10km Cross Country: Emergency Services Games

Now that it's here, it feels like I haven't spent much time training. That might be because my body seems so rested after the taper. Haven't felt like that for a while. Awake a little earlier than planned thanks to an enthusiastic 3 year old. A relatively warm morning suggests the race will be great conditions.

My wife is also racing the 5km version too. First time we've competed in something at the same time. Should be fun.

The 10km is a two lap course. A significant hill on each lap but about 3/4'ers being mainly flat. Despite having worked hard to improve my hill running, I'm under no illusion that it is my strength. That is still the down hill and false flats. That said, hopefully the uphill won't be an area I lose position or time.

My plan for the race was to go for the overall win. I haven't achieved that yet, but have always been at least in the top 5. To achieve this the aim of the first lap was to just keep myself right up at the pointy end. Depending on who else was racing this could mean anything from a comfortable time trial all the way to a balls to the wall effort. I would take it as it came. The proviso was that I wouldn't put in any sprints or big surges. Just keep the running as steady as possible. For the second lap I would do what was required. This probably meant launching an attack somewhere. The possibilities were to pick up the pace for some free speed on the early down hill, go for broke just after the turnaround on the false flat or wait until the last portion of the hill just before the finish. In my warm up I scouted a few points to take note if things got tactical.

"Marks..." Bang...

Up the side sloping grass hill. The shadows of the trees made it a little difficult to see the blue course markers, but with a little searching and a couple of attempted wrong turns I found my way. Which was important since I was out in front right from the gun. I made mental note that I need to go over the start as well as the end prerace.

There were a few minor alterations to the course this year in an attempt to make it more cross country, so I couldn't just rely on memory. Around the top turn and back down the grass and very early I already had a 50m advantage. I wasn't sprinting, just taking a normal start. My feet felt light. What was surprising was there was a lack of anyone just going out too hard right from the gun. Then into the long, mild descent off the grass, down the unsealed road and onto the bike path. Here I made the most of technique and I felt fast, yet was running well within my ability. Over this section, I used my ears and listened in to the footsteps behind. As the bike path evened out, the sound became I lost. I wondered if those behind had jumped onto the grass edging, surely I wasn't putting in distance. With a couple of familiar faces from previous races, there should be at least one joining me up front.

The sealed path became gravel a bit before the turn point which is at maybe just before 3km. No footsteps on the gravel. Still feeling good. Using the turn and counting off seconds the gap was about 40 seconds. The two I was concerned about were in 2nd and 3rd, followed by a small pack that already looked to be disintegrating. Not used to having such a lead, plenty of doubts and a few sabotaging thoughts tried to make everything harder. These were soon silenced as the words of encouragement came from all my colleagues running the other direction. I realised I was running relatively comfortable, had a fair lead and travelling in perfect weather over a great course. Pure enjoyment.

Off the bike and into the main climb. No real change, just a focus on fast legs. The hill work was paying off. I felt light and quick, without anything feeling like I was pushing the boundaries. Then a short level track brings things back onto the grass and across the start/finish/lap line. Lap 1 clocked in at 20:01. Slower than previously, but I've never felt so comfortable.

Back up the grass hill and I made a point of holding back a little. Using the turn at the top I got a view back to second. The distance was good, but he definitely had eyes on me. I decided not to change anything, just stick with running within myself, but concentrating on not letting time slip out from under me. There were plenty of points that would give a view back to see if my lead was in danger. This continued back down the grass, through the descent onto the bike path and back to the turn point. Another count on clock back to second and I had a 44 second buffer. At that moment I made the decision to quash any thoughts of late catch from behind by changing gears and running fast for the next kilometer before the final climb. During this surge a couple of cyclists came alongside and told me I running a bit faster than 18km/hr. That translates to about 3:20/km, which is what most of my track work has been around, so it seemed right.

Back onto the main climb and I knew I had a substantial gap. From here I just enjoyed running over the rough ground, up under the trees. My pace dropped substantially, but it just felt so good to be able to make the most of the finish. Over the crest and my daughter grabbed my hand and ran with me over the line.

Absolutely stoked with the result. The training plan certainly went well, and I achieved my first goal of the Emergency Services Games with an outright win in the 10km cross country. While the time was 40:40ish, it is almost irrelevant. Before the race I was asked what time I was looking for, and my truthful answer was, "whatever it takes to win it." Each year I claim the course is about a 2 minute differential compared to a road race and I still stand by that. Looking back over the day, I certainly was able to run within my ability. Those vomit inducing hill repeats and 2x7.6km sets have been worth it. I did expect some more competition on my shoulder, but I later found out 3rd place getter, Mark has been battling some achilles trouble. He'll be at the half marathon next week. Last year we had a tight race there where he got the better of me. We'll what happens then.

I'm impressed with my wife's effort in the 5km, taking her age group out too. As an added bonus that I'd forgotten about, my name will now make the perpetual Wiggins Trophy as outright winner this year.


  1. Well done Jason! Great trophy that one. You described the exciting experience (rare for most runners) of racing for the win and not being concerned with time. Good stuff.

    1. Thanks again Ewen.

      That one on one style of competition is a great thrill for me. I'm not state or national level by any stretch of the imagination, but find I can sometimes pick certain races (such as the Emergency Services Games) to have a crack at that sort of racing. The opportunities are certainly there for others if they pick the right level of event for them.

      I am reminded by a collection of comments from both Chris McCormack and Kilian Jornet, about its not about the times on the clock or the even about the position you finish, but about the moments and the experiences you have in the races. For me, the preparation coupled with the race itself was one of those experiences.


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