Back in August I joined the Kent Athletics Club who, despite the name, train at the Ladywell running track in London not far from where I live.
It has been a fantastic, if exhausting, experience to go running with them every Tuesday night. I haven't really done speed work in a serious sense before, and they are all a lot quicker than I am, which has helped to push me along.
The winter running schedule seems to focus on cross country races, the annual PE sessions we all remember from school with dread. I missed all of the races before Christmas, but have signed up for three events in January, the first being the Kent Cross Country Championships last Saturday.
Rather than trudging round the fields in your rugby boots as we did at school, I bought some special cross country spikes which involved visiting three different running shops a couple of days before the race to get the right shoe size and spike length combination.
We arrived at the Kent County Showground for the race rediculously early and had quite a while hanging round in the cold before we decided to run a lap of the course as a warm up and to see what it was like.
The race started without much fanfare as the starter fired his gun and we all went tearing off down the field. I was hoping to keep up with a couple of other Kent runners but realised after about 500m that they were going to quickly for me so I better slow down.
The course was four laps, through a couple of sections of trees and across some fields used for clay pigeon shooting. I went backwards during the first lap and then managed to settle into a steady position pegging the gap to group of runners in front of me. Over the next three laps I managed to run a steady pace overtaking four or five runners on each lap. The hills seemed to be my friend as overtook nearly everyone I passed on the longest hill of the course as others seemed to flag.
My legs were beginnging to go on the final lap of the race and I could feel that the new shoes were giving me some serious blisters, but I tried to keep going. Looking at the data from my watch I was around 20 seconds slower on the final lap, but everyone around me must have been feeling the same as I managed to overtake a couple more people.
I pushed as hard as I could on the final hill to try and build up a gap to keep people behind me on the sprint to the finish line. Luckily my tactic seemed to work as I was only overtaken by one person as we approached the finished, but I managed to get back past them as we crossed the line. Photo finish!
I finished 62nd out of a field of 180 runners. I was the thirteenth Kent runner to cross the line, just out of the scoring positions. (The top twelve runners from each club score points.)
The official results are here.
The data from my watch is here.