North Staffs Cross Country - Race 4, Leek

During the week I did next to nothing in preparation for Saturday's race at Leek, just a 3.5 mile jog to keep the legs ticking over on Wednesday.

On Saturday the final race of the North Staffs Cross Country League was held at Leek. The conditions were frankly awful with heavy rain in the days leading up to the event making the ground saturated and foot conditions very heavy, with the course well churned by the time of the men’s race. As a result, all of the downhill stretches were very slippery whilst the rest of the course was extremely boggy with calf deep mud most of the way round. There was also heavy rain during the event itself making for horrible conditions. The course was very hilly and is by far the hardest race of the season containing several significant climbs, but thankfully the laps tend to be a bit shorter than normal because of this.

As it was tipping it down I tried to stay in the car as long as possible before getting changed inside the school. With about 10 mins to go I went outside to go down to the start and it began to hit me how cold, wet and generally miserable it was! Just before the start I was feeling really cold.

The start was uphill so I went off at a very gently pace and after half a lap I was a little bit further back that I would have liked, but I knew that as this race was so physical it was essential that I paced myself. I'm guessing that at this stage I was about 30-35th. One of my team mates was just ahead of me so I just tried to stay about the same distance behind for the time being as my legs were still feeling sluggish. Slowly but surely I was picking off people, particularly on the hills although I struggled on the downhill with my grip so lost a little distance.

Towards the end of the first lap I was alongside my team mate at the hardest hill of the lap and once at the top I began to pull away. For the most part of the second lap I was pretty strong and managed to overtake quite a lot of people and was feeling good. I felt that I was running a fairly intelligent race by working to my strengths on the muddy flats and hills, whilst relaxing downhill.

On the third lap my legs were beginning to go a bit but still felt ok. I was just behind a group of runners strung out over a fair distance and slowly catching them. On the sharp descent at the start of the lap they pulled away as I'm a pretty poor descender and it took quite an effort to pull some of the distance back over the remaining part of the lap. I eventually caught and overtook one of them on the large hill towards the end of the race and had to work hard up the hill to try and put some distance between us. Just as I was getting to the top my legs were starting to feel like jelly and I was really hurting. It was then just a case of running the last 300 metres up to the finish and managed to pick one more person off. I think that had I not descended so badly at the start of the third lap I might have been able to get a couple more, but its just nit picking really.

Overall I was amazed to see that I finished 17th out of 172, a career best performance by some margin so I am really pleased. The course worked to my strengths, i.e. energy sapping hills and plenty of boggy and muddy bits making it slow and physical. Again it proves that my fitness has come on leaps and bounds bearing in mind I was about 80th a couple of years ago.

Before this race Walton Chasers Orienteering Club were lying fourth in the second division, 24 points adrift of Telford Harriers in third, but just two points ahead of fifth so everything was to play for. In the end some solid performances resulted in us snatching third place and some trophies so was pretty ecstatic. However, on seeing the results published on the web we are shown as being fourth - I think what happened was that the organisers saw that we beat the team who were ahead of us without realising the team who were fifth leapfrogged both of us. None the less its still the best result for Walton Chasers who still managed to beat some notable running / athletics clubs in the process. Not bad at all for an orienteering club.

On the whole I have been really pleased with my performances and means I have achieved my start of year objective by improving on my average 2006 cross country position.

Although I have an idea of what events I'm going to to in the early part of next year I have nothing firmly planned. My priority is to get a couple of solid weeks of training in and make a decision towards the end of the month.


  1. Good result Lloyd, sounds as though your fitness is really improving.


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