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 A top 10 finish for Grace at the ‘Nationals’ – 25 February 2017

Grace Copeland reports from Nottingham

I travelled up to Nottingham with my mum and dad for the English National Cross-Country Championships.  I was making a return to Wollaton Park, a venue that I first raced at in 2014, and we were there last year for the English Schools Cross-Country Championships too. 

The journey up to Nottingham wasn’t the best.  After leaving school around 1pm on Friday we arrived at the race venue at about 5.30 having worked our way through masses of traffic jams.  We managed to get a quick glimpse of the course before sundown, and then checked into our Premier Inn.  I topped up my carbohydrates by eating my weight in pasta, ordering two bowls at Prezzo’s.  Then I started to feel the nerves kicking in!

It was an early start on Saturday.  We were amongst the first to arrive at the course.  I was relieved to see which side of Wollaton Park had been selected for the race to be run on.  It prompted happy memories of Nottingham three years ago.  I felt excited … the course looked particularly interesting, and great fun to run on.  It was pretty muddy in parts … perhaps I needed a swimming costume and a pair of goggles! 

After looking at the start list, I knew the quality of the field was very high, and understood that it would be a big achievement to place in the top 30.

The race started off well.  After the first 2km I was around 30th and feeling reasonable comfortable.  Whilst striding through the thick gloppy mud, after about 3km I was confused as to what was happening, baffled as to why I was so far up the field.  Nevertheless I kept trying to push forward, eventually making my way into 8th position.  The last 800 metres of the race were a battle … the grass seemed to have got longer, my legs became heavier.  I felt so drained!  I was determined that I wouldn’t let this deter me.  Whilst turning the last corner at the top of the hill, I gave it everything.  I charged down towards the finish line holding off 9th place, astonished as to where I had placed.  I had no thoughts in those moments after I had just crossed the line … I just stood still in shock!  I really did not expect to finish in the top ten; I just hadn’t envisaged it happening.

I felt very satisfied with my performance, and the result.  On reflection I believed it to have been one of my best cross-country races of all time, and I celebrated at the end of the day with a KFC zinger bargain bucket – “Finger lickin’ good”!

I want to say a massive “Thank you” to Bob Smith who travelled from Wales to come and support me and for all the painful training sessions he has prepared for me.  I would not have achieved this without him.  Thanks “BFG”!



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