It was a bright, fresh afternoon in Gowran, Co.Kilkenny on Sunday 5th December where the National XC Novice Race took place. 

Sportsworld Running Club was represented with competitors taking part in both the women’s novice 4000m and men’s novice 6000m. This was my second cross country event and the previous days heavy rain made the going tough (so I was glad I purchased the XC spikes two days before). The challenging course was offset by the brilliant atmosphere created by supporters along with my fellow competitors and team mates !! 

Majella Hayen

The National Novice took place in Gowran, Kilkenny, last Sunday. Gowran has been a common venue for Leinster XC races, most recently when hosting the Leinster Intermediate on the 12th January 2020. The big gravel carpark makes it an ideal location for a National race – more conducive than getting people to park in a field with the Irish weather this time of year and you never know there might be a storm…

The XC course is next to Gowran Park racecourse (tune into the races for correct pronunciation of Gowran) as well as Gowran golf course – with one hole literally on the other side of the tree line from the warm up/number collection area. The rest of the Sportsworld crew had arrived before me and when I rocked up wearing a Titleist hat I was quickly remined that I was here to run cross country rather than play/watch golf.

The course goes through 2 fields with a fast downhill start and finish with moderate hills together with some tight turns in-between – the ground was soft but as not mucky as one might expect after a few days rain in the leadup.

The National Novice always has a big and ultra-competitive entry – with 143 running in the women’s and 221 in the men’s senior races respectively.

The women’s 4km race consisted of 2 laps of the above. Katie Nugent, Majella Hayden and Deirdre McGing were the club representatives in the race and all strong, consistent races – well done all.

Katie was also one of club members running after just coming back from the club trip to Lanzarote – the others being Trevor and Michael who along with Conor Cavanagh, Sadanand and myself made up the men’s team.

This is my third weekend in a row running XC after the National Senior and the Dublin Intermediate so was hoping for one final push before a much needed break from racing. My preference is usually to go out steady in races and build from there. However given the numbers in the field, the straight/downhill first circa 300m and the tight nature of the most of the rest of the course I knew it would mental at the start so I decided to adapt a slightly more a slightly more aggressive approach at the start. After the initial dash the race settled down but was obviously crowded. As mentioned above the hills were fairly moderate so they just needed a little extra effort and then the ensuring downhills were a chance to open up/recover especially on the last stretch to the lap marker. My first km was just under 3:30 which was fast/but not crazy by my standards and I managed to keep a fairly consistent pace while wanting to leave a bit for the end as the knew the finish straight was flat/straight/fast. All the 5 Sportsworld runners finished within a minute of each other lead by Sadanand who was also racing XC for the third week running (including a fantastic top 10 finish in the Dublin Intermediate). So I think we all provided good markers for each other. I managed to pick off a few with a sprint finish and was happy with my 140th placing in a competitive field. Every second really did count in such a congested race.

Conor Keating