At this time of year runners eschew the relative comfort of road running and go in search of lumpy bumpy off road courses.
I’ll start out by saying that cross country is not my thing. I first ran at a meet last year in Brecon whilst with Parc Bryn Bach Running Club. I only ran that day as I felt that living a mile from the course, it would look odd that I didn’t turn up; even if I did have to borrow suitable footwear! I did intend to do a few more races, buying trail shoes in the process, but I never got myself to the start line.
That is until I travelled with Brecon Athletic Club to Pembrey in order to run a 9.9km course which would include a small section on sand.
I haven’t figured out why yet but when I’m on a cross country route, my leg speed slows down, I just can’t get going. Those runners who I know are speedy on the road, are equally speedy off road. It’s something I will try and address.
There is still a disparity in the league that we were competing in, in that then women run a shorter route than the men. Several of the ladies who run for Brecon AC can easily out run and out pace me, and I wonder why the length of the courses haven’t been equalised yet. If we all signed up to a 10km, half marathon or marathon, then we would all run the same distance.
So, the men had to run two big laps around the course. The course wasn’t particularly hilly, its bumpy. Although one young lad at the club who is more than twice as fast as I am, told me it was pretty flat! The bumps were nicely spread out though.
I started towards the back of the 400 or so men who were running, They of course set off at a dash, I being a little more sensible and wary of what was ahead, kept a pace I knew I could maintain.
In the initial stages I kept with club mate Paul. A few weeks before over a 10k trail race Paul had easily left me behind. So I decided to keep with him this time and see if I could hang on. About three quarters of the way around the sand appears in the form of a short sharp incline up to a dune. Paul and I were side by side and he told me to go ahead, it being a narrowish path, I bounded up the sand, surprising myself and managed to keep the effort level the same and powered away from Paul. He congratulated me at the end of the race for overcoming the difference in our times over the two races.
Our running friends group has a motto; “Love a hill”. They are vital really for good running performance and strength and we do love a hill around Brecon. It’s that mentality that saw me gain many places on the longer bumpier bits of the course. At each one I overtook at least one person and held that place on the way down.
On the second lap I knew I was near the back. There is one section that makes a wide sweep of a field where its possible to see whose behind you. I felt like I was slowing down but the splits seemed okay. I took a few places on the sand dune part and the final hill before managing a sprint finish to gain a couple of more places! Every place counts in cross country.
I did enjoy my run to a point, the not being able to be as fast as I’d like is a bit annoying but something I can work on.
The next race is on Sunday at Parc Bryn Bach where we have been warned that it could be a bit boggy in places!! The weather has been rather wet this week so conditions may well be challenging.