With a fair few XC races under my belt, I thought it was about time I did a little round-up. I’ve not included all of them because this post would be far too long, but the major ones are here. I hope it helps give you a little more insight into how I’ve been spending most of my Saturdays!
East District League #1: Stirling (20th October)
My first XC race of the season was also the first instalment of the East District XC league. Just like back home where I usually take part in the Sussex league, this one has three races over the course of the season. The weather was pretty mild, the ground was firm, the course was mostly flat… it didn’t really feel like cross country! I went into this race with no expectations, which meant that my nerves weren’t too bad. It consisted of 2x 3km loops, so nothing too complex.
The race started off pretty fast, and I found myself just managing to keep up with the front runners. In hindsight, I wish I’d stuck to my own pace for the first lap because I know that my second half is always much stronger. I’m still very pleased with how I ran on that day, but I definitely struggled more than usual in the second lap – mentally and physically. In the end though, I managed to pull through in 6th overall (U20, U23 and senior women), and 1st U20 – which I’m very chuffed with!
Manchester XC Relays (27th October)
This was the earliest start of them all, with a 5:30am coach pick-up from campus. With only 2 hours’ sleep, it’s fair to say that “exhausted” was an understatement of how I was feeling. If I’m honest, this was probably my least favourite race in terms of the running-aspect. However, I loved the team spirit, and cheering on teammates as they completed the course was definitely a highlight. Since I’m more of a middle-long (emphasis on the long) distance runner, the 3km course was a bit too short for me. I only usually get properly into a race at that point! Combined with the fact that I was running off almost zero sleep, and it was a freezing day, I was not the happiest of bunnies…
Whinging aside, I still had an amazing weekend. Let’s be honest, Manchester is more about the social than the race, anyway. After the races finished, we got ready for the night ahead of us, which was basically: curry with the teams, boat racing (not the nautical kind), chanting and clubbing. Lot’s of fun, so if you’re considering it then I highly recommend just for this!
Scottish Unis: Aberdeen (3rd November)
I’d say that I was the most nervous for this race, purely because I had no idea what to expect and was starting to put pressure on myself. No longer a complete newbie, I began to feel like I should perform a certain way (even though this was all in my mind). My friend Al told me not to psyche myself out though, and reminded me just to run my own race. Classic but important pre-race tips. Rather than let myself get distracted by the front runners’ pace, I settled into the race on my own terms. Again, like Stirling it consisted of 2x 3km loops with a sneaky 500m extra at the end.
I’m very pleased to say that my “negative split” tactic worked well, and I completed a strong second lap to finish in 6th place. Coming up to the final 500m though, I seriously considered dropping out because I mistakenly thought I’d reached the finish line. That extra 500m really threw me! Nevertheless, I found that final bit of energy inside me and was elated with my result. Since I finished top 10, I also gained automatic selection for the Inter District XC Championships on the 12th of January. Smiles all around!
Braids Hill XC Race (17th November)
Last weekend was my favourite race for a number of reasons. A) it was our home race, our pride and glory. B) My parents came to visit and were there to support me. C) The weather was gorgeous, the course was a proper XC one, and the social was fab. But anyway, onto the race.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I much prefer the longer distances. Naturally, when presented with the choice between signing up for the 5 or 10km race, I opted for the latter. Not only did this mean I could cheer all my friends on in the 5k, but I performed much better than I’d hoped. Braids is famous for its hills (unless you’re a fell runner), and it lived up to its reputation. I’m not the best up-hill runner, but downhill is my thing. My only complaint about Braids is that most of it is single-track, making overtaking almost impossible, especially when going downhill. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the race (well, as much as you enjoy being in pain, right?). I came through in 73rd/ 209, 2nd Woman, in a time of 38:05. Before you think I smashed my 10K PB, the course was really only 9.5km.
East District League #2: Broxburn (24th November)
Finally, this takes me up to this weekend. I’ve definitely started to notice the fatigue from all my training settling into my legs, and so didn’t know what to expect going into this race. Friday night, I wasn’t even sure if I would be racing, as I’d had a fever all day and just felt generally run-down. I woke up feeling a bit better Saturday, though, so decided to go for it – and am so glad I did!
Broxburn is another local one for us in Edinburgh (45 minutes’ bus journey), which was an added bonus. Another lap-based course, this time only measure 5.5km (cry for us long distance runners). Like Braids, this is what you call proper cross country; mud, hills (up & down), woods… plus lots of rain, which I really appreciated (not)! The famously named “lungbuster hill” proved as steep as expected, but thankfully it was pretty short. Coming round a second time though was pretty tough…
This was another occasion where my second half was stronger than my first, and I eased into 1st U20 with around 2km to go. I maintained this, and crossed the line in 4th place overall.
I have one more race before Christmas, on the 8th of December, but am looking forward to a little hiatus during the holidays to give my legs a well-earned break. As always, thank you for reading and I hope you had a lovely weekend!