I got to wear a Cumbria vest. For sport. Amazing. That’s something that I had hoped might happen a while back, but certainly not for running.
I’d like to thank Mike Storey, a fellow DH Runner, firstly, for telling me about the Carlisle XC at Rickerby Park the morning after the DH Christmas Party, he said at the time he would do it too! Halfway round I was wishing I hadn’t either. That was my entry into cross country running, an alcohol fueled headache/don’t be sick fest. Having forgotten how much I’d suffered a month earlier, I decided to run the Cumbria XC Champs, also at Rickerby Park in January. I placed 9th and that was enough to receive a surprise email informing me I’d qualified to represent Cumbria at the Inter-Counties in Loughborough on March 11th. Chuck in a clarty 3rd at Knowsley Safari Park with blisters for the Northern XC Champs and I was race ready for a national event…
My alarm went off at 4.45am (not a typo) to catch the bus leaving Carlisle at 5.30am. We arrived at an airfield in/near/around Loughborough at 10.30am, the senior mens race wasn’t until 2.45pm. Queue 4 hours of standing about, paddling in the mud trying to watch the other races, in which Cumbria did quite well, especially the juniors (a 1st and a 2nd). It was noon when I realised I hadn’t taken any cash out and that 2 plain porridge pots from Asda and a banana weren’t going to sustain my energy levels for the rest of the afternoon. There’s always lessons to learn. Ignoring my hunger I went for a warm up with a few of the other lads, we ran 2 miles around part of the course and I got dropped. Ouch. Oh well, nothing left for it. Dribble the last of my water into my mouth and neck a caffeine gel… wait… that should have been the other way around.
The course was 3 small loops and 2 big loops, in a rather confusing order. The ground was pretty firm with sections of 50-100m of slop to get through and there wasn’t any big hills, wasn’t much flat stuff either in fairness. I’d have preferred it hillier.
2.44pm, standing in the Cumbria start gate with 8 team mates ahead of me. “Right, don’t go out to fast…” Jeez Louise! I ran a 5.30 something first mile and was 20 yards from the back! I grafted my way around the remaining 6.5 miles and finished in 53 minutes, placed 269th out of 284 runners, wasn’t the last Cumbrian to finish (one of my goals) and was fairly chuffed with my time. Andy Vernon won, he’s a double Olympian, 2 x European Championships medallist and has competed at the World Cross Country Championships 6 times. Fair company. Some guy who pooed himself came 2nd, he’ll be hoping no one remembers 2nd place! They won’t remember 269th either, but I will.
And that’s that. I’ve got a Cumbria vest for my wall.