This year I competed in the English National Cross Country Championships. It was the perfect race to end a great xc season on, and included a mini road trip to Nottingham with friends to add a bit more fun to the mud.
I caught the bus with my Serpentine team members from London and one service station stop and a few hours later we arrived at Wollaton Park which has a great history of hosting the Nationals.
I met up with Laura & Katie and we wandered around the park to find the excellent cotton race shirts (£12 or *top tip* 2/£12 if you waited until after the race!) and our team tents.
The spikes for sale indicated the level of mud on the course, clearly it was going to be a minimum 12mm to get any sort of traction through the boggy bits.
As a club we made our way to the start tent and huddled together to keep warm in our vests while the Junior Boys race finished up their laps. The start was classic cross country. A wide start at the bottom of a hill with hundreds of women lined up in colourful vests ready to run full steam ahead.
After the big hill at the start there was a downhill and some flat track before the bogs started. We were warned of water features on the course, but I didn’t realise they’d be so deep and big. It was so fun charging through them and trusting (hopefully) your legs to land on something solid and keep you upright.
After the first bogs it was up a sharp hill to Wollaton Hall and a hairpin turn back down the hill. From here the course was mostly solid and flat so it was a good time to catch my breath and settle into a pace. I ran most of the behind a blind runner and her guide and it was so interesting to hear him describe the terrain the first lap and then how well she remembered it the second lap.
We went through a few more much stickier bogs near the end of the lap before starting up the start hill for another go. There was a lot of support all around the course which was great and you couldn’t help but smile for the cameras as you made your way through the mud.
The finish was up one of the hardest hills I’ve ever run up with large mole hills, tufts of earth and sludgy streams making it almost impossible to find any rhythym let alone solid places for each foot to land. Once up though it was all downhill to the finish and no matter what the race plan was at the beginning a cross country finish straight begs to be sprinted.
I found my friend Katie waiting at the finish and we cheered a few of her club members in before finding our way back to tents, warm jackets, and cake.
For the record I finished in 48:15 good enough for 673rd in the country.
Once the results came out for the English National Cross Country Championships no one did the math and figured out I was 3 months pregnant at the time of running it. In fact no one in the media has reported that I was pregnant for 8 out of the 9 cross country races I ran this season.
That’s because it’s often quite normal and OK for pregnant women to keep doing what they were doing before they got pregnant.
Don’t believe me? The Cut has some anecdotal research on it. Every GP, midwife, osteopath, medical professional I spoke to in my early days of pregnancy said to keep doing what I was comfortable doing in terms of exercise if anything changed come back to reassess. I’ve learned that every single day of pregnancy is different and the only mistake you can make is to plan ahead! By taking everything one day at a time and consulting with my PTs, coaches, and teachers I’ve been quite happy with (what seems to be a shocking revelation to most of the media thanks to Serena Williams) living my normal life while pregnant.