Danny Fletcher reports from a wind-swept Temple Park.
Sherman Cup / Davison Shield: Saturday, 25th Oct 2014
No longer a cross country virgin I arrived at Temple Park feeling a bit more relaxed than I had at Cramlington.
Looking at the weather forecast the night before I was happy to see that there would be no torrential rain and I would escape the mud for at least another month. The forecast however gave no warning about the wind that would greet us. The jacket sold to me as ‘wind proof’ clearly wasn’t, so after watching the ladies and a quick loo stop I hid away from the wind around the TBH tent for as long as possible.
Lindsay Walsh gave me a kick up the backside to warm up, so off came the jacket and I ran a couple of laps around the football pitch doing my drills before we were summoned to the start line.
Casting my mind back to the advice given by Davy Anderson after Cramlington I put myself in the middle of the group. I was going to let people overtake me, rather than starting at the back where I would likely stay for much of the race. The starting pistol was fired and with the smell of smoke in the air we were off.
After a quick start we were pretty much greeted by a hill straightaway. I found the start easier than Cramlington, the grass was shorter and rather than running round a bend and up a hill, this was a steady climb. At the top there was a nice downhill section before a long stretch flat stretch that was surrounded by trees, and better still protected from the wind. There didn’t seem to be as many hills as Cramlington, but the hills at Temple Park were a lot steeper. With training I have found hills easier to climb, but I’m still relatively unsure about running downhill. I didn’t know if I should go fast, or keep the same pace and enjoy them as a bit of a rest. I found myself overtaking runners on hills, but they would just overtake me again on the downhill section. One hill of note brought us down to what would be a stream when in wet conditions, but to me it was just a frustrating obstacle that every time I came to I couldn’t decide if I was supposed to jump over it or slow right down. In case you are wondering, I didn’t once jump over it. Following this obstacle there was a huge, what seemed like a vertical climb. On one lap I got a bit close to a fellow runner when overtaking and took and elbow to the face. I’m sure that wont be the last time that will happen over the season.
For me the hardest part of Temple Park was the long stretch on a tarmac path. After all the ups and downs it felt strange to run on the flat hard surface with the sound of spikes hitting the hard surface. It was at this point on the second lap where I really struggled and had to dig deep to keep on running.
I still think one of the best things about cross country running is the support you get from your fellow club runners and the other spectators. The route brought us back to the start area where the crowds were, and when I needed it most the cries “Well done Tyne Bridge” and “Come on Fletch” really boosted me. I felt particularly popular on the second lap when there was lots of clapping and shouts of Dan Dan Dan. This was short lived as I realised it wasn’t for me when I was lapped by Dan Jenkin of Durham City Harriers.
The final part of the route took us on a lap round the football fields. This was a nice flat section, but running into the wind made it difficult. I had to keep my head down as my cap was nearly lifted off my head a few times. I really pushed myself throughout and on the final lap I felt dead on my feet and thought I couldn’t push myself any harder. Towards the final stretch of the run I heard a coach from another club shouting at one of his runners, telling him I was on his shoulder and that he had to push hard. At this point I had no intention of overtaking him, I didn’t think I had it in me, but the coaches words of encouragement for his own runner actually encouraged me. I ran as hard as I could and passed the runner in front of me, and keeping that pace to the finishing line I passed a further two. I was really happy with my finish and again glad that I had decided to take part in cross country. I’m sure I’ll be even stronger come November, and hopefully I’ll finish in a time when the cakes in the Tyne Bridge Harriers tent haven’t all been eaten.