by AnneMarie Clyne

Sunday 16th February 2020 saw a hardy bunch of 28 Sportsworld ladies take to the field for the last of the four cross country races in the meet and train league for 2019/2020 winter season.  This final race of the series was at Abbotstown on part of the national cross-country course and soon to be venue of the European Cross Country Championships in December 2020.   How lucky were we to be on such prestigious grounds?  Leading up to the event Storm Denis (AKA Denis the Menace) was making its mark with many sporting events being cancelled over the weekend.   It was my job to keep on eye on emails from the organizers to see if similar fate was to happen to our race but alas it was not to be.  I’m actually not sure if I ever heard of a cross country being cancelled due to poor weather conditions! 

Prior to the race start there was a lot of excitement gathering, mainly relieve in the fact it was the last cross country of the season.   There was fighting talk from certain individuals of getting 11 hours straight sleep when others were feeling they didn’t get enough sleep (me!).    Others were debating whether it was a flat course or not (It’s not in case you are wondering!).   Michael saved the biggest surprise of all for the final race bringing us the big red tent of Sportsworld, he told me before that he didn’t want to spoil us up to now!   How he managed to put the tent up in Denis the Menace we don’t know but we were very grateful and the envy of all the other clubs who had to get ready in the shrubs behind.  VIPs for once!

At 11 a.m. we were brought to the start line and the rain and wind really started to make its mark.   Instructions were given but no one was really listening, we just wanted to get this over and done with.   We knew we had three laps to do and that is all that mattered.   In 22:27 the race was over with the final runner crossing the line … in the blink of an eye you could miss us!  Except you couldn’t, I’m sure the supporters saw how difficult it was to battle the wind.   At one stage I found it hard to catch my breath and ended up turning my head (swimming style) to try and get air into the lungs.    I got a great sense of satisfaction passing out one lady just as we were coming into the home straight, she had sailed past me earlier but I kept her in my sights and with a final push managed to catch her with a bit of sprint for the line.   Everyone had their own struggles during the race but despite the weather we had a great performance from all team members.     

We had fantastic support along the route with husbands, sons and daughters coming out in force, and even some family members travelling as far as Canada to cheer us on ……well maybe it was to cheer on a certain Canadian club member but we’ll take the cheers when we get them.    Many thanks to all the club members who came out to support us over the four races since November, especially to the lads on Sunday who also took an opportunity to take a long run on the national course.  I know you felt for us on the day.   Special thanks goes to Emily, not only did she come out of her sick bed to be with us but she ended up helping some of us with the simple task of tying our shoe laces.   Apparently there is a knack to avoiding them coming off and it worked!    Thanks also to the bakers who made home made treats, the best bit is always the tea and cake afterwards although the red tent is up there now!

The best news of all came later in the evening when we found out that Team A won the over league in the Diamond category and Team E took second place in the Bronze category.     The cup is coming home!    Prior to the race, we had been asked to host the prizegiving event at our own HQ starting with a fun run and refreshments afterwards so it will be nice now to be presented with the cup on our home turf.  Save the date: March 8th with a 10 a.m. start time.   (More to follow on this).

The meet and train league is all about the team and not about any one individual.   As we have come to learn, every place counts.  The team spirit between our club members and even other competing clubs is fantastic with new friendships having formed as a result.   The best thing about meet and train is that it is a very inclusive event with all levels welcomed and valued.    For some club members it was their first time to try the meet and train event ….whilst they may have been cajoled to take part back in November I know they will be back!

So lads and ladies it is a wrap for now, before signing off I’d finally like to thank Maria Varley for helping me to get the league off the ground at the beginning of the season – she is a great wing woman to have by your side!