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Thames Valley Cross Country League – competition, cake, camaraderie, cold & mud!

Throughout the cross country season I’ve loved hearing Kerstin Johnson’s insights on the TVXC events as she is one of the select group of members who completed every round. The league operates a somewhat (at least for my limited intellect) complicated points system where the top finishers for each club, four women and six men (including two vets) score in the overall league. So I couldn’t quite understand Captain Claire’s call to arms that ‘every member counts’… until Kirstin explained that even non-counting members effectively ‘steal’ points from other clubs and ‘push them down the rankings’. I’ll hand over to Kirstin to explain and she’ll make you realise that if you didn’t take part this season, you really should consider next winter….

Ah, the cross country series – where do i start? It’s competition, cake, camaraderie, often cold, and of course, MUD! (Oh, and did I mention the cake?)

The series always kicks off on Remembrance Sunday and is held at various locations throughout the Thames Valley, each course having its own little quirks. For example, the loooong and steep hills of Handy Cross, the flatness of Datchet, the river crossing of Metros and of course, the epic mud of Tadley (more of that later).

While our speedier runners briskly set off to score for the club, I am normally found quite far back in the field. I prefer to start at a steadier pace and then try to pick up speed and gain positions up the hills and through the mud. While I don’t know what the feeling is like up at the front of the pack, the back is often very chatty with lots of banter and encouragement going on between the runners/clubs and vocal appreciation of the marshals. I also quite enjoy to see other SJs where the course loops back or there are laps. If I have the breath, I try to shout some encouragement and hope that the person I’m encouraging doesn’t trip over as they  invariably look over to try to see who’s cheering.

Some of you may remember the sea of mud that met us at Tadley a few seasons back. Shoes were lost in the mud, someone face planted as they got stuck and one Maidenhead runner who was just ahead  of me came to an abrupt stop as her leg disappeared. Myself and a BFR chap who were just behind her reached out to try to drag her out, trying not to get stuck ourselves, much to the amusement of some dog walkers who had stopped to watch. I have never seen mud like it but I know I definitely finished that race with a grin on my face.

At the first race at Datchet this season, I was trying to keep up with a BFR who I think is called Andy. We kept overtaking each other and having intermittent chats over the fields but in the last mile, he well  and truly ditched me and finished some 100m ahead of me. I had nothing left in the legs after those wet fields, but remember thinking that I would try to use that as a benchmark through the series. Much to my disappointment, I didn’t see him at the following races and so it fell out of my mind. But at TVT this past Sunday, I did spot him crossing the line a few minutes after me – yay!

As a slower runner, I have never really thought of myself as part of the ladies team – purely because I knew I had absolutely no chance of scoring for the club. This perception definitely changed a few weeks back as I was scrolling through the results list to compare my time with last year’s race. All of a sudden I realised that I was actually ahead of some of the other club’s scoring ladies – by keeping my position I had made sure I had pushed them down and prevented them from getting a higher score. This goes to show that EVERYONE counts, even if you don’t score! And that is why, when a Reading Road Runner overtook me just before the last bend at TVT, I thought “oh no you won’t” and decided to hold my position even though I was dying and legs were filled with lead. I think she kicked a little too early and as the finishing straight came up, I managed to overtake her with a sprint finish and ALMOST caught the runner in front of her too. In my head I was Usain Bolt – haha!

kirsten-tvxc-bramshill

The TVXC series a great way of getting out of bed on a Sunday morning and enjoying the social banter, discovering your inner child while splashing through the water puddles and mud. Not to mention the heavenly hot shower afterwards…

As I write this, it’s 39 weeks, 4 days, 16 hours 15 minutes and 15,14,13 seconds until the next series start. Will I see you there?

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