Three images on The Tyne – Baltic Contemporary Arts Centre, The Sage Music Centre and The Blinking Eye. An unlikely combination on the banks of The Tyne.
Another unlikely combination is The National Cross Country Championships and me. I decided to add these champs to my list of events completed. Having completed the Northern Cross Country Champs at Knowsley Safari Park four weeks earlier I was feeling confident of a good run.
Hopefully the course would be less muddy, less hilly and I would be fitter. Unfortunately the first two were to come true but the latter not so. I acquired a heavy cold, missed two weeks training and considered not even running. My chest was not fully clear, so the object of the day was to take it steady and finish. If I beat my time at the Northern XC that would be a bonus, although it was an easier course.
So the race began on a sunny, yet windy day. The mass start out of the pens, like a horse race only I was feeling like a Shire horse. Up the hill, round the bend for the first of four times and down the hill towards the finish. I had done a course recce as a warm up. Next a short stretch through the crowds before a left turn and dog leg to a steady incline with a steep pinnacle before turn two. The downhill taking in the log jump, this is The Grand National, which I hurdled like a steeplechaser.
On towards the lake via another turn and a ditch and a little step up in ground level. Then the more level ground presents the first of three mud baths on the fourth turn. This is when I remember it’s not long before that hill again. But the mud saps the energy of every runner. Knee deep water unless you find an ankle-deep mud only path. The result heavy feet with the sticky stuff. The hill is in full view awaiting your heavy feet. A long steady climb and the right hand turn and lap two begins.
I glance at my watch around 24 minutes for lap one but loosing ground to my club mates. I plod round lap two, still hurdled and as I approached the lake side the leaders sprinted past me making their way to the finish. Yes I was about half way when they passed me. My mental attitude unaffected by this usually demoralising sight. I had a lap and a half to complete my goal and with a consistent, steady effort a good time was possible. I cheered Johnny Brownlee as he passed.
Another club mate caught and passed me but my resolve was to finish. Others passed but my mantra was to make an effort in the final lap if I had anything left. The spectators and stewards responded to my name on vest ploy – Come On Steve ! This really gives you a mental lift, well worth the price of a printing fee.
The mud slowed me a bit, as did the hill but I was still running, well jogging, no walking yet? Down to the finish area to start the final lap and it would all be over. I have adopted a mental approach that half way or the final lap is when I start to race to the finish. Today I would be making an effort but not of race proportions. Still they passed me but I knew their would be other days when my body will respond.
Again I hurdled the log, the lakeside ditch was jumped in one go again, the mud and water fest was to be a walk but I started running immediately out of that mud towards the final hill. I pushed up the hill and felt my quads had the strength to run the whole hill. The turn presented the opportunity to race to the finish but I decided to maintain my pace and finish breathing controlled rather than bursting my lungs. A few more places lost but I have different goals to come.