Tag Archives: cross country

Run Your Face Off


Today I ran an alleged 5 mile in 36.27 minutes (I’m not sure I trust the Scottish measurement of a mile). Both my academic Dad and my real Dad agree that I can break 35, so cheers to that! (It really only requires I become even more maniacal about running, which is not going to be a problem).

The race today was in Edinburgh and it was all hills. Up and down. Up and down. Just over and over.

My academic Dad explained something to me about English cross country that has fundamentally altered and bettered my understanding of the sport. First of all, it is not about running. As he put it, “it’s about doing something really painful and dirty and then feeling really manly afterwards.”

Not being a man, it’s hard for me to know whether this definition can actually apply to me, but everything suddenly made sense because then he explained that he’s never really timed himself before, or known his pace per mile or whatever, because it wasn’t important. The important thing was getting through the absolute insanity of the race. And then there’s me, calculating that I ran a 7.17 pace and realizing it’s about 20 seconds faster per mile than the five mile I ran two weeks ago. I always thought the fun part was getting faster — and never encountering much pain beyond the killer uphill and the two days afterwards in which soreness takes over your soul.

David has set me straight. English cross country is just different. And now all the mud makes so much more sense.

The rest of this weekend holds excessive socializing and washing of clothes and towels and sheets, because it’s important to wash your sheets.

I am so excited to eat that I have to stop writing right now.

Today I feel as happy as a free range chicken.

Cross X, the meaning of rain, and all that is good


Saturday was officially awesome, despite the fact that I woke up at noon. Some people might claim that I am basically a sloth, but I am only listening to my incredibly wise mother who says “get more sleep,” all the time because maybe she thinks that when I Skype her at 2 in the morning (my time — she might become homicidal if it were 2 am her time), it’s a sign I’m not sleeping. And to that I say, “noon, mama! I slept till noon!”

Ok, right, moving along.

Saturday. Ah, the beauty that is the road race in combination with the beauty that is the mild Scottish winter.

After waking up at noon and dragging myself haphazardly from my bed, I stumbled into racing gear (literally stumbled and almost fell on my floor), ate a banana, eggs and a crumpet with raspberry jam (dude, crumpets are one food the UK has figured out — now they just need to figure out whole wheat), and feeling appropriately full, I set out for the gym with an exciting five-mile road race on my mind.

We were going to Cupar, which is not especially far and I needed to be back by 4:30 because I had a “work trial” at 5 pm and I had this weird idea in my head that I could shower, dress appropriately and make what is a leisurely 20- to 25-minute walk in half an hour. This is not something I probably could have done. But we’ll get to that.

The early afternoon was super Scottish with all this brightness and a little bit of warmth if you managed somehow to find a windbreak, which was complicated because the wind did not seem to have selected any particular target direction. Still, things were looking good and a number of people stated that “it was perfect racing weather” and that seemed like a small stretch to me, but not being one to argue (right? right), I didn’t say anything.

And the race really was nice. It was an out-and-back five-mile, with a dipping road between fields that somehow remain green all year long. What is up with that? I guess I’m just used to, like, snow and dead brown things.

In any case, I ran it in 38 minutes, which was cool, or hot, or whatever, and it started to rain in my last mile. This was sort of a treat because it meant I didn’t get rained on so much. Although then I stood in the drizzle waiting for the rest of the girls and realized that it wasn’t really a treat. And then it stopped raining, so now you’re probably wondering why in the world I’m still typing this paragraph about rain that lasted for about ten minutes. Yep. This paragraph is totally over now.

Let’s get back to my timing estimations. We were in no way getting back before 4:45. So I became incredibly annoying and began asking every single person present if they were ready to go yet.

I did get to my room at 4:47 because my new friend Alistair was kind enough to drop me at my door, and I raced upstairs, calling GT on the way to see if he would drive me to my “work trial” and in the meantime, I realized that I did not have the clothing I’d been asked to wear. It wasn’t even really complicated, yet somehow I did not have black trousers or a long-sleeved white shirt and so I tried to improvise by wearing an off-white silk blouse and a black skirt with black tights. However, in my rush to get the blouse on, I put it on backwards and tried to turn it without taking it off, which caused a button to fly off the back like some evil slingshot aimed at delaying me. Then I decided I should wear a blazer, to cover the missing button and so I threw on a grey blazer, grabbed makeup and raced outside, where GT waited.

I didn’t end up having the work trial because, as it turns out, I wasn’t dressed appropriately for work. I also found out that my super cute crackle-painted nails (gold and black, yo!), were a no go. However, it all worked out because I couldn’t really work Saturdays anyway and being there allowed me to meet with a boss in another division of the hotel, who is planning to schedule me for another go at the work trial within the breakfast staff.

Today I bought black trousers and two white collared shirts and bemoaned my quad muscles because they are angry at yesterday’s road race and making it known when I get vigorous with the stairs.

The weekend has been a success.

