40 Furlongs of Cross Country

Today’s cross country outing was somewhere much more associated with another sport, horse racing. Surrey Cross Country League Divisions III & IV were meeting at Tattenham Corner on the Epsom Downs, close to the home of The Derby. I was in the rather shiny white and black ‘silks’ of Veterans AC, my second claim club.

It is a relatively easy course, 2 and a half laps of a gentle downward slope, followed by a long slog upwards to make up the height lost and then a few gentle undulations which are then repeated to make up the 40 furlong/5 mile/8km distance. Being on the Downs there is little mud, but occasional loose horses to worry about.

The first 6 furlongs are crucial because then the course narrows and it is difficult to get past people on the first lap. Armed with this knowledge, I went off at a canter rather than a gallop and ended up too far back in the field on the first lap. But once the grandstand came into view I was able to start picking off other runners – passing around a dozen on the second lap before being out sprinted by an Oddball (an Epsom club) about 50 metres from the funnel and then trotting home. I finished around 38:20, probably around 170th out of around 200; about 90 seconds slower than my last outing there in 2011 – but I was much fitter then. However, as I discussed with a friend afterwards the important thing was being there, running and enjoying ourselves – which we most certainly did!


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