South Yorkshire Cross Country #4 – Graves Park

It’s cross country time – well only the one for me because my excuse has been ultra running having not been able to make any of the other South Yorkshire Cross Countries. Given the fourth and final one of the series was on home turf at Graves Park in Sheffield I had no excuse not to turn out – above all given I’d finished my ‘ultra’ stuff for the year.

I don’t think I quite realised how much 80 miles had taken out on my body only 2 weeks previous at the Hardwolds 80 After a full 10 days of no running (apart from trotting 2 miles up to the local Percy Pud 10km very slowly) I thought my legs would be ready to run all of 4 miles. But don’t ever underestimate an 80-mile ultra.

A short run is better than no run at all

It was a gorgeous crisp sunny December morning. The blue skies penetrated the park. Graves Park isn’t particularly known for its ‘flatness’, with a few little bumps here and there it makes a good cross country course – home to the Open Cross Country Races and Cutlers Relays as well as now part of the South Yorkshire Cross Country Series.

Despite the deceiving blue skies, it was cold. Having opted for shorts and vest I was a little shivery, to say the least on the start line. A little apprehensive too given 4 miles is a ‘long’ way for me, I really mean its a ‘short’ way for me and I am not used to running ‘fast’ (‘fast’ is all relative don’t forget).

It was 3 laps of the lower end of the park. Before we could shiver anymore and waste energy with more star jumps we were off. The first half mile or so is quite fast as it’s downhill, all on grassy muddy parkland. Into the woods the route goes, jumping over tree roots that rudely just appeared from beneath the muddy ground. A tight bend created some congestion on the first lap, I wasn’t overly bothered about getting ahead but more bothered about staying up straight. The first lap of the ‘hill’ involved a slimy camber, sludgy and slushy, having to already dig in deep with the spikes to keep up straight.

Effort: Work hard to get good, then work hard to get better

My shoes were already digging into me, spikes are not my thing, the shoes themselves are so narrow that my feet were pinching me on top, left and right. After being used to running in the roomy Altra’s all year, to change to spikes was not a good move. I’d been better off in my Altra Kings no doubt to save me from a week of minor niggles afterwards.

Enough of the winging of the shoes, its what it is. Lap one was done and only 2 more to go. I was feeling the effect of running faster than ultra pace as one of our club members came whizzing past me looking strong and sturdy. I had no particular desire to push on after her but was happy at my own pace. The second woody mudland was even more so, and the camber felt even more camberesque too after everyone had churned it up even more. Back on the top section, although flat and slightly downhill it was still a push to go through the start/finish to do it all over again.

Never Mess with Someone who Runs Through Mud for Fun

I caught up another member of our club, and we ran together for a little while. I was now blowing a bit too much out of my comfort zone – give me those 10-minute miles back, its much more ‘fun’. I let her go up the hill as I lost the strength to keep up, my legs were too heavy to fight with a fellow club member. However, there were a couple of other none club members ahead who I had my eye on and was going to drag down.  So I did, one got as the course levelled off then another as the course meandered down to the finish as I put in a sprint straight to the finish to bag my place just one second behind fellow club member who I had been running with previously.

4 miles spot on, 4 miles I hear you cry, 4 muddy miles, that’s harder than a 40 miler or an 80 miler, in an outlandish sort of way. But that’s the joy of running.

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