The fifth race in the Gwent League Cross Country calendar and an important one for Parc Bryn Bach Running Club, in particular the men’s team. After the fourth event, PBB were at the top of Division 3 with North Somerset on our tails. We’d performed well during the fourth meet in Newport which helped us reach the top of the division so for this race all we needed was enough men to turn up to cement promotion to Division 2.
Coming in at a shade under 6 miles, the course mainly flat with some short, sharp hills thrown in for good measure. Located close to coast, the soil was sandy which meant there was a distinct lack of mud and being firmer meant you could maintain some good speed. Each lap was 3 miles which meant there were just two laps instead of the usual three on the other courses. This worked wonders psychologically as the middle lap is always the most difficult.
For the first mile or so I headed out at a pace I felt comfortable with and kept some team members in sight. Knowing the speed of fellow runners does help in gauging your pace/speed without having to look at your watch and my aim at that point was to always keep them in view and see how the race progressed.
Heading towards two miles in something happened. I’m not quite sure if it was that caffeine-rich coffee and beetroot bar I’d consumed prior to racing or an increase in confidence but nearing two miles something happened and I suddenly found some energy which allowed me to find another gear.
I felt comfortable with the increased pace but was worried that I wouldn’t be able to maintain it. I was running with club members that usually finish a fair few places ahead of me so I felt in new territory. And looking back at Strava, my heart rate from that point onwards was over 180bpm! Boy was I feeling it.
I maintained a solid 7:00 /mi pace for the rest of the race including the hills which were always a great opportunity to overtake or gain ground on those in front. However, hills in the last half mile were tough. You could see the finish line to your left but you knew that you had to wind around a couple more hills before the final stretch.
For a mile or so I managed to keep up with two other club runners and was determined not to let anyone finish in amongst us and even though I wasn’t sure how far away the next runner was I kept pushing on right to the finish line. Looking at the results I was just 2 seconds ahead of the next runner.
Since starting Cross Country back in October 2016 I’ve improved in both my performance on the day and how I attack each race. I can recall the early races being tough mentally but rather than focusing too much on each second of the race and how difficult it is, I try and focus on the feeling you get at the end.
This race, although no harder than any of the others, was tough. Running faster than usually really knocked me for six and in the hours after the race I felt like I had just run a tough race like an ultra! I think it was a combination of tired legs from the recent ultra and training and pushing myself to my (current!) limits.
Division 3 Champions!
Knowing that we would be out in force, North Somerset didn’t turn up, but that didn’t stop the men still putting on an outstanding performance and finishing top of the Division. The ladies also performed excellently finishing 5th in Division 1.