English National XC race report

Good judgement is the result of experience, experience is the result of bad judgment.
–Mark Twain

This is the race i’ve been waiting to come along all year.  2 yrs ago at Wollatton park I had one of my best races.  Well paced, strong and more importantly fast in 605th place.  I hoped with the quality on show and coupled with decent training recently that I would also put in a year so far defining run.  A little banter on Facebook with Steel city strider Doug Banks the previous night also made it interesting too.

11:30am Saturday 27th February I was picked up at Hillsborough Leisure centre by Chris Ireland along with Helen Pickford, Sian and Sarah Lowery.  All seemed ok. 2nd stop at waitrose for a few others and we were on our way down the M1 to Donington Park for this years event.  Arriving in good time we set the tent up but Helen Pickford started to feel really poorly.   The paramedics were called and eventually she was taken to the medical tent.

Usually I would take a look at the coarse, working out the hills and terrain under foot but i was too occupied with finding a portal-loo with loo roll remaining.  Eventually I found one and while doing my…..err….. that doesn’t matter. The ladies race started at 2:30pm.  With our race at 3pm there wasn’t time to take a look at the coarse. Helen had returned by now looking better after been force fed a Snickers bar.  I got stripped down, did a 1mile warm up then lined up in our pen. Soon it was time for the off.

On the buzzer 2000 men stormed down the long straight and into the 1st corner, I’d started quick but the terrain was bumpy but firm, another corner took us through what seemed like a trampled potato field and down a fast descent and into a lower field. Kevin Doyle shot past me striking up a conversation but something wasn’t feeling right. My heart was absolutely pounding against my chest, I slowed to calm this, took a look behind me and saw Doug 50mtr behind. Here we hit the first muddy hill climb.  The problem was it wasnt slippy mud but horrible sticky stuff. A couple of descents and more sticky climbs and it was past the finish for  2 of 3 2.5mile laps. Could I keep going? I was blowing hard.

I kept going but suffering and occasionally looking behind to see who was catching up.  I could see Doug still 50mtr behind and Ben Mahoney a bit behind him.  When we hit the 2nd field I took an high line to find good running surfaces but there wasn’t any.  I came back inside and tried to push.  Approaching the steep descent and Doug was now 50mtr in front of me.  What the hell!!!! I have no idea when or even how he went past without me noticing.   I began to feel some gut pain and decided to just concentrate on running as hard as my tired body could.  Fellow clubmate Matt Craig went past me and I tried to fight back but I was choosing poor lines through the sticky mud.

Into lap 3 and at around 6.2miles Ben caught me, told me had been chasing me down for 4miles and put a few metre on me. By now though I had worked through my problems and found a second wind. Having Ben there helped and a battle began. He’d find a few metre, Id gain it back and I had worked out the good line.  Going into the 2nd from last climb I kicked hard and pushed as hard as I could into the last climb.  I caught an Ethiopian guy and stayed with him into the finish straight.


Some people were sprinting in, where they found the energy i have no idea.  The Ethiopian guy lost his shoe 10mtr from the finish line and just stopped to pick it up.  I ran over the line just 5 seconds in front of Ben in 811th in 57.35. 

Not the race I was looking for but I had absolutely nothing left in the end.  I made my way back to the club tent and put on my road shoes and toddled off for a 1mile road warm down. It was heaven to be back on the road before returning for cake.  Comedy moment came with the fact the park is next to East Midland airport and more importantly the flight path for the planes coming in. Sometimes sideways in the wind.  Anyway, one came in so low that the tent lifted a little and there was a few nervous looks.  John Doherty bent down, picked up a cake and just casually remarked “if im going to die im doing it eating cake”

“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”



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