Cross-country sessions can give runners a boost

Portsmouth Joggers taking part in last year's Stansted Slog half marathon
Portsmouth Joggers taking part in last year's Stansted Slog half marathon
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If you’ve not tried cross-country running since school, the idea of getting out in the fresh air might feel more than a little daunting.

But there’s been a rise in those wanting to head off-road for themselves, so there must be more to it than rough terrain and muddy puddles.

Portsmouth Joggers organises weekly cross-country training sessions and is gearing up for one of the highlights of its calendar – the Stansted Park ‘Slog’ Half-Marathon. Coming in at approximately 13.1 miles, the event starts and finishes at the beautiful stately home near Rowlands Castle.

This year’s run will take place on Sunday, September 2, starting at 10.30am.

‘Stansted House is a stunning venue to start and finish the event,’ says Portsmouth Joggers’ secretary Alan Shons.

‘They give us permission to run across some of their private land and local landowners are very generous and welcoming. It’s a beautiful, scenic course.’

As well as organising the annual Stansted Slog, the running club organises weekend off-road training sessions.

The main sessions take place at 9am on Sunday mornings, with runners getting the chance to try out various locations, including Denmead, Hambledon and Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield. Alan says it’s the ideal opportunity for those who want to give off-road running a go.

‘Most of our off-road sessions are for slightly more experienced runners, those capable of doing 10 miles in a couple of hours or so. The average pace for an off-road training session isn’t more than five or six miles an hour. It’s not so much about speed and more a question of endurance,’ he adds.

The health benefits of running are already well-established and Alan says cross-country comes with added extras.

‘It’s so much nicer to get out in the countryside and in some ways it’s gentler on the body. Running on concrete can put stress on your body, particularly if you’re a bit older. Country tracks and paths are much softer than unyielding pavements and roads.’

Runners who want to train with the Joggers don’t have to pay the annual £19.50 membership fee at first and can join in for free until they decide it’s for them. The club takes runners of all abilities for other sessions, including complete beginners, or those who want to push themselves against others.

‘We get no end of people come along who’ve been running on their own and have found it a bit lonely and now want to run in a group with experienced and knowledgeable people,’ adds Alan.

‘We don’t have coaches as such but you’ll be running with people who’ve got 20 or 30 years’ experience.’

The Stansted Slog costs £9 for members and £11 for non-members. Entry forms can be downloaded from