The Danville High School alumni race last August rekindled my passion for cross country racing. Cross country races take place on grass, and while they’re usually more challenging that road races, they’re usually not quite as tough as trail races. They’re a happy medium of speed and technical challenge.
After moving to STL I ran a big cross country race, where I got trounced by the big city competition. Then a few weeks later ran a much, much, much smaller race. Then cross country season (fall) ended, I got injured, I recovered, I got in shape again, and fall is fast approaching. I found a cross country 5K down by the river last weekend and I figured it would be good to get a race under my belt before this year’s DHS alumni event.
I didn’t know what to expect given my two previous STL cross country races had 117 and 9 participants, respectively. I showed up an hour before the race started and there were like 8 cars in the parking lot, so I quickly determined it would be closer to the latter. Many XC courses consist of loops run multiple times, but this course was one continuous 5K path. I decided to run the entire course as a warmup. I didn’t want any surprises during the race. There was a risk this would leave me tired for the race, but it seemed unlikely. The older I get the longer it takes me to warmup and on most of my 7-10 mile runs lately I’ve been at my best during the middle few miles.
Participants trickled in and by the time the race started there were 45 runners. Only two or three others looked potentially fast, but looks can be deceiving. Right from the gun a guy about 10 years my elder took the lead and I stayed on his shoulder for the first mile. I quickly noticed I was struggling to keep up with him on the downhills, but I had to hold myself back on the uphills. He started to slow around the mile mark, by which point we had a huge lead on the rest of the field). The next uphill we reached I passed him, trying to make it convincing. I built up a 20 second lead pretty quickly, which stretched to 45 seconds by the finish (though I later learned he had to stop and tie his shoelaces, D’oh!).
So I won, following up good performances at two bike races earlier in the week. Speaking of bike racing, this is the first foot race I’ve run using bike racing tactics, which is still weird when I think about it. I didn’t go all out from start to finish, as I typically do. I followed other people’s moves, played the waiting game, attacked at the right moment, then soloed to the finish line. I don’t think I’ll have many chances to do that, particularly in bigger races with stronger competition.
The awards were Christmas tree ornaments, which was unique.
That makes it two races I’ve won since high school, both 5Ks, one road, one cross country. It was a fun race on a good course. I would have liked to have run faster, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to do that all by myself at the front. My next two cross country races will have tough competition, so I’m hoping I can run a bit faster in those.