Lots of running and a little bit of mud

From -5 degrees Celsius to the positively balmy 11 degrees today…what is going on? And the crazy snow in the US, this doesn’t bode well for us I don’t think for the future!

But anyway, I did quite enjoy going to parkrun on Saturday morning and not a) freezing or b) getting soaked. It was misty, a bit chilly but otherwise perfect weather. No wind!

My friend, Kelly, from my running club, and I joke every week about how we’re neck and neck in the Netley Abbey points table. She’s number one and I’m number two. To be fair, she’s quite a distance from me and it would take her not to turn up to parkrun quite a few times for me to catch up but it’s nice banter anyway. There’s more chance of the number three lady overtaking me at the moment! I’d love it if Kelly and I both got podium places for the leadership board this year. I think there’s only about eight weeks or so left.

The parkrun itself felt really good. There was no wind, which definitely helped, but I felt speedier running. It was still tough going and the effort level was high but I was running a faster pace. And Royal flush negative splits! For so long I’ve had trouble with getting negative splits for 5ks but now I seem to have found the magic. Holding back a little at the start really does help.parkrun

My time was 22:31 which is my fastest parkrun since August (and that includes the Southampton parkrun at the start of the year which is so much more flat) and my fastest ever on the winter course. I’ll take that! Turns out hill training and my long runs seem to be working 🙂

Saturday evening I went round my friend’s house for a girlie evening with some other friends. We had takeaway and lots of moreish crisps (cheesy Doritos, why do you taste so damn good??). It was such a relaxed evening. Before we met up one of my friend’s messaged saying she just fancied wearing some comfy jeggings and a large jumper, and I said my hair would be scraped back into a pony tail and I’d be wearing my glasses and my other friends agreed on making zero effort – because that’s what friends are about: comfort and no judgement! Love evenings like that.

The next morning I got a nice lie-in as I’d planned to do the local cross country race which started at 11am and I was going to run there to make it into a long run. This meant I could set of after 9am. I ran 10 miles from Stubbington to Hedge End, which is actually quite an undulating route! I’d planned the route the night before and tried to remember the different road names I needed to take, but still somehow I got it wrong. It blew my mind when I popped out of a junction and found myself in a familiar area but of which I had never intended to get to. Thankfully and amazingly my route came to an almost perfect 10 miles (8.07min/mile ave).

10 miles

I arrived at the cross country race location, in Manor Farm, a bit earlier than anticipated (better to have had more time than be late though!). I found some of my Hedgie team mates and also the lovely couple who had looked after my bag as I needed to change into my Hedge End vest and my trail trainers.IMG_7788

It was chilly but not that cold and thankfully not raining. It was definitely squidgy and muddy underfoot though. The race started in a bit of a kerfuffle unfortunately as the path up to the start line was basically the same path we’d have to run down. This meant that trying to get past the start line to line-up (and past the speedies at the front) was quite tricky, especially as people weren’t keen to go all the way to the back. So in the end you just have a wall of people not moving, but facing directly at you ready to start – despite 1/3 of people still not actually behind the start yet!

The race itself was good fun. I definitely felt the previous miles on my legs at the beginning though. I’d already decided to continue with the same effort as before (long run speed) – though this would obviously mean slower in general as the terrain was so up and down and very muddy and technical underfoot. I wasn’t racing or pushing it as this would have been silly for me.IMG_7800

Photo credit: Becky Woollard

Despite this it was still really hard going. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though. The mud and windy paths were fun to run and it was always interesting. I did get mud splashed in my eye though my an over-zealous puddle splasher. It actually burned!IMG_7803

Photo credit: Becky Woollard

I knew that the race would end on a rather awful hill and when I got to it and checked with my team mate, Keith, running beside me that this was the end. It was. Otherwise I would have walked it if I still had a distance to go, but as I knew this was it I desperately tried to plough up it. Keith was amazing next to me keeping me going and encouraging me on.Manor Farm cross country (3)

Photo credit: Alan

The above photo is literally on the hill. I was fully aware of the camera but it was far more important to push up the hill and not die than try and smile and look relatively OK! Some of my team mates (and friends from other clubs) were at the top and shouted encouragement as well which was much appreciated!Manor Farm cross country splits

I’m really pleased with the splits and how I got on. I think I came 36th female overall? I can’t remember as I was in that much of a daze after the hill and possibly fourth in my club out of the ladies. Not too shabby!


I was covered in mud but chuffed. I’m so glad I didn’t bother cleaning my trail shoes beforehand either!

Cross country muddy legs

It was quite amusing putting my really muddy trail shoes on before the race as my socks were so clean in comparison!IMG_7795

Some of the Hedgie gang (Photo credit: Kate Maslin)

I had planned to stick around for cake (obviously) but my dad was picking me up and the refreshments area was apparently a long way a way. With a heavy and sad heart I headed to meet my dad. No cake for me 🙁

My dad had brought a number of bin bags for me to sit on, get into and generally keep the car clean as I’d pre-warned him about the mud. It worked quite well!IMG_7794

A terrible photo but basically me sitting inside a bin bag in the car

When I got home he suggested I wash the trainers…good idea! I don’t have an outdoors area or hose to do it at my flat or anywhere to keep them drying so I could utilise my parent’s facilities.IMG_7797

It worked quite well. I didn’t actually realise my dad was taking a photo of me at the time… I was trying not to splash myself which really was pointless considering how muddy I was anyway!IMG_7799

Ahh, look how shiny and clean they look! I don’t plan on doing any more cross country races in the future so hopefully these will stay relatively clean now (which I realise is kind of silly considering they’re trail shoes…). They’re now drying off in my parent’s garage – stuck on two poles to air properly.

