Cross Country 17/18 – GFDR Mid Essex League (Rivenhall)

“New year, new me.” A motto that is brandished around in the early weeks of the year like the last 365 days didn’t provide enough time to change your ways. A fresh start for some maybe but personally I don’t set resolutions as I feel we can all change anytime regardless of if the Earth is beginning a new revolution around the sun or not.

2018 for me will be a big year, becoming a father for the first time is sure to change my life forever however when it comes to running I just want to carry on where I left off. Striving to improve week after week while learning about the sport and myself.

The festive period always leads to over indulgence however It does provide lots of extra spare time to exercise and do what I enjoy most, running. Last year I optimised the two weeks over the festive and new year period covering 167 miles including 3 Parkruns. This year by total fluke was pretty much the same as I completed 3 Parkruns including a new years day double and covered remarkably an almost identical 167 miles. Christmas eve saw myself and Joe Spraggins complete the Elves 11 narrative trail race in Maldon, working together we negotiated the instructions to win the event by almost 5 minutes.

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You don’t think the christmas hat is too much do you?

Enjoying the company of Joe so much I decided to agree to join him for his now annual Christmas day marathon. With Clare working there really wasn’t an excuse for me not to take part so leaving the house at twenty past six on Christmas morning I joined Joe for 23.1 miles of relaxed social running complemented by classic christmas songs along the way. We finished our adventure at Castle Park home of the Bishop’s Stortford parkrun, where our final 5k was joined by 150 others including plenty of friends. We decided to continue to run together and continue the more relaxed approach to the day which resulted in a 6th/7th place finish for the two of us.

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Link to Strava activity

For the second year running I was lucky enough to participate in the New Years day double Parkrun alongside some of Essex’s finest runners, many of which have become good friends. This year we completed the Billericay Parkrun before heading north to Chelmsford to once again run the 3.1 mile lap around the city’s central parks. I only managed 2nd place in both runs but to be fair I was more than contempt trailing to Paul Molyneux.

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Some of the Parkrun to Parkrun crew

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The day before Rivenhall was the Essex cross country championship. Grange Farm had not entered so not being able to participate I decided to run Castle Park Parkrun hard trying to achieve my first Personal best of the year. Commuting to the park provided me with a sufficient warm up to attack the course from the outset. I ran hard but maybe the previous days interval session, the heavily congested paths and the slightly long commute had just taken a little too much out of me as I missed my target by a mere 13 seconds. That aside it was a very encouraging run and performance finishing a comfortable 1st place and going forward I’m confident I can better last years 16:32 best.

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Mid Essex Cross Country – Rivenhall

The most eventful race of last year, the race that saw the lead pack sent the wrong way on multiple occasions, had arrived once again. The second race in the Mid Essex cross country league was held by Mid Essex Casuals. I joined club mate Matthew Bainbridge for a long warm up of 5 miles prior to the race as both myself and Matt attempt to increase our mileages before the London Marathon in Spring.

The start line was well populated with the Blue of Grange Farm which is always great to see on race day. We were joined once again by Tim Woulfe and James Smith which would provide tough but welcomed competition for the race win. The course includes plenty of technical sections and a mix of terrain to keep it interesting but is very flat as far as cross country courses go with less that 100ft of elevation. Heading into the race I was fully aware that I would need the help of all undulations and ditches if I was going to compete with Tim as on the flat he is too quick for me and most runners in the local area.

The race start was typical of the Mid Essex league, calm and controlled where a conversation can be had at the steady pace. I made sure everyone in the lead pack, especially Jimmy Smith, was aware how easy the pace felt before opening up my stride a little to take an early lead.

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Tim, Lee & Jimmy close on my heels.

Leading the way for the first mile feeling very comfortable we soon headed into the woods that provided so much confusion the previous year. I was once again leading so I wasn’t confident in leading the rest of the field the right way. Following the red tape, making tight turns while ducking and jumping over branches. The forest section was certainly technical but good fun nevertheless. The pace had decreased and with the assistance of marshals I had almost made it through without fault. That was until the final section, the marshal correctly instructed me to go round the tree before heading back on ourselves, unfortunately I took “around the tree” instruction a little too wide and ended up on the wrong side of the tape along with most of the lead group. Thankfully Matt had seen our error and run the correct way which see him take the lead as we left the forest. I wasn’t annoyed at all and was actually quite pleased to see Matt so close to the front of the race, never allowing myself to look behind in races I had no idea how the race was panning out. Knowing that Lee Pickering wouldn’t be far away it was great from a team perspective heading into the half way stage of the race.

We hit a long straight and I was content running and working alongside Matt. However with very little persuasion I accelerated when Matt suggested I should “push on and increase the gap” We followed the route around fields before reentering the woods for a second time where I led the way but determined to get the course right this time as we entered the later stages of the race. I negotiated the course at the second time of asking without fault, however the wooded section wasn’t without its drama. This time hearing a shriek from behind I turned to see none other than Tim Woulfe deciding to take on the course on all four limbs rather than two. Woulfe by name and all that. I wasn’t sure if he was pushed by Jimmy so I quickly asked if he was ok and slowed a little, to try and be a good mate, checking he wasn’t hurt and not capitalising on his bad fortune.

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Tim “inspecting the terrain”

As we left the woods a second time, there was actually further to go than I thought and decided to go to work a little on the long straight trying to ensure that I had a big enough lead that if it did come down to a sprint I had a big head start. Little did I know there were some ditches and small water obstacles still to overcome. They weren’t too technical and added a nice bit of diversity to the course, and also put an end to the race as an event. Tim took to the water like a kitten and slowed to an almost standstill at the thought of getting his toes wet. (Please note this information is from a secondary source. As I mentioned before I never look back so truthfully I had no idea what was going on behind.) 

The small effort had worked and it allowed me to run home at a more comfortable pace than I expected to take my second victory of the season in the Mid Essex league. The top three positions were occupied by the same runners as the first race with Tim Woulfe and Jimmy Smith joining me at the head of the field. But once again my teammates didn’t disappoint as collectively we comfortably took first place as a team. The Ladies also performed brilliantly with a 1,2,3 finish with Naomi Moss leading the girls home.

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Link to Strava activity

Link to race report

Dunmow Broadcast
Braintree & Witham Times

After the race I joined Matt once again for a long warm down around some of the course, giving us the chance to thank the marshals while also aiding our recovery for another training week ahead, Overall after two races both Men and Women sit proudly on top of our respective leagues. With three races left there is still plenty to play for in this seasons Mid Essex cross country league.Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 06.13.37.png

Breakfast – Fuel 10k Protein Cereal, Banana & Maximuscle Promax Shake

Energy Gels used – N/A

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