My first official cross-country run

Hi all, it’s mid-week again but don’t panic it’s nearly the weekend !

What are your memories of cross-country running at school ? Good or bad ? I have some vague memories of muddy courses, wearing hockey socks and boots to keep our footing around the school playing fields and woods. Yep, not wonderful and who’d have thought that 25-ish years later I would willingly turn up for a cross-country race in the Hertfordshire countryside with a smile on my face and a few butterflies in my tummy – not me, that’s for sure ! But that’s what I did on Sunday, providing my new trail shoes with their first real outing – they were still looking too clean to be real trail shoes :).

The new kids on the block were still too clean !
The new kids on the block were still too clean at the start of the day !

It was the first race in a Sunday cross-country league series (http://www.gardencityrunners.org.uk/events_xc.html) within the Herts area and the club I am a member of, Garden City Runners (http://www.gardencityrunners.org.uk/index.html), had a large group taking part. I’m new to the area and club so every race is a new experience for me and there are times when ignorance is bliss is definitely the way to go – I have no idea what the courses are like or how fast the field is !! Just turn up and join in……….

There had been some rain in the week leading up to the race but fortunately we woke up to clear skies, albeit some blustery winds and set off for a very leisurely start time of 10.30 (how civilized is that !!). Even though there was minimal infrastructure for the race, there was still the buzz of competition around the field and as we walked to the start, there were a few ‘mine’s a pint’ challenges being hinted at……… remember everyone we said we were just ‘running’, not ‘racing’.

The hooter sounded and off we went, down a slight slope and quick right turn and began the first long incline of the first loop. The race itself was five miles, two and three-quarter laps of a course of rolling hills……… I love it when a course is described as having ‘rolling hills’ or ‘slightly undulating’ – covers a multitude of elevations and gradients, and always makes it sound so appealing and almost poetic in the image it conjures up – or just flippin’ hard ? I’ll let you make up your own mind, I have !!

Anyway lap one was completed after a slight bottleneck across a bridge, a steeper but shorter hill and a quick wave to supporters as we passed by the finish line : 2 more loops to go…….. 2 more long inclines, multiple bridges and muddy puddles to conquer ! Half way through the 2nd lap I started to feel Friday’s long run in my legs a little (first 5 miles of which was off-road and I am convinced it was all up, up, up) but dug deep, relaxed my shoulders and arms, took some deep breaths and enjoyed the moments of ‘free speed’ with the down hills. The 3rd lap was probably my quickest as I knew where to speed up, how to take the corners and where the puddles were…….. and of course the thought of some food and cup of tea at the end may have just sped me up a little !

I finished the race in about 45 minutes (I didn’t remember to start my stopwatch until I was about I had done 1/2 mile) and was rather satisfied with that. Even more importantly I had a blast, had mud up my legs, thoroughly enjoyed the run and can’t wait til the next time in a few weeks !

A perfect morning for a cross country run, Cheshunt Park, Herts
A perfect morning for a cross country run, Cheshunt Park, Herts

As I said at the beginning, this is a girl who didn’t really enjoy cross-country at school but made the jump and had a ball – what’s next in this journey ? Not sure, but whatever happens, there will be smiles and laughter !

Bye for now

Catherine, Age Group girl

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