After a few years of planning on doing cross country then changing my mind, I actually managed to race one this past Saturday. It was hard, it hurt and I’m on a big learning curve but I plan on doing a full season. My hope/ambition is come spring I will be a stronger runner both physically and mentally. Jamie said I’d benefit from doing them and the South Yorkshire ones for me just didn’t work, firstly I don’t like the fact they do them on a Sunday afternoon, the locations are not the best and from a personal point of view I wasn’t prepared to represent my current 1st claim club, for reasons I will keep to myself.
I had looked at West Yorkshire League and others but with where I live, the Manchester ones ticked all the boxes. I contacted the league secretary about running as a guest, after a conversation, it made sense to run as a 2nd claim for Manchester as worked out for less then £15 I would get 8 races plus due to when I joined discount on membership next year as well. So for me it was a no brainer.
So Saturday was a day of firsts, first time as a Harrier, first time running XC in spikes and a first time getting a proper good ass kicking in terms of how to race XC. After setting off after lunch we got stuck in traffic at Tintwhistle but still arrived in enough time to pick up my vest and for Ed the male club captain to introduce me to fellow members. After a warm up at side of the final climb, I made my way to the start. Both Jamie and Ed said not to get caught up in the mad start. So I positioned myself in the pack and the go was bloody crazy and instead of going out crazy I ended up doing the polar opposite and was too cautious in my start. Before I knew it I was way down the field as the route took us down hill before a short up and descent, then across a path and away up another drag. It was seriously muddy at this point. The course opened up as we did a long drag up hill, it was like a long snake.
Because I had not gotten off to my usual start I found myself racing at people around me pace, while it felt hard at the time, I feel looking back had I go off faster I would have settled into my own natural pace rather then the pace I did. I soon started to work my way through the field as we hit the top before a short descent and into the woods and bang we stopped as we hit a massive bottle neck, I lost around 30s waiting to get moving again up and out the woods then hit first mile on watch. We then raced round the football pitches through some more woodland past the car park before descending through woods, this was very tight and technical with one bend very hard to hit at speed.
I struggled through woods, as I lacked the confidence/experience to really let brakes off downhill. We have to hurdle a fallen tree before a tight turn onto a path. This was hard with 9mm spikes as soon as I could I got back on the grass and then attacked the hill back up to the start/finish. I attacked back down the hill as I started the second lap, slowly picking people off. I nearly lost my shoe during the muddy section and now know why people tape then boots on. As I mentioned I felt like I was racing hard and while yes I know you don’t look at your watch, I was in parts running 7:00/mi pace which is what I usually do on my daily runs. For it showed two things, one it was tough and two I was very in-experienced at cross country running. My 2nd lap was my worse lap, I was still gaining places but I was having a personal battle in my head things like “what the fuck you doing” “is this even benefiting me?” and seeing other runners dropping like flies wasn’t helping. However, at mile 4 I saw I was closing the gap on two fellow club members which gave me a target and allowed me to refocus.
After starting the 3rd and final lap I gritted my teeth and pushed hard. This lap I was making serious inroads to my placing and was almost within reach of my target. I lost sight as we ran through the woodlands as we came out the other side I saw he had stopped and dropped out. I was gutted for him but pissed as he had been my target. However I saw another blue vest and made a point of really pushing hard in final mile to try and catch him. He managed to keep ahead of me as he was better going through the tricky woodland descent then me.
We hit the final hill and I gave it everything making up a few more places as well as beating a vet runner from Wilmslow who had followed me all way round and I had not been able to shake him. I crossed the line in 41:38 in 124th place!! yes seriously, although 63rd in the senior mens category which put a bit of gloss on the result. I ended up just 5s behind the clubmate I had tried to chase down which I was happy with and also was 4th counter for the club in the team standings.
Looking back, there are parts I was happy with. I felt I raced parts well and other parts I was crap. I defo need to go off a lot harder so as to settle into a more natural race pace and then work hard to hold it. I for one can not wait till the next one to improve on my position etc.
- 124th in 41:38
Kit used in race
- RonHill Club Vest
- Zeon 6 inch Racing Shorts
- Adidas Arriba Spikes
- Sockmine Griplock lightweight running socks
- Garmin 220