Second Cross-country fixture: Much more mud

On Saturday the 12th of November I took part in my second cross country race. It was held at Epsom Downs racecourse. With there being heavy rain the few days prior to the fixture I knew that conditions would be muddy underfoot, especially compared to the first race around Wimbledon Common. I was excited to be racing on softer terrain and experience more normal cross country conditions.

With the race starting at 3pm a group of us got the 12:30ish train from Victoria. There were mini groups of Team AR (AR collective/advent running) XC heading to the racecourse from different stations. We arrived in plenty of time and all convened at Beefeater just opposite the start area. Some of our runners got their pre-race coffee fix and we kept warm for as long as possible. Once James arrived with the team vests etc we headed to the car to pin on our race numbers and drop our bags.

I opted to test out my Salomon Speedcross 4s. I think you can guess if this is pre or post race.

We then headed around the first part of the route, as we did at the first fixture. This was a) to warm up (definitely needed in the cold weather due to the wind) and b) to do some course research. Having learnt from the first race most of our team positioned themselves near the front of the pack. As JP mentioned it’s probably best to be overtaken by a few people than have to go around a load of other runners if you start too far back. Before the start everyone observed a minutes silence for the two girls who tragically lost their lives earlier in the week whilst out running. I think the whole running community has been shocked and deeply saddened by the event, my thoughts go out to all their friends and family.

3..2..1..GO! We were off, hundreds of runners stampeding down the racecourse like horses. Mud and sand flicking up our legs, that initial heavy breathing to get into a good position and on a good pace. The first kilometre or so was fun, jostling for a good line around the first few corners and down a couple of sharp slopes. Once we hit the first couple of inclines everyone had spread out and there was more room to breath. Initially there were four or five Team AR runners within a couple hundred metres. The course was nice and varied and there was only really one long steady incline. At this point I was chasing JP and Martin and wanted to close up with them in the next few kilometres.

Once back on a flatter section after approximately 3k I passed James. I then set my sights on reeling in Martin and overtaking as many other runners as possible. As I found with the first fixture I find it really motivating to be chasing people down as opposed to running for a time which is normally the case with road races.

Photo courtesy of Emily @em_runs_

I completed the first lap and was feeling good, my legs felt light but strong. I enjoyed the first section of the lap again, with more space to choose the racing line. I passed a few runners on the long incline and was gradually closing the gap to Martin. I knew if I could get close to him I would place pretty highly. With a couple of kilometres to go I upped my pace and continued to close the gap. The last kilometre being slightly downhill I pushed and overtook a few rivals. I just about managed to out kick a few runners and finished two seconds behind Martin.

Photo courtesy of Sarah @stella_runs

We congratulated each other on another great run and cheered the rest of the lads through the finish line. It wasn’t long before JP and Brewster were flying passed us. The team was super consistent again and I knew we’d be in with a chance of winning the fixture. It wasn’t as emphatic as our 90 point gap last time out but we still won by 7 or so points to increase our lead at the top. Great running lads! To be fair we were aided by having an awesome cheer crew with all sorts of musical instruments.

Once we’d all finished we tucked into some awesome AR XC branded cupcakes made by Roland and family, they were delicious. That is what cross country is all about, racing hard and enjoying the carmarederie. Overall it was a great outing and I can’t wait for the next fixture already, here’s hoping for even more mud!

See a lot of you soon

Steve

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