Two race weekends in a row will lead to a slightly bloated post this time round. Essentially these past races have been a bit of a rude introduction into what cross country actually involves. My conclusion? Bringing back about half of the course caked to your body.
The first race was down to Edinburgh for Braid Hills- one three mile lap for girls and two for the guys. A small yet select group of St Andrews runners made the journey, three guys and three girls. Us guys managed to accidentally miss the start of the girls race going form race HQ to the start, but saw our runners finishing. Alumni extraordinaire Megan Crawford finished second, and the amount of mud on all the runners after only one lap filled me with dread.
The course was one mile of up, one mile of down, and then one mile of wibbly wobbly up and down. Running up was pretty tough on the legs and tiring, running down was pretty scary with near cliff-like jumps, and the wibbly wobbly was dirtier than the mind of a Waitrose shopper in an aisle full of hummus. In fact it was so muddy that I overtook Ziyad, that pesky StA runner whose normally a stride ahead of me, because his shoe came off in the mud. Add into that some dubious race etiquette (some people would have been sent to the marshals if this was an Formula One race) the first lap was tough, and I really didn’t want to do another.
But I did, ploughing on and managing to stick reasonably close to Ziyad after he went past me. The mantra of ‘leave nothing on the race course’ was stuck to as I tried to hunt down positions, but in the end abandoned that and stuck to hunting down seconds. I was pretty pleased with how I ran, finishing close to the 45min target in 45:09, and just behind Ziyad. Neil blitzed a great time finishing in 37:24. Full results here.
The showers after the race were absolutely bogging- so much mud- though mercifully they were pretty warm. To summarise how muddy it was- here is a picture of my shoes before the race (ish):
And here is a picture of them a little bit after the race:
St Andrews’ elite athletes then descended from hitting the hills:
To hitting the town for a night out in Edinburgh, whilst being hosted by the amazing Megan Crawford:
Highlights of the night out included:
- Ziyad failing to realise he had chatted up a girl and got her number.
- Megan’s amazing banter.
- Me thinking the final club was a gay bar.
- Discovering Rhiannon had disappeared for a bit to get a second Empire of the night.
- Neil’s complete inability to not whine about his hangover.
The Scottish University Cross Country Championships was an entirely different affair. My inclusion and the use of the word ‘championships’ is a complete misnomer relating to my sporting ability. This is the first time this competition has been held in St Andrews for ages/a decade, so I was able to amble over without any getting up early, car journey, or bag packing. The race was 6.5 KM for the girls I think, and 10K for the guys. The 10K was four full laps around a fairly oddly shaped and undulating field, and two with a shortened one for the girls.
In the interests of flattening down the route the club had been running down the route over the past few weeks. I’d run the full four laps with Andrew a couple of weeks ago. Back then the ground was hard, the furrows and tyre tracks forming tough ridges to catch your ankles unawares. Running was therefore tough. By raceday it had changed a lot, though not necessarily for the better.
Again after the girls race there was a worrying amount of mud. I really wasn’t feeling the race on the day. Everyone heard me moaning about how it was cold, how I felt fine physically but just wasn’t excited about the race, and so on and so on. I’m not sure if it was to do with the race being a ‘home’ race, but it’s a mistake I’ve learned from and I’m know determined never to let myself go into a race with such a negative mindset again.
At the start of the race I again tried to resume battle with Ziyad, but again he pulled away from me. The course looked flat-ish, but bobbled up and down in funny ways, and was incredibly wet and squelchy in two places, one you ran through twice a lap and one on the way up a hill. At Braids after the first lap, half way through, I felt like I didn’t want to do another. Here after the first lap, with three to go, I didn’t feel like continuing.
In the end I didn’t get my mojo back till near the end of the second lap. I remembered Neil giving a pre-race pep talk, telling us how every place was crucial in terms of University place standing. By now the field had spread sufficiently that there was only one runner in realistic striking distance, a green Edinburgh vest, (number 13-something I think). I decided to change my mindset and hunt him down. Half-way through lap three I went passed him, and then a lot of re-passing ensued, although I continued to run a steady race, and I was pretty pleased and convinced that my pace in this section of the race was unsettling him – for example he took the place back just as he went past some Edinburgh support. That said he did run a good race – wish I could have remembered his number/face to tell him that personally!
In the fourth lap I pulled out a good lead, and started thinking about finishing strongly. It was tough throughout on the course to be able to push when you felt you could- there were only a number of places flat and firm enough to do so, and they rarely coincided with how my body felt at least. This meant I had enough left to deliver a stonking sprint finish after the final turn and feel that blessed a little bit sick feeling post-finish. This is great, but does hint I might have left some performance in the tank. As said, poor mental attitude which I will hopefully never repeat. In the end I finished in 50:05, far below what I’d hoped to run. Full results will follow when I get my hands on them.
I think the next race will be a five mile road race in Glasgow. Yes! Blessed tarmac, restorer of all things that are true and holy. And another distance I feel comfortable in putting in my trophy cabinet of PB’s (5K, 5Mi., 10K, 10Mi, 1/2 Mara, Mara).
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Cheers for reading,