There was a good turnout from the club at the Nationals, held once more in Callendar Park in Falkirk this year. We arrived with a welcome addition to the team in the shape of the Bella Gazebo. Despite one of the walls attempting to swirl round the course at one point, without a race number and chip it was never going to gain us team points.
Although it my first time participating in this race, there was no need to be nervous as there were plenty of club members on hand who had raced here before and were happy to explain the course and what to look out for. In addition, the familiar sound of Brian Burnett’s commentary over the PA made it feel like a Bella race in Bellahouston Park and I was immediately put at ease.
After my last cross country experience, I decided that no matter how slow I was, the one thing I wouldn’t be was cold. I snuggled into my survival suit and didn’t protest too much at Gerry H’s slagging about how many layers I was wearing. He had a point. Although there was a wind chill factor in the cold February air, the sun at least made an appearance, and the torrential rain promised for the Senior Men’s Race never amounted to more than a thick drizzle.
With the largest field for 20 years, the start of both the Senior Women’s and Senior Men’s races was great to watch and even better to be part of. Callendar House made an impressive backdrop, and with hundreds of runners lined up in club colours it was like being on the set of Braveheart. At the gun you could feel the earth shake under a thousand feet hurling themselves at the first hill, inevitably far too quickly for the long battle with the course to come.
For a road runner, cross country is always hillier and muddier than the routes we’re used to, and Callendar Park was no exception. The hill at the back of the course was a river of mud by the end of the afternoon. Wearing trail shoes, I found my legs spinning like Fred Flintstone, except I wasn’t staying still, I was going backwards. I felt like a particularly poor contestant on Total Wipeout and the question was simply ‘when’ I’d fall flat on my face in the mud and not ‘if’. Amazingly, it was another runner who got an impromptu facial mud mask, 10 points from the Russian judge on the sidelines, and I escaped relatively unscathed.
Approaching the end of the second lap two thoughts crossed my mind. The first was how quick Callum Hawkins was as he lapped me and disappeared round the last bend to win the race. I then contemplated how unfair it was that the men had to run a lap more than the women but concluded my indignation wasn’t because I was a champion of equality, it was merely a result of me being tired and feeble.
The third lap my over zealous start caught up with me and I blew up. Although I started the lap with Kevin he eventually finished a full two minutes ahead of me. Thanks must go to the Bellas who encouraged me as they passed me during the first two laps, but by the time I reached the large ditch with 1km to go, I was exhausted and the only response I could muster to the encouraging shouts of “Looking good Henry” from the spectating Bellas was to ironically raise a single eyebrow.
The Bella Men’s team placed 8th and the Women 17th. Well done to everyone that took part and Club Captains Bruce and Judith. It was a great day out, as usual the support was great and it was fun to travel with everyone on the team bus. If you missed it this year, make sure you sign up for cross country next season. After this wake up call I’m straight back to training to learn some pace control and improve my strength endurance.
Full results are available on the Scottish Athletics website.