by Paul Thompson
No sooner had 2014 ended than I had started my 2015 running campaign in the shape of a traditional English cross country race – the Northants County Cross Country Championships. Traditional as in the usual concoction of wet, windy, and muddy. And no where to shower post race. I slipped and slid around the waterlogged muddy four lap 6 mile course, with much effort wasted going every way but forwards, and came 5th in 37:37.
My decision to run rested on a variety of factors, one being the connection I felt with the venue, Croyland Park in Wellingborough. Wellingborough is a rather uninspiring market town in middle England but is my, my parents and my grandparents place of birth. The park is where we would occasionally hang out some Saturday afternoons, kicking ball or just larking about. And the park was where I last ran this very same competition back in 2003, watched from the sidelines by my grandfather who was then still alive. On that occasion, on a visit home while resident in Malaysia, I was runner-up, ten seconds shy of the winner.
I wore my old cross country spikes, the ones that had gathered dust in the closet, last used in the same championship race at the same venue back in 2003. Unfortunately the 10 mil spikes, permanently resident in the shoes owing to their being rusted in, were not up to the task. These were some of the worst underfoot conditions I can remember running in. The short spikes left me warily descending inclines, half scrambling up steep inclines, taking corners wide, and vainly trying to navigate the driest route.
As in 2003 I competed for my UK club, Kettering Town Harriers. The men’s open team could only manage 3rd place – with me and my brother Steve being 1st and 2nd scorers. A respectable result but well out of contention for first place. However, there was success for the younger age groups. As an old running rival Terry Egan pointed out that fifth place was a repeat of my placing in 1989 at the more tender age of 23! And was enough to earn me a spot in the Northants’ team for the UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships on March 7, a race which is also a selection race for the British team for the World Cross Country Championships. If I happen to be in the UK around that time then I will run. My best placing in this national championship race is 32nd, some 23 years ago This time 132nd might be a more realistic goal. It’s got me thinking about my running game plan for 2015.