Ryde Harriers cross country championship January 21, 2018- By Kate couch

I DON’T think I have ever checked the weather forecast so much as I did in the run up to the Harriers cross-country championship.

Each day there was no change…quite simply, it would rain for a fair part of the week beforehand and then pour down on race day.

Whichever way you looked at it, conditions were going to be wet. Course-setter Stephen Lee was spot on when he put a pre-race post on Facebook,  describing the going as officially soft.

I started running in 2016 and this winter has seen my first foray into cross-country running. I would be the first to admit I don’t like running in the rain, but I had said I would do the championships and so I found myself lining up with 40 other club members … in the wet.

Literally within a minute or two of starting, I got my first impromptu soaking when a couple of runners stumbled and fell in a puddle in front of me … and we hadn’t even got out of the grounds of Smallbrook Stadium!

The general hilarity continued right round the course. Another lady and I were running down a field into a farmyard when water splashed up from our feet all over me. “Free shower included!” I hollered, which brought a smile to nearby marshal Peter White’s face.

Having been a very wet week, the mud was quite something … miraculously I didn’t pull my shoes off, or fall flat on my face, but I was soon coated with mud from the thighs down.

I’m not a particularly fast runner, so I enjoyed myself running in mid-pack and as we entered the woodland, I did a spectacular skid along the railway sleeper bridge, but somehow kept my balance and continued to the turnaround point.

There were some interesting howls in that piece of woodland…hence Stephen Lee has now re-christened it ‘Screaming Woman Wood’. I’m not convinced all the noise was female, as I saw at least one male runner nearly straddle a fallen tree which he was trying to hurdle.

The course is roughly out-and-back, so having made the turnaround, I had a good idea of what I had to do to get home. It was still raining, so I decided to crack on.

Other faster runners started to pass me on their way back, but I plugged on, throwing one-liners and heartfelt thanks at the soggy marshals patiently waiting for us to pass them.

As I was approaching the finish, my foot somehow found a hole in the field and I tripped, but the next minute I was euphoric as I crossed the line amid lots of cheering from other runners.

And still it rained. But I didn’t care. It had been a wet and filthy mudfest and my trainers were squelching. But it was the camaderie from fellow Harriers, guest runners and marshals, which brought sunshine to my day.

As I often say to fellow new runners, you have to try different types of race to see what suits you best. I also believe there is no such thing as “not being a good enough runner” … it is important to run for yourself and your own sense of enjoyment and achievement.

I have discovered I love running in the countryside and after the Harriers’ cross-country championship, I felt muddy marvellous!