The day dawned bright and very cold. Early reports from Hoopsters on Parliament Hill were of hard ground, not at all muddy. This seemed like good news but there were many feet to cover the course before we all had our turn.
Some of us met up on the overground and arrived together to find the very welcome sight of the red and white flag along with the gazebo - all hail Louise Hinshelwood and family for bringing it to the Heath - its debut there I believe? So much nicer to ready yourself for a race from the shelter of a gazebo - the wind was fierce.
The juniors were represented by Jessica Ions and Sofia Raez in the Under 13 girls category, Archie St Giles and Emmet Collins in the Under 13 boys category, Noah Barnard, Alex Quin, William McKenzie and Antonio Raez in the Under 15 boys category and Nathan Barnard and Owen Quin in the U17 mens category. Together with the other 3,003 runners in the Children and Juniors races they managed to get that mud well and truly squishy and slippy by the time the small but perfectly formed Senior Women headed down the hill to run up that long, long hill at the start. Sophie Barnard, Louise Hinshelwood and Susan Kennedy had faced the mud and hills before but for Charlie Morris this was her first ever cross country - a great baptism. Off went the gun and they headed up the hill. Sad to say Sophie managed to turn her ankle on the furthest corner of the course having completed most of it and had to limp back to the gazebo - her first ever DNF. Susan and Charlie ran most of the race together with Louise just ahead - as the final kilometres came Susan went to the front for the run down the hill, closely followed by Louise and with Charlie just behind. Emma Jones was a reluctant supporter who would have rather been racing but was sensibly resting a sore knee.
The men's race had started long before the women had finished and the Hoops were represented by Michael Dmitrzak, Sam Sutherland, Nicholas Stallman, Richard Byrne, Richard Davis and Bill O’Connor. As well as the joyously churned mud, the men also got to experience almost 12km of the Heath – one ‘small’ lap and two ‘large’! The sun was out though, it was a beautiful day for it, and accents from across the country were banting up the first hill – “Charge!”, as they set off, possibly the best!
This is a great event and only held in London every three years, whether you’re racing or jogging there will always be someone else running a similar pace. The course never gets easier – as cross country doesn’t – but you learn to appreciate the mud, revel in the childishness of the experience, and the incredible downhill finish does absolute wonders for your average pace!
U13 GIRLS - 3km
Jessica Ions - 00:15:00 (237th)
Sofia Raez - 00:17:15 (424th)
U13 BOYS - 3km
Archie St Giles - 00:16:38 (547th)
Emmet Collins -