Cross Country was a form of punishment at school. I remember the ritual of having to go to Sconce Hills Park every winter. We would have to run around the fields for 3km – absolutely hating every minute of it, walking a lot of it and generally coming somewhere near last.
Fast forward 25 years or so and I jumped at the chance to represent my local running club in my first “real” Cross Country Run. This time, I had swapped Sconce Hills for Stafford Common and I was a willing participant.
The males senior race was the last one to go out, so had plenty of time to chat with the team, talk about the course and do a warm up. Our team was doing well, including some podium finishes, but in all , it was about the team – each participant accruing points for the team to keep us strong in the league.
No medals, no t shirts – just points!
The Cross Country race is usually around 8km, this one was clocked in at just over 7km and was three laps of the course. Most of the finishers in earlier races were coming back relatively clean, and I was informed there was really only one part that had mud, the rest was just an undulating run around the fields.
I did have my 361 Ortega 2 trail shoes, but decided against these and went with my OCR Reeboks as they have a more aggressive grip. Many competitors were wearing spikes and for me, it may be a future consideration for me. I was still slipping in places with the reeboks, so definitely the right choice. Club vest, shorts and enertor running socks completed the look.
We lined up for the start – I decided to head for somewhere in the middle of the pack. Very quickly though I was being over taken, i looked at my pace and at that point it was 4.15 m/km – not shabby at all! The first lap was gruesome, my breathing was terrible (even though I did a warm up). I settled into a 5m/km pace and let the speedies pass me and get on with my own race.
The course was undulating with only one muddy ditch. A lot of support towards the start/finish of the lap, but to be honest, I was keeping my head down and just counting down the kms. The race was a tough one, and although I finished with a decent time and pace, I was very much down the field – damn you club runners!
Picked up my token, handed it into our club captain and grabbed a team photo. It was cold, it was tough, but I’m looking forward to doing it all again in a few weeks time. My first Cross Country run will definitely not be my last.