By: Jess

5300m @Stanhill Farm, Dartford (4:21/km)

Last weekend, I took part in my first cross country race in Dartford, Kent. Competing in a cross country race was a lot harder than I had imagined. The runners that you get to toe the line with are serious runners, with some actually representing Great Britain in championship level events. The level of competition is a step up from what I had been used to and this was a shock when I started racing.

Cross country is anything but elitist though. To compete in the Kent cross country league, you just need to be a member of a running/triathlon club and pay the £14 England Athletics membership fee – a bargain given that you get to participate in a series of well-organised races!

Once we arrived at Stanhill Farm, we got parked and headed down to the playing fields where the club tent was located. The club organisers gave out running numbers and soon enough we were off to the start line. I positioned myself near the front – and I was very glad I did because as soon as the gun went off everyone was scrambling to get in position. The route was very well marked out and consisted of 2 laps that wound through the pumpkin fields.

I was truly humbled by the sheer array of talent I had to face. I was used to finishing as first or second female in local parkruns but here I had to really work hard to get ahead.

After I finished I was tired to the bone. This 5km through the fields seemed to have the same effect on me as a 15km run. But overall, I was pleased with my first cross country race of the season. I finished 38th/162 which I was really pleased with considering the strong field but will need to try and get the pace faster at the next race.

I really enjoyed cross country because there were about 20 of us from the club and everyone was there supporting each other. Running is normally a solitary sport so it was great to be able to compete as part of a team. It was also nice being able to come off the pavement and train off-road. It was a real step-up from the weekly parkrun as the field was so fast.

The next XC race is on 28 October 2017 at Somerhill School, Tonbridge! I’ll know what to expect now so it will be interesting to see how I do in that one!

– Jess