Last weekend marked the start of my cross country season as well as my first ever race in the Cross Challenge series. I had never raced in the series before, purely due to fear. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to enter it, but this year was different. I wasn’t afraid to run against people I knew were a lot faster than me. I know if I want to get faster, this is what I need to do. I went into the race excited for the ‘challenge’ and eager to see where I was physically. Training had been going well and I was feeling physically and mentally strong, a position not too familiar for me within the cross country world.
Once we had arrived we headed straight out to get familiar with the course. For me the course was short, in total it ended up being 5.8km, so I knew it was going to be a case of going fast. About 200m in we were faced with the first of 3 hills, this one we ran twice and the 3rdwas roughly 1km from the finish. These were far from slow gradual inclines; these hills were quick killers. They were incredibly steep, but short. I enjoyed this because although they were tough, you had reached the top before your brain had registered the pain your legs were in. After a quick walk of the course we headed back to the start before I began my warm up.
On the drive up to Milton Keynes I had been told many times not to go out too hard, otherwise I would struggle when hit with the first hill. After the start gun I did my best to do just that. I was surprised as the race went out relatively slowly, but I thought I would sit tight and await the kick. Whilst the push on of pace soon came, it didn’t feel too much of a shock, I felt able to change my pace too.
Following the first hill, I knew they were going to be my strong points. I knew I could create distance between myself and the girls behind when going up the hills, so I had to use them to my advantage. In past years it has been the downhill phases where I have lost places and been overtaken, so I knew I would have to work hard down the hills as well as up, and that I did. The hills were very muddy and very steep, therefore the worst thing to do would have been to put the brakes on when running down them. It was a case of disengaging the brain and going with gravity. I felt strong on the ups, on the downs, and surprisingly on the flat sections too.
Throughout the race I had no idea of my position. All I knew was I wanted to keep picking off the girls in front of me and I didn’t want people to be sitting on my shoulder. I worked with the group until the final hill when I knew I could create some distance. Heading into the final straight I could see the person in front and knew I would have to keep working hard to try and catch them. It wasn’t until I turned the penultimate corner, and someone shouted at me to keep working hard, that I felt another gear kick in. At this point I still had no idea of my positioning.
It wasn’t until I was running down towards the finish and crossed the line that I realised I had far outlived my goal. My aim was to finish in the top 20, but when I looked up and saw only 4 other people in the finish area, I realised I had finished 5th.
Happy is the best result.
Whilst I was over the moon with my result, it wasn’t the position that made me happy. What made me happy was that I loved every minute of the race. I no longer had the negative cross country demons running with me, it was just me and the race ahead and I loved it. I felt strong, powerful, and healthy throughout.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!