After the long and steady 16 miles of last week’s Southside Six, this weekend’s race would be a very different experience! As I drew back the curtains this morning I was greeted with what can only be described as proper cross-country weather. I was instantly whisked away to memories of last year where I recall standing shivering in a field, caked in mud, and trying desperately to draw warmth from a small plastic cup of instant coffee. Glorious! How else would I want to spend my Saturday morning?
Once I had downed my first steaming cup of coffee and piled on the layers, it was time to head to the muddy field that would be our testing ground for the afternoon. Upon arrival it became clear that Bellahouston Park had transformed itself into some sort of carnival, with tents and gazebos galore in the colours of what seemed to be every running club in Scotland. It was with some initial disappointment therefore that I realised that my own club did not have our tent with us! As the entire squad huddled together and attempted to get changed under two umbrellas wedged precariously into a park bench I decided that this was all just part of the experience – at school I think they called it ‘character building’.
I caught the end of the junior race where my teammates Jack, Robbie and Adam did the Harriers proud with some fantastic performances. Shortly after this the ladies’ race whizzed past with Laura Muir claiming victory and the Bella ladies all putting in sterling performances – led home by Bernie O’Neil. Before long it was time for me to shed my warm clothes and make my way to the start line. It was clear that the water would be unavoidable and there were a few uncomfortable moments spent making my way to the start line while making futile attempts at avoiding the icy cold puddles. Eventually I just had to suck it up and accept that I could not delay the inevitable and I completed my warm up with a brisk set of strides as my feet got used to being wet and cold.
Taking my place on the start line at Nationals was like no other race I have ever participated in; looking across at the 338 other competitors – all eager to get moving – I felt like some sort of extra in a budget remake of Braveheart! The adrenaline was starting to kick in, and the elbows were coming out, as people desperately squeezed their way nearer to the front of the pack. There were two long seconds of silence before the gun shattered it and the herd of runners exploded over the start line, struggling to accelerate away from their opposition whilst maintaining their balance in the churned up mud that lay before them. A hundred yards into the race any plans of staying dry were dashed as we plunged into a deep puddle before emerging on the other side and attempting to re-establish a regular stride.
Cross Country is always going to be tough and, after 4 long, slippery kilometres, it finally came to an end. I managed to move up the leader board 4 places on last year although I was a little disappointed with my performance and I am looking forward to bringing the spikes out again next week at the Renfrewshire Champs – where Kenny will be making his own glorious x-country debut. The strange thing about Cross Country is that I always despise it during the race yet the moment that it is over I seem to forget the horror of the experience. The banter of the Harriers is always fantastic but I think Cross Country season brings out the best in the club: a bucket-load of support and a healthy dose of friendly competition. Bring on next week!