Cross country returns: why we missed the mud

After the previous season was cancelled due to Covid-19, London Frontrunners made a welcome return to cross country racing in 2021. Club cross country co-captain Neil tells us why it’s great to be back. 

London Frontrunners at Met League Clabury cross country

For many London Frontrunners, cross country offers a welcome alternative to the regular pavement-pounding of runs in the capital.  

‘I love running off road and through mud,’ says cross country co-captain Neil. 

‘It’s very different from road racing or jogging through the streets of London and it feels like more of an adventure to me.’

Camaraderie and competition 

Like many club members, Neil was disappointed when an entire season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘I missed the camaraderie of competing in a league and in championships,’ says Neil. 

‘I am never a contender to be one of the fastest runners, but I missed the element of competition between other clubs and amongst fellow Frontrunners.

‘The pandemic has been hard on everyone and it’s fantastic to have the fixtures back in the calendar and to see some familiar, and new, faces at the runs.’

It’s great for LGBT+ representation

Cross country has become an important fixture in the racing calendar for London Frontrunners.

Each year the club competes in the Metropolitan Cross Country League, as well as regional and national championship races. 

For Neil, participating as a club is great way to increase LGBT+ representation in cross country running.

‘We have been able to demonstrate that we are serious runners and can compete with some of the best clubs in London at the Met League,’ he says. 

‘As we have also represented London Frontrunners at national championships, it helps raise our profile and show that we can compete with any club.’

Neil is pleased to see the number of female Frontrunners participating at cross country increasing.

‘And our men’s veteran team got promoted from division 2 of the Met League last time round, so these are good things for the membership to be aware of.’

Pride and achievement 

Neil’s favourite cross country memory is running with the club at the National Championships in Nottingham in February 2020. 

‘It had been raining a lot and the course was the muddiest race I’ve ever taken part in,’ he says. 

‘I felt like a “proper” cross country runner after getting round that course. 

‘It was tough, but I loved the sense of achievement I felt afterwards and the pride in being a London Frontrunner, representing the club on a national level.’

Cross country is for everyone

Neil is keen to point out that cross country is for all runners, whatever their ability, and anyone who runs gains points for the club regardless of where they finish.

‘It’s a good way to meet other Frontrunners you may not know,’ says Neil, ‘and there’s always a great social element to cross country.’

If you’ve never tried cross country before, or if you had a bad experience at school and are wary, Neil recommends trying a trail run or some off-road running first. 

‘The first fixture of the cross-country calendar is in October and is usually run in good conditions,’ says Neil, ‘so it’s a great introduction to cross country. 

‘Also attending coaching sessions on a Wednesday is a good idea. The sessions usually involve training that will help you in your running technique and fitness to take part in cross country.’ 

Curious to try? Find out more about cross county.