Georgey, taking to the water at Keysoe like a duck to...er...well, yes.
The image I had of cross country was stripping off in ice-cold conditions, running in wind, rain and ankle-deep snow and being covered in mud. As someone who suffers from Raynaud’s Syndrome it was far from appealing. So the notion of ever joining in on the Chiltern League seemed preposterous, particularly at Keysoe, one with a knee-deep water feature.
That was until Sam Sutherland pointed out that Queen's Park Harriers was amazingly third in the league table and had a chance of being promoted. Exciting times, and despite my previous aversion to the idea of cross country, I consider myself as part of a team; I couldn’t let the side down. After a quick detour to Decathlon to pick up my first-ever pair of whopping 15mm spikes, I was ready—and clearly I was anticipating a mud slide.
The journey to Keysoe was around 90 minutes, ending in a lovely equestrian facility which became our makeshift cross country venue. The women’s distance was around 6km, while the men’s was 10km, which was two or three laps respectively of the course. That meant—yes you got it—two or three journeys into and out of the freezing water on a grey, windy, 10-degree day—eek!
A great number of Hoopsters turned up to splash around, most likely due to the propaganda and poster boy Neil’s video from a previous year (great slow-mo action).
Three, two, one...GO! We were off! The course was fully off road on springy grass (evidenced by the large strips of rubber impaled on all spikes) lined with large pieces of gravel. I nervously set off at a comfortable pace to enjoy the views and avoid turning my ankles on any hidden holes. Running in spikes for the first time was surprisingly easy and was particularly helpful when ascending the undulations. However, what I hadn’t considered was how to remove gravel from between my spikes mid-run, but thankfully that was only a minor problem.
So far so good; no broken ankles, gravel intermittently removed from between my spikes and no rain. Even the grunting lady behind me reminded me how good life is.
Then at around 2km came the water feature.
I could hear it before I saw it. The main crowd of spectators had gathered to watch as runners waded through the water in varying styles. I timidly entered the water at half-pace expecting cold shock, but was relieved to feel it wasn’t as titanically cold as I expected. It was actually quite pleasant, with the added benefit of removing a pesky stone that wouldn’t budge.
My style appeared to be that of a leaping deer rather than a seasoned runner, but at least I didn’t take a nose dive into the murky waters. Once safely on the other side my spirits were lifted further as I noticed my spikes were now nice and clean. The second lap was over before I knew it and was accompanied by the same grunting lady behind me. This time I thoroughly looked forward to the water jump. QPH supporters were as fabulous as always as I splashed my way through like a child in an over-sized puddle.
The sprint finish came too soon, and was a bit of a surprise with being slightly uphill and after a sharp corner. I ended my first Keysoe cross country in a respectable time and on a high. Who would have thought getting wet and muddy could be such fun!
Find out how all the Hoops got on at Keysoe here.