It may come as a surprise that at school I hated running. I hated most sport, but running I particularly hated. Specifically, cross country. It was cold and generally muddy, and all I really remember is hiding behind the pond.
But this Autumn to avoid FOMO and give myself a new challenge I joined a team of ladies representing the AR Collective in the Surrey XC Division 2 league. I missed the first fixture back in October (I was hungover, sorry), so today was my debut.
I didn’t know what to expect. In my mind I’d envisioned lots of grass and a flat course. There was definitely grass, but the course was far from flat. Rolling hills and pot holes greeted us on every turn. None the less, I actually had a great time.
Toeing the start line I was terrified. About 400 ladies, all eager to be front of pack to get ahead of the game. Fortunately I was gifted with fairly sharp elbows so found myself in the second row, but when 400 ladies start running at once it can’t come as a surprise that one of them stacked it instantly.
Once the first hundred-or-so meters were out of the way and the runners had evened out, the race became more enjoyable. One thing I noticed early on was how XC is more aggressive than the road races I’m used to. I remember early on one girl telling me to “move” and another grabbing my arm to pull me over. Fortunately I didn’t let either phase me and carried on regardless.
Approaching the first hill I was filled with dread. But hearing the sound of cowbells in the distance I focused less on the incline and more on who was waiting for me – the AR cheer squad who were absolutely fantastic for giving a boost when I needed it most. I was greeted by them three times more as they ran between cheer spots.
After 26 minutes of torture I crossed the finish line. Or rather, entered the funnel of ladies waiting to be counted. It was like herding cattle. When the results came through we had 10 scoring ladies, with the AR team placing 2nd and 6th. A strong result going into the third race, in January.
Looking back at race photos proves how much I enjoyed myself. Maybe a little too much. Note to self: work on game face.