The Coad Cup is the summer cross-country handicap race organised by Ranelagh Harriers (and held on a Tuesday evening). The course is just under five miles in Richmond Park and is run over the same course as used for the Page Cup handicap race (which is run in the Autumn).
I wanted to get in a long run on the day of the race so the plan was for a moderate warm-up and then a slightly harder ‘race.’ The warm up was just under 4.5 miles - almost a lap of the single lap course and this was followed by waiting around at the start/finish area for about 25 minutes or so chatting to others as I waited for my start time (as its a handicap race).
When you’re eventually lined up ready to go it’s interesting to see the people who set off in front (who you want to chase down and beat) and the ones behind you (who are racing after you!). This adds some pressure onto the race as you’re not just all starting together and seeing the super fast runners race off into the distance.
I last ran the course a year ago immediately before driving over to Germany for the Challenge Roth triathlon race. Apparently I had a ‘steady’ run and completed the course in 34:56. My best time over the course was in 2009 when I ran it in 32:03 (a few hours after a fast 5k at Bushy parkrun).
As I set off today I planned to push pretty hard and just see what happened. I didn’t fancy being overtaken by too many people and once I caught the sight of the runners ahead of me I pushed on.
It took close to two miles before I was overtaken by the first of the faster runners. When overtaken it gives you the impetus to try and stick with them, even though they’re faster. This helped no end and I ended up having a good little run with Mark H. where we swapped positions with one another on three or four occasions (he got the better of me in the end). One point of note during the race was about 1.5 miles from the finish, when a young deer ran out of some fern that we were running alongside and almost took out Mark. It was so so close and he almost jumped out of his skin as it flew in front of him! The perils of running in Richmond Park.
Very few other runners came past me (perhaps two or three others) and in the final couple of miles I was flying past many of the slower runners ahead of me. Very motivational.
Conditions underfoot were very firm - the weather was cool and there was a fresh breeze blowing - which was really quite gusty in some of the exposed areas of the course.
As I crossed the line my time was 31:04 which put me at 11th position overall, and (more importantly) 11th fastest (out of 70 runners). This was a 59 second personal best on the course so an excellent result. The course is measured at 4.95 miles which equates to 6:17 minute miling over the bumpy terrain. Finally, looking at my individual age graded performance chart at the Ranelagh Harriers website for club cross country courses this is my best ever performance - with an age grading of 72.2%. I’ve never made it over 70 percent for the club before so I’m really pleased with this.