As the title says, I do love cross country, but it is definitely a love/hate relationship. I love the great team atmosphere and camaraderie, but hate when you line up to start and you are off for 30-40 minutes of sprinting. You are holding yourself in that pain zone, no relaxing like for some parts of an ultra. I just want the easy life at my age. Why can’t I just turn up for the social chat and eat cake?
Each time I take part in a cross country race I leave it long enough to forget the pain and grim determination of the previous race. They are invariably cold with temperatures close to zero degrees centigrade, as they are held from November until March. Usually there is a lot of mud involved, probably some hills and occasionally a water feature to splash through.
On Sunday 4th November it was the first fixture in the Oxfordshire Cross Country League at the Newbury Showground in Berkshire. Yes, I thought all the venues would be in Oxfordshire too. My running club, Cherwell Runners and Joggers, always have a load of us travelling to the race, so we all car share and if the driver has three or more runners in the car then the club pays their costs. This time I was sharing Dawn and Ozzy’s car (David Osbourn). Great conversation, as all of us never shut up. The hour drive went past in a flash and before I knew it we were putting up the tent and flag, as our CRJ race HQ and somewhere to change and store our bags.
After a warm-up jog around the park land I was soon lining up at the start line in the middle of the pack with Tommo, Ali and Danny. Warren was at the front, as he likes to try and beat everyone to the first corner. Ali,the racing snake, was off like a shot. I stuck with Tommo and we passed Warren before the first corner. At the 6 min/mile pace I decide to let Tommo go and settled in for the long sprint.
Running in a thin tight top underneath my club vest and some Salomon trail shorts with no hat or glove, the temperature felt comfortable. This must have been a warm XC race then! I never felt too hot or too cold throughout. We had 2.75 laps of the course to run, so the first lap is a short lap and then two full laps. At least I knew this info this year. In 2017, I had got to the end of the second lap and thought we were finished. I was not happy when I realised I needed to go round again. Armed with this info I paced myself, as best I could when it all felt like sprinting. The women only do 2 laps.
I soon settled into the race and tried to race. A combination of trying to catch the men in front of me and not letting anyone come past me. After I while everyone settles into a rhythm and you are running with others around you capable of running the same pace, so there was a bit of overtaking and then overtaking back. In general, I think I overtook more than overtook me. A result!
For most of the race the weather remained overcast, cool and a little breezy with the odd spot of drizzle. Just when we had escaped the rain, there was a mini-downpour at the end of our race. It was a welcome cooling rain and soon passed.
I do like the slight downhill section through the woods. I enjoy passing people here. I can run fast downhill with abandon. To me it is free energy and does not take much effort, so I really go for it. Plus Barry Cornelius, the local race photographer, was located in the woods, so you need to put on a good show and get in front of any pack, so you have at least one good photo at the end. See photo at the top of this page. That is how you do it!
On the third and final run down through the woods I saw John-Paul (JP) from CRJ and powered past him. I only realised he was from CRJ when it was too late to shout and I was past him. Before long you are in the final bit of field before the finish and I ramped up the pace, so nobody passed me in the finishing straight. All over in 37 minutes 44 seconds, 131st place out of 335 finishers.
Ali and Tommo had finished in 32:49 (30th) and 35:36 (78th) respectively. I saw them both at the finish. Ali and I went for a cool-down to see the women’s race as they entered the woods for the first time. It was good to cheer them past and then run round to the finish and cheer again. Jennifer Keal did brilliantly to finish in 29:32 (46th).
Then it was time for the main event with loads of home-baked cakes and a cup of coffee.
The second round of the 2018–19 Oxfordshire Cross Country League scheduled to be held on Sunday, 2nd December sees a welcome return to Cirencester Park. Hopefully we can get more CRJ club runners along to the next one.
30 Alistair Herbert Chw S 32.59
78 Ian Thomas Chw V2 35.36
131 Simon Prytherch Chw V2 37.44
180 John-Paul Hamilton Chw V1 39.33
187 Daniel Batchelor Chw V2 39.47
226 Warren Harrison Chw V1 41.25
239 Kurt Trinder Chw V1 41.51
272 David Osborne Chw V2 44.12
295 Guy Tucker Chw V2 46.55
312 David Coates Chw V3 49.19
319 Gordon Hambidge Chw V3 50.54
328 John Shaw Chw V3 54.24
46 Jennifer Keal Chw S 29.23
85 Dawn Osborne Chw V2 31.52
88 Sharon Darke Chw V1 32.07
112 Kim Shaw Chw V3 33.55
132 Martha Bagnall Chw S 35.22
187 Karen Thomas Chw V2 40.48