Sussex League 3: Stanmer Park Success

Race day usually starts on the Friday before hand- and this weekend was no different. I spent my evening trying to complete my geography notes, and also made time for a large bowl of stuffed pasta and chocolate mousse (separately, don’t worry). However that night was a little different to usual- and in a good way, which was great. I just wasn’t nervous. No butterflies. No worries. Bring on Stanmer Park.

race number cross country success at stanmer Park teenurnner

This was because I wasn’t really expected anything too amazing- quite the opposite actually. I was anticipating a hard and gruelling effort since it was my first hard run after 2 months off from running because of injury. I was half expecting my foot to start hurting again as well…

cross country race walking the course success at stanmer Park teenrunner

The only flat section!

Anyway, after a solid night’s sleep I woke at 8.00am (very late for me!) and went down for breakfast. Now I often struggle with knowing what to eat before competitions, so I decided to take advantage of the low-keyness (if that’s even a word!) of the race and try something new. I made a huge bowl of porridge (no exaggeration), with peanut butter and 2 glasses of water. Last Thursday we were given a talk at school about carbohydrates use in sport, and I learned that foods like white breads and bagels are great for the release of energy over two hours or so, and therefore for someone with a fast metabolism like me it’s best to go for oats in the morning which are very slow release, and then as a later snack have half a bagel or something similar. So after walking the course (which was very hilly might I mention), I tucked into a large banana and marmite bagel at 12.00pm, ready for my race at 2.05pm.

cross country race walking the course success at stanmer Park teenurnner

These random people got in the way when I was trying to take a nice photo. You can see the Brighton Stadium in the background!

I then sat and watched the younger runners zoom past, and before I knew it 1.20pm came around- time to warm up. The Stanmer Park course was split between short, dry grass and stony path, and so I chose to wear a pair of trail shoes which I won at the Mavericks Race two years ago. I thought this would also be a very safe and secure option for my foot!

waiting for my race success at stanmer Park teenrunner

Waiting for my race.

The start line was surprisingly jam-packed, but I strategically waited until everyone was assembled on the line, and then shoved a few people back a little bit so I could fit in. I apologised but if they had bothered to get there first they should have held their ground more fiercely! When the gun sounded I then took off nearer the front, and sat in around the top 15. I felt good- which of course I was pretty happy about. The route consisted of two loops, with the second 1km longer than the first with a bigger hill.

start of the race stanmer park cross country teenrunner

There were so many people!

I sat in behind a couple of runners for the first lap, and then decided to try and latch onto the next little pocket of runners coming into the second. I caught up and managed to stay there however on the next hill I suddenly started to feel really sick and although my pace didn’t drop, I was overtaken by a significantly older women. That was demoralizing.

Coming into the second lap

Coming into the second lap.

Still, I just kept ploughing along and battled the nausea right to the finish, where I was pipped at the line by two runners who I had previously overtaken but to be honest, I don’t really care. I’m just so pleased with my performance and the fact that my foot didn’t hurt at all. The best bit was the fact that there was just no pressure to run well- and I think that really helped me. I was a little nervous on the start line, but during the race I was just taking each section as it came- and although I was finding it tough and probably wasn’t running as quick as usual, in a way I enjoyed it. And that’s the best thing for me.

On the final hill at stanmer park cross country teenrunner

On the final hill. These two did beat me in the end.

My tip for you guys is to…

Try to get rid of that self-brought-on-pressure, no matter how big the race. This is so much easier said than done- and I get that, but maybe you could try thinking that being there is just a bonus and so it doesn’t matter where you come. Unless you’re super fast, just try to pick off the next person, and then the next one- but don’t get too caught up if you can’t. Take every section of the course as it comes, and try not to worry about the people behind. Go with the flow, and just run how you feel, not caring if your strongest competitor is miles ahead. Running is about how YOU do, not anyone else.

finished the race stanmer park cross country teenrunner

Finished!

I understand that that message may only get through to a few of you, but even that is better than nothing! This technique really helped me, and in the end I came 13th overall, and I think I came second in my U17 category. Yes I was beaten by somebody I would normally finish in front of, but that doesn’t matter- for me that race was about finishing pain-free and ready to start training again: exactly what I did.

end of the race stanmer park cross country teenrunner 3

I hope everyone who raced had a great run, and that you’re all stayed injury and stress free.

PS. If you want some inspirational posts to read, I would definitely check out Anna’s blog, Anna the Apple. Spoiler alert: she’s going to be writing a guest blog for me soon, but in the meantime I really recommend reading her posts about injury, and also her reflections on ‘Why I’m Okay Being Average’

end of the race stanmer park cross country teenrunner family

With Mum, stepdad and dogs.

PPS. Mailing list goes out tonight at 7pm- so don’t miss it and sign up now! You only have to put your email into the banner at the top, or use the pop-up. If you’ve already subscribed you don’t need to worry about doing it again!

Originally published on TeenRunner

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