With the current restrictions in place, race opportunities have been few and far between (apart from the odd track meeting). Luckily, virtual races offer an outlet for athletes to put all their hard training to the test. NUAXC, once again, became victims to the virtual race craze. Firstly with the Manchester Cross Country Relays, and most recently NUAXC’s very own Mile.
The Manchester Relays saw athletes from many universities competing over a 3km distance to record as fast a time as possible. The chosen destination for NUAXC was the Town Moor, where the route had been pre-planned by the captains. The bandstand was the meeting point for the competitors, who arrived anxious about the prospect of the 3km that lay ahead of them. The weather was simply stupendous, although an unwanted breeze began to pick up once the competitors lined up on the start line. The forthcoming races had the Town Moor audience on the edge of its seat as the first wave of athletes got ready to embark on the course. Shortly after, the second wave of athletes set off in hot pursuit, like a pack of ravenous lions hunting down a series of evading gazelles.
Likewise the third wave and fourth waves were on a mission to try to make up the time deficit. Once all athletes had departed, the Town Moor was a sea of Newcastle vests, dotted out along the path, a truly majestic sight to behold. The first kilometre proved to be fairly straightforward, as the athletes were assisted by a healthy tailwind. However, this early advantage would later become a hindrance in the final stages of the race. Going into the second kilometre, the separations between the staggered starts began to blur, as serious moves were being made. Sam Hansen, closely followed by Dominic Head, transitioned onto the off-road section, confidently chasing down the figure of Jack Douglas.
At the same time, Shona Haston and Owen Haigh began their shift on the hallowed turf of the Town Moor fields, with Amy Fuller following on strongly, continuing to pick up valuable places. In the closing stages of the race, everybody was strung out along the course and the finish line began to come into sight. Though, the final half kilometre mirrored the experience of running into a wind tunnel, the runners were not phased as the pain was only temporary. One by one the runners crossed the finish line, having left nothing out there and put their hearts on the line. Highly commendable performances were recorded by the sprinters, including Hannah Malpass, Harriet Thompson and Melissa Raine, who ran about 2.6 kilometres further than they usually race. Fastest times of the day: Jack Douglas- 9.36, Amy Fuller- 10.43.
Next up, was the Mile, organised by NUAXC. Whilst the majority of the student population were looking forward to Halloween, NUAXC athletes couldn’t wait to go out and record a mile effort. Criteria for the event included courses starting and finishing in the same place as well as posting recorded efforts on to Strava. Throughout the day, results were coming in thick and fast, with some strong times being set early on. The Quayside was a popular location for a mile, due to its flat terrain, which lent itself well to quick times. Other locations chosen were the City Stadium and various routes on the Town Moor.
Much like the previous weekend, the elements had other ideas, as once again the wind was relentless. Hansen remarked that he “Was not expecting that with the wind at all” after he ran 4.44, however, he was rewarded with a new PB. Meanwhile, those who chose to record their effort on the Town Moor regretted their decision, as the openness provided no shelter from the elements. Nonetheless, Chris Larkin, Toby Loveday, Hansen and Douglas managed to go under 5 minutes as well as Fuller and Haston, who both broke 6 minutes respectively.
This event was ran alongside other universities, such as Durham and Edinburgh, which further added to the competitive atmosphere. However, Edinburgh failed to enter any athletes, as they moved quickly to wave the white flag in defeat, evidently scared at the strength of NUAXC’s team. This disappointment was quickly forgotten, due to the emergence of Manchester University, who expressed their interest in competing in the next round, in a months’ time, the 5 kilometres.
All images provided by: Emily Oakshott
Last modified: 14th November 2020