Monday, 12 December 2016
My First Five Mile Cross Country Race
Yesterday, I ran in my first cross country race. Five miles of fields, woods, mud, streams, hills, valleys and a small bog. Tadley Running Club, whose Christmas Cross Country event the race was, advertises itself as a Drinking Club with a Running Problem, so they seemed like a safe place to start.
The course was over an hour away from home so we set off early and, thanks to a pointless detour courtesy of the imbecilic Sat Nav (which took us up the road, round the round about and back down the other side of the same road so we ended up back where we started in the middle of Basingstoke), we arrived with about fifteen minutes to spare and the start still over ten minutes away on foot. We grabbed numbers, I dithered over which top to wear (long sleeved or short, went with long and regretted it *note to self remember this for next time), gulped down some water and trotted off to the start.
A hundred and twenty two competitors were gathered in the field. We set about warming up, which I always think looks ridiculous as running warm ups consist of lifting your knees up in a kind of hopping/ skipping motion one after the other, flicking your bum with your heels, running backwards and then sideways, darting forward and bending down to touch the ground, swinging your legs as high as they'll go backwards and forwards, lunging and generally prancing about. It works so it's worth doing but it always makes me smile.
I had told M to run without me as he's speedier by far so he made his way to the front while I put myself about half way down. We were counted down from three and then everyone rushed off. I was overtaken by what felt like most of the field and then got stuck behind a couple of slow people at the point the path narrowed out of the field and into woods. There was a steep downhill covered in leaves which was slippy so I went cautiously as the trail shoes I was wearing have less grip then M's fell shoes. I managed to get past two men at the bottom of the hill then settled down to watching where my feet were going avoiding roots and branches so I wouldn't trip while trying to get in to a good rhythm.
I'm used to running off road, I prefer it, so mud and water don't really faze me, but I'm not used to running competitively with Club runners who are fit as fleas and tough as old boots into the bargain. I managed not to let anyone else overtake me once the first half mile was behind us and I overtook the next man in front when he slowed up a hill, but I just couldn't gain on the lady ahead of me. I got close on the hills which are usually my friend, but on the flat she pulled away. My legs were tired and I had nothing left in the tank to do more than keep a steady pace. I couldn't have gone any faster without running out of puff completely and as I wanted to finish in under 50 mins I reckoned it was better to run steady rather than fast and risk having to stop.
Half way round there was a man stuck in a bog. Everyone else ran past him but I just couldn't, so I stopped to help then found my own ankles disappearing in the mud. I left him to it before I was also stuck fast, but during that time the bloke I'd overtaken previously had gone past me and try as I might I couldn't catch him.
I ran on through the trees until I came to steep gully which was a pit of mud leading to a small river at the bottom. The Marshal told me that although it looked bad it seemed to be running fine once you got past a certain point. I was covered in mud, hot, sweaty and out of breath, but I thought what the hell, I'll give it a go so I slid down the bit he had pointed out (managing not to fall over which would have been embarrassing), and then leapt down the rest of the gully into the stream at the bottom, out over the other side and up the leaf-littered, bramble-covered hill (which was the second time we'd been up it). It was fun and I was grinning by the time I reached the top, although possibly it came out as a grimace.
I was getting tired by then with a mile still to go (thanks to the lovely marshal who was telling everyone there was only a mile left, it raised the spirits no end) and decided as it's still only two weeks since I was poorly I'd walk a few paces to get some breath back so I could finish strongly. I knew from my GPS I was on target time-wise as I'd been running 5.40 - 5.60 kms. The brief walk helped and when I ran on again I was keeping just ahead of the folks behind me. But that was until the final hill loomed. It seemed to go on and on. I ran up a third of it, overtaking a man in front, then got overtaken by someone else who was panting away on my heels. I needed to walk by then and while I was three other people ran past me. I knew I'd never catch them but by then I realised I was going to beat the 50 mins I'd set as a respectable target pace, and I was determined not to walk the rest of the hill so I trotted on again and then at the top of the hill the path emerged out of the wood back into the field where we'd started, and there was my lovely husband waiting for me, cheering and encouraging, telling me how well I'd done and how proud he was of me and that the finish was just up ahead.
Are you going to go after the bloke infront? You could catch him he encouraged as we ran the last stretch together. But I shook my head. I had nothing left in the tank and just wanted to finish as close to 45 mins as I could. The clock ahead was ticking and I crossed the line a little over 45 mins, pleased with the time but not so pleased with the position. At Parkrun I'm used to coming in the top third of 700 runners, here I was in the top section of the bottom half of 120. I mentioned this to M who grinned and told me Cross Country Club Running is an entirely different beast. People are fit, fast and used to doing these kinds of courses, he said, you should be chuffed with a really decent result for your first outing.
It was a cracking race over a really interesting and testing course. I would definitely do it again. Thank you, Tadley Running Club!
I was surprised how stiff I was when we got home an hour later, because I regularly run three miles across country and we do eight at the weekends so five shouldn't have presented any problems, and also how tired I was. I was fast asleep the minute my head hit the pillow last night. M had been saying me to all week: races are different. I know what he means now.
Our next race is a 10k (6 mile) cross country after Christmas. I'll know what to expect now so it'll be interesting to see how I do in that one. And what I'm really interested in finding out is how the Half Marathons pan out. I think they'll be easier because the really fast paced runners will have gone on ahead and I'll be left to run my own race, plugging away at the distance over a longer course which is starting to suit me. All Good Stuff.
Tadley was a great place to start. We each got a commemorative mug for finishing which (rather aptly I thought) has a Bodger on it :o)
Hope you're all well and had a good weekend?