A cold Saturday afternoon in a field in Surrey? Ah, it must be the cross-country league. I have a love/hate affair with cross-country – about 95% hate and 5% love, and the latter is only for the delicious cakes my team always rustle up afterwards. Actually, although I like to moan about it, there is something rather appealingly stripped back about these races. Runners, fields, the most basic of race markers and that's about it.
Unlike most people, I never did cross-country as a child, so I don't have the memories many wax lyrical or wince with pain about. Instead, I'm developing my own, brand-new set of phobias. There is the difficulty of warming up. How do you warm up properly for a race which starts in a hilly, muddy field and which inevitably seems to involve a last-minute scramble from a car park/train station while attempting to attach race numbers with frozen fingers incapable of working a simple safety pin? In my case on Saturday, clearly you don't, as I ended up getting a terrible stitch after 2.5m and gasping the rest of the way around. I've never had a stitch so bad I still felt it the next day, so that's a first, at least.
Did you do cross-country as a child? Does it bring back happy memories of larking around fields with your mates, or hideous flashbacks of sadistic PE teachers laughing in the face of your blisters? And did your weekend running consist of that lovely, smooth road surface that a cross-country race leaves me rather pining for?