Last Sunday was the final cross-country race in the Three Counties Cross-Country league. (My previous recaps for races 1,3 and 4 are here: Wellingborough | Leighton | Letchworth – I wasn’t able to make the second race of the season.)
The final race was a new race for this year – held by Bedford Harriers over in Sharnbrook, with the race headquarters held at the high school.
The race was to be further than the previous races in the series (10k in distance compared to the usual 5 miles) and was after having had a night of solid rain. I had returned home from my 19 mile run the previous day literally just as the heavens opened and it did not stop raining until it was time for me to leave for the cross-country the following morning!
The course started out with a lap and a half around the school playing field. I hate when you have laps around a field to begin with. It means all the supporters can still see you for quite some time so there is no hiding whilst out on the race! It was necessary though, as after a sharp drop down a steep hill we headed out through a gap in the hedge which would otherwise have been a squeeze!
It was colder than it has been just lately. We were more aware of it due to the impending rain showers that we knew were headed our way though I think. I wore a top with sleeves for the first time this season, although it was actually warm enough that I could have still gone without.
It was incredibly muddy out on the course. The playing field in this photograph was probably the least muddy of any of the sections out there. Once we escaped the school grounds we were sent along a farm track that ran the length of a farmer’s field. We then turned and ran through the middle of the field along a footpath. This was very tough. The heavy rain from the previous night had left the mud very slippery, yet still thick and rather stodgy. The sort of mud that collects on the bottom of your trainers and makes your legs feel like lead.
We left the field and turned out onto a rutted track. The same rutted track that we ran as part of the Colworth 8.1m race back in June I believe. This was mentally tough as you had to be strategic in where you placed your feet. The mud here was incredibly wet and slippery. The track was lower where tyres had been, but not very wide – making it difficult to run continuously with one foot in front of the other. The higher parts of the track either side of the ruts, although a little wider, were ridiculously slippery. You had to be incredibly sure of your footing and once you decided where to place your foot you had to go with it, as a last minute change of plan would see you sliding into the rutted puddles as I saw happen to many others! I managed to overtake several people along here, and remain upright. Winning!
The course was arranged in such a way that just before reaching the three mile point I saw the front runners speeding back in the other direction and we exchanged shouts of encouragement to other club members.
The front runners must have had it much easier than us…we were running behind 300 sets of footprints that had churned up our route! 😛
It was a long, steady climb up to mile four, although the mud dictated the pace more than anything. We were treated to a slight downhill at one stage, although it was on the grass and incredibly slippery so we could never really ‘let ourselves go’ at any point out there!
The finish was through the muddy field that we had run on earlier. I could actually hear shouts from our club members long before I could see the finish. Another (usually faster) runner from our club was right behind me so I did my best to stay strong across the field, but it was tough going. I, like many others, ran just to the side of the path in the field itself, where there was a little more grip for my trainers. It did nothing to keep the mud from the bottom of my shoes though – my legs were aching by the end of that field!As I made my final sprint towards the finish, conscious that I had someone right behind me, a marshal leapt out infront, slowing me down. I was desperate to cross the line as the next runner so almost ran through him! There was a slight rise in ground just before the finish funnel and apparently several runners had slipped and gone over right at the very end, so he was slowing us down to ensure we didn’t do the same.
I actually had a relatively good race seeing as I didn’t push it too hard, knowing the miles had already stacked up in my legs from that week. I placed roughly where I thought I would in comparison to other runners from my club and did it all whilst staying upright on two feet(!) There had been a moment where I thought I was going down though a few miles before the finish. As I approached a marshal point I glanced up to smile and thank the three marshals stood to the side of the path. Big mistake – don’t lift your eyes from rough ground! I slipped down onto my knee, but managed to bounce back up again with the help of one of the three marshals who swooped in and grabbed my arm! All part of the fun though, getting muddy!
Gender position: 109/143
Mile splits: 9:38, 11:19, 12:22, 13:29, 12:12, 12:35, 10:18 pace (0.31m).
(All photographs in this post taken from Adam Langford’s shared Facebook album of the event.)
Obviously all worthwhile for the cake and roll at the end though! 😉