Edinburgh’s Braids Hill is a challenging opponent under the feet of a cross-country runner on the best of days.
Turn the narrow, undulating 210-metre descent into a slippery mudbath and it’s enough to scare even the most brave-hearted away. Nonetheless, once the captains had decided which train was indeed the correct one, a squad of 35 Newcastle University Athletics and Cross Country Club (NUAXC) athletes met at Newcastle Central to travel up to the Scottish capital in high spirits.
An annual mainstay in the cross-country calendar, Edinburgh’s Braids Hill sees the likes of Durham University, Leeds University, Aberdeen University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Manchester all take to the hilly course.
Once numbers were collected and an invasion of curious squirrels into the Edinburgh Sports Centre was avoided, NUAXC trekked up to Braids Hill. A tricky course renowned for its one big hill awaited. A steep and rocky 210-metre ascent over the first kilometre gave way to a stunning view of the city, before runners were plunged into the three-kilometre up-and-down descent along the mountain’s muddy edge.
First up were the 5km runners, 1styear Jack Douglas the first home in a time of 17:73, placing 17thoverall in a category of 232. Next up was Elswick Harriers’ very own Amy Fuller in 19:31, followed by Shona Haston whose tactical racing saw her pip Toby Bryant on the final stretch, both bleeding and with mouthfuls of mud having fallen foul to the Scottish sludge. Returners Alex Peck and Anne Keeble also raced well, as did athletics runners Emily Davis, Alice Nottingham, Laura Fuller and Phila Numminen, who all tried their hands at a longer distance.
Next up were the 10km competitors, led by captain Chris Larkin in a stunning time of 32:56 to bound into a Top 10 finish out of the 215 runners. Oh boy, we love to see it. The trio of David Warnes, Toby Loveday and Sam Hansen all followed well under the 40-minute mark, as NUAXC veteran David Gaskin found form spicier than a jalfrezi to run the two-laps in a faster average speed than the one he competed in last year. Other captain, Lauren Davies-Beckett was the first female home in 43:45, Rebecca Charlton and Emily Oakshott not too far behind. Special mentions to fresher runners Will Brockman, Evan Hosking, Chris Robinson, Luke Mansell, Harry Shingleton and James Dickinson for their first time taking on the two Braids laps.
Captain Davies-Beckett told The Courier: "It was so good to see such a great turnout for the race. This year we've got such a great group of runners. Everyone can feel proud of their performances at the weekend with clear signs of so much improvement this season already. Can't wait to see what the squad can do in Leeds next month!"
Strong running all-round saw great improvements on last years’ performances and NUAXC leaving with heads held high to enjoy the social of haggis and ceilidh dancing that was waiting, before a bleary