THE John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League, one of the most popular grassroots cross-country leagues in the UK, returned to West Wales for the seventh time on Saturday 14th October.
More than 1,000 runners of all abilities descended on Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli and races featured the under 11 athletes right up to the seniors and masters’ categories.
Local club, Carmarthen & District Harriers Athletics Club hosted the first of five fixtures this season as a new cross country campaign got underway. The club were grateful for the support offered by Carmarthenshire County Council in hosting the event in their park.
Situated between Burry Port and Kidwelly, Pembrey Country Park has become used to hosting big running events by now.
Sporting events staged here over recent years have included the Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships, Welsh Athletics Road Relays Championships, John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League, SIAB Schools U17 Cross Country International, Carmarthenshire Primary Schools Cross Country Championships and the Llanelli Secondary Schools Area Cross Country.
Competitors, coaches, team managers, officials and spectators from more than 40 clubs travelled to Carmarthenshire from across South Wales and the South West of England.
On a course that showcased the counties park and the surrounding areas, the competitors aged 9 to 80 tackled fast grass sections, hills, sand dunes, woods and paths.
Participants had the opportunity to take in some breath-taking views around the route overlooking the coastal scenery of Carmarthen Bay and the Gower.
In addition to runners scoring points for their clubs, Pembrey also hosted the West Wales Cross Country Championships 2023 where regional medals were presented to the top three athletes from the region to finish in the junior, senior and master age groups.
The action got underway on Saturday morning with the novice age groups, with many taking part in the event for the first time. The ten-race programme was followed by the under 13, under 15 and under 17 and 20 races (girls and boys) completing either small, medium or large laps.
In the latter part of the afternoon, the Senior & Master Women and Men ran their respective distances of 7.15km and 9.15km. There were big fields once again and plenty of support out on the course.
Among the senior winners were the Swansea Harriers duo Caryl Edwards and Dewi Griffiths.
The 2023/2024 John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League will visit Llandaff Fields in Cardiff and Blaise Castle in Bristol before Christmas. Margam Park in Port Talbot is set to be the fourth venue in February.