The last time I can recall competing in the Nationals was in 2006 as an U17, just before I sat my GCSE exams. Ten years later, (and having sat a few more exams), I found myself at the Donington Park GP Circuit in Castle Donington, gearing up to compete in the 84th Senior Women’s championship race.
I was perhaps not best prepared for the ordeal, having spent the previous day under my duvet, reaping the wrath of a stomach bug. However I couldn’t wait another decade, and so joined the Senior Men’s Team at St Pancras, ready to board the train "Up North" (in my case) / to the Midlands (my Northern compatriots.) The race venue was situated almost directly opposite the East Midlands airport, and so we were frequently greeted with alarmingly low flying jumbo jets. The Senior Women’s race course consisted of two, greatly undulating laps, accumulating a total distance of 8km. The Senior Men ran 12km, and thus three laps of this uncompromising circuit!
At 2:20pm I was jittering on the start line, along with nearly 800 other runners, comforting myself with the fact that it would surely be over within the hour. The race itself was, tough – what, on inspection appeared to be innocuous soft ground, proved to be thick, glutinous mud, with a propensity to retain the running spikes of unwary runners. Stray root vegetables became an additional hazard, having migrated from neighbouring fields, and dotted precariously along the course.
Melodrama aside, I finished the race, and with four limbs intact, which had been my sole aim in the circumstances. It was a fantastic experience, and I look forward to returning next year (wherever, whenever), hopefully with a full Senior Women’s Team. I am very grateful to Graham Maynard for meticulously organising all the travel arrangements - so well in fact, that we were able to see England beat Ireland in the Six Nations Game, televised in one of the local Public Houses….