For almost the entire month of January, my running has revolved around one park…one hilly, muddy, never-ending park: the infamous Lloyd Park. In the past two weeks, I have had two races which had the exact same course -which actually worked well for me (as I will get to later). I had been doing Lloyd parkrun quite a lot as preparation so I knew it was a challenge- particularly the main hill- but, inevitably, being a cross country, the race courses had to be a fair bit harder (and with a lot more speedy girls)! Anyway, these were certainly an interesting pair of runs…
The first event was the Surrey County Championships. Leading up to the Saturday, I was really excited. My training over Christmas had been going really well and I had had a suitably easy week. Perhaps, I thought, it would be my best race…it wasn’t. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. It was pretty much “meh”. After my pre-race dinner of avocado pasta (which is the best thing ever and you should really try it), a good nights sleep and my traditional porridge, my family and I took boarded the tram. When we arrived, I had never seen the park so full! There were runner’s of all ages everywhere! Unfortunately, this just activated my nerves. After a not great warm-up and an even worse attempt at taping my spikes on (I think we need a bit more practice Dad) I found myself on the back row of the start line…as always! I started slowly as I usually do but I think it was probably a bit two slow as I was reportedly in the last 10! This did mean that I over-took a lot of people over-on but it did mean I had to work a lot harder.
The course also shocked me a bit. The first part was the same as the parkrun but, after the hill, I had no clue where we were heading and kept thinking that we had finished the hills when suddenly another would be looming. In addition, it was my first ever properly muddy cross country but, to be honest, the mud was the least of my worries.
Towards the second half over the run, I kept getting over-taken and I really lost my form. Instead of running, I was pretty much just hanging on. My nerves were effecting me particularly badly (due to a few people I have beaten being significantly further ahead) and I was a lot more tired than I should have been (the unravelled tape whipping my leg didn’t help much either). My muscles were screaming at me. I just wanted it to be over.
As you can probably tell, that wasn’t my best run. So, being me, I was desperate to improve upon it this week. On the Thursday before, my dad and I did a very short run which really was just strides (although it was in the snow) to ensure freshness in my legs…and, it seemed to work! The Surrey League race was much better. I was determined to stay calm and keep my form for the whole run. The conditions were awful: wind, snow on the ground, rain and cold which meant a whole lot of mud – but I definitely felt more confident.
I did something I have never done before: I started fast. For the first part, I was very high up the field. It was probably too fast but it didn’t really negatively effect me – I felt more confident and was dragged along by the faster runners. My legs didn’t ache nearly as much as the previous week and (despite a couple of my usual rivals running incredibly well) I managed to maintain my calmness. Because I knew the course, I was able to focus more on running aggressively instead of in fear. I pretty much had it under control – which was what I really wanted! I did begin to tire a bit towards the end but my coach told me I was 19th and I was desperate to get in the top 20 so I worked hard on the last downhill because top 20 U15 was one of my goals. Turns out, I was actually coming in the top 20 overall – in u15 and u17! I finished in 18th overall and 12th U15 which was a really nice surprise!
One thing I am taking away from that race is the pure excitement from my fast start. It was the coolest thing ever to be running fast and in the front group. I want that to happen every single run and I want to stay there. I am going to work my legs off until I can finish in the illusive top 10 and, once I get there, work towards winning! I have just over two weeks now before my next race (London School’s Cross Country – the course will probably seen easy compared to Lloyd) so I’m finally going to get some serious training in! Definitely going to do some proper hills (and another trip to Lloyd Parkrun). My love of cross country has been sparked yet again and I’m determined to do well!
I hope you enjoyed reading today’s blog post! I would just like to thank everyone for the lovely feedback on my last blog post (Dealing With Anxiety As A Runner)! I’ll definitely try to post some more different blog posts sometime soon! Also, well done to everyone who has raced recently (I know there have been lots of events) because it really takes a whole load of will-power to compete in the freezing cold!
Anyway, until next time, thanks for reading,