The rest of the day I spent at my flat, chilling out and just resting. I was very tried from the long run and cross country but it was one of those satisfied feeling of tiredness. I watched random TV, read my book (Station Eleven – very good) and went on some nice walks with Alfie. I even treated myself to a cheeky Starbucks.IMG_7796

What did you get up to this weekend?

Do you combine long runs with other events to make them a bit more interesting?

What do you prefer: starting a race on a hill or ending a race on a hill? I prefer starting on a hill as the entire cross country race I was just dreading that hill.

Southern Cross Country – Lord Wandsworth College

My running club take part in the Southern Cross Country League which runs, joyfully, all through the winter months. But I’ve previously avoided cross country races like the plague.

It’s never been something I was tempted by because I was convinced I hated it (the mud, the cold, the hills, the competitive element) and it’s frequently been at awkward times in the day like 1pm or 2pm. But when there was one over the Christmas break at a relatively normal time (11am) I really had no excuse but to go and try it. It’s free, loads of my club were doing it and the car-share point was a short walk from where I live.

Ridiculous I know, but I was quite nervous. My running has been more plodding lately and I wasn’t sure how mud and hills would go down with me. But there was a lovely crowd going and I felt more at ease. I had no goals; just get round, get the miles in and use it as a training run. See what my legs fancied doing when I got there basically.Hedge End Running ClubThe weather was beautifully sunny, but fairly chilly. Still shorts and vest weather though – unbelievably at the end of December!

The course was two laps and I’d heard there was a nasty hill, which you’d therefore have to do twice. I did a little warm-up with the club and then headed to the start which was basically in a field. No one could hear what the race director was saying and we were all stood shivering just waiting until it was clear we were off.

It was a free-for-all at the start across the field until we got to the main course and then it was a case of finding your place in the line. I managed to overtake a chunk of people and then was stuck behind the person in front. This wasn’t so bad though as it forced you to pace yourself and you couldn’t go flat out. Well, you couldn’t really go flat out anyway as the trail was tricky under foot and very muddy in places.

Straight away my nerves disappeared and I was loving it. It was exciting, fun and required a lot of concentration for where to put your feet and what the person ahead of you was doing. We came to a bottleneck and everyone had to stop quickly, almost banging into each other, and then we were off again. It was just so different to normal road races where you’re go-go-go the entire time and focused on maintaining a certain pace. It was a completely different story. The course required you to pay attention and it involved jumping up verges, balancing along narrow pathways and slopping through ankle deep mud.

The downhills I took at breakneck speed to gain some places and get past people and then it was back to being behind someone. The infamous hill was a killer though. I’d already pre-planned to walk it (my friend, Chris, had advised this was the best way as it was so steep) so I took the time to catch my breath and plough on up. Some people attempted to run it but barely went faster than the walkers and most gave up and walked. Those who persevered with running were caught up again on the straight as they’d knackered themselves.

The second lap was even muddier due to all the people running over the course. I found myself smiling as I sloshed my way through the mud – happy to take the muddier route to get past a few more people who were teetering to the side.

I was putting in a good amount of effort and thoroughly enjoying myself. The miles ticked away quickly as you had no time to dwell on pace. Then it was the final stretch back to the start area (now the finish area).

Lord Wandsworth cross country

Photo credit: Dan Bailey

The ground underfoot became even trickier as it was now wet grass rather than mud and dirt and slipping became a real risk. I pushed on, seeing the finish in the distance (you could see the finish from about a quarter of a mile away which was both depressing and motivating).

Cross country splits

I finished first female in my running club and 18th female overall, which I was chuffed with! I was pleased with my paces as well. Not too shabby at all!

Everyone was covered in mud at the end. Some people washed the mud off in a large puddle but I was proud of my mud and left it be (plus I didn’t fancy getting cold and wet).


Also, how satisfying is picking dry mud of yourself? Just me…?IMG_7073

I was so chuffed with myself. I literally loved every minute of that race, tough as it was. It felt like an adventure and reminded me why I love the Cheddar Gorge and Stansted Slog trail races so much.

I hung around and cheered for the rest of my club and spent some time chatting with some of the guys at the club at the end…IMG_7075

Photo credit: Simon Sinclair

Not realising that a queue for the cake and tea had started!!Cross country cake

This wasn’t even all of the cake!

I knew there would be cake (you pay £1.50 for sandwiches, cake and tea) but I didn’t realise how bloody long the queue would be at the end. I might have got there a bit more sharpish. I started to get cake anxiety, fearing that all of it would be gone by the time I finally made it.

I needn’t have worried though… There was so much cake it was unreal. It’s funny because the line was also for the sandwiches but I just wanted cake so I asked if I could skip that line and just get to the cake bit (after queuing to get to the actual food area). I’d like to say it came as a surprise to my club that I had absolutely nothing savoury on my plate buuuut they know me too well.IMG_7072

That plate is pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Cake heaven!

So I’m now a cross country convert (and not just because of the cake…). There’s another race from the league at the end of January which I’m going to do as well which I’m looking forward to. I don’t know why I was so worried beforehand!

Have you ever run a cross country race before?

Do you like getting muddy when running?

What have you done recently that you were nervous about beforehand?