If you have only ever known cross-country the Oxford way, you could be forgiven for thinking that the season runs from mid-August to December. However, despite the best efforts of one of oldest and most prestigious running conventions on the calendar, races do in fact continue into the New Year. Believe it or not, there is life after Varsity. And so on that note a diminished but determined team of dark blue vests (and the tent) travelled to the Cardiff Cross Challenge on January 22nd.
On an otherwise uneventful journey, DBJ (with Noah’s help) managed to prove once and for all that he is from Yorkshire and not Wales, as their questionable navigation to John’s supposed homeland took the minibus via Herefordshire, Somerset and ‘Berkfordshire’. It would seem, however, that Sam and his car took an even more roundabout route as he somehow managed to arrive later than the speed limited vehicle, despite departing earlier. Not that the minibus passengers minded the wait too much – this provided the perfect opportunity to use the luxury toilet facilities at the Cardiff Museum (who even supply their own toilet roll), and consume just the right volume of good quality coffee to reach the LC performance enhancing caffeine limit.
The women were first to toe the start line, with Bethanie Murray leading the way in 16th place, and also claiming individual bronze in the Celtic Cup whilst representing Ireland. Cecile Anderson put in a strong performance in 37th, with Kennagh Marsh, Natalie Beadle and Tilly Woods all finishing close behind in 38th, 40th and 46th respectively. On the men’s side Luuk Metselaar (anyone not singing in their head right now is in denial) finished an impressive 8th, with Jamie Parkinson also running well in 11th on a disappointingly non-muddy course. Luuk and Jamie were backed up by close packing from the rest of the Oxford men, who all finished around halfway through a strong cross challenge field.
Overall some great performances from a depleted team that was not missing the tent (even though it didn’t get used), but was missing some key names. Christofi was the most organised person in Cardiff, despite not being in Cardiff, via proxy as he provided a register for bus driver and stand in team leader Jamie to tick everyone’s names off – a task that was completed diligently and with photo evidence to prove it. Disappointingly the tent was left off of the register, but luckily made it back to Oxford (probably something to do with the fact that it never left the minibus). In search of a blue team to return home with (as opposed to the green one she arrived with), Bethanie was incorrectly directed to ‘the portaloos’, which weren’t actually Portaloos®, but everybody breathed a sigh of relief as by some miracle she managed to find the bus and avoid abandonment in Wales.
Having chosen not to race in Cardiff, Grumpy Howie was called out for his name-defining personality trait at an athletics workshop, although one can perhaps forgive his mood upon realisation that if he had taken part in the race he would have finished 2nd, according to a recently discovered, fully reliable, mathematically accurate, and logically sound formula known as the “1 minute per mile rule” – you heard it here first.
Congratulations to all who ran. Thanks to Kyle for his continued support and to the drivers for getting everyone (and the tent) across the border and back in one piece. Next stop, Sheffield, where Luke will be taking on the challenge of topping Jamie’s toll bridge and car parking expenditure with a simple taxi ride. Not to be missed.
Laura Fenwick, Lady Margaret Hall