The 2017 edition of the BUCS XC took place this year in Sheffield, hosted by Sheffield Hallam University at Graves Park.
What is BUCS?
The highlight for any student athlete is when representing their university at the highest level which is at BUCS. For those who don’t know, BUCS (British Universities and College Sport) is:
‘…the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, a membership organisation, and a company limited by guarantee with charitable status, and our vision is simple, to enhance the student experience through sport…’
Whilst you can compete for your university in a range of leagues and divisions, the BUCS championships are really the highest level of competition, bring all of the universities together to compete against one another.
BUCS XC 2017
After the very wet any muddy 2016 BUCS XC, the weather in Sheffield was delightful with a slight breeze complimenting the bright sun. This made for excellent spectating on the formidable course.
Each year there are three separate races, a Men’s A, a Women’s and a Men’s B race. In the Men’s A race, each team is allowed to enter up to six of their best athletes with the top four runners to score, whereas in the Men’s B and Women’s race the university is able to enter as many athletes as they wish with the top three scoring in the Women’s race and four in the Men’s B.
The course was comprised of a long and short lap with various combinations to be completed in each of the three races.
- Men’s A – 10.8km
- Women – 7.4km
- Men’s B – 8.2km
Having personally not run the race myself, I cannot comment on the difficulty, however from walking it and speaking to other competitions it was obvious this was no easy race. Unlike any flat golf course race which you’d find at this time of year in the US, the BUCS XC was on an undulating, boggy and outright horrendous course. For those wanting a rest after running the South of England XC at Parliament Hill the week prior to BUCS XC were in for a shock; hills of equally gradient and unrivalled mud were to great those athletes and everyone else.
Another interesting feature to the course and an addition to most U.K. based cross country races was the use of a hay bale jump. This was seemingly a good idea to add something slightly different to mix it up, however before even the Men’s A race, most of the hay had been dismantled from those walked the course in preparation.
BUCS XC – Men’s A Race
As previously mentioned, the Men’s A race was the longest of the day and inevitably the most gruelling, having to attack the steepest hill a number of times.
This BUCS XC race is famous for bringing out brilliant performances from the country’s best runners. Previous winners include the likes of Callum Hawkins – who incidentally ran a 60:00 half marathon, going 2nd all-time Brit the same day as the BUCS XC.
The 2017 edition of BUCS XC brought an initially closely contested race with three St Mary’s athletes in the top four for the entire race. Going into the race many had Jonny Davies locked in as their pre race favourite having already shown great form on the cross this year.
Having had a long stint in Kenya throughout January, Davies was likely in great form, however having to acclimatise with coming back a few days before the race took it tole and he had to drop out early on. This left the race wide open with the St Mary’s trio of Ellis Cross and the Surafel twins of Paulos and Petros taking control alongside the tall figure of Alex Teuten.
It wasn’t long before Teuten managed to pull away and secure a dominant lead which Paulos Surafel was unable to bridge in the closing stages. Cross came in third with The other twin – Petros Surafel – coming in fourth with Loughborough University’s first finisher of Richard Horton close behind in fifth.
Undoubtedly, St Mary’s came away victorious team winners with all of their top finishers finishing in the top 15. Loughborough University finished second with Cambridge University third.
BUCS XC – Women’s Race
The three races came in quick succession with the women’s race up next. This race was the biggest of the BUCS XC races on the day with a huge field of 619 finishing the race as unlike the Men’s wasn’t split into two separate races.
Unlike the Men’s A race, the women’s race quickly spread out with the main protagonists stealing a dominant lead over the rest early on. Three athletes of Rebeca Murray (Brunel University), Emily Hosker-Thornhill (St Mary’s University) and Jessica Judd (Loughborough University) all looked comfortable from the start through to the end.
The medals were already decided between these three but the order wasn’t certain until a decisive break from Rebecca Murray late on to take a clear win.
Unlike in the Men’s A race, it was Loughborough’s turn to win the team race ahead of Birmingham and Edinburgh who both had strong runners behind Loughborough’s top three.
BUCS XC – Men’s B Race
The final race of the day was the Men’s B race, a slightly shorter take on the longer A race. Here, universities were able to enter as many runners as they pleased, making for a great, packed race with an incredible atmosphere.
Even more so than in the Men’s A race, St Mary’s clearly dominated this BUCS XC race in the sheer numbers which they had up towards the front.
It was another St Mary’s athlete of Emile Cairess who prevailed as the winner. However it was the Loughborough athletes of Jamie Williamson and Chris Perham who finished fast over th later stage to upset a straight St Mary’s top 5.
It was of significant benefit running in this last race of the day, learning from the experiences of those who had finished earlier having to stagger across the line after going off too fast. Many would fade over the last uphill on the final lap, paying the price for early efforts. This resulted in an intriguing finish with some fading whilst others maintained strong throughout gaining a great number of places.
Once more it was a St Mary’s and Loughborough top two finish which brought Loughborough in as the overall winners on the day with the least number of points across the three races.
Atmosphere and After Party
Over the course of my many years as a runner, attending a vast number of races I can without doubt claim this BUCS XC race as the best spectacle and atmosphere of any race I have been to.
With over 2000 athletes and university students gathered together in the same place, of all similar ages and all looking to have a great time was an inevitable recipe for success. Banners, chants, megaphones, streakers and makinis were just some of the highlight making the atmosphere one which stood out amongst your average cross country race.
The comradeship of university students was on clear show; hordes of people ran from point to point around the course looking to give their fellow athletes all the support possible. This quickly led to the course markings being over run with crowds up to four or five deep in places, right up in the faces of the runners similar to the Highgate Harriers night of 10km PB’s held as the British Championships at Parliament Hill.
The deafening roars of team chants and words of encouragement came from all round through multiple megaphones. But this was topped by many who decided it was never too early to start drinking ready for the after party, being handed beers mid race.
Once the face paint and team talks from the Cross Country captains of each university were competed and to be seen no more, it was back to the hotels ready for a long night out in the heart of Sheffield at the Student’s Union which was packed through until 4am.
Overall, the entire BUCS XC weekend was certainly one to remember. Not only did it showcase a number of incredible athletic performances, but the team spirit and atmosphere really showed what running is all about, cementing its already well known status of the nicest sport around.
Full race results can be found here.
Thanks for reading!