A beginners guide to Cross Country 2021
Athletics Auckland organises a series of inter-club cross country and road racing through the winter each year (May to September) for all age grades, Juniors to Masters. It’s called The Grand Prix Series.
All in all, the series is five cross country events and the road race championships at the end – so six events in total. It’s a chance to get regular racing against some of the top runners from the other clubs in Auckland and it’s a lot of fun. Races are split by age category. Juniors race from 2k for the Under 8s up to 8k or 10k for the seniors. The events are professionally marshalled and run under World Athletics rules.
How the series works
You pick up individual points as you compete and there are overall league tables for your performances across the whole series. There is also a teams event and two of the races double up as Auckland Championships for Cross Country and 10k Road.
The series gives you a chance to race regularly and is great for your fitness and athletic development. Cross country is a hard workout which can be integrated into your overall programme. Many of our club legends (including Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Jeff Julian, Dave Sirl, Martin Simmons, Kevin Ryan, Rex Maddaford) in the past used cross country to develop strength to set themselves up for road and track later in the year. If you haven’t had much racing experience, it is a great way to learn. You train as a team, run as a team and learn from each other, building up friendships and rivalries through the winter.
The six Grand Prix events
GP Race 1 – Pukekohe A & P Showgrounds (15th May)
Known as a “true cross country event” meaning it’s got hills, longish grass and often a bit of mud. Papakura club always lay on an awesome bake sale 🙂
GP Race 2 – Pakuranga Lloyd Elsmore Park (29th May)
It’s an all rounder’s course with some open fast running on the playing fields and some more technical (muddier), steeper bits as well. Pakuranga has a bar where you can grab hot chips and a drink and share some war stories after the race.
GP Race 3 – The Teams Event, Barry Curtis (12th June)
As well as competing for individual points in the Grand Prix series, you also gain points for your club so you run as a team. It is a bit like the American NCAA races. If you win your category, you get 1 point. If you are 2nd, you get 2 points. The team with the lowest overall score wins. It’s great fun. Every position for every runner counts.
GP Race 4 – Long Bay (26th June)
The Long Bay course is well-drained with a sandy base so it’s dry and fast. It’s also short – usually 4k for the senior grades. This is the course to show off your wheels and your sprint finish. It’s also right on the beach – so why not make a day of it, and go for a walk or an extended cool down jog after?
GP Race 5 – Auckland Cross Country Championships (24th July)
Back at Barry Curtis for Race 5. Barry Curtis can be a bit boggy by the 24th July! As well as competing for Grand Prix points, the Auckland Cross Country titles are at stake so fields are usually stronger for this race. Auckland representative teams for the National Cross Country Championships are selected here so it’s an important race if you want to compete at the National Champs which are in Dunedin this year on the 7th August.
GP Race 6 – Auckland Road Race Championships (21st August)
The Grand Prix Series finishes with the Auckland Road Champs. Venue is TBC at this stage but likely to be Bruce Pulman Park in Takanini. Distances are 2k for Under 8s through to 10k for seniors and masters). Again, the Auckland Road Race titles are up for grabs as well as selection for Auckland representative teams for the NZ Road Champs (5th September at Mystery Creek, Hamilton).
So, rev your engines, sharpen your spikes and get racing this winter!
Thanks to Owairaka Athletics Club for the great guide for all athletes!