My last race of 2012 took place on Saturday 8th December in a muddy farmers field. It was the venue for my club's annual Cross Country races. There had been torrential rain the week before and this led to last minute changes to the course. We were all relieved to find that we wouldn't have to endure the steep climb up the dreaded hill at the back of the field, not that that was going to make it any easier as the ground was saturated and full of divots left by the cows and sheep that would usually be grazing in the field!!
I have to admit that I'm not a huge Cross Country fan and I only run this race as it's my local one. It is however an opportunity to run without having to worry about times and pacing and to just go out and (try to) enjoy the experience.
On the day, it was dry, if a little on the chilly side. The juniors were the first out on the course and a number of races took place over distances ranging from 800m to 3k. Each lap of the course was 1k (approx) and seemed relatively flat but it was obvious from watching some of the juniors that actually running was going to prove very difficult indeed.
The main race of the day was the 5000m race for all senior runners (men and women) and had attracted just over 40 runners. My race plan, if you can call it that was to get round in one piece and not fall flat on my face at any point. The gun sounded and the first 200 metres lulled you into a false sense of security...the ground was firm and flat and you could stride out quite easily. Oh, if only the remainder of the course was in the same state but it wasn't and as the runners sorted themselves out, it was clear that even some of the elite runners at the front we're going to find it tough going.
I took the first lap steady as I wanted to get a feel for where the better ground might be, which boggy corners to avoid and see if there were any sections where I might be able to stride out properly and even pick up the pace. Having survived the first lap, as I started lap 2, I found myself in the middle of the pack on the heels of 2 fellow Dromore runners - Janice and Colin. This turned out to be a good tactic as I was able to see what problems they were encountering with the course and so I could then take a different line.
Lap 2 turned into lap 3 and as the race progressed, the course just got more churned up, the bends became slippier, the divots became deeper and everyone's pace got slower. I thought taking an inside line and keeping close to the tape that marked the course out would help but it was just as boggy and slippy here as it was in the middle of the course. My pace remained slow at best over laps 3 and 4 but I was still close to Janice and Colin who unbeknown to them, were keeping me going.
Lap 5, the final km lay ahead and it seemed to take an eternity to finish. My runners were caked in mud, I could barely lift my legs out of the ground and it was bloody freezing. In a road race I would save a bit for the sprint to the finish but today I was just pleased to finish, even if it was more of a stumble than a sprint!! My finish time was 27-41, which was slower than last year, however a number of people reckoned the full distance was closer to 5500m rather than 5000m.
We all headed back to leisure centre, where we had a well deserved cup of tea and slice of cake. This made it all worth while and I was just relieved that I wouldn't have to face another Cross Country for 12 months!!
Here I am, trying to run through the mud...