Falkirk, but not the Wheel


Yesterday I made a two-hour trek with my super awesome academic mum and a van full of fellow cross country fanatics to the exciting tourist destination called Falkirk, home to the extremely exciting Falkirk Wheel, which happens to be the only rotating boat lift in the world. Seriously.

Being the serious runners that we are, we did not manage to visit the magnificent wheel, although we did see (up-close) a number of signs directing us to it. And that was cool. Although the reason we saw a number of these signs is actually because we took the wrong exit in approaching the race, and were therefore required to wind our way through Falkirk in a traffic lineup that made me miss Atlanta. And that was less cool.

It was especially less cool because we arrived at precisely 1:30, which was also the time when the women’s race began and therefore it was also the time when we missed the women’s race. I am a woman and unfortunately did not bring my boy disguise yesterday and so I could only watch when my six male teammates made their way to the starting line.

My mum and Ruth and I went on a pathetic little jog — pathetic in part because I thought I would die halfway through — and then I ate chips and felt gross.

We also had a conversation about why Scottish cross country is always muddy. My mum said she thought it was because it’s more challenging that way. But I still don’t understand why that would be a goal. I mean, if you’re running an 8k, you’re running an 8k; is it cooler if you do it on the muddiest course or the most pristine trail? And don’t the sudden steep downhill stretches (there was one of these right before the finish line) that are so thick with mud that only a black goo remains where there used to be grass and the black goo makes headway up to your knees — don’t those seem like a trap for the clumsy or injury prone? Just lying in wait, preceding that final straightaway, which you glimpsed as you approached the descent? You think you’re safe and then splooch, you have sunk in. Your shoes will never be sexy and orange again.

My mum didn’t really have an answer to my rather dramatic appeal on behalf of the clumsy. But I’m pretty sure the mud is a plot against flailers and wobblers alike.

What I’m really trying to say here is that the St. Andrews cross country boys braved a seriously muddy course. And I didn’t, but if I could have, I would have, and I also probably would have fallen down. So. Rock on.

The Concept of Cross Country


I have run before. Sure, I’m not exactly the fastest kid on the block, but I like to lose my breath and find a sweaty rhythm.

(Get your mind out of the gutter).

(Oh my god, I just grossed myself out. I’m sorry).

The point, though, is that I have not run cross country, really, before today, when I raced in the Cumbernauld relay with the St. Andrews team. I may not have realized it, but cross country is not just about running. Apparently it’s about crossing the country, also known as the wet and wild terrain of a particular region. I will explain.

First of all, there is this big huge field, misshapen by hills — like somebody was needing a whole lot of dough and then got distracted and left it on the counter, where it hardened into a sloping monstrosity. In this scenario, we are like really organized ants running around on the dough. I’m going to move away from the metaphor, though, before it really starts to break down. I just hope you understand how hilly it really was.

Second, imagine mud. Imagine sloppy, squishy black mud, with just enough grass in it that you think you might actually be in a normal field, until you walk over it and your shoes fill with water and there is a sucking noise when you lift your foot up.

Third, consider that you are running in winding circles over the hilly, muddy field, with no idea how far you’ve gone or where you currently are in the terrain, because from the bottom of one hill you can’t see the rest of the field and also because you have literally been running in large winding curves alongside a piece of tape that has been pinned into the ground. At one point, the wind picked up and this tape attacked me and I almost fell in the mud, but it worked out because I leapt into the air over it, like an overeager ant on the dough, and then considered that if I could do that, then I should run faster, so I tried to run faster, but found myself in a swamp moments later.

Fortunately, I also made it past the swamp, but not without first imagining that my life might flash before my eyes at any second.

Last, this was a relay, so after I finished my 4k, I had two team members who followed me over the course. Our cumulative time was around 58 minutes because we are awesome. It was really cold. Then the boys on our team went — they had four people per team — and Andy gave me his a camera. It was still really cold. But I got to take pictures of everyone, and action shots of runners, and that made me exceedingly happy.

Now I understand the concept of cross country.

This is a picture of cats who are not running, but there are lot of them, which is interesting, even if it is not related at all to a post about running over muddy hills in the cold. There is some mud in the photo, though, so maybe that's helpful.

Dune Running (and Hell)


Yesterday, I went dune running. In case you’re wondering, dunes are made of sand and sand is difficult to run in because it squashes all around under your feet instead of the normal ground, which generally stays put.

Before we began, one of my new friends who became my friend after I won the ‘5k’ race, explained to me that this was the worst workout that the cross country team ever did. When he said it, people around him began to also proclaim the horror of its ways, with references to burning thighs and hellfire, etc.

This was exciting for me, though, because I have actually never met a workout that came described in such a way that I did not enjoy thoroughly. So I sort of just smiled. And he said, “You don’t believe me.” And I said, “I do believe you, I’m just excited.” And then he laughed.

So it was fine. I mean, what I should really say is that it was awful and terrible and so intense I thought I might die and need to start praying to the good lord to finally save my everlasting and sinful soul, but, well, I am against lying.

I felt a little bad afterwards, though, when I realized that running in the sand dunes slowly destroys them. It’s because I’m an environmentalist or whatever.