Well, another National Cross Country championship completed. That's my 17th in total; since 1992 I've done them all except 2 (1995 and 2000). It is a classic race, one that in my opinion should be included on every endurance runner's schedule for the year. More about that below.
First the facts. I finished 284th (from 447) in a time of 51.57. I was delighted to hear that the winner was Ali Hay from Central, particularly given the tragic death of his dad, Big Davie, at the beginning of the year. I wasn't so delighted to finish in 3rd place from the club, 29 seconds behind Phil M and 21 seconds behind Phil T. I was further behind than that at the end of the first lap and was making back some ground, and by the start of the 3rd lap was confident I would catch them both. Unfortunately they got into a race of their own, and I couldn't close it any more.
All in all I ran about as well as I expected. I haven't been doing much fast stuff, and it was my first race since the Strathaven 10k on 1 November last year. However, the facts don't lie. My position meant I was at 63.5% in the field; last year I was at 57.4%. My actual time was 5.1% worse than last year; the winner was 1.2% worse, the 100th person was 2.9% worse and the 200th person was 1.3% worse. So my relative performance was a lot worse than last year.
Having said all that, I don't really care. C'est la vie. I thoroughly enjoyed it today and would hope to be taking part in this race for years and years to come. As I ran down the home straight at the end of my 2nd lap (with 1 lap to go), I tried to remember the thoughts that were going through my mind so I could record them later. They were along the following lines: I'm 44, I'm running as hard as I can through a muddy field on a Saturday afternoon, what the f*ck am I doing here? But you know what? I'm loving it... I'm really lucky to be able to take part in a great event like this...even if I'm a bit slower than a few years ago..now I'm closing on the Phils... I'm going to get them this lap... bugger... they've seen each other and are starting to pick up the pace as they race each other.. I'm closing again... shit no I'm not, it's just because we were going up the hill.. they've pulled away down the other side..I'll keep digging in...still half a lap to go...need to watch I don't slip in the mud at this bend...I've a chance here, they look a bit tired, might get them over the last section...oh no, they've pulled away again...no way back now. Finished. Cough, cough, cough, splutter, cough. I forgot my new inhaler which would have made a huge difference to my time... probably 30 seconds...:)
In the first paragraph I mentioned that the National is a race I think all endurance runners should do. I have to say I was disappointed how few from our club (4 from a membership of around 50) and how few members of the WHW family took part. Don't get me wrong, there were some: I saw Kate Jenkins and Gail Murdoch in the women's race; Mags Turnbull was there supporting; the men's race had the 2 Phils, Marco Consani, Iain Rae, Hugh Kerr, Jim Drummond and I'm sure many others. However a lot of runners think that the National is too elitist and not for them, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. What other sport gives you the chance to actually participate in its 'Blue Riband' event? I don't see me ever getting the chance to take part in the Scottish Cup final at football, the final of the Scottish Swimming championships, the Camanachd Cup final at shinty, or the Open Golf championship at golf, so it is a real privilege to be able to run in the top Scottish endurance event of the year. Come on guys, let's see a bigger turnout next year - we probably aren't going to win it (I have even dropped my target of getting into the top half - top two thirds is now a satisfactory performance), but it is a fantastic experience just to be part of it. If you don't you're missing out - you can do a long slow run on the WHW any weekend, but you can only do the National once a year.