mass start where any race notes will be called out, someone says ‘Go’ and you’re off. At the end of the race there’s a finish funnel and you’ll collect a numbered token. That’s all, no further faff. Someone in the club then collates tokens and names and passes them back to the race organiser for results. If you’ve done any of the (road) Border’s League, the setup is fairly similar. Sunday League dates and results are normally found on

Cost: league race are free of charge. All that fun for nothing! Sunday League races often feature (free) tea and sandwiches afterwards at a nearby venue. Champs races usually carry a small entry charge, which the club may cover at it’s discretion.

Champs races

The events below are real, atmospheric occasions involving runners of all abilities. The Cheshire and Northern Championships championships are on good courses at previously used venues. The prestigious National championships are in our own backyard on a similarly testing course — a great experience for regular cross-country runners and newbies alike! Because these events matter greatly to the club, entry fees will be paid by the club, on the basis that members who ask to be entered turn up on the day.

The joy of XC

No qualification needed, all abilities represented. Run in either event or both. The only requirements are that you are a FIRST-CLAIM member of Helsby RC who will turn up on the day and, for the Cheshire Championships only, you must either have been born in Cheshire or have been living in Cheshire for at least nine months before the race, and not have competed in another county’s championships since 1 October 2022. The races are:

Cheshire County AA Cross-country Championships at Reaseheath College, Nantwich (TBC), Saturday January 7th 2023. Age groups from under 11s to veterans.

English National Cross-country Championships at  Bolesworth Castle, near Tattenhall, Chester, Saturday February 25th 2023. Age groups from under 13s to veterans.


The club is paying members’ entry fees again this year on the basis that people commit to showing up on the day unless there are legitimate unforeseen circumstances, eg illness or injury. If members who are fit to compete decide to pull out after entering, the club may expect to be reimbursed entry fees. Please be sure that you want to run before committing to do so.

Find out more: Your contacts for all things XC are John Whitehead, Janet Robertson and Rachel Arnold.

A personal view on the 2023 season from Debbie Read, legendary club stalwart!

Cross Country (XC) season is about to start and I’ve been asked all sorts of questions, so, for those of you new to Helsby Running Club, or those who’ve been members for a while but may be tempted – here’s a beginners guide to all things related to our XC.

WHEN: Our main league is NWCCL (North West XC League) and their races are Sunday mornings, about one a month from October to March. The 1st race this season is Sunday 22nd October at Clarkes Gardens near the airport in Liverpool.

There is also another league which you will be entitled to run in, this is the Liverpool and District League who race on a Saturday afternoon and tend to be more competitive. Their 1st race is at Arrowe Park, Saturday 28th October @ 2 pm. However most of us support NWCCL.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Cross Country is usually about 4-5 miles (7-8k) of running in parkland on grass, woodland paths, mud and puddles. They are usually 2 loops and there are some short hills but predominantly flat. They are tough going but excellent training for improving your running whatever your preferred terrain. Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram and Mo Farah all did XC.

WHO: NWCCL has runners from clubs mainly from across Merseyside and the Wirral with a couple from Warrington and Northwich. These clubs all have a real variety of runners from very fast at the front to plodding at the back. There will be someone about the same pace as you that you can either be encouraged by or have a mini battle with.

All members of Helsby Running club are entitled to run these races, however only first claim members will count towards the scoring system. 2nd claim members will have to be declared separately.

COST: Free. Helsby Running Club pay all costs.

WHAT TO WEAR: Club vests must be worn. I’ve never known an XC meeting be cancelled because of the weather – they happen regardless of hail, rain or snow so common sense prevails, however, shorts and vests are commonplace, maybe a t-shirt under the vest and beanies and gloves too.

Seasoned runners tend not to wear long tights or leggings as they invariably get wet.

FOOTWEAR: Spikes are the recommended footwear but trail shoes with lots of studs will suffice, especially if you’ve never done XC before and you dont want the expense of spikes if it turns out XC isn’t your thing. Road shoes are a big no no.

Once you’ve got the XC bug and you want to buy some spikes, make sure you get XC spikes and not track spikes. XC spikes are made of a mesh type material which allows any water that will inevitably get in your shoes to drain away so that you’re not running with a shoe full of water.

Your new shoes will come with separate spikes – probably 6mm or 9mm. Before you screw them in, dip the screw end in Vaseline. This will prevent them rusting so that when you want to change the spikes for longer or shorter ones, they will be easy to remove. You can buy spikes of 3mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm and even 15mm. The shorter ones are for very hard/ frozen ground and the longer for very soft conditions, though to be perfectly honest there are some conditions where it doesn’t matter what spikes you wear, you could still slip. Most people put 9mm spikes in and leave them in all season.

SCORING SYSTEM: Clubs in the NWXCL require a minimum of 6 male and 3 female runners to make their teams. These are called “counters”. Men and women both run in the same race but have different finishing funnels and different results. As you cross the finish line you are given a token with your finishing position so 1st male finisher gets token number 1, 2nd gets number 2 etc. The same goes for the women. You give your token to our club rep and they record it on a pre printed sheet which are handed over to the organisers. The teams are then put in order using the results of the counters with the teams with the lowest scores being the leaders. Even if you’re not a counter, you can still finish in front of other clubs counters, therefore pushing them down the rankings.

PRE/POST RACE: All clubs have their flutter flags and tents/gazebos on the start field where you can change and leave your bags (no valuables as they’re not secure) There aren’t any facilities so you may want to take some baby wipes or a flask of warm water, flannel and old towel to wipe yourself down before you change after the race. You’re going to get cold very quickly and you’ll more than likely be wet and muddy so you’ll need dry, warm layers and dry shoes and socks for the homeward journey and a plastic bag to put your dirty stuff in.

HOME: If they’re muddy (most probably), clean your shoes inside and out and leave them to dry naturally. Strip off in the shower as dried mud gets everywhere. If you haven’t already got one, invest in a washing up bowl and nail brush as your toenails will need a thorough clean (either that or start wearing black nail varnish ????)