On Saturday morning I boarded the Kirkstall Harriers Funbus and headed down to Nottingham for the National Cross Country Championships. Fortunately the weather Gods were kind to us and it was to be a grand day out with 11 of my fellow Purple Posse.
Having run in the Northern Cross Country Championships last month I had some idea of what to expect, but this was on a much bigger scale. There were hundreds upon hundreds of runners in total, and it was quite something to see all those tents and club flags gathered in Wollaton Park.
We had plenty of time to pee, grab a coffee, eat our pre-race carbs and buy a hoody before the senior women’s race at 2.20pm.
I wasn’t quite as nervous as I was at Northerns in terms of being last or getting the course wrong, but as 700 women gathered in the marquee (what a noise) I began to wonder what the hell I was doing there. Here were a bunch of world-class athletes, many excellent club runners, and me, just out there for the fun of it. I felt out of place and well out of my depth.
As we stood in the pens and then went forward a few metres to the line I felt a little sick and had half a though to run the other way, but the gun went and I had to go forward.
The uphill start was tough – the grass was tussocky and uneven – but, once again, Jill stuck with me for a while. I eased in and as we turned the first corner to go down a slight hill I told Jill I was OK and she could go on (she ran a brilliant race with some very quick miles).
The course was incredibly pleasant. Apart from the bumpy grass around the start/finish most of it was soft and springy. The only mud was concentrated into a few boggy bits within a few hundred metres of each other in the last quarter of the lap. It was lovely squelchy, sticky mud here and I had fun trampling through it.
On my second and final lap one of the marshals shouted such lovely encouragement, telling me I looked great, so I gave him a big hug. He then told me the men were coming up behind, to which I gave a massive fist pump and shouted “YES … Why do you think I run so slow?” Hilarity did ensue.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and I was pleased with my race. My goals were to not get lapped by the women or the men (who started 40mins after our race), to finish under and hour, and to not be last. I achieved all three, running the five-miles in 53:58.
I saw some of the men come past then headed back to our pile of bags to put on some warm clothes and wait for everyone to re-group. We all agreed that it was a fast course and a lovely experience. I am still a little in awe at being part of such an important and prestigious event, and I will definitely be back next year.