Southern Cross Country Championships

I mentioned in my last post about the Box Hill Fell Race that I only tend to get apprehensive about two races that I do regularly. The week after Box Hill I found myself on the start line of the second of these! At over 9 miles the ‘Southern’s’ is a bit of an epic one!

I have run the Southerns about 3 or 4 times before, but 2012 was the first time I had seen the race take place away from Parliament Hill. With the seemingly unending brutality that Parliasment Hill uniquely provides, I was quite excited about racing somewhere else this year. After the traditional chaotic and conflicting information from the SEAA about transport and parking, we actually managed to get sorted and the tent up at the venue well ahead of the race start. Come 2:30pm however, I felt surprisingly sprightly for the real endurance ahead. 

I have to say that Stanmer Park, Brighton, didn’t disappoint. The course was the usual 9+ miles with the epic ‘pen’ start but with a character all on its own. It’s always difficult on unfamiliar courses, and despite having a good look on the internet before the race, I couldn’t actually find anything out about how Stanmer Park fared in the cross country course hall of fame.

 Once the gun went, I settled into a steady rhythm, although at a fairly pedestrian pace. Despite Stanmer Park being clearly a municipal park, similar in type but not in scale to parks like Lloyd Park in Croydon, the early stages of the race had a slightly more classic feel; we quickly found grip against the first of two major hills. I found myself about 10 minutes maintaining position and feeling pretty good. My only criticism at this stage was the bizarre breathing noises of the guy I seemed to be running directly alongside. Obviously everyone has their own style, but a semi hacking cough after each intake of breath surely can’t be the sign of a healthy respiratory system?

Regular readers of my blog will know that one of major issues with cross country this winter has been the serious lack of mud, and this course was certainly no different. However, the excellent longer downhill sections more than made up for this. After each of the tough but relatively short climbs on each lap, the inevitable descent proved to be, frankly, a bit of a treat. By my estimates each was probably just under a KM long and not so steep that you found yourself struggling for breath, but enough to give you the opportunity to pick off a couple of other runners who perhaps had pushed a bit hard up the ups. 
The third and final lap began as a bit or a surprise. On all previous Southerns, I have clearly overstretched myself by this stage and am feeling the effects. This time however, I felt relatively strong, and with the two downhill stretches ahead of me, I started to kick on a bit. Overall I think I overtook about a dozen people on this last lap, which always gives you a pretty good feeling. The fact that I had started a little slowly and was probably only picking off a few people I should have been ahead of anyway obviously is irrelevant…. 
So my final position was 316th, which was actually 17 places better than in 2011. I know it’s difficult to read too much into championship results over different years and on different course, but I’m pretty happy with the result, and long may the improvements continue! 

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