Lewis Reed’s experience from the National Cross-Country Championships

Nationals Experience, by Lewis Reed

On Saturday 23rd February was the English Nationals Cross-Country Championships, held at Harewood House in Leeds and was my first year competing at the English Nationals.

The only real expectation I had of this race, was to beat my time I had on this course a year ago in the Northern Cross-Country Championships where I finished 184th out of 197 people with a time of 18:42 seconds. My performance on that day was under par, as the training leading up to the Northern Cross-Country Champs had been very consistent but didn’t reflect in the race result.

My training sessions leading up to the English Nationals, numerous local Cross-Country races and the previous Summers Track and field races, gave me confidence that I would be able to better the previous years’ time.

Personally, this was one of the most difficult courses I’ve ever ran, and the very hot and sunny conditions didn’t help on the day! The start of the race was from the bottom of a hill and required runners to climb 200m upwards! This had an impact on a lot of the competitors later in the race, including myself.

I was caught right at the back of my pen, meaning it was very challenging to get past the other 343 runners. Then as we ascended the hill I seemed to get boxed in on the left on the track, meaning it was harder to get past people, while at the same time trying to preserve as much energy for the rest of the race as possible.

As the race continued, the heat started to increase, meaning a lot of the runners started to drop off the pace. But I still wanted to preserve my energy and not try and get away from the runners in front, as I knew the daunting hills weren’t far ahead. The support throughout the course was fantastic, I had the cheers from BMHH parents and athletes keeping me going right till the end. 

As we descended back down the final hill, there was only 300-400m to go. As I got on the first bit of flat ground, I put my head down and opened my strides as far as I could. It was a great experience, seeing runners from all over the country and how quick some of them were over this final distance.

I was delighted when I got to the finish line for plenty of reasons: I had managed to complete the race with a strong finish and I smashed my goal by beating the time from the previous year by over two minutes, ending 265th out of 344 runners.

To finish off the day, I was treated to an ice-cream and bought a Nationals jumper, which I will wear with pride.

My next big race is the English Schools Cross-Country Championships on Saturday 16th March in Chelmsford, to end a long cross-country season.

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