Cheshunt Sunday League XC by Abi Barber

Sunday XC League – Cheshunt (Broxbourne Runners), 29 October 2017

37 Eagles wended their various ways to Cheshunt Park for a very civilised 11am start to the Sunday XC League hosted by Broxbourne Runners. Several of us were totally new to the delights of XC and the nerves were definitely in evidence as the chatter about spike length, how many laps (how many times up the hill) and predicted mud levels slowly dwindled and the peeling off of outer layers began. The weather was pretty good actually – neither too cold nor particularly windy.

Having done a short warm up we set off down towards the start line – a bit of a crush on a track by a tree in the middle of a field as 491 women and men got ready to start the 5 mile run together. We were given our final instruction by the starter: ‘Watch out for the sharp right turn just down there. If you don’t make the turn, you’ll end up in Tottenham’. Good advice. Then without further ado, the klaxon was sounded and off we bounded.

From my position in the middle of the pack it was cool to watch the front runners stretch their legs and take off up the first incline. There was a bit of jostling as everyone tried to hit a maintainable pace, but it was all pretty friendly. With so many Eagles in attendance, we covered almost the whole stretch of runners and it was nice to be able to pick out the black and white vests dotted around the fields.

The course was one short lap, then two longer ones. Each lap had a couple of inclines – not too steep, thankfully – and corresponding downhill sections. The terrain was long grass, a gravelly track, a couple of wooden footbridges, and some hard packed mud. Nice and varied, kept us on our toes! On the approach to the finish (which we had to do three times before we could actually finish) was an interesting section of bumps which gave rise to a variety of exclamations including ‘oof’, ‘yikes’, some extra huffing and puffing and the odd expletive. It made for an entertaining final stretch. Luckily, if we hadn’t been able to make out the funnel, we could simply have headed for the colossal bobble on Thom’s hat, which served as something of a beacon when approaching the finish line.

Everyone ran hard throughout and finished strongly. In a rematch following the previous weekend’s tussle, José Manuel Pabon (33rd) held onto his lead over Ricardo Agostinho (39th) – it’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out over the season. Next Eagles over the line were Cambell Easton (119th) and Laurence Elliot (129th), followed shortly by Mike Duff (143rd). Then our women started to fly to the finishing party – first in, with a super strong performance, was Sara Bailey (149th).

Rob Willin (159th) was next to come through, then there was almost nothing in it between Firas Alhawat (162nd) and Ellen Easten (163rd). Jennifer Watt (183rd) was followed by Gary Hobbs (190th). Gary was clearly still buzzing from a huge parkrun PB the previous day and took 8th Eagle man, so completing the A team scoring for our chaps.

Yvonne Linney (210th) came home next, with Adam Wakefield (214th) and Paul Roberts (225th) following. An eagle’s feather separated Malgorzata Kucharska (231st), Abi Barber (232nd) and Michelle Tanner (233rd). The three had been swapping positions throughout the race until Gosia decided that enough was enough, pulling out an uncatchable sprint to take 5th Eagle woman and complete the A team scoring for our ladies.

David Bone (240th), Piers Keenleyside (261st), Phil Cairns (268th) and Baljit Dhanda (275th) were next to fly home. There was very little in it between Sophie Cook (294th), Emily Schmidt (296th) and Donna Warren (297th). Ladies’ captain and XC stalwart Sarah MacKenzie (305th) was followed by Paxon Mo (320th), Hayley Kandt (324th) and Una Crotty-Joyce (334th). Sue Park (355th) put in a typically smiley and strong performance, all the more impressive as it was her third XC race of the weekend.

Also smiling were Dineke Austin (387th), who seemed to enjoy her XC debut very much, and Jess Hood (409th), who was positively beaming on the final stretch! Michael Limpert (435th), Kate Ward (451st) and Sylvia Cordell (455th) kept pushing hard to the finishing line. Another triple XC-er this weekend was Mirka Miturova (460th), who continues to delight in her steady comeback from injury. Lucie Godfrey (462nd) and Tara Flynn (476th) nicely wrapped things up for the Eagles.

Upon exiting the finish funnel we all took our numbers to Petrina or Shane. They had the unenviable task of trying to get some sense out of us and write down our finishing order while we were huffy, puffy and very sweaty after the final push. Final team positions were: Overall 10th; Men’s A 11th, Men’s B 10th, Men’s Masters 13th; Women’s A 2nd, Women’s B 2nd, Women’s Masters 3rd. Being new to this whole XC thing, I’m a little hazy on the scoring system but I understand there’s some wizardry (or maths) to be done involving finishing positions. I’m sure someone will be able to explain this to me over a pint at some point.

With all 37 safely back in the nest (the tarpaulin next to a flag in the middle of a field), the giant tea thermos was put to good use and a veritable banquet of cakes was tucked into. Much needed sugar started coursing through everyone’s systems and the outer layers were piled back on. Packing up started, and soon the only evidence that we had ever been there was a patch of slightly squashed grass. And Jen’s bag, which she soon came running back to pick up. And Jen’s other bag, which she still managed to leave in the field. Post-XC exuberance, clearly!

Massive thanks to everyone who organised, drove, provided tea and cake, wrote down results, took photos and supported. When I was forced to do cross country at school I would hide half way round to sneak a cigarette, or ‘twist my ankle in a rabbit hole’ – pretty much anything I could think of to get out of doing it. This was my first XC race as an adult, of my own volition, and I absolutely loved it. Apart from being a little disappointed that my legs were totally clean at the end – not one tiny bit of mud splat to be seen – I felt that this was a great way to cut my XC teeth. The opportunity to try out spikes at the pre-season meet in September was invaluable, as has been the advice of the more seasoned Eagles. It’s been made very easy for an XC novice to get stuck in and have a go and I can’t wait for the next one. More mud please!