I’ve done it again. Three team mates breeze past me on the second lap and I realise I’ve done it again. Set off too fast.
The day has been brilliant so far, Safari with the children, a sealion show, birds of prey, a gentle jog around next to the mud, the team sheet with the Brownlees names alongside my own, the number 42. Everything falling in to place.
Keep them in sight I think and trudge on, I feel like I’m going backwards. I hear my name called but I can’t see straight. Each step requires me to forceably pull my foot out of the mud before placing it back in to the suction again to repeat. Up hill. Downhill is no easier. Still the suction but added slide and uncertainty. It’s brilliant!
Tony and Graham are cheering from the sides and I know how big the gaps are from when the cheers for Bingley can be heard. I’ve not seen Ben Marriott at all and Old Man Fry is now out of sight but Dave Potter and Clive Smith are still there. I’ve not finished in front of either of these two before, Keep them in sight.
Last hill, turn the corner, reel them in, don’t look as you go past, concentrate. I’m ahead! I’m actually ahead. Now what?
I can hear heavy breathing in my ear, you’re not supposed to look behind – something about it being a sign of weakness – but I do, mainly to check that I don’t need to call for an ambulance for the man who is clearly functioning on the very edge of his physical capacity. I catch a glimpse of blue and white alongside the wheezer. Clive.
He surges past me and I surge back. What now? We’re approaching the top of the last climb, all downhill from the top. Muddy, but downhill. This is a proper race now, what shall I do?
I think about it, taking it a little easier as we approach the top and then kick up the last metre and over the top and down taking a couple of places and hopefully opening a gap.
Don’t fall now. Don’t fall now. Don’t fall now.
I lengthen my stride and slip slide down through the mud, I’m passing runners now for fun and open up my finishing sprint confident I’m going to hold him off. Maria, Rupert and Louis are at the finish cheering and I can’t breath.
Moments later Clive finishes, then Dave. I’m euphoric, now that was a proper race.
The Northern Cross Country Championships, mud, grit, determination, camaradarie, mud. Brilliant race, see you at the Nationals?