I felt alright this morning, waking up and ensuring I got around 8 hours of sleep. The past two days I had put my running on hold in order to rest for English Schools and allow my body to recover from previous training.

For those of you unaware, English Schools Cross Country happens to be perhaps the most prestigious cross country race in England for young athletes so it is a pretty big deal.

I went for an easy 3k in the morning as usual and did some strides during the run before having my big breakfast and packing two meals for the day. One for around 10:30 am and another for after my race (which happened to be at the odd time of 3:05).

THE JOURNEY TO ENGLISH SCHOOLS CROSS COUNTRY

It was an early-ish start at 7:40 am at the stadium and a long 3 – 4 hour journey. Apart from eating my lunch and listening to music, quite uneventful.

ARRIVING AT ENGLISH SCHOOLS

Upon getting out it was nice to see a welcome sign from New Balance. We quickly entered the customisation tent and looked around for

merchandise. I grabbed an English Schools jumper for a few reasons:

  1. It was symbolic to me of how far I had come.
  2. It would serve as a nice memory of the event.
  3. It was a nice, cyan jumper!

Last year the queue was massive around midday so I bought my jumper straight away and got it personalised with my county, Bedfordshire (a nice personal touch I think).

Loving the cyan blue colour!

Woo! I got my English Schools Cross Country jumper!

ENGLISH SCHOOLS COURSE

We walked part of the course and it was muddy. Something that was always expected. I probably should have changed into walking boots, but by the time that idea came to mind my trainers were already muddy.

Course map at English Schools Cross Country

English Schools Cross Country Map

The actual course early in the morning wasn’t so bad and it was effectively 2 and a half laps, making it 6.8km (6.5km according to my Garmin). The mud was mostly caused by the mini beast from the east or beast from the east 2.0 or whatever you want to call it, but there was a tremendous hill in the course which we would have to complete twice. Good news for me since I love hills and anything that means the race takes longer.

PRE-RACE PREPARATION

I went for a gentle 3k warm up including exercises an hour or so before and was feeling fine despite the cold weather.

I kept myself hydrated well, with sips of water through the day and had 15mm spikes to run in (apart from one 9mm spike stuck in my shoe).

Waiting to enter the pens for the race felt like a lifetime. I was running in my 2XU half tights and just my English Schools county vest and gloves. When the wind hit us, I would literally make ‘grrr’ noises and jump up and down to keep myself warm.

THE RACE

We went into our pens, I was first in line after winning the previous selection race at counties. The first thing I noticed was I was next to Zakiriya Mahamed. He is a role model of mine, a runner my age who has been consistently at the top level of performance for my age group.

Everyone got ready.

BANG!

Off we raced, Zak, moving off swiftly ahead. His pace was incredible to watch from behind and I would not have stood a chance at keeping up. I should have moved off quicker, but I didn’t which meant I got stuck behind runners in the first half lap, but I kept pulling through.

The mud going down towards the start was an absolute bog. It was like walking in a cattle field and I was worried I would lose a shoe because I couldn’t do my laces tightly enough due to having cold fingers.

Going into the second lap, we had to conquer the hill. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it was certainly hard to get a grip and whilst trying to edge my way between runners I got spiked on my knee. No biggie. Typical in cross country, just something I had rarely experienced.

The third lap I was starting to fatigue but not as much as the other runners so I kept gaining places and to be honest I was loving it. I was enjoying the race even though I couldn’t seem to push as hard as I wanted throughout the whole race. Going into the last 400m or so I continued to push and to my surprise, I didn’t get overtaken (highly unusual for me) and overtook one runner in the last 200m.

REFLECTION

I felt that I had given everything I physically could that race yet I was disappointed with my performance. I couldn’t perform as well as I wanted.

I don’t know whether it’s because my legs felt numb or weren’t fully recovered from my gym session on Tuesday, or maybe I couldn’t get a grip on the mud. However, I should probably also take into account I was the bottom age group as a senior boy.

I came 214th out of 312 (that finished) and last year I came 277th as the upper age group so that in itself was an improvement.

It was a decent and certainly challenging race with mud, course and weather and will certainly be a race I remember. Not a bad race to end the cross country season, but I wish I did better.

POST RACE

I was absolutely freezing. My body which was sufficiently warm minutes ago was turning cold very quickly. Our manager was not at the finish line as he said with our kit and I made my way back to our camp to attempt to warm myself up.

I struggled to put my jumper on which had sleeves inside out (I had assistance turning the sleeves back the other way) and couldn’t seem to put my second arm into my coat sleeve. The cold was affecting me immensely.

I entered the marquis where they were selling New Balance gear to put my spikes on (one of

Cold, windy and muddy - my whole body was going numb

I was absolutely freezing after my English Schools Cross Country race

their staff kindly helped me undo my laces). My whole body was numb. I stared at the floor and my shoes shivering. I could barely feel my lips. I put my dry muddy trainers on. Snow began to sift through the roof and I was glad that our race was over before that started.

It was so nice getting back on the coach and eating my post race meal which consisted of vegetables and fish and fruit, but twenty minutes later I still found myself shivering slightly.

As of finishing writing this post (not publishing), I am on the way home looking very much forward to a lovely dinner at home.

Did any of you have races in harsh conditions recently? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.