Monday, 12 October 2015


So, this weekend was my first ever cross-country race. I always get butterfly nerves before any race, but this was different. My last experience of cross-country (XC) was at school. It's fair to say that my school day experience was horrendous. I hated running. I hated the whole thing from feeling cold (we only ever seemed to do the runs in winter), the pain in my legs and lungs as I run, having to cross the stream, to being at the back when everyone else had finished. But over the last four years or so I've learned to enjoy running; it's become an activity I've wanted to do for enjoyment and exploration in the Peak District and hills beyond our immediate 'back garden'.

The race on Saturday was held at Woodbank Park and was the first in the Manchester Area league. Junior races are held first and were pretty much over by the time we arrived. The women's race sets off at 1.40pm and men's at 2.30pm. At around 8.5km I was hopeful to be able to finish my race and see the men on to see if this plan worked out...

Glossopdale Harriers ladies before the start
Kirsty, Caity, Jane, Jo, me

Start line jitters weren't calmed by the sight of most other women wearing spikes. I'd turned up in fell shoes (Inov8 x-talon 212s) which were more than adequate for the conditions at Woodbank Park. Before long myself and Jo were off running together, somewhere towards the back of the pack and quite happy to be looking to finish without mishap. We completed the two shorter laps together but Jo was steadily pulling away from me so I cut the strings and let her loose. The pace was too fast for me to sustain for another 5.5-6km; I needed to slow it down a bit before crashing and stopping.

After the two flat short laps it was down through the woods for the first of the long laps. I felt like I could stretch out my legs (though my lungs didn't forgive me for not letting the pace ease) enough to overtake four or five other runners on the descent (something I never do!). I was however soon overtaken by them as we hit the flat, my legs just wouldn't keep the pace and desperately wanted to stop. I only allowed myself to walk as we hit the climb back up through the trees.

Oh my, another full lap to go. I checked how far I'd gone and realised I had another 3km to go. I really really wanted to stop. But I kept going, and could still see Jo not too far ahead, but far enough to be out of reach. There really is no place to hide on an XC race - many spectators scattered around the whole course, and superb support from the Glossopdale men who seemed to have a knack of popping up just as I wanted to stop and let my lungs recover. No chance. You can't stop when team mates are looking on!

So onto the final lap and the field of runners were well spread out. I was sure the first women were finishing as noise from the stadium seemed to pick up as I dropped down the hill for the last time. I was sure I was fairly near the back too. My word the flat sections were tough. I think I'd rather have more ascent and afford myself a walk to recover! Final climb approaching and I managed to push further than on the first lap (maybe because John S popped up cheering me on!). I walked the hill and my legs did not want to start running as the gradient leveled out. I tell the legs to shut up; even a slow shuffle would be better for the team result than a walk. I turn the final corner towards the stadium and as expected the Glossopdale men are shouting encouragement - thanks guys, I really needed it and it helped me up the final few metres onto the grass bank around the stadium.

Main note to self for future XC races - recce the end! I had no idea entering the track how far round I needed to run. It turned out to be almost all the way round and that's a long blinking way after 8km! From somewhere I managed to grab another place right on the line - sorry to the woman I pipped to the line, but it is a race!

My official time was watched showed a little over 46mins so I had only about 4 mins to catch a breath and go see the men leave on their race. there in time. And they're off and I can grab a jumper and drink then head onto supporting the guys on their laps. The fast runners look so effortless, and the men's field seemed to be massive (turns out they had about 200 or so more runners than the women).

I knew the XC races were well attended but with maybe around a thousand runners over all the races that's amazing. The best bit, from the front elite runners (first woman was back in about 31mins) to the last (finishing in 1hr21) there were loads of people out cheering and encouraging everyone. Nothing at all like my school runs! (no river either). I was especially pleased to see the results out quickly where I discovered I was 156th out of 257 runners, and 22nd out of 43 in my age category. I was also only 30secs behind target in the next race perhaps!

Our club is very social and it's on these occasions that it does show. We might only be a small club (120 or so members) but we had 14 runners at this race from seniors through to vet65s. Me running ensured we had a vet ladies team finish too, so I feel chuffed to have contributed. Also at the event was Duncan with his camera, thanks to him for the photos here. Thank you also to the cake maker....a delicious treat after the hard work.

Full results can be found here