Alton Runners have enjoyed a busy start to 2023.

The fourth race of the Southern Cross Country League (SCCL) season took place on Sunday, January 22 with Alton Runners hosting the event in the grounds of picturesque Chawton House.

A sharp overnight frost and frozen terrain did nothing to quell the enthusiasm of approximately 500 runners, who eagerly took on the five-mile course, famous for its resident sheep and unusually-named Knickerknocker woods.

Organised by race director Philip Scrase and co-director Richard Taylor, the event’s success was credited to the large number of club members who helped set up, marshal and assist with car parking and course take-down.

Richard said: “I’d like to extend the message of thanks to all our wonderful volunteers for giving their time and energy to make another hugely successful cross country race.

“I counted 49 volunteers attending to 50 roles, which is brilliant considering the relative size of our club.

“What an amazing community, and what a great day!

“Congratulations and kudos to everyone who ran. Nice to see juniors doing so well, together with strong performances from everyone.”

Many runners praised the efforts of the course marshals, several of whom donned colourful tutus and pom-poms and shook cowbells by way of encouragement.

Club member Oliver Steele-Perkins said: “Another really well-organised event by Alton Runners.

“The marshals were bouncing with enthusiasm and support for the runners which is always welcome, particularly after a tough climb.

“This event is hosted in wonderful parkland with some great, single-track trails and a tree-lined avenue to finish.

“I always love running at Chawton, and a well-organised event with great marshalling and competition is always a treat.”

Chairman of Alton Runners Jim Armitage left his running shoes at home and took on a marshal role this year.

He said: “I was marshalling at the bottom of a hill.

“All I had to do was get the runners to turn right and then run back up the hill on the opposite side of the hedge.

“There was a large puddle of frozen water I was supposed to warn people about.

“Fortunately, this wasn’t a big issue as there was room to run past without stepping on the ice.

“Just a few steps later, however, there was a slight downhill with very slippery mud.

“Three people fell over here but fortunately got straight back up again.

“Several more slipped and slid but recovered.”

Cross country captain for Alton Runners Abbie Hook summed up the day.

She said: “This is the best race in the SCCL calendar, and I’m not being biased!

“It offers everything a good cross country race should – fields, woodland, mud and beautiful scenery.

“The marshals were so encouraging, and the atmosphere was fantastic.

“I can’t wait for next year already.”

Currently, Alton Runners’ men’s team are third in the league, and the ladies’ team are in seventh place.

The next race in the season is at Alice Holt on Sunday, February 26.

Joanne Scawn