That’s how you start a year’s running! Today was a day of many firsts, the most important being my first run of the year, the first steps towards hitting my goal for the year. Then there was, in no particular order, my first race at Lord Wandsworth College and my first run in my new, gleaming, spotless cross country shoes. Actually, scratch that, my first cross country run in proper cross country shoes.
I never thought cross country was something I’d enjoy or even attempt when I started running in 2009. The memories of plodding around the school field at the back of the pack, getting lapped and generally being miserable stuck with me despite those memories being sepia tinged.
Even last year when I went to the same race to support my club in this traditional Christmas fixture it didn’t inspire me despite the grounds of the College being gorgeous, the weather on the day being dry, crisp and sunny with a slight chill in the air and the general camaraderie and bonhomie of my fellow CJs tickling the green eyed monster in me. I missed the racing, I didn’t care for the mud.
Still, here I am, running my third cross country race after answering the club’s call in October when we were men down due to a clash with a local race and the bug bit me. Here I am standing in a field in the cold, with not enough layers on an hour before the race. Here I am knowing I probably won’t score for the team and will struggle on the hills. Here I am knowing I’ll soon be caked in mud, will take it home and will have a lot of cleaning to do to appease my long-suffering wife.
Here I am with a big grin on my face, cracking jokes with my team mates about how many mince pies we’ll burn off and generally getting a ribbing about how my shoes won’t look so new, gleaming or spotless in next to no time.
They weren’t wrong, the race had been described to me as “proper” cross country beforehand and I now know what that means. There were lumps, bumps, ankle deep gloopy mud, puddles, roots, branches, more lumps, more bumps and even more ankle deep gloopy mud. Twice. Yup, two laps. How they managed to fit so much into just five or so miles is beyond me.
The race felt good though, I was able to maintain a good pace where the ground was firmer and the gradient not too steep which bodes well for the coming weeks on the road. I will admit to walking up the hill, twice, no Kate Bush for me today! It was a timely reminder to try and do more hill sessions, the area around me is relatively flat so any hills in races are always a struggle, perhaps some treadmill work on a decent incline might be a good shout. Overall it will probably one of the slowest runs I’ll do this year, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the worst of the year, I’m sure that’s still to come.
Right now though, I’m going to rest my aching calves, treat the blister on my little toe and look on at my not new, not gleaming and now spotty shoes and remind myself to clean them before I’ve showered and changed if I don’t want to shower and change all over again. Still learning.