Leonie Clitherow reports: I recently ran the Croome Capability Canter because I thought it would be a nice excuse to escape the city and see some countryside… then I found mud, puddles and some equally mad BvH cross country runners and had a brilliantly fun run.
So I accidentally entered my first cross country race…
A cold frosty morning in Stirchley suggested firm, frozen ground, great for those of us with no running spikes! This lasted until just after breakfast and was soon replaced with drizzle and damp… Time to point out here that cross country races start at a very civilised time (13:30), allowing ample opportunity to eat plenty of breakfast and ‘carbo-load’ before running. By the time we met at Rowheath the rain had stopped and the weather turned out nice, albeit cold!
Arriving at Burbage the super keen BvH ladies suggested a ‘warm up run’ (warming up for me usually involves pinning my number to my vest and walking to the start line, not so with these runners, they do things properly). The warm up allowed a useful recce of part of the course and a chance to test the depth of the mud (it was deep) and for me to camouflage the shiny new superman-coloured trail shoes.
Slightly out of breath, but actually warmed up for the first time ever it was time to strip off the warm layers and freeze BvH style (no long sleeves allowed under team vests…oh no, Bournville ladies are hardcore! I opted for the sneaky vest under vest style, a little bit of warmth, but no one could accuse me of being a wimp!).
Standing on the start line allowed me time to size up the opposition: quite daunting for someone fairly new to this running lark, everyone looked very keen, but knowing only the first three runners in the team count (and equally knowing there was no danger of me being one of those) thankfully took the pressure off.
Before I knew it the horn had sounded and it was time to start running! Everyone seemed to take off at supersonic speed for the first dash across the field. This is all very well, but my feet seemed to do the cartoon-style spinning around without going anywhere as I struggled to find grip, and in a short time the speedy ladies had shot off and the pack had spread out across the common.
It didn’t take long to hit the first puddles. The layer of ice and thick, gloopy mud underneath added an interesting contrast to the churned up grass. There’s no being lady-like and delicate about muddy puddles, the fun is all in ploughing straight through and getting plastered. I couldn’t help thinking some people pay a lot of money to get covered in therapeutic spa mud, here we were having the same experience whilst doing some great aerobic exercise in the fresh air.
I think I’ll give the spa a miss. After the first puddles was a tiny stretch of grit path, which gave me my one and only chance to pick up any speed compared to the spikes-wearing proper runners. A very gentle incline after this felt considerably harder than it should have owing to one foot going forward whilst the other slid back. I didn’t fall over though, thanks to my very ungraceful windmill arms dance moves (definitely one to break out at the next BvH disco-I’ll add it to my growing repertoire of embarrassing dancing).
The race wound its way around the common before dipping into the woodlands for the true spa experience. If I thought the mud was deep before, this was something else. The fastest runners had done an excellent job of churning it up for the rest of us and it made for amusing skipping, slipping, flailing and splashing to claw my way through it. After the woods was slightly easier (it’s all relative: wet, muddy grass isn’t exactly tarmac) and we picked up the pace across the field ready to start lap two.
My legs were certainly protesting at this point, I think the lower half of me was thinking mud= relaxing spa whilst my brain had spotted a BRAT runner who needed to be overtaken. A small group of similar paced runners had now formed and we played a game of alternating overtaking (me mostly being overtaken) as we splashed and slipped through the even more churned up mud. Suddenly we were back under the trees in the thickest gloop.
I was so close to the BRAT runner, but with her spikes she kept in front. The final dash across the field to the finish line arrived sooner than I expected and my legs gave up protesting for a final heroic sprint to the finish. I say heroic, it was a last minute moment of madness to overtake the BRAT runner, that lead to a less than glamorous stagger to the end of the finishing funnel bent double, trying not to vomit.
After finding the rest of the BvH ladies and rehydrating with a hot chocolate and refuelling with Nicola’s excellent goody bag (homemade mince pies!!!) I felt much better.
All in all, a great day out: the rest of the team were so friendly and definitely got me over my running nerves, so thank you ladies! Cross country is hard work but so much more enjoyable than pounding along the pavements.
Will I do it again? YES! But please Father Christmas, can you slip some spikes into my stocking this year?!
Race results (PDF) were up very quickly after the race; first three BvH runners were:
Mel James (27:56)
Linda Howell (27:58)
Caroline Harlan-Marks (29:28)
Well done ladies! I managed 35:26, which being my first cross country race is now a time to beat at the next race! As to the teams, BvH was 8th overall and a fantastic 3rd place in the master’s rankings!
- Toilets: only one at the café at the common, but very nice new toilets at the school where we collected our numbers, plus showers, hairdryers and hair straighteners (!!!) We gave this a miss and went for the dried on mud look.
- Parking, plentiful, either at the school or the common
- Goody bag: thanks Nicola! Plenty of yummy post-race treats
- Marshalls: enough to route find and plenty of red and white tape so no danger of getting lost (handy tip, if you run at my speed there’s plenty of other people to follow!)