The early start to this year has felt slightly out of sorts with my training as my body is normally tuned to preparing for a Spring Marathon and with my big runs not scheduled for slightly later in the year, I’ve just been building things up without any great structure. Yesterday, however, that seemed to change and a plan is slowly forming. What was this magical breakthrough? Running a 12km race in the Scottish National Cross Country Championships at Callendar Park in Falkirk.
I enjoy running off-road and usually do a lot of it in December to build up my fitness for the road training in January but in December, I decided to try a Cross Country race in Cupar with Perth Road Runners. That race was particularly tough (ok, it was actually horrible) as I had already been exercising on Moncrieffe Hill and Kinnoull Hill that morning with clients and so I was already tired before I started. I was drawn to trying another one and I was told the Falkirk course would be easier. These kind of races aren’t exactly “easy” but I felt far more comfortable this time.
The race was 3 laps of a very undulating course and I made the same mistake as most people make by hitting the first mile too fast. I instantly slowed down a bit and took control of my pace and started to run much better. I train my clients to run at a pace where they will always feel like they’ve still got something left in the tank for that sprint finish and so I did just that. My PRR friend, Chris Paton, had gone off ahead of me and I felt I was struggling to keep up with him so I eased off a bit but kept him in my sights. I find it’s important in a race to find someone who is running either the same pace or just a little bit quicker to use to pace you so you have a focus.
My hill training came good as I found I was able to tackle the short, steep hills much easier and found I was closing the gap on the people in front of me as a result. I stayed behind Chris for a while then found on the 2nd lap that I was able to pass him. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was not to pass anyone unless I felt I could stay ahead of them and that’s what I did. Chris stayed with me for a bit but he soon found he couldn’t keep the pace going and so let me push on. I found the 3rd lap challenging but wanted to hang on so kept the pace steady until we came to the last hill when I picked up the pace again. I knew we didn’t have far to go and so I stepped into a familiar position of stepping up the pace a little, then doing it again a short while later then as soon as I saw the finish line, I went for it. The last bit was tough due to lack of fitness but I passed a couple of guys before the line.
The time (55.49) was pleasing but I know I’ve still got some way to go but I felt back in more familiar territory in terms of the way I ran the race and so I know I’m getting closer to where I want to be.