South of England XC Champs, 16 February

Report on the Men’s Championship by Peter Simpson

Originally scheduled for 26 January, it was eventually held on 16 February due to the severe weather. There was a change to the start location but unsure of the reason apart from it being conveniently located close to the facilities and club tents. The men’s event, normally 15K was reduced alongwith the distances of all other events by 100 – 200 metres or halfway up the climb to Parliament Hill. David Campbell and myself were representing VRUK and after the race we met John Bennett, a 2nd claim member running for London club Edmonton RC.

Despite the recent drier conditions, experience of the hilly course led me to believe the conditions were still going to be tough, especially after all of the other events had taken place. I was ill earlier in the week and had not trained during the week so thought I needed to be cautious. Starting together in our allocated pen 50 on the start line, David soon went ahead of me and before the end of the first lap, i had lost sight of David, not that we had much time to look around us due to the difficult conditions. The mud was quite heavy for long stretches, making the runners work hard to avoid falling over or take detours to determine easier routes. There was some relief in parts, allowing us to recover especially towards the end of each lap when it was mainly flat. The milder weather certainly helped but as usual towards the end of the afternoon it was getting noticably colder.

I managed to keep a steady pace and generally hold my position. It can as a surprise when David appeared in front of me just before our long descent halfway round the final 3rd lap. I overtook David but did not open a large gap. I did find that I struggled with the conditions on the final descent, concerned that I was going to topple over which slowed me. By the time we  finished I had a lot of mud on the timing chip around the ankle and with numb hands I had to ask a marshal to remove it. I also had further problems taking the shoes off, the joys of cross country! Afterwards we met John Bennett outside the changing rooms of Highgate Harriers AC, the same facilities we recommend on other visits to Hampstead Heath for training.

The results:

John Bennett  1.17.41,  440 / 541
Peter Simpson  1.18.36,  445th
David Campbell  1.18.49,  449th

Unfortunately this event has only given competitors in the English National XC Champs a week’s break with it scheduled for 23 February. David and myself will be travelling up on the day to the Herrington Country Park venue near Sunderland where we will meet local member James Bailey. The forecast ahead appears to be mostly dry if very cold and frosty.