St Finbarr’s kick off the cross country season on 10th September 2023

On September 10th St. Finbarr’s AC will proudly host a new event on the Cork running calendar – an Open Cross Country Race. We at St. Finbarr’s AC really want to stress that ‘Open’ in this instance really does mean open – any runners aged 16 or over, of any ability, whether a seasoned cross-country campaigner, or completely new to running on grass are welcome. In fact we are particularly encouraging those new to cross country to come join us on the day and give it a go!   The race venue is the Showgrounds in Curaheen , just west of the city and easily accessible off the N22. The event programme on the day will include 3 races as follows:
  • 12.00 Beginners / ‘New to Cross Country Race’ AND Masters Men and Women O60
  • 12.30 Men’s Open Race ( incl. Masters Men O40 & O50)
  • 13.00 Women’s Open Race ( incl. Masters Women 040 & 050)
The course, which takes in some of the cyclocross course at the Showgrounds will be run over approx. 2 km laps – the Women’s and Men’s Open races will be 3 laps each and the Beginners Race will be over 2 laps. The circuit includes all the typical features that make cross country racing much more fun than a road or track race – grass underfoot , a few hills, some off-camber running here and there and plenty of twists and turns to keep runners from settling into a rhythm during the race.  Coupled with that there will be plenty of cheers and encouragement from the side-lines from all at St. Finbarr’s AC. Even better again, we will even have post race refreshments (kindly sponsored by the Kingsley) at the venue for all participants – something your rarely if ever have the luxury of receiving after a cross country race!
The idea to hold this event is two fold –
  1. To encourage new participants to try cross country running. There is limited opportunity to try cross country running outside of the county championship races for runners in Cork. This opportunity lessens further if you are a non-club affiliated runner.  Cross country running as a discipline probably suffers in terms of participation as a result.  Road running, trail running and ultra running have all seen surges in participation in recent years – hopefully we can provide the platform to see some growth aswell through opening this race to ‘all comers’. For new or inexperienced club runners there might be a perception that to participate in a club cross country race is big deal – you are competing against others for places and not against your watch for time, your competing in a ‘championship event’, you have to wear your club singlet, etc. The reality is quite different – this team and club aspect of cross country running makes unique and quickly becomes one of its biggest attractions for runners. There is great camaraderie  in running for your club, as part of a team, all enjoying/suffering  the conditions together! 
  2. Preparation race for the big championship races
Traditionally the racing calendar is split into the long endurance races in the Spring and early summer (10 miles, half marathons, marathons) this is then followed by the summer road and track seasons which brings us up to the middle of August. The cross country season starts on the 1st of October and there is no preparation race between the middle of August to first race in the season. The open cross country race on the 10th of September fills that void and provides the perfect opportunity for seasoned cross country runner to get a competitive race into the legs to put them in the best possible position to have a serious crack of the county and Munster championships throughout the Autumn and early winter.
Cross country racing serves as a form of neutral ground where road, track and mountain specialist can all meet and test their mettle against each other. Arthur Lydiard said
“Cross country running is of great benefit to track runners and other athletes as a general conditioner….. Cross country is a good disciplinarian. The times to run during cross country racing and training should not be treated with too much importance. Courses and weather conditions vary so much from day to day and have such an effect on performance that to try and chart progressive times can only be confusing and misleading”
A lot of runners believe that cross country racing is intimidating. The majority of cross country races are on a looped course so unlike the road you are racing in an “arena” where there is shouting and roaring from the side lines where it feels that sometimes all eyes are on you. All of this should be seen as a positive there can be nothing worse than being in a road race and not see or hear anyone for a couple of miles, at a cross country event everyone there no matter what club will shout encouragement to all racers from the front of the pack to the back because the vast majority of the people at the event know how hard you are racing and appreciate the effort you made in showing up and giving it your best shot. Road racing is very hard for spectators to watch but cross country spectators can make there away around the cross and see the race from various positions so encouragement from family, friends and club mates is always to hand!
Due to the high standard of athlete that race cross country medals and championships are hard won and should be viewed as a great achievement for those who are lucky enough to achieve those positions. For the rest of us cross country should be viewed as means to improve your fitness and times on the road and track, cross country is the ultmate in terms of building strength and endurance and the benefits will be seen long after the cross country season is over.
Advice for 1st time cross country runners
1. Forget the watch – time is not important. Every cross country course is different for example last years senior race was the most perfect day of the year for racing, the following week for the county novice it was pissing rain and blowing a gale!!!
2. Do not go out too hard over the first 400m – once the gun goes off most people storm off down the course as if its a 400m race (me included) but this will come back and bit big time towards the end of the race, consistant pace is the key
3. There will always be hills and corners – trying to squeeze 6km into a field is difficult so there the race coordinator will include sections of up hill and down hill corners, switch backs etc you will not be bored!!
4. You are racing the person in front of you – finishing ahead of that person is the only thing you have to do in the race. If you pass some the next person up is the next objective not else!
5. Forget the watch……….
We really hope that we see a big turn out on the 10th of September from the beginners to the more advanced runner everyone is welcome. Bring members of your family and friends for support everyone is welcome.
Finally we encourage all that coming to bring along there club flags and colours as we would like to place these along the finishing straight so as to create a festival atmosphere for runners as they cross the finish line.
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