Race report by Andy Gordon

Despite the best endeavours of Met Éireann to prevent us from leaving the house all weekend, a large contingent of Sportsworld women and men put on their singlets and bravely ventured out the front door in the howling wind and lashing rain and made their way down to the, appropriately named in the conditions, “Adventure Sports” centre in Navan to compete in the Novice Cross Country Championships. I’d been reliably informed that Alcatraz was easier to escape from than having your name on the list for cross country events and if an Orange weather warning wasn’t going to be sufficiently reasonable grounds for enjoying the seasonal festivities on a Friday evening and having a relaxing Saturday afternoon’s recovery, to my mind nothing would! The talk on the journey down was about how the course would hold up, especially following a series of underage races throughout the day and there were some nervous whispers as to whether we were in for a repeat of the treacherous conditions faced in Clarinbridge earlier in the year. Thankfully David Kennedy was thoughtful enough to put our minds at ease and let us all know he was making his way safely home after his Friday night out, so that was one less thing to worry about on race day…cheers pet J

Womens team

We got to the course in plenty of time and, after twenty minutes of psyching ourselves up to get out of the car, made our way down to the track to survey the conditions. First impressions were worrying. The walk from the car park to the course was like a mud bath and with each squelching step, the fear was that Storm Deidre had won out and we were in for an uncomfortable afternoon. However, having collected our race numbers and tentatively heading out for a (in the conditions, futile) warm up, the general consensus was that the course had held up remarkably well. All of a sudden it was time for the women’s race to start. Two laps of the course for a total of 4km was the challenge and there were great performances from all participants who had superb races in very testing conditions. Congratulations to Ciara who was the first Sportsworld lady home in a very impressive 39th position of an extremely strong field.

Mens team

Next up were the men who were tasked with three laps of the 2km course. This being only my second cross country, I was hoping for a far more enjoyable experience than my first venture in Tymon Park for the 8km Intermediate earlier in the month. I was completely unprepared for such a harrowing experience but I was willing to convince myself that was still due to the after effects of a big night out on the last day in Lanza! These negative thoughts were thrown abruptly from my mind by the sound of the gun and we were underway.

Conor and Karl on the chase for places

The pace of the field was worryingly quick and as I struggled to keep pace with the group of runners towards the back, I feared that my initial positivity regarding the conditions were misguided. Thankfully, I managed to establish something resembling a rhythm, settled into the race and even, whisper it quietly, started to enjoy it. The course was difficult in parts and trying to overtake was proving tricky with plenty of tight corners and pockets of terrain with a similar consistency to quicksand. The support from the Sportsworld contingent around the track from coaches, supporters and the ladies who’d completed their race was fantastic and was definitely a vital factor in getting some of us up the large incline at the end of the lap one final time and over the finish line.

There were some great individual performances on the day as well as a great sense of achievement having come out and raced in such difficult conditions. Well done to all of the many runners who represented the club so well. Special mention to Andrew Brett who broke into the top 100 by finishing in a very commendable 84th place which to me, only emphasises how much of a unique skill cross country running is and the high calibre of athletes competing on the day.

Ciara leading lady

As the spikes came off and we began making our way to our cars for the journey home, there was time for some club members to show that we’re not just egotistical, prima donna high-performance athletes, only concerned with PBs and personal glory, and show some festive spirit. An ambulance which had made its way down to the course for the duration of the event was having a tricky time trying to get off the field and back onto the road. Feeling invincible after getting through the race, we rushed down to the driver’s aid and began to push. After some slipping and sliding and a lot of endeavour (I’m chalking this up as fulfilling my entire strength training requirements for 2018), the wheels began to turn and the ambulance was back on its way. The only hiccup was that yours truly had unwisely made the decision to push from the very right hand side of the ambulance and soon found himself covered head to toe in mud once the wheels began to spin again! I suppose no good deed goes unpunished.

Only in Navan

Finally, as this was the last cross country event for the (calendar) year, I’d just like to take the opportunity to say a special word of thanks to Emily, Myles and Paul for all the effort and dedication they have put into the events this year. I get the impression that cross country isn’t the most popular event among some of the runners in the club so it’s a great testament to them that Sportsworld has been represented at these events in such large numbers. The support and encouragement provided both during and outside of races doesn’t go unappreciated!

Wishing all club members a very Merry Christmas and looking forward to seeing you all in January as we try to atone for any over-indulgences over the festive season!