With the weeks flying by races keep coming thick and fast but so do the social events. The first weekend of December see two Christmas parties, including plenty to eat and drink so wasn’t ideal preparation for our home race.
The home leg for Bishop’s Stortford was the only cross country race I missed in the local league last year so I was keen to get involved this time around. Starting just off Beldams Lane along a narrow footpath I tried to start as near to the front as I could but still found myself about 10 people back as other runners edged past the Start banner. I was content with my position knowing that no race is won within the first mile. The field looked much stronger from that of the Ware race a few weeks previous. Along with the runners from the first race, the field included some familiar faces including Bryn Reynolds and Matt Dickinson of Saffron Striders, both big dangers as far as contention for the race was concerned.
Considering it was a Home race I didn’t have a clue what the course had in store. While OCR legend and teammate Dave Rogers did his best to describe it to me, I was soon confused once again as I listened in to the race briefing.
The race start was frustrating to say the least, knowing I’m a slow starter I imagined I would have relished the slow start, however it was the opposite. Checking my stride and getting overtaken on both sides, I was getting more and more agitated. We were soon sent left heading sharply downhill, the annoyance was the exact motivation I needed and I accelerated hard down the hill to make up some places and the ground I had lost during the congested start. After a brief flat but muddy section we were heading up a sharp hill and once again I used the poor start as motivation and pushed up the drag and soon found myself leading the race.
I hadn’t planned to hit the front so early but I wasn’t complaining and that’s where I planned to stay. It’s hard to comment on how the race panned out as after a brief chat with a couple of other runners I never looked back again. I did know however I was in good company and by purely listening behind I wasn’t exactly running away with it. We briefly hit tarmac as we passed under the M11, through a tunnel where it was easy to hear that there was plenty of competition still battling for the race honours. I had chosen to wear my Inov-8 Xtalon 225 trail shoes which in hindsight was the perfect choice due to the small road sections on course. The terrain went from one extreme to the other, flat hard ground soon turned into a muddy uphill climb. The reward for conquering the hill was being greeted by our lovely Ladies captain Jo Arscott who unfortunately wasn’t running but was using all her energy to support and drive team green and gold forward.
I did have to break the support for a brief moment and ask Jo which way I needed to go, to which she quickly reacted and sent me left hugging the field edge. The terrain was a bit rough but its cross country so it was to be expected before we joined a tarmacked road for a kind end to what had been a tough second mile. As I passed a large banner providing support for BSRC, it gave me a little boost reminding me of the main reason I was running, for my team. I feel I can always find an extra gear when it comes to team races whether it be relays or cross country events. I have said this many times before but it is very true in my personal opinion and I’m sure many of my fellow runners feel the same.
Before long we were back on the fields running adjacent to the M11 motorway heading in the southbound direction followed by a small wooded section prior to running underneath the road once more to retrace our footsteps back towards the start. It was during this third mile that I became aware that my shoe lace was completely untied and my loose shoes grasp was tested rigorously. As I made my way down the steep hill that had featured towards the start of the race, I contemplated stopping to tie it on many occasions, however my determination to win wouldn’t allow me. I also think it genuinely helped that I wasn’t struggling at this stage so I wasn’t looking for a reason to slow or stop, otherwise it could have been a different story all together (London Marathon 2015 style)
The fourth mile was certainly the toughest in my opinion, not only did it feature a second ascent of the tough hill from early in the race it also included some muddier sections which while testing me physically it also tested my shoes ability to stay on. With my main focus on going in the right direction and also wondering whether the trailing runners had seen my inconvenience and been motivated further to stay in contact knowing that I could be running in my socks any second. The final sections flew by and I’m pleased to say there wasn’t any more impediments as my shoes didn’t let me down and even through the bogs I managed to come through without loss.
After looping round a field edge we were heading back along the start track before heading down and up the hill passing fellow teammates and supportive rivals who were making their way down. It was really motivating passing others and in-between breaths I tried to offer encouragement and exchanged a high five with Saffron Strider’s Tony Bacon. Unaware of what was going on behind, I’m pretty sure the race would have been won up the steep ascent. Pushed up by self motivation and support of my fellow runners I was at the top feeling relatively good. The final section of the course came around quickly and had the most potential to scupper my lead. A steep muddy descent prior to jumping a couple of barriers to cross a footbridge before being led up a very sharp incline, raised my heart rate significantly. A road section followed and I tried to recover while maintaining speed before turning off into an enclosed footpath with plenty of hazards and tree roots. I weaved in and out trying to maintain speed and before long I was greeted by the friendly face of Theresa Burke who much to my surprise was pointing to the finish line. I hesitated at first as I was unsure whether we had to complete a lap of the field but was soon corrected and found myself heading across the grass directly to the finish. I crossed the line comfortably in first place and feeling surprisingly comfortable also. It was a very satisfying win, to feel like I had run within myself and to win a home race was a great feeling and big confidence booster heading into the rest of the cross country season.
The second race of the season was once again very successful from both a personal and team perspective. After the second race we find ourselves top as a team and in the mens league however the ladies trailing the always competitive Ware Joggers.
Energy Gels used – N/A