By Annette Kelly
As I watched the rain come down in the morning from the comfort of my sofa, I thought the usual race day thoughts like “I can’t be arsed with running around a field today”. However, I had a word with myself and made my way to Lambton Estate, setting of the third race of the NEHL season. After the standard pre-race prep – find the tent, quick chat, join the queue for the portaloos, dump stuff in tent, brief warm-up – we made our way to the start.
We had a great turnout of TBH ladies. We had a chat about the good conditions; drizzle but not heavy rain, no wind, likely to be muddy, and weirdly still warm despite being halfway through the season already. I hadn’t run this course before but got some great advice from Rachel Turnbull “Get up the front at the start or else you’ll get stuck in a crowd at the first corner, and keep to the left going down the first big hill, it’s better”. Noted.
And we were off. Started up front and kept left going down the hill, all good so far. There’s a nice long stretch along the river that’s fairly flat and on a farm road that had muddy puddles and potholes but was still reasonably solid underfoot, so I made good progress. Got to the first of 2 hills, very steep so just marched up like everyone else then recovered on the downhill before reaching the second of the 2 hills, marched up this one also, then we were quickly into lap 2.
Halfway along the bottom road a spectator was counting places, I was 36th. This is not my rightful place, I’m usually much further back. But there were still the 2 hills to tackle and the medium and fast packs to come through en masse. The faster packs did trickle past but not in the numbers I was used to seeing. I marched up the 2 hills again without totally blowing up and before I knew it I was sprinting for the finish.
I felt like it had gone well overall. It was only later that l realised I finished in 48th place, was our 4th counter, and TBH finished 1st overall! I’ve raced nearly all the different XC courses over the years but I’d never even come close to counting for a team before. Of all the hilly, muddy, wild races I’d run, today was the day I finally counted! Delighted.
I’m a Group 4 runner – always have been and likely always will be – but it just goes to show that in cross-country everyone counts, no matter what level you run at. If anyone is interested in giving it a go and seeing what it’s all about, I highly recommend it. Come and have a chat with any of the leaders or regular runners and we’ll happily tell you all about it.