After all these years of burning tar, I’ve decided to go off-road and take my running into the fields.
This Saturday morning I plan to run in the St Enda’s GAA Eircom CC in Dublin. The race is part of the Business Houses Athletic Association (BHAA) series – and it’ll be my first-ever cross country race.
So why am I taking up cross country running now? Well, for the novelty of it, really. I’ll still keep up my usual road training and racing, but I’d also like to vary my running. I figure it can only do me good.
If I’m going to start running cross country, I’d better be equipped. And so last Saturday I headed along to my local running equipment shop to get me a pair of running spikes – another first for me.
Having asked around online, I understand that the course for Saturday’s race is usually quite firm and not too soft or muddy, and there isn’t any torrential rain forecast for Dublin between now and Saturday morning. Short spikes of 5 mm should suffice, then.
And so this week I’ve been breaking in my new spikes with a couple of short, light jogs for a few minutes in the garden. Also, this morning I took my spikes for a hard session around the football pitches in the nearby park – ten minutes warm-up, ten reps of 90 seconds fast and 90 seconds recovery, ten minutes cool-down.
I’m glad to report that the spikes felt great. Despite this morning’s strong winds, I ran well for the fast reps and the light shoes helped me lift my feet. The 5 mm spikes were just right – not sticking in the ground but still giving me a secure grip. One of my concerns about cross country is that I’d skid on mud and get injured, so this morning’s run reassured me greatly.
Another concern about racing in spikes is that I would get spiked – either by myself or by some Rosa Klebb near me. But a cross country course in a field should be wide enough to give enough running space to everyone – right?
Even with the prospect of wet feet, numb fingers and exhaustion down to my bones, I’m looking forward to my first cross country race. I’ve been ploughing the same furrow of road running and annual local races for a long time, so it’ll be good to do something different.
Ireland has a great tradition of cross country running, with international success in recent years for Sonia O’Sullivan, Catherina McKiernan and Fionnuala Britton. And then there’s the greatest Irish mudlark of them all, two-time world champion John Treacy – here he is in his most iconic victory, through the mud of Limerick racecourse in 1979 to retain his world title: