SOAR Suffolk Winter League (Cross Country)

2023-24 Race Schedule

DateVenueHost club
TBCFramlingamFramlingham Flyers
3rd December 2023Rock Barracks, Sutton Heath, IP12 3LUWoodbridge Shufflers RC
14th January 2024Haughley ParkStowmarket Striders
28th January 2024Horseheath RacecourseHaverhill Running Club
11th February 2024PakenhamSaint Edmund Pacers
18th February 2024SouthwoldBungay Black Dog RC

So what is it?

Many of us probably have some pretty horrible memories of cross country at school. Being made to leg it round some wet and muddy fields in the freezing winter in your non-winter suitable PE kit and plimsolls is not your general idea of fun. Or if you were in a city school like some of us – you gave it legs until out of sight of the teacher then you popped in the corner shop for some sweets and cigarettes. Whatever your memories we ask you to put them aside and come and give the adult version a go!!

It’s probably wet, probably muddy and definitely fun! So for starters you will be off road. The courses are designed to challenge the runners technically as well as physically. Previous courses have included logs to jump, ditches, rivers and mud. Lots of mud. So yes – it will be hard, your legs will protest and your ankles will wonder if you’ve lost your mind but at the end the feeling of achievement is truly worth it!

Please don’t be intimidated. As with all HRC activities we encourage any age or ability to join in. You will still run the same course and have the same achievement if you are out to beat others or just beat your inner voice that is on the fence about taking part. Most courses are about five miles. Some are one lap, some are multiple.

Here are three reasons to give it a go:

1. It’s fun (yes really!). It’s great to try new things with friends! Times are less important in these races. Due to the terrain you can’t compare your road times to your XC times. You can totally go all out for placings but if that’s not your focus then just get round and enjoy the fresh air. No pressure.

2. Your fitness will improve. Your legs will come out of the XC season stronger and quicker. Your stamina will improve. Your balance and coordination should improve (depending on how clumsy you are!). Your ankle and foot strength will get a good going over. Many people believe off road running is better on your joints and limbs. The logic is sound but the research has been a bit contradictory at times so that’s for you to make your own mind up. Some of us believe we run way better (not faster – we just enjoy our runs a whole lot more) off road.

3. Variety is the key to a great training plan. We all know to include exercise other than running. But the variation in running type shouldn’t be overlooked. Changes in surface and style contribute to a reduction in overuse injuries.

You don’t need fancy or expensive kit. Trail shoes are pretty much a must if you want to stay upright but probably best to try a little bit of off-road before you commit and buy a shiny new pair (oh but they won’t stay shiny for long!!). There are lots of experienced off-road runners in the club who could recommend a brand or two. Spikes are not needed unless you want to/like wearing them.

Now we’ve hopefully rambled enough for you to consider giving it a go, here’s a little honest run down of some of the courses that you will find in the Suffolk Winter League:

Framlingham CastleA picturesque three-lap course starting in the grounds of historic Framlingham Castle. 
Rock BarracksThis is a new course and the exact details are a closely guarded secret, but insiders say its opposite the barracks incorporating sandy hills and obviously big puddles.
Haughley ParkThis course is SO MUCH FUN!! Lapped from what I remember. The first section takes you on some narrow twists and turns through the woods. Following on from this are some nice tracks then the fun begins. Back into the woods and in and out of some old bomb holes! Then back towards the direction of the start where you need to negotiate some ditches, logs and some steep climbs. One of my favourites!!
Horseheath RacecourseTBC

As this is a Suffolk League and we are on the furthest edge of the county some of these venues are a bit of a trek and the races start relatively late (11am or so) but we encourage you to give one or two ago. Certainly going to Framlingham feels like going to the other end of the world but in our mind there is nothing better than sliding through some mud or crunching over leaves and fields with your breath hanging in the air and a cold nose!!


Full results, including results from previous years, along with further race details such as rules, can all be found on the SWL pages of the County Association website HERE