Having suitably recovered from an epic coach journey, Nicola Brady reports from the English Cross-Country Relays (Mansfield, 2nd November 2013).
The day was off to an eventful start, when we set off from the pool and were heading down the main road towards the Tyne Tunnel and the bus began to shudder back and forth as soon as we began to gather any speed… DD pulled over and Paul Hilton rang the hire company to report the fault, only to be told that the bus had a speed restriction on it and could only do 62mph at the maximum…
After a long 4 hour bus journey, several bags of sweets and some sly photos of people asleep, we eventually arrived into Mansfield with full bladders after we had been unable to stop half way. We were greeted by Stevie Cairns and Izzy Knox who had thankfully registered the club with us running a bit late. We dashed through the crowds of people to find a spot to pitch the tent and just as we began laying it out on the grass, the sky turned black and the heavens opened. With no shelter and nowhere to hide, the team quickly put up the tent but it was too late, we all somewhat resembled a pack of drowned rats. Once we got inside and to top it all off – Double D decided this was a perfect opportunity for a team photo…. Needless to say I wasn’t impressed, as my hair was as flat as a pancake
I managed to scour the crowds and find my sister Gemma, who was participating in the event for her local club, Belper Harriers. I had no sooner found her and said hello then the ladies team were being called forward as the race as about to begin. The first leg ladies had set off, with all of us second leggers waiting in the wings for their return (including Gemma who had also been put on second leg). Once the first leg ladies started making an appearance towards the finish line, there was carnage as the guy calling out the numbers for the second leggers to start, couldn’t keep up as the ladies were coming in thick and fast. We were told to watch over the barriers ourselves for our team coming in. I heard Paul shout after a few minutes to indicate that Felicity (Watson) was approaching the finish, so I wished Gemma luck and off I went to the start line. I was on the starting line ready to go, when I saw Gemma out of the corner of my eye as her first leg lady was also on approach. My number was called and off I went, as was Gemma’s and off she went…. I knew this was going to be sibling rivalry!
The course started off with a small downhill and a winding turn heading uphill through a huge mud bath and towards the forest area, I felt quite out of breath after the first uphill but knew I had to keep it going at this pace if I wanted to be in with a decent chance of doing well. As we cut through the forest there was a steep downhill which was like another mud bath, but I heard some of the TBH lads shouting which really helped keep me going.
As we came up the other side and out of the forest area, I could really start to feel the pain as the course cut across the main field, but persevered as I seen Double D lurking with his camera and feared the worst about the mid-race photos that were being taken!! (sadly my photography skills are as good as my driving skills and none of the photos were any good – DD).
We then approached another forest type area which wasn’t as bad as the first, but I knew I was on my way back so tried to push on. After a final couple of twists and turns and trying to avoid Double D’s camera, I was on the home straight and was just in front of Gemma. I knew I had to try and do some sort of sprint finish to make sure she didn’t catch me.
I crossed the finish line and saw Izzy take off for her stint. Gemma finished shortly behind me and after a high 5 and removing our timing chips, we walked around to watch our third leggers come in and see Izzy’s sprint finish.
We hung around the barriers to watch the men’s races and cheered on the TBH lot, who were absolutely amazing and most definitely did the club proud!
After taking down the tent and packing everything away, it was back to the bus for us! We knew what a long journey was in store after the journey down, so what better way to get through it than with a couple of cheeky drinks. We stopped off at a garage and stocked up on some ice cold drinks for the journey back. Special thanks to Double D for making several toilet stops on the way back, as well as pretty much dropping everyone at their door. Much appreciated!!
All in all I think I speak on behalf of everyone that went down to Mansfield when I say it was a brilliant day out. It was great to be part of such a big event that had representatives from clubs from up and down the country and it also gave us the chance to get to know each other as a team a little better. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!!