This afternoon saw a trip down to Tonbridge for the second meeting of the season of the Kent Cross Country League. It is the toughest challenge of the this season’s venues although, as with the first meeting in Swanley conditions were very benign underfoot, the torrential rain that hit parts of South East England yesterday seemed to have missed Tonbridge, so there was a decided lack of mud on what is often a soggy course. Add in a mild temperature and a decided lack of wind and driving horizontal rain and it made for very un-cross country-like conditions. It did smell very autumnal though with a pervading aroma of slightly decomposing leaves all around the course.
The course is around 6.3 miles (10.2 km) with three laps – each with a long steep hill, another which is a longer slog but much of it covered twice, then a short with a short, sharp incline before some gentle, downward slopes to start it all again….
Rather a lot of the Beckenham men produced notes from their mums excusing them from cross country today, so my position was almost certainly going to ‘count’ in the scoring – never a good sign for the club.
My race was a struggle from the first hill onwards and the hills got harder as the race progressed, avoiding walking near the top of hill at the start of the third lap required a lot of persuasion of my legs. Unlike Swanley, I was lapped by three of the leaders – I didn’t mind too much when I saw who they were – the winner was a friend’s son, Alex Bruce Littlewood, and in third place was Dean Lacy, who used to help coach my eldest son.
I finished in an exhausted 158th with my watch showing 51:17 around 25 runners behind me; as with Swanley, it was difficult to know how this compared with previous years as the course had been changed a little and was slightly longer. Unfortunately for Beckenham my position counted in the team competition, which will probably consign us to the lanterne rouge position in the league for this race, at least.