Ah, Parliament Hill. You offer great views of the center of London but you are a b**** to run up! At least that’s how many people made it out to be, leading up to the London Cross Country Championships this weekend. In reality, it wasn’t as impossibly uphill as I’d imagined. There were quite a few ups, but there were also a good deal of downs and the course itself was quite lovely, snaking its way around Parliament Hill and Kenwood on Hampstead Heath. (It didn’t hurt that the day was lovely, too: mid-40sF and sunny.) The course was also a pretty technical: there were a few mud holes — though they weren’t as bad as some years have been, I was told — and lots of bumpy/hole-y grass sections.
Because this race was a championship, each club had to enter specific names beforehand. I didn’t get my name in early enough, but a few of the ladies who had entered didn’t end up running. I ran as “CM” rather than as myself, which just means the result isn’t under my name.
Earlier last week I read a short article on cross country and hill running, which talked about how to effectively run downhill. I knew that it’s important to let gravity help you down the hills, but what I learned from the article was to use a short, quick stride rather than let your strides get long and overreaching as you barrel down. I tried the short, quick downhill stride technique at Parliament Hill and it definitely made my feel faster and more controlled. Instead of lengthening my stride downhill and then having to adjust it when the course flattened out again, I found myself readjusting to flattening — or rising — terrain more quickly after a downhill, since my turnover was still fast. Shorter downhill strides also stressed my quads less and helped me stay balanced on the tricky terrain.
The finish was longer than I anticipated: we ran down through a chute but then had to turn left around a corner and still had 150-200m until the finish line. Thanks to teammate D’s cheering (“Come on, Tamm!”), I was able to rev up and have a great kick, passing one woman and then pushing to catch another about 5 meters before the finish. I finished the 6km (3.73mi) course in about 28:08 (7:32/mi pace) — not as fast as last week but given that the course was tougher and I was running on sore legs, I’m pretty pleased with the result.
Apparently all of the Heathside women did well: our “A” team finished second in their division, and our “B” and “C” teams were first in their divisions. (Don’t ask me how the divisions/scoring work — I’m still trying to figure that out.) Well done, ladies!