As January disappeared faster than Howie playing hide-and-seek, OUCCC hit the greatly anticipated highlight of the Hilary term calendar – BUCS Cross-Country. For those travelling up on Friday night, competitive vibes were already in the air as Jamie calmly guided the minibus to an impressive Full Blue marathon standard of 26:18, just dipping under the minute per mile barrier. On reflection however, it transpired that lessons had not been learnt from recent incidents in Glasgow and the course was almost certainly short due to Alex’s inability to calculate multiples of 1.6 beyond the distance of his long runs, or more simply to set his watch in imperial units.
“It really puts into perspective how far we’re travelling. It would have taken me an hour to run this and we’ve driven it in 9 minutes. We’re still not at a long run yet though. That makes me feel better about how long I run.”
Mathematical controversies and some terrible steel puns aside, it was a smooth journey with Sheffield providing a destination that appeared to surpass the expectations of some members of the group.
“This is quite pleasant. I imagined the North more grim than this.”
On Saturday the rest of the team made the coach trip from Oxford, and by mid morning our 50 strong contingent of runners and supporters had set up camp and headed off to parade the latest addition to the OUCCC stash collection around the muddy fields of Graves Park. With course recces, spike length analysis and windswept hair braiding complete, Ed Sheeran blaring out the speaker system, and face paint, glitter, ribbons and vuvuzelas in full flow, the stage seemed well and truly set for the 2017 edition of BUCS Cross-Country.
The first race of the day was the Men’s A Race, and following encouraging performances at Cardiff a couple of weeks earlier it was clear that both Luuk Metselaar and Jamie Parkinson had carried this fine form through to BUCS. Both ran incredibly well, mixing it with some of the biggest up-and-coming names in British cross-country and coming home 9th and 11th respectively. This set the A team up for a splendid 4th place finish overall. A close internal battle between John Spill (56th) and Dan Mulryan (59th) closed the scoring team, whilst Miles Chandler came through strongly behind in 100th. Despite the somewhat heartbreaking fact that our minty green rivals took team bronze in the absence of several key dark blue names, it is something worth celebrating in Oxbridge unity that we filled two of the top four spots, and a combined team would have placed second only to St. Mary’s.
Onto the second race of the day – the Women’s Race – in which OUCCC had the third largest team behind only Birmingham and Loughborough, with an unprecedented 23 ladies competing. Bethanie Murray kept things interesting with a pre-race blood injury, but medical attention from the official First Aid officer, (“I bet Laura’s got a plaster in her bag”) soon had her on the way to the start line and ready to lead Oxford home in 21st place. Beth was followed by equally impressive performances from Helen Record in 47th and Emma DeCamp in 67th. Next in was newcomer Madeleine Turner, who burst onto the post-Varsity scene with a 74th place finish and in doing so unknowingly signed herself up for, “all future races for us from now on”, (Kyle 2k17). Captain Helene Greenwood was next in 108th, followed by Natalie Beadle (129th) and Becky Robinson (131st). Continuing her upwards trajectory since the start of the year, a sprint finish from Georgie Bingham saw her take 141st just ahead of Cecilie Andersen in 143rd. Kennagh Marsh and Rachel Skokowski were the next two home, followed by one lap track specialist Aileen Kearney, who produced the finish of the day as she used her 400m speed to fly down the final hill and pass an unsuspecting tab in the process. Tilly Woods, Liv Will, Lucy Farquhar, Kathy Peters, Rebecca Pullon, Anna Sharp, Olivia Hawe, Charlotte Robinson, Abi Witts, Kathy Page and Hannah Burrows completed a fantastic showing from the Oxford women.
Last to toe the infamous BUCS start line were the athletes for the Men’s B Race. Oliver Paulin led proceedings for OUCCC in this one with an excellent 30th place finish, and Alex Gruen was not too far behind in 44th. James Sewry (64th), Peter DeWeirdt (65th), Jed Marshall (76th), Mayank Agrawal (97th) and Noah Hurton (100th) were the next group home, all making the top 100. James Collins, Max Schwiening, Rahil Sachak-Patwa, Sam Garforth and Lawrence Percival completed the three strong Oxford teams and all finished well inside the top two thirds of the race.
With the races done and dusted we made our way to the hotel in search of showers and non muddy shoes, and then onto a rather nice (ie. crew date rules probably not acceptable) curry house. Despite being highly confused that Luke was not Libby, refusing to allow an order of side dishes without a main course, and insisting we leave without a trace by 7pm, our Indian friends sent us on our way suitably refuelled. Next stop was back to the Jury’s Inn, where the other hotel guests (including Christofi in the room above) were treated to a full cover to cover performance of the OUCCC songbook, featuring some stunning solos from Chris DBJ Martin and Jamie Leprechaun Parkinson. Once pre-Varsity poetry and plenty of other classics had been exhausted it was time to hit the pubs, and eventually clubs, of Sheffield. The events that unfolded over the following hours (until 5am for some) are of course far too extensive to detail in their entirety here, but highlights included resident Sheffield man Aidan taking everyone to see what, “proper northern pubs are like”, Lucy and Pot clocking an impressive 1am 10 minute tempo between clubs, and LC seeing his dreams crushed yet again but still managing to record a solid 9 miles on Strava.
The following morning provided perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend, as DBJ and Jamie, not content with having run back from the race as a cool down the previous afternoon, embarked on a 15 mile adventure in some kind of strange attempt to ward off a hangover. Many others also embraced the traditional morning-after-the-after-party run and by 9:30am we were all sharing stories over a well earned multiple course breakfast before saying our goodbyes to the north and heading on our way. Thanks to Sheffield for hosting, to Rachel for organising and to Kyle for making the trip up to support us at another memorable weekend for OUCCC.
Laura Fenwick, Lady Margaret Hall