The cross country season is right around the corner, and for the Over 35 Masters community, there’s an exciting chance to represent Team England on the international stage.

In this article, Team Manager Matt Long provides insights into the upcoming England Masters Cross Country Team Selection Race and the subsequent British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country International.

England Masters Cross Country Team Selection Race

Mark your calendars for the England Masters Cross Country Team Selection Race in Derby, scheduled for October 14th. This event will determine who earns the coveted white and red rosed vest, symbolizing Team England, by completing laps around the picturesque Markeaton Park.

British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country International

On the day of the trial race, teams will be chosen for the British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country International, set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday, November 11th. Athletes across various age categories, ranging from 35 to 75 plus, will be selected to represent their country. The race distances differ based on age groups, with the opportunity to compete in distances ranging from 6k to 9.8k.

Race entry for this prestigious event will be available through the BMAF Open Track system, with a closing date of September 26th, 2023.

Selection Policy

To be eligible for selection, athletes must be members of an Area Masters Club. The top four finishers from teams of six and the top three from teams of four will be automatically selected. Age categories for teams of six include M35, M40, M45, and M50, while teams of four encompass W35 to W75 plus, M55, M60, M65, M70, and M75 plus. For those unable to attend the trial race, there is still an opportunity for selection by submitting an expression of interest form on the BMAF website to the relevant area selector.

Area Selectors

Reach out to the following area selectors for entries or expressions of interest:

EMAC Yuko Gordon:
MMAC Mick Smedley:
NEMAA Kim Matthews:
NMAC Sue Cordingley:
SCVAC Michael Jefferies:
SWVAC Alison White:
VAC Mike Mann:

Accessibility and Incentives

This year, Glasgow hosts the event, making it far more accessible for English athletes than the previous location, Belfast. Most area clubs offer to cover a portion of travel expenses, providing an added incentive to compete internationally without breaking your budget.

For the Chosen Ones

Athletes selected to represent Team England will receive their Team England vests, embroidered with the specific race date and location. These vests are symbolic, akin to international ‘caps’ in other sports.

Gemma Steel. Photo: Mark Hookway

Webinars and Mentorship

Leading up to the event, there will be a series of online webinars in October and November, serving as team briefings and bonding sessions. Notably, 2014 European senior cross country champion Gemma Steel has agreed to serve as an athlete mentor during one of these sessions. Gemma will provide valuable training tips to help athletes prepare for the big day.

Training for the Trial Race

How should one prepare for the trial race? Let’s use an analogy of a ‘Club Sandwich’ session to shed light on effective training strategies.

Imagine a Club Sandwich, a delicious culinary invention. A ‘Club Sandwich’ session in cross country training consists of two essential slices of bread, representing a fast cross country start and a fast finish. These slices symbolize thin crust speed endurance work, demanding immediate engagement without a gradual buildup. Athletes should expect to feel the lactate very early on.

The ‘Spicy Layers’

Within the middle of our ‘Club Sandwich’ session, athletes can expect to encounter at least three or possibly four spicy layers:

Kenyan hills: These segments involve continuous effort up and down a hill, typically lasting about a minute uphill and a similar duration downhill. Kenyan hills build strength endurance without heavily stressing the lactate energy system.

Hill sprints: Similar to Kenyan hills, hill sprints focus on building strength endurance. However, the key difference is that athletes can sprint uphill, as the downhills are at a jogging pace. This segment intentionally stresses the lactate energy system.

Threshold on the flat: Athletes run at their one-hour race pace or what renowned coach and physiologist Jack Daniels termed ‘comfortably hard.’

Race pace on the flat: Given that cross country races typically do not exceed one hour, this segment pushes athletes beyond their threshold pace. It’s typically shorter in duration compared to threshold work.

Example Session

Here’s an example session (please note that this is an example session designed generically and it might not be suitable for everyone. If unsure it is worth speaking with a club coach):

90 seconds fast.
10 minutes Kenyan hills.
10 minutes at threshold on flat.
6 x 30-second hill sprints.
7 minutes at cross country race pace on flat.
2 minutes fast.

It’s essential to emphasize that this type of session should be reserved for the pre-competition and competition phases of the cross-country season. Athletes must “earn the right” to attempt these sessions by focusing on each component separately in stand-alone sessions before combining them into a challenging simulation.

Remember, diversity in training sessions is crucial, so consider varying the order of the components to maintain progress. The total volume of the session should aim to simulate the volume of the specific cross country race being targeted.

For further inquiries or information, contact Matt Long, England Cross Country Team Manager for Masters, at