cross country runningCross country. I’m not sure which sadistic person decided that running laps around a wet, boggy, muddy field with a huge hill or two on each lap in minimal running clothing would be fun. It sounds more like torture to me.

I’m not great at running over rutted fields and mud, and whilst I love the trails the trails I run are mainly hard-packed trails not the sloppy mud with the potential for losing a shoe that you get on cross country. And then there are the hills; again I don’t mind sauntering up the hills as I do in a trail run but race up muddy ones? Err, no!

So why am I lining up at the start line of a Chiltern Cross Country race in Luton? I’m happy on the roads and over long distances so a short, hard 6km in muddy fields with hills sounds like my ultimate nightmare. And it is, it is sheer madness. But I am being brave, putting myself out of my comfort zone and hopefully making be a better runner by improving my leg strength. I’ve even bought some brand new cross country spikes – well if you’re going to do it you might as well do it properly.

But that’s only part of the reason for running the last two Chiltern Cross Country races. The second reason is that I appear to have no choice. My eldest daughter, Ami, ran her first cross country race for our club, Leighton Buzzard AC, and I have now been firmly told that if she can do it, so can I. Like every parent I try to set a positive example for my own daughters to discover and develop their strengths, and I’m also a SisuGirls Ambassador.

Sisu: determined, brave, & resilient. We encourage the development of sisu in girls through physical pursuits, education & awareness.

Sisu is a Finnish term, which if directly translated into English would mean “having guts”, or ” having grit”. It’s about being prepared to fall, but to have the confidence and courage to pick yourself up and try again. And I suspect I might be falling a fair bit in this race. So as you can see if I want to live up to what I believe in I really have no choice.

And finally, by watching Ami at her cross country races I’ve discovered that camaraderie and team spirit are a huge part of cross country meets. There’s a friendly rivalry and a lot of respect between clubs and athletes, as well as a huge amount of support – whatever your club colours. Most of the races I do are as individual but I love to compete as part of a team when given the opportunity, so I am prepared to endure cross country running to be part of all of that.

I’m sure as I stand on the start line I’ll be nervous and thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” I may be talking to those around me to avoid thinking of what is to come, but secretly I’ll be hoping it’s not too rutted, too muddy or too hilly or I think I might actually cry.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

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