Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Mud, sweat and beers - why I love XC

In a road race, you will run exactly the number of miles you signed up for. The course will be smooth and tarmaced and lovely. Everything will be planned down to the last detail and you'll be given the best possible chance of running your best possible race. When you finish you have an isotonic drink and a banana, then go home to calculate your split times.

In a cross-country race the opposite is a true. The distance will be a rough guess, the terrain entirely unpredictable, you might finish the race with fewer shoes than you started with, and you will definitely get muddy. You could get lost, or fall in a river, or trip on a rabbit hole, or be abused by the countryside in any number of exciting ways. When you finish you have beer and cake.

I was reminded of this distinction when I met up with some old friends in St Andrews yesterday, Megan and Chris, who were both kind enough to contribute to the first load of my mates running, and Gardner, these days more of a boxer than a runner, terrifyingly. Our only plan was to run a few miles, but I'm nearly two years out of University now and I had forgotten what this means to members of the Auld Grey Toon's cross country club. We started at a light pace following the Lade Braes, a very well maintained footpath along the Kinnesburn river, until the old, familiar suggestion sneaks in, this time from Chris: 'there's a trail over there...'

We're on a rough trail picking our way through a forest and over loose branches and rocks. The terrain is mad and undulating. Suddenly we're in an open, grassy park, then on a different trail, now crossing a road, a dodgy log bridge, then wading through mud. Bursting into a clearing I realise we're at another road crossing, where I am assured that it's tarmac from here on. Maybe they think I've gone soft?

I think Chris took offence to my shiny new shoes.
We enter the next section of footpath - last time I ran here this was a wild, insane bit of trail, muddy and wet and covered in so much interesting debris it looked like something out of the Lord of the Rings. Things are different now - Fife Council has for some reason invested cash in paving remote footpaths rather than filling potholes on busy roads, so this path is now completely accessible, though still outrageously steep. Not sure how I feel about this... We lose Gardner around this point - I think she had to go and punch something - but the three of us continue on our merry way and disgrace one of the golf courses with our muddy presence.

I experience another XC nuance that I had forgotten - whilst I normally do everything I can to run a perfectly even pace for the duration of my session, in XC training we run hard for a couple of miles, take a quick break and a breather, then run some more. The hard runs are hard, too; Megan made her debut for Scotland XC earlier this month, and Chris has legs like a freakin' racehorse. I just about keep up.

We finish after just under an hour; muddy, sweaty, cold and happy. I tracked our route with RunKeeper, and challenged Megan and Chris to guess the distance. They were both badly wrong, which is exactly what XC is about.

Thanks guys, I had a blast. Sign me up for the next mad race...

Happy mud-churning.


2011 to date - miles: 175.49, parkruns: 3, races: 0

No comments:

Post a Comment