This was never intended to be a blog post, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to say, so you can have the whole story... or you can go away, that's fine too.
I've never been a runner. My story is not going to be one of "never ran, then did a sub-3 h marathon two years after picking it up" which I find so annoying. I have no natural talent for running and every time I had a choice at school I'd disappear off to the swimming pool. I would be relieved when athletics wasn't running but shotput or discus. I've discovered over the last two years that my running story is going to involve a lot of hard work and effort on my part to even shave a few seconds, let alone minutes, off my time. And it's not going to take weeks or months.
Last year, I was asked if I wanted to do cross country. Faced with the memories of school and how horrible it was back then I declined. However, over this year, a few of my Tritons friends have said that it improved their running and helped their speed. I had a rethink, and then a few more of my friends said they were going to sign up for this winter. So I duly signed up with everyone else. I went out and bought my first pair of spikes (after the lady brought me some trail shoes, I had to carefully explain to her again what I wanted!) and I got myself a cross country vest with the Tritons stripes across it. My name didn't appear on the first list, which worried me a little, but Sarah (the organiser) assured me she had my name down.
The day arrived, and I had a terrible blocked nose. My office colleagues as well as my husband had been coughing and sneezing all week so it was no surprise that I'd caught my first winter cold. I had my day planned so I wasn't going to let the grogginess get in the way, and with the aid of a bit of max strength cold sachets I started getting ready and trying to tidy up the house in preparation for Stuart's friends arriving next weekend. They'd predicted heavy rain, but the weather didn't look too bad that morning. Jim called me to ask if I could go and pick up one of the girls from the tea hut, so I left the house and drove up to collect Sophie. Sophie told me she'd been out the night before for a leaving do so was feeling a bit groggy herself! It started raining as we left Blackheath, both of us realising we hadn't brought any raincoats, oh dear. As we got to the park, the heavens quite literally opened! Both of us yelped and I slowed down. We finally found the car park in a little lane which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. We decided to wait in the car until the rain calmed down, then braved the walk to the start. I decided to leave my hoodie in the car to keep it dry, but that meant that I was very cold! By the time I got to the start I was cold, and my middle finger had gone white - lovely Reynauds. I still wasn't sure whether I would wear my spikes until we slid to the bathroom and back. All too soon it was time to go!
I started at the back with Thea and Mel. Mel asked me what time I was hoping to finish in and I said half an hour. She said she'd stick with me, but I knew she'd disappear into the distance ahead of me. And it was the case. I did try to keep up but the uneven ground and their fast pace left me at the back. I found the course a bit confusing. Where were we going? I was glad for my spikes as it did get quite slippery at times! Coach W was there to cheer us on, as well as Simon and of course the girls going the other way. I even managed to pass a couple of girls who'd clearly run the first lap too fast. I found a pace I was comfortable with and tried to stick to it. The last hill came, and there was the finish! I'd done it in 32 min, which was a bit rubbish really, but I blame my cold and I think maybe a rest day before the next race might help.
I can definitely see why cross country will help me. Having to race regularly gets your legs used to working fast and the uneven ground makes me lift my legs, plus going through the mud is a bit like going through sand, which is supposed to be good training too. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm looking forward to the next one!