National Cross-Country Championships – Parliament Hill – London – Saturday 24th February 2018
Every year, in February, the National Cross-Country Championships return. This is an event open to first claim members of Clubs affiliated to England Athletics. This is everyone’s opportunity to run against some of the best cross-country runners in the country – when I say against I mean that you may all set off together but obviously don’t finish anywhere near the really good runners. It is a huge event every year with around 7,500 entrants, over all age groups – kids upwards.
It is a must race for all club members to participate in even if just the once, for the experience – that includes you Potter so don’t be put off by the risk of a little mud!
Chris organised a 49-seater coach for us to get to the event. We did manage to get some additional family and friends on this plus 4 of the Long Eaton entrants. It’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t fill the bus but maybe next time ?
So – we set off at 8.30 and we arrive at 11.30ish. Now bearing in mind that the ladies race doesn’t start till 2.20 this might seem a little early but we do need to make sure we get our coach onto the course for parking ?. Some of the non-running family members then took the opportunity to go to London shopping and the rest of us donned our wellies on and headed off to set up camp. Wellies are a must on a National Cross-Country event……
We found a nice little spot at the top of the hill with a little shelter in the trees. The sun was shining and it felt relatively warn, for the time of year. We didn’t know this at the time but it wasn’t until you ventured down the field that you noticed a brisk cold wind blowing across the course but, hey, you wouldn’t notice that once you were running ?
Plenty of time till the races so we had time to waste so we all have a wander, picked up numbers and returned. A little later we then visited the on-site farmer’s market – just to ensure that we were fully ready and fed for the forthcoming race.
It wasn’t too long before the ladies had to warm up and shortly after they were set on their way around their 8K course. Being at the top of the hill it’s always good to everyone plodding up the steady incline. Runners numbers were, once again up and 1113 ladies finished the race.
After the ladies’ race sets off we start our normal running warm up procedures and then head off to the men’s starting area which gives the spectators the scope to see how big an event this really is. (there were 2328 men finishers!).
The race starts and we head off up the hill – The start is around 150 meters wide but by the top of the hill this has reduced to around 20 meters so funnelling everyone through this is always difficult and gets a little stoppy / starty at times (unless you are at the front). This theme continues is two other narrow places in the first mile of the course but by then things have spread out. The men’s route is a smaller first lap and then two larger laps. This does throw you a little after the first lap as it makes the others seem so large….
Overall – not too bad. Yes – there was mud in some particular places and some of the course had cambers / bumps and roots to avoid / deal with. With the mud it’s always a case of go through it or round it and I think the course changes that much over 3 laps so you can’t consistently say which is / was the best route to take. The mud has been a lot worse in previous years so quite good that it wasn’t so bad.
After the race everyone freshens up – no showering as we don’t want to lose drinking time and then we head back to the bus to for a night in Camden Town, those not with us meet us there.
We then spend the evening drinking and getting merry. Some head off to get food before returning to finish drinking and then we get back on the bus for our trip home at 8.30.
We arrive back in Derby at around 10.30 and make our way home (Yes Spray – ignore the time on the bus as it was an hour fast) in the very cold… Others of course head to the Bridge Inn to have some more beer (now that they realise that they have not missed last orders) ? …