Newport cross country arrived after easily the longest, hardest and most tiring week in my entire adult life. After 6 days of back and forth journeys to Harlow’s Princess Alexandra hospital my wonderful wife gave birth to the biggest achievement of my life, dwarfing any successes I have had in my running career. On the 22nd January 2018, I became a parent to the most precious little girl, Amelie Victoria Bosher. Weighing 7 lb 14 ounces my daughter was born at 7:48 and like me, on a Monday morning – who said Monday’s were depressing?
A low mileage week which included just two runs, should have left my legs feeling fresh for Sunday’s race however it seemed to have the adverse affect. Lots of sitting around, combined with sleepless nights had certainly taken its toll as I felt lethargic and heavy legged. That said I was excited about the prospect getting back racing again. I’m sure I have said it before but Cross Country races are by far my favourite type of event for a number of reasons. They bring team spirit and camaraderie to the forefront of peoples agendas while all concerns over pacing go out the window as race positions become the sole focus.
After reading the always useful pre race info from Peter Beatty, I decided to set off a little earlier and park at the recommended Audley End train station due to limited space at the venue. At approximately 2 miles from the start it provided a perfect warm up prior to the race, arriving at the Joyce Franklin Academy with plenty of time to spare. Making my way to the race HQ I passed Matt Bainbridge who had just pulled up, we headed out for a little warm up and inspection of what was the final half mile of the course which included a series of unpredictable ploughed fields. The terrain varying depending on the weather in the lead up to the race and, although the ground was heavy, it could have been worse.
The race start was as swift as ever and I tried to settle into an decent early pace following closely behind teammate Gabriel Lowrie. Trying to dodge puddles the best I could as we went it was virtually impossible to keep my socks dry in the first 100 metres. Turning left onto an open field edge I found myself sitting nicely in second place behind Ware’s Michael Waddington, the second place finisher in both the previous league races. A few shallow stream crossings and some slippery field edges provided a tough task and didn’t allow me to settle into any sort of rhythm. Trying to relax and slow my heart rate down I eased back ever so slightly and found myself instantly losing a place and moving into third place. I instantly recognised the runner, Andrew Mynott of Saffron Striders and immediately knew that I was in for a tough race. With that in mind I concentrated on my breathing while trying to maintain striking distance with the leaders.
The two stream crossings were complete, signifying the end of the first small loop, and we crossed the start line and made our way back down the track once again. This time with soaked feet I didn’t try to dodge the puddles and found myself running alongside Andrew Mynott in second place where we exchanged a few words and tried to prepare ourselves for the long element exposed muddy uphill drag to come.
Michael was looking strong up ahead but I was confident I would have the strength heading uphill to close the gap and contend for the race once more. The climb was challenging but I tried to stay as relaxed as possible concentrating on conquering the hill rather than the worrying about the rest of the race. As we climbed the hill, we both instinctively found ourselves running inside muddy tyre tracks trying to find some traction, I found myself closing the gap before moving alongside and eventually passing without surging or increasing my pace any more.
The crest of the hill soon emerged with a marshall standing on the opposite side of a large puddle pointing right to a more forgiving descent but yet another muddy footpath. I relaxed and tried to recover as quickly as possible, this was helped by my focus being distracted by a horse using the bridle way up ahead. Fast approaching the horse my stride began to shorten as I wondered how I would pass without incident. Calling out to the rider and asking what side pass? I was greeted with a grunt and for the second time in as many weeks I had upset a horse rider by nothing other than their own ignorance. I still tried to pass carefully before trying to pick up the pace again knowing that the hesitation would have cost me valuable seconds.
The final mile is by far the toughest section of the course, of most local courses you will ever encounter in fact. On tired legs, at the end of a short sharp race it really is tough going over the heavy undulating muddy fields. The finale starts with a sharp right turn off the road followed by a very steep off road climb. I was digging deep at this point taking two short inhales of breath to each exhale. “recover on the downhill” I repeated in my head over and over and before long the hill began to level off. I continued to run as hard as I could, fighting the urge to look behind, concerned that it would spur on the trailing runners and also worried I wouldn’t be able to respond if anyone should pass. Trying to control my breathing and form while battling the urge to use the past weeks events as an excuse to slow.
Thankfully nobody did, the previous year I had passed 5 runners in the final mile to finish second and my determination not to let this happen to me seemed to be enough to carry me off the tough terrain and onto the flat firmer school field. As the course snaked around the school field I continued giving it 100% until I finally allowed myself to look to the side and catch a glimpse of how large a gap, if any, I had. I was pleased to see I had a fair distance allowed myself to ease off just slightly to a more comfortable finish. I crossed the finish and gratefully received my first place token before treating myself to a lie down, very much alike last years race.
It was then a case of watching the rest of the field and my team battle it out for each respective place. The team didn’t disappoint and after an initial worrying influx of Ware runners, fellow Bishop’s Stortford runners began to arrive in their droves.
The teams effort saw us claim first place in the overall team and men’s competitions and second place in the ladies. The competition once again will come down to the final race, held in Harlow this coming Sunday.
Energy Gels used – N/A