The first round in the Westward League Cross Country Series took place on the playing fields of Stover School near Newton Abbot in Devon. The senior women ran ~6km, starting at 1.10pm, whilst the senior men ran almost 10km, starting 1 hour later. The men's route was changed just before the start of the race to include two short laps followed by 4 long laps, totalling 6.18 miles. The long lap included a sizeable hill which therefore had to be run four times...The ladies had to run this hill twice...
The weather was unusually warm for October and a blazing sun made this race tougher than it probably should have been for all involved. Thanks to the drier climate east of Dartmoor, everyone's expectations of a muddy quagmire turned out to not be the case and the route was fairly dry, slightly damp in the worst places, and could have been run in road shoes. Nonetheless a lot of people lined up on the start line in trails.
It's easy to get dragged along too fast off the start line, as the standard is very different in these cross country races to the typical standard in Cornish races. The support around the lap was fantastic, including both familiar and less familiar races. The race as a whole though was highly competitive and a bit less friendly compared to the Cornish series races...there were several reports of runners being barged out the way as others fought their way through. Position was everything. There are both advantages and disadvantages to doing multiple laps of the same course...the principal advantage being that you know what is coming up for the rest of the race so you can mentally prepare...the disadvantage being that it gets a bit repetitive and monotonous.
Nonetheless, it was a different experience for all, although in my opinion you can't beat the classic races we all love in the Grand Prix and MTRS in Cornwall!