I’ve never had been available to run the weekend of the Wing cross-country, but this year the third race in the Three Counties Cross Country season actually fell on a day that I could make and so I found myself travelling over with a friend for the 10:30am start on Sunday.
I had intended on wearing a very thin top under my club vest, but the one I had planned on wearing was still in the wash and after glancing out at how bent over the trees were just outside the window I thought it best to throw a base layer on instead. A decision I was glad I’d made later on. Apparently the winds got up to 40 mph whilst we were out on the course!
The Wing course is known for the thick slurry that you run through 100 metres before the finish line. There are always some fantastic shots that go up on Facebook following the race each year of runners knee deep in the stuff, with splashes of mud everywhere!
Here’s the picture of our club chairman making his way through last year…
The start is a five minute walk from the school where registration is held. Once out in the open field we were all made quickly aware just how strong the wind was out there – with runners getting blown in every direction! I must remember to buy a hairband to sweep my hair back off my face for the next race as I was tucking my long grown-out fringe back behind my ears for the first couple of miles. My hair is so thick that when it blew in front of my face I could see nothing!
The race begins by running twice around the large field that the course starts in. The first side is fairly flat, two sides are on a gradual incline, and the final side is a nice downhill slope. (Which was welcomed after the uphill!) The second time round the field, we headed through a muddy puddle and out into another windy field, before crossing a road and following the outside of a series of fields which disappeared off into the distance.
Last week the weather had been rather wet and drizzly, so the ground was muddy and slippery. I did wonder briefly how much time I could have made up by wearing a pair of cross-country spikes, but by only running in a couple of cross-country races each year I’m not sure I can justify the cost.
I started out fairly steady and picked off several runners around the course. There are two longish inclines towards the end. The first at around 3.5 miles and the second a mile later. I ran the entire course, although a lot of runners had broken into a power walk along the hill sections and I overtook them here, along with some runners that had lost their impulsion going up the hill.
As we turned into the final field, I got caught up behind a group of three runners and struggled to keep my stride where I wanted it to be, – feeling rather cut up behind the pack. The track opened out eventually though, and with the cheering from our club members (loudest club in the world!) I overtook the two guys just ahead of me. Evidence below, in the one photo online I can find of me at the race…
I powered through the slurry. It wasn’t very deep at all this year – perhaps a little deeper than ankle high, and my trainers, despite being rather old and ready for retirement, have a pretty good grip so I trusted them to take me straight through the middle. As I ran along the final straight towards the finish funnel the rest of my clubmates were screaming at me to take the woman in front before crossing the line. Something I am normally very capable of doing. I like the thrill of the sprint finish at the end! This time though, she outsprinted me, although I did make up a lot of ground between us.
Great race, and from the looks on the faces around me, it was one that everyone seemed to have enjoyed, despite the whinging about the wind and the mud!
And then there was the cake. Cross-country races know how to do cake right! 😉
I was really happy with my performance on Sunday. The run was tough in the wind but I persevered. Something I’ve been trying to concentrate on just lately is my form when running and my leg turnover and I think I managed to bring both of those to the race at the weekend.
Time: 49m 08s
Gender position: 77/114
Time doesn’t matter in cross-country races, it is about the position you finish in. You come away with your position as a number of points. The first seven men and three ladies (including Vets) score for a team, and even if you don’t make the team (I never will!) you push the scores higher for other clubs with scoring runners who finish behind you. It’s nice not to worry about time in a race!
Do you prefer a bath or shower after muddy runs?!