Today I had probably what I would consider to be my first proper cross country race of the season. I was racing as a senior in my local cross country league, the Chiltern League, but the 2nd fixture was a race combined with the British Athletics Cross Challenge. That meant I’d be racing against a lot of people.
I had a good 8-9 hours of sleep the day before I got out for an easy 3.3km with some strides before having a big breakfast. Then for some reason, I had an urge to have some dark chocolate (a 25g bar) and then I opened up a whole bar (100g) of 85% Lindt chocolate and ate it all (oops). After that, I had some coffee with some honey in it before driving off to the race venue!
I arrived about 90 minutes before the start of my race at 2:10 pm. Since we got a bit lost on the way there, I walked half of the course as I’d run the course in previous years before going for a 3km warm up jog, during which it began to hammer it down with rain and hail. It was not nice.
Fortunately, 10 minutes prior to the start of my 8.8km race, the rain began to clear up. I did some drills and strides and got myself on the start line, ready to attack the two dreadful hills that awaited me enroute.
The starter called for everyone to move forwards at which a horde for runners sprinted to the actual start line and slowed to a shuffle, almost causing the runners behind to bump into them.
BANG! And the race was off.
It was difficult to manoeuvre my way through so many runners, colliding elbows and shoulders with so many of them at the start. I made my way through and cruised up the first hill. That wasn’t so bad – it was the downhill. Every single downhill on this course was frightening for a few reasons:
- You didn’t want to slow down because:
- a) of other runners behind you
- b) not wanting to run slow or lose positions
- The speed at which you ran downhill felt incredibly fast and downright frightening
- The possibility of slipping and bum sliding downhill felt very likely
- There were some uneven bits of ground which you could twist your ankle on
- If you run too fast, you could bump into another runner
Anyway, I focused on reeling in the two teammates in front of me until I was ahead of them 3km in and we had completed a medium lap consisting of one hill. Now we had two large laps to do consisting of two hills.
For the rest of the race, I tried to focus on maintaining my pace and trying to catch the runners in front of me. I pushed uphill and really tried to fly and make the most of my momentum downhill despite all the reasons listed above. Towards the end of the race, one of my teammates my age and a good rival of mine, Cameron Gillies, came into view and I really pushed to try and catch him. Coming around the last corner (by this point I knew he was too far ahead), two runners began to sprint from behind, one of them slipping and causing me to stop allowing for another runner to overtake. It was irritating, but that’s part of cross country and it wouldn’t have made a big difference to my result.
Overall, I finished 97th including runners within the cross challenge, clocking 32:38. The winner, Mahamed Mahamed won the race in 27:22 with 539 runners completing it! Within division 1 of the Chiltern League, I finished 41st which I was very happy with for my first race as a senior!
Did you race this weekend? How did it go? Let me know down below!
Featured image photo by Barry Cornelius