Women’s Report

This week we have reports from the Leinster Masters and Intermediate XC 2020. The reports come from Emma Meade and Tim Murphy.

On a lovely clear but cold day, the intermediate women began their usual warm-up of band work while playing catch with tennis balls… okay, maybe not the usual… but highly recommended keeping warm and distracted prior to the Master’s races kicking off!

After cheering on the Master’s Men and Women while getting the actual warm-up in, it was time to get the spikes and strides on and toe the line. It was a small enough field with only 34 ladies competing. The course is the usual Gowran course for anyone who’s had the pleasure of running on it. It’s a quick almost downhill start, followed by some twists and turns, lots of muck, some boggy patches and a nice pull up into the second and third field before a bit of a downhill, more muck, twists and turns back into the first field. The Intermediate Ladies have the joy of completing this twice (4k total).  

The Sportsworld team stuck close together right from the start, I knew Lorna was right on my tail the whole way round due to all the supporters cheering us on since I was too afraid to look around in case I face planted in the mud. With only 200m or so to go a Gowran Girl and Crusader Cailín flew passed, but try as I might, my legs wouldn’t move any faster. Finally, we were over the line and collapsed on the ground from the effort. Rumours of a team gold were rife and to the delight of everyone, turned out to be true.

Definitely a big improvement for me, going from 8th last for the same race last year (my third cross country race) to 10th place (would have sounded so much better if I had managed to hold off those other two girls for 8th place, ruining the symmetry… better go work on that finishing kick!).

Gold star for Gowran!

Men’s Report

Sunday Noon and I find myself in a field in Gowran, Kilkenny. Quite the adventure for me. I took my first step into this magical world of Cross Country last week in the Dublin Masters, at St. Anne’s. Start the Racing ‘20s (‘Roarin’ is so last century) with a jolt to the system.

Now here I was, on another sunny day, in the middle of a field, rotating 360 degrees (“Strictly” for me next year) and taking in the rolling hills, the Manor Houses, the Medieval Towers, and the sun sparkling on the puddles that I would soon be squelching through.

The Juvenile relays were in full swing, the atmosphere relaxed, and the Red and White Army were beginning to arrive in force. Number 324 given to me by a smiling Myles. I couldn’t help but notice that Myles had a glint in his eyes; at once at ease and slightly nervous. There was a big Sportsworld haul last week – the stage is bigger now. I could sense quiet confidence.
Now, the medal zone was not where I was at. 272nd out of 287 in the Dublin’s, in a time of 31:42 for my 6k, my primary goal was not to come absolutely last; my secondary goal was to improve on my time; my tertiary goal was to be lapped less often than in Dublin (Truth be told, given this potentially demoralising maiden experience, I was quite impressed with myself that I even had to courage to reach the start line at Gowran); and my stretch goal was to actually pass someone on my third and final lap.

The Ladies (Masters) were up and running by now, and they were flying. I got a good warm-up in whilst cheering them on. Both teams in the medals and the gold was so so close. The way that these cross country races lend themselves to support was an absolute highlight of the last two races for me. It is wonderful to experience all this support in action.

Masters Men… oops… nearly missed the start. I did miss the preamble, but then again, as I start so far back, I rarely hear these. I find the Sportsworld gang strategically positioned to get the ‘non-bog’ running line. Claps on backs and we are off.

I have a great 50 metres (firm going) but then people start passing me. Once this unwanted overtaking ceases I nervously look behind me, as I turn the bend, praying to stay upright. Phew, there are at least 2 or 3 behind me. Settle down now. Relax. Thanks for the shout out. 1k done and I am sub 5 mins. I averaged 5:13/k last week. Umm… a bit of a climb in this second field… seriously, you can’t be overtaking me now Mr M….. oh, you have. At last, some downhill, don’t let that Mr M away from you. We both speed up and we catch up on a bunch of 3. I remain 40 metres behind Mr M. Lap 1 of 3 x 2k done – though I have slowed, there was the hill, and I am still ahead of last week. And hear the Sportsworld cheer. Mr M., with me trailing in his wake, pass the group of 3. My effort levels are increasing, but I have been following my race via the loudspeakers, which was a great distraction and excitement – seemed to be quite a battle between Karol and some Rathfarnham lads – they go flying down the final stretch with me running in parallel – a lap to go. Don’t go too mad Tim. The third k is slowest so far, and 4th k slower again at 5:18.

Final lap starting. Now 50m behind Mr.M, who in turn is 70m behind Mr G. We have lost the group behind us. I am feeling reasonably comfortable, all things considered. The support is really appreciated. Mr M is now my sole focus. He is going wide to stay on firm ground. I had been following him but not gaining on him at all. I decide to go kamikaze option. Legs seem strong enough. Just about. Fifth consecutive slowing kilometre! But now 40m. Gives me encouragement. And the hills are gone. Go, Tim. Myles shouting ‘200m to go – go Tim go go’ and I am gaining. Really enjoyed the final run-in. Sneaked in under 5 min for the last kilometre for a time of 31:20. 22 seconds ahead of last week. Caught my Mr M.. Finished ahead of 6 – 1 of those was even younger than me ????. Congrats to Liam and Bruce was sooo close to a medal.

What an amazing gold for the Inter Women! Just 13 seconds separating the team members – that train is enough to strike fear in any team – and made a good attempt at besting the Masters grouping earlier.

Last up was the Inter Men – highlight for me was the supercharged final stretch battle with Padraig Looby emerging victorious. Deserved a medal in its own right.

Sambo and coffee at Applegreen to cap off a great day – a real ‘team’ day – in which absolutely everyone played a starring role. Emily, (who I heard urging the women on – every place counts – from the far-field) I am sure is still smiling. I’d say we all are.