Cirencester Cross Country Report, by Jane Garton
Cirencester XC, 7 February 2016
I’m new to cross country, and throughout the four miles of hellish quagmire that was Horspath in January I swore ‘never again’ and really meant it. I swore a lot in fact. But the mind is a funny thing… and so it was that just a day or two later I found myself ordering a pair of spikes – and a few weeks later, after a Saturday of non-stop rain, I’m setting off into the hellish quagmire that is XC round 4 in Cirencester.
Well this is nice
So I’ve learned my lessons from my first two XCs – I’ve done my laces up properly, studied the route, and I didn’t eat brownie mix for breakfast. According to some very complicated-sounding sums I’m in with a chance of being the most-improved runner this year (gasp) so it’s all good – if I can stand the pressure! And at first it is all good. The woodland trail is beautiful, the mud’s not totally ridiculous, and thanks to the tree cover I’m spared the usual demoralising sight of a long line of runners stretching out for miles ahead of me. What’s more, my new spikes are amazing and unlike at Horspath I can concentrate on moving forward as opposed to not falling over. They aren’t exactly comfortable, but then I don’t think comfort’s a feature of XC. Heading downhill as fast as I dare, I catch a tree root and go flying. ‘Are you okay Eynsham?’ enquire a couple of kind ladies from Headington. I wonder who Eynsham is – I swear running shrinks my brain – but yes, thanks, I’m fine (they’re long gone).
Well that took the wind out of my sails. No damage done, though my Marcel Marceau gloves are caked (many thanks to whoever retrieved them and hung them up to dry in the tent). By halfway I feel truly diabolical and the rest is a muddy, painful, sick-feeling blur. And to think I was once indignant that the men’s race is longer. Jacky and Cecilia, your support was most encouraging, as was the fact I was anywhere near you. I emerge from the valley of mud (just one long ditch really) still in one piece… and I can’t describe my relief on hearing the cheers coming from the finish line. Rays of sunshine filter through the trees and everything sparkles and glows. Is this the elusive runner’s high? Can’t be, I feel terrible. I bend double for the final torture hill and at last it’s all over. Back at the tent (held up by twigs today) as I free my feet from my socks there’s another first for me – a blue toenail! A real runner at last! Though it kind of hurts now I know it’s there.
Do I like cross country racing? No. Did I enjoy the day? Yes, it was brilliant. Friendly runners, loads of support, delicious cakes (thanks again Jacky) and a real sense of achievement after it all. Well done Hannah (3rd place) and well done everyone else for some lovely running – for a more detailed breakdown, please see the proper report. Ooh I’ve just read it (‘performance of the day’ and 49 points, who me? I’m ringing my mum!).
Alas, spikes or no spikes I didn’t achieve my secret personal ambition of finishing in the first half but I can honestly say I couldn’t have tried harder this time. My post-race euphoria even survived the Sunday night homework hell and lasted well into Monday. And my goodness don’t Parkrun and the Botley Hills seem much easier after a dose of cross country. I hope everyone who missed Cirencester due to illness/ injury or important birthdays (many happy returns Kate) makes a full recovery in time for Harwell, and that some others might be tempted to give it a go (ah go on). See you there. Please, just let it be dry…