Cross country can probably be described as the “marmite of running” people either love it or hate it!

The origins of cross country running go back to the 19th century; it was more of a game where a runner set off leaving a trail and was chased by a pack of runners. This was referred to as either “hare and hounds” or “a paper chase”. English schools started competing in cross country races in 1837. A national championship was established on December 7, 1867 which was held on Wimbledon Common. Cross country was an Olympic discipline in 1912, 1920 and 1924.

Winter season cross country racing is on the increase and is very popular with elite endurance runners who consider this excellent preparation when training for spring marathons and half marathons. There are many benefits of cross country both from a psychological and physiological perspective. Cross country runners are generally more versatile and robust as they learn to cope with uneven, varied surfaces and terrains as well as inclement weather conditions often experienced during the winter months.

Traditional cross country courses can include woodland, heathland, fields, hills, obstacles etc. and sometimes the courses are so narrow in parts runners will be in single file. For major competitions the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) has set standards such as the course should be a minimum of 5 metres wide to enable athletes to pass one another safely.  Typical distances for cross country events tend to vary from 6km to 10km.

The only special equipment required for cross country running is the appropriate shoes. The choice is between spikes and trail/cross country shoes. Spikes work well if the surface is guaranteed to be without any macadam areas. Otherwise a trail/cross country shoe which has a sole with rubber lugs may be the better option. These will provide sufficient grip on soft surfaces to avoid slipping and are able to cope adequately with hard surfaces.

As many cross-country courses are softer, slippery and uneven hence, it requires a slightly different running technique i.e. using a shorter stride length. This needs greater leg speed which is made more difficult as there is less elastic return provided by the soft surfaces. On such surfaces much energy is lost in compressing the ground underneath; which means runners bend their legs slightly more at the knees and ankles which in turn uses more energy in straightening them.

In summary, cross-country provides tough physical training, working over a wide range of speeds covering various surfaces and terrains.  More muscles are used running off-road ensuring an excellent workout for all the connective tissues in the lower body; core strength is also improved. A cross country race provides an excellent opportunity for a threshold run with a strength endurance work out included for free 😉

Cross country is something all runners should try. It may be hard but the reward is it will make you strong and the enjoyment is there to be experienced. And of course there is something to be said about the sheer joy of being outdoors in beautiful terrain during the colder months when we are often a little cooped up!

Hart Road Runners has always been committed to providing members ample opportunities to participate in cross country. This coming season 2018/2019 is no exception whereby; between October and March there are no fewer than 16 events to run. For many years we have participated in the Southern Cross Country League (SCCL); this season we will also participate for the first time in the Hampshire League Cross Country (HLCC). Racing in these 2 leagues means you are running as part of a team so you are dependent on your team members as they are on you. There is always an exceptional feeling of camaraderie by running as part of a team.


Southern Cross Country League Hampshire League
Date Venue Date Venue
28th Oct Pamber Forest 13th Oct Bournemouth
11th Nov Queen Elizabeth
Country Park
10th Nov Aldershot
9th Dec Bourne Wood 1st  Dec Popham Airfield
30th Dec Lord Wandsworth 12th Jan Prospect Park
24th Feb Polecat Valley 9th Feb TBC


Southern Cross Country League SCCL

2018-2019 Results

Pamber Forest

Queens Elizabeth Country Park

The SCCL is run as traditional cross country and aimed at ordinary club runners as it excludes very fast runners. The ethos of the league is “inclusive with friendly competition” and this is provided by the 24 Hampshire based clubs who participate.  There are 6 races (typical distance 8km, ladies and men compete in the same race) in the season which runs from October to March; all races are held on Sunday mornings starting at 11:00am. There is no requirement to register in advance and race entry is free. Courses are well marked and marshalled, so no chance of getting lost.

After each race the host club provides refreshments (with cakes) at maximum cost of £2 max while results are prepared and presented. Most venues are very family friendly, so whilst you run, friends and family can be enjoying themselves elsewhere in the parks before they cheer you in at the finish and then share the cakes with you.

How the team scoring works.

As you cross the finish line you receive a token with your gender finish position. The clubs top 3 female finishers and top 5 males finishers’ positions are summed together to provide a club score. The clubs scores’ are then ranked with lowest score at the top, etc. etc.

The general misconception here is that a club should just send a team of 5 men and 3 ladies as this is the best way to maximise the chances of a good result.

This assumption is absolutely wrong, just think about it. Team members who are “non-scorers” play a vital role and contribute in a very positive way improving the club overall position. How is this so? Easy, although not finishing as a scorer for our club you are likely to be finishing ahead of those runners from other clubs who are scoring for their club. This means their finishing position is lower and as such will increase the sum of their clubs’ points. It is true to say that in league cross country “every runner counts”.

Rules for SCCL

(1) All runners must wear a club vest/tee shirt.

(2) The emphasis of this league is to provide the ordinary club member with the opportunity to participate in a series of multi-terrain events. To this extent it excludes runners with a pace of 5:30 minute/mile for men and 6:00 minute/mile for women. This translates to:

5 miles                27:30 men          30:00 women

10 Km                 34:11 men           37:17 women

10 miles             55:00 men           60:00 women


Website and social media for SCCL

Twitter: @SCCLUK
Instagram: @southerncrosscountryleagu


Hampshire League Cross Country HCCL

HRR has joined HCCL for the season 2018/2019. This league is run under the IAAF rules: distance for women is 6km, men 10km; courses are wider to enable athletes to pass each other safely and the surfaces are such that spikes are recommended. All races are held on a Saturday and start with junior races from noon and finishing with seniors (women at 13:35, men at 14:30). Unlike the SXCL there are separate races for females and males. This league does not exclude any runners based on their speed; there is a misconception that this is an elitist league, it is not, as runners of all abilities participate. All races are free to enter and courses are marshalled.

Dates 2018-2019 Season

13th October Kings Park Bournemouth

10th November Wellesley Woodlands Aldershot

1st December Popham Airfield Basingstoke

12th January Prospect Park Reading

9th February  TBC


How the team scoring works

There is no limit to the number of members who may run for a Club in each race; the following

completing a scoring team:

Senior (Div. 1 & 2)           Men 5        Women 3

Senior (Div3)                    Men 3        Women 3

Vets                                   Men 3        Women 3

Vets are included with seniors to form a scoring team; in addition there is a score for the club’s Vet team. The clubs scores’ are then ranked with lowest score at the top, etc. etc. Again as with the SXCL “every runner counts.

HCCL always provide individual results and take into account age category and as such use the following bands for individual rankings:

Ladies: Senior, Vet35, Vet45, Vet55, Vet65

Men: Senior, Vet40, Vet50, Vet60, Vet70


As HCCL publish all individual results and include them on the Power of 10, we must provide them with a list of runners including their UKA Affiliation number who plan to participate in any race during the season. This should be completed during September before the first race of the season. Members will be asked for this information in due course. Registering your interest does not force anybody to participate.

Rules for HCCL

(1) All runners must wear a club vest/tee shirt.

(2) First claim status is in accordance with the England Athletics current rules i.e. if your first claim club competes in the league, you must represent them. No competitor can compete as a team member for two affiliated clubs of the League in any one season.

Never tried cross country? Now is the time to give it a try; come along and join team HRR in the SXCL and HCCL to experience the camaraderie of team running.

In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say “I have finished.” There is a lot of satisfaction in that.