At school we actively sought ways in which to avoid taking part in cross-country. Fast-forward several years and here we are willingly (almost, at least) taking part – and paying for the privilege. The Gloucester AAA cross-country league takes place across four events, between October and February, and the Pittville XC was the last of the series.
Having managed to run the previous three I was determined, despite still not fully fit (runner’s excuse thrown in again) following a bout of a rather stubborn virus, to complete the full house. The previous three had been at Rissington (near Bourton, in October), Blackbridge (Gloucester, November) and Wooton-under-Edge (December).
Rissington was quite hilly but not muddy and had a very good turn-out. Blackbridge is relatively flat but, for some reason, I found it tougher than Rissington. Wooton is apparently on the same stretch that the parkrun is held. All I’ll say is that if you like muddy parkruns with deceptive inclines, this may be for you.
Onto Pittville. Most of us are familiar with the section of the Park that hosts the Cheltenham parkrun. The XC course was extended across and around the pitch and putt area to generate a 3k lap. Throw in three of these laps plus an additional semi-loop at the start and you have a 9-plus k undulating run (for the men, the ladies are treated ‘only’ to 2 laps-plus-loop).
I managed to take a few shots of the ladies at the stream crossing before I casually meandered over to the tent area to change. Rather too casually as it transpired; I’d mistakenly assumed that start time to be 5 minutes later than it actually was. Cue flinging off of layers and a dash to the start line, the gun going off as I approached the mass from the wrong direction.
Some preparation that was. I looped around the start line and latched onto the rear of the runners. On a positive note, I could only gain places from here. However, entering the first lap ‘proper,’ it was quickly apparent that I wouldn’t be making up too many of those places. XC is quite competitive, and the general pace is higher than that of your usual off-road event. Plus, my body was not in the mood to be pushed hard.
It probably took me a lap or so to position myself where I was no longer passing people (in fact, one or two I had passed earlier came back by), so I spent the next lap focusing on staying with the small group I was in. On the final lap I waited until we were on the stretch prior to the stream crossing before turning on the taps. It was the equivalent of a trickle, but enough to break the group I had been with. All I had to do was keep going to the finish.
I managed that, in a fashion, helped greatly by the encouragement of the already-finished Almosts. I’d survived – which is more than could be said for my right shoe; a gaping hole on the inside-foot where the upper should meet the sole. Time to go shopping.
If you haven’t tried XC before, give it a go! It’s a great way to push your body through the winter months and, despite the more competitive nature of it, there is still a great sense of comradery.