By Ewan Smith
Cross country is cold, wet and muddy. It is physically demanding and when you set off to go home ( minus medals, t-shirts or any other
paraphernalia) there is a fair chance that your "dry" clothes will also be cold, wet and muddy. There is nothing to like. Yet I like it very
Iain MacKinnon, the club psychiatrist, could probably spend hours psychoanalysing that but you don't need to be bored with that. It is
enough to know that it led me to enter Run Stirling; a race I had no business being anywhere near. To be fair, when I first looked, it
seemed a good idea. The distance wasn't over-long and the course looked quite flat. Naively, I also assumed the elite runners would
probably run at a different time from the ordinary punters. Having entered the thing I then looked into it. That lead to a panicky post
on the Facebook page to which Big Kenny replied that he reckoned "we wouldn't be last". Given that Kenny was over 4 minutes in front of me
at the West Districts, I wasn't entirely reassured by this prediction.
Last autumn I was having a wee better spell but it didn't really last and the gloss was off it by the Slog. By the time the day came, I had
an array of niggles and in the back of my mind I wondered if I was heading for a repeat of last spring when my legs just stopped working.
The weather conditions didn't entice either; the motorway was down to a single lane due to floods and atone point I thought I might not get
there in time.
The satnav didn't know there was a race on either and wanted to take me down closed roads so in the end the car was abandoned and I set off on foot more in hope than in earnest until I happened upon Neil John who had just finished the Stirling Castle Run.
While I have to admit that the rain was easing, it was still one of those warm ups which leave you hypothermic and so I made my way to the
start line where the quality of the field was very apparent. I was determined not to go off too fast but that wasn't easy as I would have
had to go flat out just to keep up with some of these guys on their easy runs. Normally in a race I'm aware that there is a huge crowd in front
of you but normally in cross country there are points on the course where you see that there are also a fair few behind you; this time I
realised that behind me there were very few indeed.
I had struggled from the get go and this realisation did not help. I heard a voice which I think belonged to Graeme Crawford shout "Mon
Campbeltown" but it wasn't in me. The course involved 4 laps in a fairly small space and so there were a number of tight turns. Given
the weather conditions, there were also long stretches which would not have looked out of place in "1917". I hoped I wouldn't loose a shoe
and battered on, making a mental note to use longer spikes next time. Pure shame stopped me from dropping out but by the half way stage I
really wasn't sure if I would make it. I knew there weren't many behind me but Kenny's words ran round my heid and I was determined not to be last.
By the last lap I was knackered and it doesn't do much for your ego when you hear them calling for the medal winners to go to the podium when
you've still got over 1K to go. The blurt was oot me and I was aware of a couple of guys coming up behind me but I was past caring and
finally crossed the line 130 out of 161. A cool doon was out of the question; I could hardly walk never mind run, the rain had resumed and I
made my way despondently to the car.
On reflection, however, while I know I have had better runs, it wasn't that bad either. Given that there were 5 national teams and several
district teams you can hardly be surprised to be near the back. A glance at the Run Britain stats (yes I'm that sad) also suggests it
wasn't too bad a performance. And apart from that, how many times will you ever get the chance to run in races at that level? And I wasn't