Did the English National Cross Country Championships on Saturday and I have renewed respect for people who race cross country regularly.
You don’t need to qualify for these championships – just to be a member of a club. I was making the trek to Leeds so that my son could run and, as a friend pointed out, it seemed a long way to go without having a run. But my thoughts of having a gentle run to heart rate were blown out of the water rather.
I’ve done the odd cross country race in the past – even bought some spikes a couple of years ago… (but they made my knee swell up almost instantly) – but it was a bit of a muddy step up going from a low key summer xc league race to the nationals.
If you’ve not raced across country and you are a club member and have access to xc races, give it a go. They’re relatively short (the senior women’s race on Saturday was only 8k) but they’re tough in lots of ways and will test you differently than road or trail races.
You can’t get into your rhythm because the terrain is always changing and you have to think about where your feet are going to land. Sharp gradients make you want to alter pace and stride rate – down can be as challenging as up. There can be MUD. Ankle deep, dark, slippy stuff which can put you off balance if you’re not relaxed and strong in the core. There always seems to be a camber. And 8k seems a lot longer than it does on the roads.
I came a glorious (ahem) 456th out of 543 starters so was kind of at the beginning of the stragglers. That’s another thing that’s challenging – I’m no Liz Yelling but in road races I’m usually in the middle of the pack. Competing against these well-hard racing ladies who race xc every weekend made me feel rather slow!
Anyway, it was a great experience and I’m very proud to be able to say I raced in the national championships with Steph Twell (well, behind Steph Twell – she finished about 15 min ahead of me…)