One of the wettest autumns and early winters on record promised to make the Southern Cross Country Championships a challenging affair – and so it proved. But even before getting to Parliament Hill the journey turned out to be almost as arduous as the race itself!
I had decided to drive so I could take the club flag and gazebo, and agreed to give Peter and Dmitry a lift. What a fateful decision that was. The train line going through Surbiton all the way to Clapham Junction was closed for engineering works, and an accident on the A3 meant gridlock around Berrylands and the whole Surbiton area. Along with further road works en route (they’re springing up everywhere!) a nightmare car journey followed. Some others in the team had their own travel problems and delays: Ben and Dom’s struggle to get to Wimbledon, Geoff having to run to Kingston – both also traffic induced. Not ideal pre race preparation!
Over two and a half hours later, I dropped off Peter and Dmitry as soon as we arrived and they just about managed to scramble to the start line on time, as fortunately did the rest of the team. I had to find a parking space which meant I started 5 minutes late. I could see the mass of runners sprinting up the iconic hill from the bandstand where I was frantically trying to get my spikes on and pin my bib number to my chest. The gazebo stayed in the car due to lack of time – so much for that idea!
To the race itself. The course was yet again short, as almost always seems to be the case with SEAA events these days: A mere 13.7km versus the official 15km. What it lost in terms of distance it more than made up for in terms of difficulty. The wet weather, the earlier 10 or so races and the 1,172 senior male finishers (over 1,800 had entered!) combined to create the mother of all quagmires. A veritable kaleidoscope of mud textures and thicknesses (ankle deep in many places), pools of water, and array of squelching sounds (I swear I played the tune of “mud mud glorious mud”) meant that anyone wearing trail shoes or anything less than 12mm spikes could forget running and just take up rehearsing for the next series of Skating on Ice. The mud was so bad it took my shoe off three times, adding to the 5 minutes I lost at the start. The surface condition coupled with the 350 metres of elevation gain created one of the stiffest running tests going.
Ben wisely bought a pair of spikes for the occasion, which seemed like a good idea until they proceeded to tear up his feet in huge blisters and forcing him to drop out after the first lap (5k). Ed continued his unlucky run (pardon the pun) on Parliament Hill with another injury. Happily most others held together to finish the race enabling us to complete a scoring team.
We finished in 71st position (same as last year) out of 81 scoring teams, and scored a mere 63 points less than the Stragglers who finished 69th. We had a stronger team this year than last but just loads of bad luck!
A total of 158 teams took part – 77 of which didn’t have enough finishers to score.
Paul put in a sterling performance turning in a decent time and finishing a very creditable 408th.
The team finishing order was as follows:
408th: Paul Donohoe (1:01:15)
589th: Dominic Woodbridge (1:04:51)
703rd: Dmitry Selemir (1:07:13)
778th: Joseph Gonzalez (1:09:13)
896th: Geoff Tookey (1:12:55)
945th: Joe Chang (1:14:39)
DNF: Ben Chown, Ed Francis and Peter Grecian.
Well done to the entire team for braving a very tough course indeed. We can’t wait for next year’s event, and hope we’ll be able to tempt some of you to join us and take on the challenge.