Position: 236th Time: 40:47

Ah XC, how I’ve missed you. Before Saturday the last time I raced an XC, and I mean raced and not plodded about after just coming back from injury like I did in March, was around January.

Breakfast was very heavy through fault of my own – for some reason I had loads of this chocolate porridge stuff. Walking to the shops my legs weren’t great either, after missing my running last weekend because of illness I’d done a heavy week of mileage. On Tuesday I ran to and from the club time trial which totaled 13 miles. Then on Thursday I ran to the club run before getting through the six miles with Tom.

Anyway, my morning was spent watching Eliud Kipchoge break the two-hour marathon on the Ineos 1:59 challenge. For a man who’s usually so calm and collected it was nice to see him celebrating so wildly.

I feel like I’m getting off-topic here, so onto the XC. It was a big race – probably the highest standard I’ve competed in. As it was the UK Cross Challenge (the national cross country series) you had top runners from all over England. The winner was Marc Scott, a Team GB 13:21 5K runner – yep that was the standard.

So I warmed up with Mark before doing some drills of my own. The course mostly took place over version three of the Cardiff Parkrun course, but unlike the summer it was much muddier.

In was almost unbelievable how crowded the start was, and the first K was all about finding some space to get my legs turning. The path we started on was an absolute bog, no amount of road running could really prepare you for it!

I did find it a bit weird knowing I was racing in the sense of it was a constant pace change. When I do my grass sessions around Caedelyn I have to adapt to the terrain slightly but this was just so up and down. Next time I’ll know to make use of the flats a bit more because that’s where I managed to take a few people.

The three-lap course included a log jump, in true XC fashion someone nearly stacked it just in front of me on the first time over! That log jump was actually my favourite part – it allowed me to get a mid-air breather!

My second lap was my slowest by quite a bit, luckily I had my Dad and Sister waiting on the turning just past the eventual finish line to notify me of a new one beginning.

That 1st,4th and 7th kilometre were my slowest purely because of how boggy it was on that opening straight. I guess you have to factor about six to seven races had taken place previously that day on the course.

One of the standout moments for me was going past Christmas style tree and Ron shouting “first San Dom u23”. I know that Ron because I’m the only one!

I was in race mode but at no point did I feel like I was really pushing it. Johnny, who’s coming back from injury, took me on the last kilometre and I don’t think I gave the push I was capable of to catch him, or at least take a few places.

The guy that took me at the end was rapid. I need work bursts into my training because in XC they’re so handy. To sum it up, I wasn’t overly pleased with the race but it didn’t go terribly either.

More importantly, San Domenico had their strongest start for a while with top 100 performances from Luke, Dan, Neil, Chris and Ian. You can read all about this is the San Domenico newsletter as well as how the ladies team got on.

At the end you had the classic moments that you only get with XC, like everyone congratulating each other at the end, Ron coming in and going, “well done to my lads” and the general camaraderie which you don’t get at other races.

For some reason had a swig of Alistair’s Belgian beer and a San Pelligrino after then did my warm down – not a good idea! Next time I’ll bring water and prepare much better.

Afterwards we went to the pub for a pint of the “fluid” and let’s just say my stomach did not agree with me after that cider and black.

So I feel XC ready now with up Pembrey Park up next in November, I’ll have to look up what the course is like on YouTube. Next weekend I think I’ll finally be doing Aberbeeg parkrun so until then!

Picture Credit: Robert Gale