I’m writing this on sunday afternoon and my legs have taken a bit of a battering this weekend. The club I run for – Serpentine, take part in the London Metropolitan cross country league with 5 fixtures held over the winter season. I’d run cross country before in the London and North London Championships but this was to be my debut in this competition.
With the fixtures taking place on saturday, I had the usual dilemma of whether to go to parkrun in the morning, and if I went, how fast should I run etc etc. Obviously parkrun won, and I turned up planning to run within myself with the later race in mind. As per usual, all plans went out of the window early doors, and I ended up running 19.29, good enough for 15th place out of a record 327 finishers at Brockwell Park. An encouraging sign was this felt relatively comfortable throughout, and I certainly had a lot more to give if I was going ‘full gas’.
It was quickly back for a bit of food before heading out to Perivale in West London (I hadn’t heard of it either) ready to run a further 10 kilometres over a 3-lap course. Luckily, it was dry, but the wind was howling and made the exposed fields out on Horseden Hill pretty cold. It’s normal in cross country for the men to run last – leaving the course in a pretty bad state after all the juniors and women have completed their races. Me and a few of the other guys had a wander around and some parts of the route were an absolute quagmire.
There are some seriously quick guys at these events (the chap I travelled there with is hoping to run a 2.45 marathon in April!), so I put myself fairly near the back for the start and soon enough we were off, all 400 or so of us charging towards a gap at the end of the first field wide enough for about 3 abreast. Using my quick mental maths skills I knew 400 into 3 wouldn’t fit and sure enough there was a big bottle-neck at the gap while everyone tried to struggle through.
After this it started to spread out and I just got on with it – cross country is such hard work, especially when the course was as churned up as it was on the day. You have to concentrate the whole time to ensure you don’t end up face down in the mud – which would make for a fairly unpleasant tube journey home.
I slogged my way round the 3 laps without any drama – unusually for cross country there were no hills on this particular course – a welcome change from other events! I got involved in a few little battles during the last lap and got to the line looking like I’d been dragged through a bush backwards.
My finishing time was 39.31, placing me 196th out of 389 finishers, pretty much bang in the middle of the pack. I’m never going to find myself at the sharp end of these events as some pretty incredible athletes show up on a weekly basis so overall I thought it was a decent run.
A few hours later and I was up at 6.30 the next morning (running really is a glamorous pursuit) to run 14 miles through London as part of my training schedule. It’s safe to say after all that it feels like my legs have become detached from my body. I can’t say this is a new sensation though – all part of the joys of marathon training!