Skip to content

Is it a cross-country race, or is it a near-death experience?

24 March 2023

I’m not just here for the good days, the training revelations and pictures of dreamy footpaths. I’m here for the worst days too. The races that are so bad you don’t want to run another step, and even though you don’t give up, you can’t feel good about it afterwards because you hated it so much you wish you had given up.

I had one of those days at the last race of our local cross-country season on Sunday 12th March. Nearly two weeks have passed, but the pain is still fresh enough to write about it. I never enjoy this race. The final in our “frostbite” season, it’s always unseasonably warm, and lo, the sun was shining. It’s also famously windy, and lo, the wind was blowing.

Beginning in Huntingdon’s Jubilee Park, the five mile race starts with a long lap of a boggy playing field, where everyone goes pounding off too fast around the sides of a football pitch, blocking your view of the ankle-breaking divots in the grass. Once your heartrate is good and high, the field squeezes through a gap in a spiky hedge out onto the course proper: long miles of rough grassy paths on the fringes of exposed open farmland, somehow both flat and uphill, and buffeted by a constant howling gale.

The worst thing about this terrible race is how far ahead you can see. If you manage to lift your eyes up from the ground for a second, there will be a long string of faster runners in the distance, reminding you how much further you have to go. And the absolute very worst thing is the section in mile four where the sketchy path turns into a lumpy bank for half a mile. I won’t even call this part a “path” because literally no-one has set foot on it for a year since the last race. It is lumpy, tussocky, long grass, with huge holes and nowhere safe to put your feet. As soon as it began, I remembered it from the last time, and the urge to walk, stop, or lie down and wait for death, was overwhelming.

Luckily, most other runners were also hating it. Despite slowing down to what felt like a crawl, I didn’t get passed by many people. And several were walking – not something I usually see in a frostbite race. Looking at strava afterwards, I took a tiny shred of comfort from the misery of others.

I am ashamed of how sorry I felt for myself at the end of the race. It’s a team event, and our team did well. But instead of congratulating others on their runs, I went off in a huff and jogged around the field until I felt less angry. Yaxley Runners finished second on the day, and third in the league, but I only found this out on Monday, when I’d calmed down enough to check the website.

We all have bad days, and the important thing is to learn from them, right? Okay. The lesson I’m taking from this one is: never run this race again*

The camera does lie

*Only joking, Team Captain, I’ll be there.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: