Cross country races normally take place during the autumn and winter months over natural terrain, such as fields, woodlands, parks and country estates. It is both an individual and a team sport, with individual runners ranked on their finishing time, and teams by points-based systems. Race difficulty varies depending on the course profile, terrain and the weather. During a typical cross country season you can expect to experience sun, wind, rain and snow (sometimes all in the same day!) and temperatures ranging from balmy to sub-zero. Competitors should choose footwear according to the weather and conditions underfoot; with trail shoes preferable for frozen, dry or gravelly courses, and cross country spikes for wet and muddy conditions. You should also bring a warm, dry set of clothes to change into after the race. The club will bring a tent to local cross country fixtures to provide shelter and changing facilities; just look out for the club flag in the club tent village. You don’t have to be of a particular standard to take part, so even if you’re new to running you can give it a go. There are different types of cross country competitions, including local leagues, regional and national championships, and relays. More information on each competition is below.
Please note: Jarrow and Hebburn AC will pay entry fees for members who want to compete in the Harrier League and cross country championship races. If members enter competitions, but do not race, they will be asked to repay their fee to the Club.
North East Harrier League
The North East Harrier League (NEHL) is a series of six cross country races for affiliated clubs in North East England. You don’t have to compete in all the races and you can start at any point in the season. Races take place at different courses across the region. You collect your individual race number at the first fixture and you should retain it for the season. Remember to bring safety pins to fix the number to your club vest. If you lose your number, you will be charged £5 for a replacement.
The League has a handicap system with slow, medium and fast packs. The senior men’s race is approximately 6 miles. The packs start at 2 minute 30 second intervals, with the slow pack starting first. Slow or medium pack runners finishing in the top 10% will be promoted to the medium or fast pack respectively. The senior women’s race is approximately 4 miles with packs starting at 2min intervals and a top 10% finish seeing you promoted into the next highest pack. Junior age groups have fast and slow packs only with a top 20% finisher gaining promotion to the fast pack. If you are promoted to a higher pack, you stay in the higher pack for the remainder of that season and for the following season.
Senior clubs are ranked in divisions. Runners score points for their club depending on where they finish in each race. The finish position of the club’s first 6 men or 4 women are added together for the team score. Teams are then ranked (men and women separately) and compete to win their division or avoid demotion. But all runners matter – non-counting runners affect the position of counting runners from other clubs, so everyone plays their part.
There is an additional fixture in the Harrier League schedule: The Sherman Cup and Davison Shield; a standalone competition, with no packs, which usually takes place at Temple Park in South Shields.
Please visit the Harrier League website for more information, including race times, race packs and results.
North East Harrier League fixtures and results for the 2023-24 season are:
Saturday 23 September 2023 – Wrekenton (NE9 6RZ) – Results here
Sunday 15 October 2023 – Druridge Bay, Northumberland (NE61 5BX) – Results here
Saturday 28 October 2023 – Lambton Estate (NE38 9JD) – POSTPONED until March 2024 due to Storm Babet
Saturday 25 November 2023 – Aykley Heads, Durham City (DH1 5TP) – This is the last time NEHL will be held here.
Saturday 6 January 2024 – Temple Park, South Shields (NE34 8QN) – Sherman Cup and Davison Shield
Saturday 10 February 2024 – Thornley Hall Farm, near Peterlee (DH6 3LY)
Saturday 2 March 2024 – Alnwick Castle (NE66 1YU)
Cross Country – Regional and National Championships
In addition to the local Harrier League, Jarrow and Hebburn AC members are eligible to compete in three major championship events; the North Eastern Cross Country Championships (‘the Northeasterns’), the Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships (‘the Northerns’), and the National Cross Country Championships (‘the Nationals’). Championship races tend to be longer in distance than local leagues, typically 12km (7.5 miles) for senior men, and 8km (5 miles) for senior women.
Members can enter and compete on an individual basis, and as part of a team, with the top six finishers for each club scoring points in the senior men’s race, and top four finishers scoring points in the senior women’s race. In championship races, everyone starts at the same time (known as a ‘scratch’ start), unlike the Harrier League, which is divided into different starting ‘packs’. Championship events are open to all members, regardless of ability. There are also specific regional and national cross country championships for Masters athletes (over 35).
Entry processes vary, but if you are interested in taking part, please email the Club Secretary at Secretary@jhac.org.uk
NECAA North Eastern Cross Country Championships – Saturday 9 December 2023 – Temple Park, South Shields (NE34 8QN)
Northern Cross Country Championships – Saturday 27 January 2024 – Sedgefield, County Durham (TS21 2BY)
NEMAA (Masters) Open Cross Country Championships – Saturday 3 February 2024 – Rising Sun Sports Ground, Wallsend (NE28 9AE) – Website here
English National Cross Country Championships – Saturday 24 February 2024 – Weston Park, Shropshire (TF11 8LE) – Website here
Cross Country Relays
Ken Jefferson Memorial (Farringdon) Cross Country Relays – Saturday 2 September 2023 – Farringdon Community Academy (SR3 3EL) – Results here
Northern Athletics Cross Country Relays – Saturday 21 October 2023 – Graves Park, Sheffield (S8 8BR) – CANCELLED due to Storm Babet
English Cross Country Association (ECCA) Cross Country Relays – Saturday 4 November 2023 – Berry Hill Park, Mansfield (NG18 4PA) – Prospectus here
North Eastern Counties Cross Country Relays – Saturday 18 November 2023 – Thornley Hall Farm, near Peterlee (DH6 3LY) – Prospectus here
Birtley Cross Country Relays – Date TBC (usually mid-January) – Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy, Birtley, DH3 2LP
UK Inter-County Cross-Country Championships
Saturday 9 March 2024 – Venue TBC
Each county can enter teams of twelve athletes in each age group, with eight athletes to run of which four will score, except for Senior Men and Senior Women where fifteen can be entered, with nine to run and six to score. More information will be provided in due course.