On Sunday, a busload of Sportsworld runners and supporters travelled to the National Novice XC which took place just outside Waterford city. The course was a tough tester with a number of climbs and hills to be suffered on each lap. And mud. Lots of mud.

The National Novice is the last “Big One” every year and for many club athletes is the focus of their cross country season. It’s an opportunity to see who will be making the step up to the National Intermediate and National Senior in Spring. Not only are there individual medals, but also more importantly, there are club medals. It’s a rare thing in a sport as individual based as running that you have the chance to run for others, but that is what cross country is. Every place counts. In that regard, fair play to everyone who travelled to toe the line and ensure the club colours were flying high. It’s a huge sacrifice to commit to a race two weeks before Christmas. I’m sure everyone who travelled had other events which they could have sacked the race off for but didn’t and for that they should be commended.

In the ladies race over 4000m, Michelle Magee from our neighbouring club, Bros. Pearse was an impressive winner from gun to tape. Our ladies team finished sixth with Ruth Kelly having a stormer to finish in the Top 25. The constantly improving Anna Delaney had another great run to round off her 2013 racing calendar. Caroline Conway showed that despite not being able to train with the rest of the girls, absence from Bushy Park is not an impediment to ability. Claire Bailey also ran impressively, and will have gained from the experience of racing over such a tough course. Natalia Sokolowska is quietly making a comeback and showed strength and determination right through to the end of this race. Orla Jordan cruised around the course – when you have conquered the ironman, a 4k cross country race is no bother to you. In her first experience of national standard cross country racing Patricia Fitzsimons also placed well. Shóna Keane had a courageous run and a storming sprint finish despite being under the weather all weekend. Stephanie Bergin showed the benefit of her marathon training to make up a lot of places in the latter part of the race and is another to watch out for in 2014.

In the mens race, Sean Tobin of Clonmel AC justified his pre-race favourite tag and devoured the 6000m course with no little haste. Our mens team clocked eleventh place, anchored by Karol Cronin who also picked up a gold medal on the Dublin team. Karol added to his impressive collection of XC medals for 2013, which is now reaching ghetto rapper levels of bling.

Damien Kelly proved himself the clubman that he is, by togging out for the club at last minute. Mr. Reliable over the turf, Damien was a strong fourth scorer. Gavin Finlay, our second man home, had a great run, finishing well up in the field. Kevin Curran would say that he is a man more suited to the roads, but despite that, had a solid run yesterday. A few hard runs in Donegal over Christmas will ensure that the Ballyshannon boyo tears up the Berlin halfmarathon next April. Performance of the day came from Mark Small, who displayed the depth of his natural ability with a very impressive run. Clearly a star in the making and one to watch for next year. Michael Cunningham made a well timed move through the field in the second half of the race to round out 2014 on a solid note. Paul Duffy battled the course with heart and courage and will be raring to go in the National Intermediate next February. Whisper it quietly, Packie’s back. The Cratloe harrier cruised around, making up a lot of places in the final lap. A month in Sri Lanka now for the bould Enright to look forward to. As for me, despite a wardrobe malfunction in the second lap, and nearly impaling myself on one of the posts marking out the course, I got around in one piece.

Finally, a word of thanks to our support crew, Emily, Myles, Paddy, Carol, Gareth, Catriona, Joe and Breda – a true wall of noise throughout.

Now, we can all enjoy Christmas.

Nollaig Shóna Díobh!