We’ve had a great Summer this year, but you know that Autumn is here when the Cross Country season gets underway.  Saturday saw the first race of the Gloucestershire League at Old Down Country Estate, near Bristol.  It was the first time that we had raced at this venue and although it was a 56 mile journey there, it was worth it, as the views from the estate were spectacular and a glimpse of the orchard that we were to run through gave us hope for a scenic run.

Due to other races taking place locally over the weekend, we didn’t have a big club attendance for this first race, but the ladies managed to field a team of 3 and the men also had 3 runners (although they needed 6 to qualify for a team result).  After the junior races had finished, the ladies lined up at the start ready to run the 3 lap course.  A quick recce of the conditions had made us all decide to wear trail shoes rather than spikes.

When the start of the race was signalled we set off, initially running around the play area and animals (I’m sure the llamas were bemused by all the activity going on).  This first part of the lap was pleasant, no mud, hills or obstacles to worry about. We then headed out onto a gravelly path and then out and downhill, where we had to watch our footing, whilst also trying to sneak a glimpse of the Severn bridge in the distance.  As we got to the bottom and turned we felt the force of the wind attempting to blow us sideways.  We all managed to stay upright and once we were at the end, we turned right and up into the woods.

I personally loved this bit; however, it was a bit treacherous with lots of roots, stones and twists and turns to contend with.  I witnessed 2 ladies fall but all BPJ ladies managed to stay upright.  The wooded area then continued uphill, which proved to be steep at the top, so once we had made our way out of the trees, it took a bit of time to recover.  We then headed into another field and along another gravelly path, where we ran straight into a headwind.  Once we had battled our way through this part we ran through the lovely orchard, mentioned earlier, and across a path and back to the start again for another 2 laps!

When approaching the hill on the third lap, it began to feel more like a mountain! So as varied, interesting and scenic as the course was, our legs were all grateful when we made it to the finish line after 4.2 miles.  I was first to finish for Black Pear Joggers in 60th position and a time of 36:13, next was Ewelina Skolihowska in 90th position and 39:04 and Rachel Booth finished in 41:50 and 109th position (after assisting a fellow runner).  The team finished in 24th place out of 31 teams.

Next up were the men who would be running approximately 9-10km, which involved one lap with a loop and then the three laps that the ladies had ran.  Chris Attwood was first to finish in 65th position and 43:46, followed by Mick Kennish-Ward in 135th and 47:38 and Dave Bessant in 193rd and 55:42.

I always find the first Cross Country race of the season to be a shock to the system, as no matter how well I think I might be running on the road, the effort involved in racing off-road seems to be 10 times more.  However, the benefits that Cross Country running provides (better leg strength and cardiovascular benefits) are worth the effort and the camaraderie amongst both the men and women’s teams makes it fun.

If you would like to join us for any of the cross country races, contact myself or Chris Attwood (mens Captain).  The next race for the Gloucestershire League is 3rd November and 10th November for Birmingham (mens, BPJ are hosting this one) and Midlands (ladies) league.