My first cross country race had taken place the previous week in Bridgend and was part of the Gwent League which apparently was ‘easier’ than the Gwent Leisure Centre League – and this first race was supposedly the ‘easiest’ of all the fixtures in the GLCL calendar! I had performed well in the Gwent League race maintaining a good 10K pace but was still tough.
Taking place at the end of my birthday week, I had spent the previous days camped out in BrewDog tasting beers from the annual CollabFest so wasn’t quite sure how the race would pan out. I was feeling pretty good on the morning and was briefed of the course route on arrival. There would be four laps for the gents and three for the ladies with a large ‘zig-zag’ climb up a hill on each lap. Due to the large number of runners there was amendment to the route which running in the opposite direction and then doubling back on yourself to cross the start line again. I guess you could class it as taking a run up to the first ascent!
As the course changed it meant I was now at the front pack and some fast runners. It’s always difficult to gauge pace on the first lap so I made sure I didn’t try and keep up with the faster runners and used the first lap to work out the easy and tough sections. The first climb through Cefn Woods was gradual and not too challenging but the four zig-zags up the hill certainly were tougher but I managed to maintain a decent pace. A flat section along the top of the hill allows you to catch your breath and some speed before two descents back into the wood. Being a little more technical the wooded section was the best part of the course.
Leaving the wood you wind around the edges of football pitches until crossing the finishing line to begin another lap. With another three laps to go I found myself breaking down each lap into sections to make it easier to get around. Wooded climb, zig-zag to tree, zig-zag to top, flat, descent, descent, wooded trail, home run, repeat.
Each lap was both harder and easier due to counting down to the finish and I found myself coping well with hills. It was interesting to be alongside a similar group of people the entire race where I’d gain on them on the ascent only for them to overtake me on the descent and then I’d meet them again on the ascent.
All was going swimmingly until end of the last lap when I had descended and made my way through the wood but leaving the wood and winding around the football pitches I either tripped or lost my footing but I went flying with only about 200 yards to go. Luckily I was able to pick myself up straight away without losing much time and ended up with just a sore arm.
It was inevitable that I was going to fall at some point during cross country so was good to experience one early into the season.
Route Map, Profile and Race Analysis
I was pleased with my overall result and placing and gave it as best as I could on the day. Runners quite often say that races are 90% mental and the rest is physical and that’s so true. During the race so many thoughts go through your mind including many ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘I’m never doing this type of race again’, but after the race, like with any other race, those thoughts quickly subside and you start planning and looking forward to the next race.