Rain in the days leading up to the race*
A park, field, golf course, or beach
Slopes of varying gradients*
Red and white tape marking the course
Marshals willing to wear multiple layers & stand in the cold
Rain and wind on the day of the event*
Shorts, a vest, and shoes with grip (ideally XC spikes, but Mudclaws will do)
*Optional. Results will be suboptimal without these.
  1. Get yourself to the race location, ideally an hour before the start. Leave early in case you get lost – although race officials will let you start the race even if you arrive nine minutes late!
  2. Park in the designated car park for race competitors and walk to the start. Upon arrival you will notice that there’s a closer car park where everyone else has parked. Don’t worry, this is completely normal.
  3. Find the other Westies and help put up the marquee. This will be of importance later.
  4. Pin your number on your vest underneath your layers. Go for a warm up. Depending on the location you can do this in your trail or road shoes and stick to the paths of the park. Afterwards, take off your leggings and put on your XC spikes if you have them and do another warm up. Yes, that’s two warm ups. This is to prepare you for taking off all remaining layers including gloves, hat and buff. You only need shorts and a vest. This is what makes XC special.
  5. Get yourself to the race start along with the other women. Stand in the cold rain for five minutes, which will feel like twenty minutes. At this point your two warm ups will seem useless and you will wonder about your hat, gloves, buff and waterproof jacket. Dismiss all thoughts of this and remember that all you need for XC is shorts and a vest.
  6. When the gun goes off, start running as fast as you can up the hill in front of you and follow the red and white tape that marks the course. Pass as many runners as you can. Don’t follow the advice of the marshals such as ‘take the corner wide’. Following said advice would reduce the potential risk of falling, which is part of the fun of XC.
  7. Soon you realize that you started too fast and other runners overtake you. Keep running as fast as you can to try and catch them. Your legs hurt and your lungs are burning when going up the hills. The wind whips the rain in your face. But at least you’re not overheating.
  8. At 6.5k, a marshal tells you that you’re nearly finished. You mutter something about equal opportunities. Although for the districts and national events races are separate, women now run the same distance as men – that is 8.5k for the district races and 10k for the nationals. (The relays are shorter.)
  9. Keep running as fast as you can. At this point it might feel like you’re not going anywhere particularly when you get headwind on an uphill. You’re excited about the prospect of the last downhill to the finish. It’s quite steep and a bit scary because your feet are slipping around on the mud and you can’t get a good grip. Tell yourself that it’s just grass and mud. You expect to slide most of it down on your bum but you manage to stay upright.
  10. You finish the race feeling like you need to sit down. Then you’re filled with an enormous sense of relief that the race is over. This is followed by unexpected excitement when you think back on the race. You didn’t fall on that last downhill! You made it around the whole course without having to walk any of the up hills! Wasn’t it so much fun?
  11. You realize that you’re soaked to the skin so you jog to the Westies tent where you stare at your pile of clothes, most of which are wet from the warm up. The thought of changing into these clothes seems overwhelming. You’re thinking of sitting down but you don’t. You smile enthusiastically at the men and tell them that the course is fantastic. You change your shoes and put on your waterproof jacket to go for a cool down.
  12. You do one lap around the tents. You realize that you can’t feel your arms from the cold and you’re shivering so clearly you don’t need to cool down. Just this once; it’ll be fine. You go back to the Westies tent and stuff all your clothes into your rucksack and run to your car.
  13. You find it very difficult to get all the wet clothes off and your spare dry clothes (which you left in the car) on, and this feels a bit like stretching, which you forgot to do. Getting your dry layers fills you with an enormous sense of achievement.
  14. As you drive home in your warm car, you glance at the watch and realize that the men have only just started their race. You think of them in their shorts and vests in the wind and rain.
  15. Your next thought is about the final race of the XC season – the National XC Championships held at Callendar Park in Falkirk on Saturday, 23rd February 2020. You’re very excited, as this is 10k over three laps, with some good hills. There’s a playground to entertain the children, and there are burger vans!
Want to join?
Please note that you need to be a member of Scottish Athletics to take part in this. The cost of joining is a £21 and this gets you FREE ENTRY to lots of amazing XC races (usually held in October-December), as well as £2 discount on road and trail races. You can read more about Scottish Athletics membership and its benefits here.
4 replies
  1. Westie Woman
    Westie Woman says:

    It certainly was a braw cross country day…we also had three Westies marshalling at the event who spent hours standing in that wonderful rain. as least we had more layers on than the runners though.

  2. James Callender
    James Callender says:

    Great report Romy.

    One thing to add – For optimal effect be sure that your spikes have spent a fortnight or so in an old Tesco bag marinading in a sauce of sweat & mud from the last XC race you ran.

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