Cross Country this year has been a real roller coaster ride. I went into the season with extremely high hopes. I had just had a very successful track season in which I managed to manage my mid-race anxiety for the majority of my races. I was also running very well at the start of the season: I had started pretty intense hill training in August and by September, I felt very prepared. This showed when I ran my first two school races, performing excellently. It was going to be a great season!
Unfortunately, this high didn’t last very long. My first club cross country of the season was major let down. The anxiety had a major return and I found myself in tears upon crossing the line and throughout the hours that followed. Unfortunately, this would be a common occurrence in the throughout the season.
Through October and early November, I had a long run of bad races. It was a vicious cycle because every time I had a bad run, I would lose a lot of confidence which would increase my anxiety making me run even worse next time.
In desperation, I decided that I need a change, quickly! I had the idea to join a new club (see here for all the reasons). My first race in the Kent League was a success and I really enjoyed it. To top it all off, the following day, I ran an a really good 10km race which was a major confidence boost! Things were finally starting to look up again!
There wasn’t much action of December aside from The Holly Run XC which, although it wasn’t my very best performance, I really loved. January, however, was very busy. I started with the Kent County Championships. Unfortunately, it was back to the disappointments. As soon as I started the run, I felt physically sick with nerves and performed much worse than I know I was capable of, dashing any hopes of making the Kent Inter-counties Team.
Not long after the Kents, I had another Surrey League which was mediocre. Then, to end January, I had the worst race of my entire life. The South Of England XC was a complete nightmare, having injured myself in dodgeball in PE the day before. Although this race left me distraught, it was the final straw that led us to seek professional help.
Seeing the hypnotherapist showed immediate benefits. Luckily, these benefits could not have come sooner. The same week, I ran a mini marathon place securing time at parkrun and 7th February was London School’s. I was very relaxed and managed a good performance to come 10th as the lower age. I am still very frustrated about missing out on English School’s selection by less than 10 seconds (particularly as we were put with the Senior Girls so I did not know my position – I was told I was 21st out of both age categories but had no clue that I was so close to top 8 in the Inter Girls) but considering I had come 43rd and 32nd the previous years, I was happy.
My next race was the Nationals – another disappointing performance because I really struggled to contain my anxiety on such a tough course with huge a crazy huge number of people! But luckily, I had one more race. It was an Inter-School’s Race that was relatively chilled but meant a lot to me. It somehow ended up being the muddiest race of my life, even though I had done the Nationals (I ended up with mud on my face for the first time) but I loved every second of it and managed to come 5th with year 10s, 11s, 12s and 13s. It was a nice end to what had been an emotional season.
I may not have accomplished my main goals for this cross country season, but I have learnt a lot. One major thing, which I was warned about but decided to ignore, is not to go too hard too early. I dove hard into cross country training when most people were winding down from the track or having complete time off. This meant that I was in great shape at the very beginning of the season, beating people who would later thrash me but as I had trained so much early on, I would struggle to make improvements throughout the season whereas most people would end up hitting their peak around January, when it is most important. I am taking this knowledge into the track season and ensuring that I don’t start overloading myself with speed work and track sessions too soon (which I am certainly not annoyed about) as last year, I did end up hitting a wall later in the season.
Furthermore, joining a new club was one of the best risks I have taken in terms of my development and I can’t wait to see how I progress with my new group. If you want a whole blog post on this, please let me know! In addition, seeing a hypnotherapist has left me with a stash of techniques I can use to help myself deal with my anxiety. I can now say that although I still have wobbles and the occasional panic, I am more regularly putting in relaxed performances and know some great methods that tend to work for me! I still have a bit of a way to go but it is definitely a monumental step in the right direction.
Unsurprisingly, I am intensely excited for track season now. I am literally counting down the days and I spent most of this morning planning all of my races and training. This will be my first year as an U17 and I can’t wait to try out all the new events: namely, the 3000m and the steeplechase!! I am also looking forward for an opportunity to do myself justice with some good races! I generally find track a lot less stressful than cross country so I think it will be really fun to compete this year with my new club, now that I am more experienced.
Technically, my track season can start next Saturday as there is a SLAN League event but I am not sure I will attend because 1) it is the same day as Lewisham Mini Marathon Trials and although I already qualified for Bromley, I want to support my brother and 2) I don’t know if I am quite ready in terms of speed yet. I think it is more likely that my first event will be the Tonbridge Open on Easter Monday for which I am planning to run the 1500m and a steeplechase!
But right now, I can barely imagine myself racing as it is currently snowing heavily, much to my annoyance. As someone who previously loved snow, this month has really put me off it, mostly due to the inconvenience it causes for my training! I am very much hoping it was warmed up for April because I’m not quite sure I can last much longer with my hands freezing every time I step outside.
Anyway, thank you all for reading. I hope everyone had a great cross country season or, if you haven’t been competing, a good start to “Spring”. I know I always say this but I have some good blog posts lined up and with the Easter holidays right around the corner, I am going to make an effort to upload more…when I’m not doing statistic coursework (ugh).