Men’s Cross Country 2023/2024 Season Review 

By Ben Carroll

Firstly I would like to wish a huge thank you to Mark Benton for looking after the men’s cross country for the last 8 years, Mark got quite emotional handing over a battered old Ironman backpack containing safety pins and running vests. I’m excited to be the new captain going forward. Thank you to all of the runners, who battled through mud, deep puddles, steep climbs in the cold and rain. And also for the brilliant baking, special shoutout to Matt Steggles who perfected a good thick chocolate topping on his flapjack.

Cross country is my favourite event with FOT, not because of the brutal pain as you are racing at your limit in tough conditions, but because it is a team event with 10 men contributing to a combined overall team score. I really enjoy this different kind of event as otherwise triathlon racing is mainly an individual sport.

It was a successful season and before the final race we were in the thick of a promotion battle, sat in 3rd place out of 10 teams, trying to jump from division 3 to division 2. Could we manage back to back seasons with a promotion? With the prospect of racing at the same venues as the ladies team next season?

The men have only managed to get into division 2 one time in the history of FOT cross country, so we are as strong as ever. This year, lots of people raced cross country for the first time, welcome to the team and the Club! Over the 4 races a total of 24 men raced and out of the 24, 20 scored points for the club (83%), our best turnout was 17 men and in every race we managed to get the minimum scoring requirement of 10! This shows we have real strength in depth over our competition.

The all important results:

Race 1: Epsom Downs October 2023

Race conditions: Start next to Epsom racecourse, quite a flat sandy uneven course. Lack of the usual cross country hills and climbs. Lots of 1st time cross country racers for the new season, with new trail shoes ready to be muddied.

  • 1st  FOT scorer: Dominic Ehinlanwo
  • 2nd FOT scorer: Dan Hazel
  • 13 men raced
  • FOT came 4th out of 10 teams


Race 2: Holland Sports club November 2023

Race conditions: Muddy waterlogged conditions, start winding through a field through tape next to a BMX track. Very narrow bridge close to the start, in the previous race one fella missed the bridge and ended up in the stream. This prompted Matt Shackelton to do a sprint start to get ahead of the pack. Race course was spread across many fields which looked the same, there was some uneven ground with big tree roots to navigate.

  • 1st FOT scorer:  Matt (Le Shack) Shackleton 
  • 2nd FOT scorer: Dominic Ehinlanwo
  • 17 men raced (***Season best turnout!***)
  • FOT came 3rd out of 10 teams

Race 3: Oxshott January 2024

Race conditions: My personal favourite course this season, running through winding woods, bark and wood chippings underfoot and small pine tree branches. This course had one small loop and two slightly larger loops. The larger loop featured a very steep climb which was very intimidating standing at the bottom of the hill and some large fallen tress to navigate.

Deep in the woods there was a Marshall dressed as a luminous traffic cone which was a welcome distraction from the brutal racing. FOT also brought along some brilliant support from Becky, Jo and Nadia with fantastic cheering.

  • 1st  FOT scorer: Freddie Scharbeck
  • 2nd FOT scorer: Finlay Denwood
  • 15 men raced
  • FOT came 5th out of 10 teams

Final Race 4: Lloyd Park February 2024

Race conditions: Wet! Due to lots of rain the previous week, this course was waterlogged and muddy, perfect XC conditions. There were long fast descents and steep muddy climbs where you needed to pay extra attention to avoid the thickest mud.

At the start of this race we had big dreams of promotion into division 2 but this would become a challenge too high with lots of strong runners missing, some training in Lanzarote. I reached out to some strong runners within FOT but did not have any luck. Luckily Stuart joined for his first XC race (in new white trainers!) to give us the minimum 10 we needed. And thank you Rich for the delicious lemon tart!

  • 1st  FOT scorer: Matt Shackleton (the winner of the first Cross Country Crunchy!)
  • 2nd FOT scorer: Euan Lees (despite his shoe coming off 3 times during the race!)
  • 10 men raced finished +1 DNF
  • FOT came 6th out of 10 teams

Division 3 and 4 raced together making a total of 317 of the strongest runners in Surrey, out of these 317 Matt Shackelton placed 3rd overall, only 19 seconds off 2nd place!

FOT Men’s Top scorer: Euan Lees

He managed a very impressive 11th place finish in Race 2. He enjoyed overtaking other runners who set off too hard and are fighting at the limit, having already burnt all their matches. Congratulations Euan, thank you for making the biggest contribution to the FOT men’s XC score!

Myself, Matt, Dan and Julien were all runners up in close contention.

Honourable mention to the 3 further racers who attended all 4 races:

  • Ben Carroll
  • James Roch
  • Peter Moore

Brilliant effort to all our 24 runners and all of the supporters, thank you for contributing! See you again next October for more mud, cakes and promotion dreams!