Sunday was the second PECO cross country race in the 2013-14 season and was held at Golden Acre Park. I’ve been to the park once before (a relay race this summer), so I knew to expect some hilly bits and some lovely trails. I wasn’t disappointed.

My outfit for the race was my best yet I reckon. A nice clash of various neon bits, plus my pretty new arm warmers and the headband I knitted (yes, really). Pretty sure I got laughed at a lot, but I also got some compliments. And I felt happy in my bright colours, which is all that matters. I’m also making it my mission in running to smile and look slightly unhinged in every photo. Cue hand gestures.

neon runner




















Once again there was a massive turnout, with nearly 600 senior runners lining up to tackle the 5-mile-ish course. Starting at the back means I get to see everyone meandering through the first few corners, and it’s a wonderful sight.









I’m not really “racing” these events – I just want to push on a bit and see how I can cope with it all. So after a steady start chatting with some fellow Harriers I got my head down and settled in to a steady run. In between cheering my club-mates as the course snaked back on itself, posing for the cameras and throwing various bits of attire at our cheer squad (it soon got a bit warm for gloves and headband) I tried to be mindful of my breath and my body. I thought about my feet and my hips and about the air filling me with energy.

The course was three laps, but it didn’t feel like you were going round and round. Knowing the nasty little hills were coming up was actually good – it gave me a reason to push on a bit before I got to them so that I wouldn’t lose too much time. I had to laugh at the lady I passed near the end who was angry that there were hills – apparently she read “on the internet” that it was flat! I don’t think a cross country race has ever been flat, so I’m not sure where she got that from or why she believed it!

The finish was also uphill, and I was so done-in by that point I just kept going forwards and hoped for the best. I finished in around 52 minutes, which I am pleased with. My pace was fairly steady throughout and I gave it all I had. A fun morning with a lot of great people.

With thanks to Malcolm, Ian Watson and Woodentops for photos.

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Cross country always seemed a pretty soul-destroying venture. In high school we had a thing called the “double loop”, which was a circuit of about one mile through fields and on gravelly tracks. As the name suggests, at the whim of the PE teachers we were instructed to do it twice.  In whatever weather we were lucky enough to get. Wearing bottle green shorts and gold socks and tee. It wasn’t pleasant.

But now that I have come to enjoy running, cross country season has become something that I have been looking forward to the past few weeks.

The local race circuit is the PECO Cross Country League, a series of five races between November and March. Each one is hosted by two local clubs and there is a lot of friendly competition among the runners.

The first race this weekend was at Temple Newsam Park, which I know a little as I sometimes do the parkrun there. I was promised hills and mud, and wasn’t disappointed.

All the local clubs were out in force for this inaugural race of the 2013-14 season, and it was great to see all the colours and the flags. At Kirkstall Harriers we have a purple gazebo, and this was much appreciated when it started to rain. There were more than 650 runners I have heard, which is a fantastic turnout.

KH PECO runners

PECO start line Temple Newsam A snake of runners























The route was approx 4.6miles, although my watch had a bit of a fit and must have lost satellite signal as it came up way short, and there were several hills, plenty of mud and even a bit of banter along the way.

































I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was hard work. The mud was nice and sticky, and the hills short and sharp. There was also some great support, from non-running club mates and the marshals.

Despite starting off thinking I was going to freeze in my short sleeves it wasn’t so bad, and next time I’ll embrace the cross country runner mentality and venture out in short shorts. By the way, do you like the neon pink knee-highs?! They make it so much easier to spot myself in photos!

Afterwards I realised just how shattered I really was. This race felt harder than it probably should have done, and I think I am still exhausted from all the hard runs and training recently. As I blogged yesterday, I’ll be having a bit more rest this week as I don’t want to get to the start of marathon training still tired. I started with a lie-in this morning – I didn’t set an alarm and it was 10am before I woke up! I had slept right through the night too! Definitely a sign of a tired Gemma.

My first PECO cross country experience was great fun and I’m looking forward to the next race in three weeks. Bring on the mud!