Well they do don’t they? I do, sort of. Road and track can get so monotonous at times that a grassy hilly alternative radiates appeal. Another advantage of cross country is that time doesn’t really mean anything, for someone who only recently started looking at her watch, being involved in a sport obsessed with splits can take away some of the fun. Not convinced? Well if nothing else, cross country provides a chance for adults to get muddy and jump in puddles.
Today was the annual Greater Manchester Cross Country Championships, held at the glorious Woodbank Park aka the park with ‘that hill’. Up and down the country, other muddy parks were used to host that county’s championship, with runners hoping to get through to the holy grail of cross country running: the inter-counties. To reach the cross country inter-counties you need to generally finish in the top 10 of the county champs race, with the main squad being made up of 8. In 2015 I managed to get into the Greater Manchester squad, mostly by default injury, and can vouch for the inters being an event that you want to fight to get into.
Back to 2017, inter-county selection for me was definitely not a possibility so it was all about given it a go and dare I say ‘enjoying’ it as much as possible, whilst still giving it some sort of effort. Drama commenced with the realisation that with 10 minutes to go before the race, I had left my running spikes in the car – cue mass panic and a swift jog (faster than you want before a race) to the car and back. With 2 minutes to go I had managed to get my spikes on, throw my extra layers at Jason and swift jog to the start line.
The race itself was as expected tough but that’s what you get at Woodbank. ‘That hill’ was climbed twice, in all reality it is one of those hills that would be best walking up. I finished about halfway in the field, probably my worst position in a cross country race but in my current running state I was proud to finish and not make a total show of myself. One of my club team mates, Cecilia, had a fantastic debut, finishing 15th and narrowly missing out on an inter-county golden ticket.
Coincidentally, there was also an international cross country event today. Mo Farah finished 7th, in a race that he was expected to challenge for the top spot. So a final reason as to why we should all love cross country must surely be for its sheer antithetical nature, unpredictability mixed with hard preparation.