“Let’s go shopping tomorrow,” declared Mr C, much to my surprise as this is definitely not his number one choice of pastimes. Then he mentioned Real Buzz and it became apparent … he meant running related shopping!! Bang went the 3 inch high heeled patent shoes that I was dreaming of – Shaun had spikes of a completely different nature in mind – cross country spikes!
Having never run cross country at school, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for and it certainly wasn’t something that I had ever considered taking up at my age but… Having secured a ballot place for London (thanks again Mr C!) I thought it was time to get a little more serious about my running and start strengthening those legs of mine to ensure that they have a chance of carrying me round a meagre 26.2 miles. So, much to my own surprise, I agreed and two hours later found myself with the afore mentioned spikes in hand.
I really didn’t know what to expect at all. I hadn’t initially signed up for the cross country races as I was reserving judgement until I’d heard my running buddy (Denise’s) thoughts about Sefton Park. Needless to say, last Saturday, I found myself sitting (rather quietly and nervously) in the car, which incidentally looked like we were going on a fortnight’s skiing holiday, heading towards the sunnier climates of Hyndburn. “It looks like its brightening up,” I was told as I looked up at some rather dubious dark clouds – I wasn’t too convinced and I was right not to be. As we parked up, the heavens opened literally – timed to perfection!
We spotted Team Heyes and Simmo masquerading as market stallholder sheltering from the sudden downpour, so we set off across a rather muddy (and slippery) field to battle the elements and erect the women’s tent. Once it was up, we huddled together like penguins to keep warm and at this point I honestly thought to myself – What on earth am I doing? Then I remembered, Pauline Taylor had manged to complete this very course with a broken ankle. Time for me to shut up, man up and derobe (brrrrr). By the way, anyone who knows me realises that being cold and wet are not really options for me. Miss Cunliffe (AKA photographer and support crew for the day) was sent to tell me to warm up. Great I thought, time to get my layers back on. Absolutely not. What it really meant was that her dad had sent her to tell me to start jogging up and down the field – in the rain!!! But hey – I did it – if only to stop myself from dying of hypothermia.
After a delayed start and overcoming the most dangerous obstacle of the day – avoiding getting your spikes stuck in the orange netting as we jumped over it (slight exaggeration with the word jump), the gun sounded. Heeding Jackie’s advice to stay high or face the choice of running back up the slope again – and believe me that was not going to happen – we were off. The first lap took us half way round the football field and through a dark undulating wooded area that was, at times, ankle deep with mud. Then, we literally had to get over the next hurdle – a stream (think gazelles Ms Jones!!) to re-join the course.
We continued to meander our way thought the woods and negotiate some rather tricky obstacles until we ended up at the football pitch where we had more or less started. Some encouragement from our fellow Harriers, Pauline and Rachel, gave me the moral boost to conquer the next wooded area until I reached a steep, but thankfully, short climb. Luckily, without a head plant or a bum slide back to the bottom. Then it was round again.
Half way round the final lap, I could hear the sound of heavy breathing and fast feet !!! The men had set off. Initially, I found this a little daunting as they were pretty hell bent on passing. However, at the same time, it was reassuring – to a cross country novice- to hear words of encouragement from these guys who obviously take their running very seriously.
Finally, it was the steep climb again and a sharp left turn to the final straight. I’d made it! I hadn’t fallen flat on my a*** or landed face first in the stream. Nor had I fallen over the rather perilous trees stump that had caught out quite a few. But, more importantly …I was smiling.
Prior to setting off I’d declared to the girls that were would be no words needed to describe how I felt about cross country once I’d completed it. They needed just to look at my face, and my feelings would be very apparent, and they were…I’d loved it!!
It was then a quick dash to the tent to throw on some cleanish clothes in order to welcome the men’s team over the finish line.
To anyone like me who is feeling little nervous or apprehensive about cross country – my advice is – give it a go! It really doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you are. It’s a great experience especially when you are part of such supportive team with genuine comradeship and encouragement for each other.
Thanks guys for all your support and for a great day out – hope to see you all at the next one!!