Old-school Cross Country

Today's round of Primary Schools Cross Country was at Bradfield School. We have had two weeks of Marti Pellow weather and Bradfield is out of the city. The course, largely on the school field, hosted the Secondary Schools version the weekend before.

Brilliant route; there  are a couple of banks across the field so of course the route goes up them, twice each. There's a pond off to one side so the route skirts the edge so that the route is really wet. As it is still the football season the course hugs a straight line between two pitches in the middle of the field. And the field outside the school that the Y5 and Y6 runners lapped was described as 'heavy'.

Get 500 or so children to run a path about 5 metres wide on waterlogged grass and it quickly looks like a festival field. The corners were churned, the edges were filthy, the finish was gloopy. There were dirty legs and faces and bottoms and hands - you could easily tell how fast each child had run by how high up their backs the mud splashes reached.

If ever a sporting activity is going to test resilience it is this. Cross Country like this is sapping and hard. There is huge achievement but not so much fun while you are actually running. The hot chocolate afterwards is good and the stories are told for hours - of lost shoes, and muddy legs, and falling over. There was a course inspection at 8:00 on the morning of the racing and we knew it was perfectly safe (and set to be very tiring). The race distances are kept relatively short because the children are young and because we want them to want to come back next time (two weeks - Longley Park). One of our runners was thrilled with his performance and proudly told me of his 133rd place - he'll be back for more, and he'll become a stronger and stronger person because of it.

I was a Marshal - I get there about 8:00 to help set up, mark out and test the route, and get the first flags up.

I was tasked with keeping adults off the fields, and I was, as expected, rather a failure - you cannot keep a determined parent from following their child across a muddy field to cheer them on. We wanted to limit the squelch by reducing the foot traffic on the field; Bradfield School had instructed us to do so; I hope they are understanding.

It is the simplest of sports and literally anyone can participate. Ability ranges are huge and applause is given from first to last runner in every race. In fact, the best reception was for the very back marker in the Y5/6 boys race (and he had the biggest smile). Kit requirements are minimal - some run in fancy spikes but many wear football boots or trainers or even walking shoes. These are 'events' and new runners are always able to simply turn up and join in.

First race in a fortnight is at 10:00 and will be Y3/4 girls. Make sure you have some soap powder in at home and bin sacks to cover the car seats, and come and join in.


An extra Blog this week - Coat Pegs (a burning issue) coming up as soon as I can find the photos I took on Friday.

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