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National XC – First timer Sharon Burfield visits the spiritual home of XC Parliament Hill

Having signed up for this race, without a thought for what it might actually involve, I was feeling fairly OK when I picked Ian Watson up last Saturday morning.  However, en route to the SJ meet up point at Sandhurst library, it became clear that Ian was far more in the know about what was to come than I was! He started to talk about thousands of runners, lots of mud and hills, and a 12k course!!! Hmmm… All this, after ‘accidentally’ running Bracknell park run with my boys in the morning!
Luckily, the weather was glorious, and we arrived at parliament hill with plenty of time to spare. First impressions were ‘Wow’, as there were literally thousands of runners and lots of club flags dotted all over the very large hill! Second thoughts were ‘oh my god, look at that hill!!!’
National XC Sharon steep hill
Once I began to realise just how many good runners were there, all equipped with spikes (I was in my trusty trail shoes), I started to feel a little nervous about what lay ahead of me. But after a short wander up and over the hill, with a quick look at the junior men’s race as they whizzed by, it was time for me to get to the start line.
National XC Sharon at finish
My strategy was, as usual, very open minded, and I was clear that I would NOT be racing off from the start line. I decided I would set off at a steady pace and just make sure I survived that first hill! Once lined up with the almost 2,000 ladies I made sure I was at the back, ready to start my race…
Once the start gun sounded, we set off up the mega hill at a nice steady pace. Even within the first few minutes I started to overtake people who had set off a bit too quickly, and I felt strong. Once at the top of the hill, I let gravity assist me down into the first lot of sticky, squelchy mud. Thankfully, I had tied my laces extra tight and despite a few slips my trainers stayed put. I nearly slipped a few times, but overall survived the mud well.
National XC Sharon in the crowd
Round the course, it was lovely to hear Nikki and Jenny shouting my name at various points, but I don’t think i actually ever saw them, as I spent most my time looking at the ground and where I should put my feet (the rather unattractive photos demonstrate this perfectly!).
National XC Sharon looking at feet
I continued to feel fairly strong round the two laps, going past a fair number of other ladies, and felt able to pick up the pace in the last mile, knowing that the finish was all downhill.
Once my race was complete, I had the opportunity to get on some warm clothes, eat some snacks and cheer on our SJ mens contingent, which, as usual, was great fun!
I would thoroughly recommend taking part in this event, especially if you like cross country!

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