I am sorry that it has been such a long time since my last blog, I am sure you have all been waiting on the edge of your seats… (If there is anyone who is actually following this blog then please note that I have finally managed to enable subscriptions – if you want an email every time I blog then scroll down on the right hand side, click register and follow the instructions. Hopefully that should work!)
This blog is about what has kept me so preoccupied for nearly a month that I have not found the time to write anything – don’t worry I am not about to give you a lesson in Anglo-Saxon history (although I am always happy to do so J), this blog is about Varsity cross country!
For those who don’t know, Varsity is a yearly competition between the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds (CUH&H) and Oxford University Cross Country Club (OUCCC). Besides the war years, the gentleman’s blues (first team) race has been held annually since 1880 and the ladies blues race began in 1975. This means that 2015 saw the 125th gentleman’s race and the 40th ladies race. The race is hosted by Thames Hare and Hounds around Wimbledon Common. If you want more information on the history of blues Varsity then have a look at Thames Hare and Hounds website – http://www.thameshareandhounds.org.uk/varsity_history.php.
However, the reason Varsity has kept me so occupied is that it is not just a one day event, the II’s-IV’s matches take place the weekend before blues with the location alternating between Cambridge and Oxford. The weekend of II’s-IV’s is perhaps the most important race of the year for most of CUH&H and OUCCC and this year it was hosted by Oxford at Shotover Country Park.
One of the things I love the most about cross country is that it really is for everyone. While there are 14 selected runners for the women and 24 for the men (these are selected following Cuppers two weeks before II’s-IV’s), the ladies III’s and men’s IV’s are open to everyone. These are known as the mob matches and, essentially, the more runners you have the better chance you have of winning!
Unfortunately the day of II’s-IV’s could have gone better with the Cambridge men losing all three matches. The Cambridge women fared better. They took the individual victory in the mob match and I was thrilled to watch the team win the race as well, a difficult accomplishment when you are away from home and therefore, almost automatically, have the smaller team. The real drama of the day came in the ladies II’s match. The front runner, a Cambridge girl, got lost on the course and, despite Cambridge still claiming 1st and 2nd, this altered the team result. CUH&H and OUCCC were unable to agree on what had caused this leading to the team result being nullified. Despite this it was a great day for CUH&H ladies. We came away with both individual victories, victory in the mob match and the knowledge that, had our front runner not got lost, we would have won the ladies II’s as well.
A week later it was time for blues Varsity. After the drama of the weekend before (and the navigational mishap in the ladies blues race in 2014) everyone wanted nothing more than for the race to go off smoothly. Thankfully it did – with about ten signs and three marshals at last year’s point of error there was absolutely no chance of a repeat. Unfortunately the Cambridge men lost out to very high quality Oxford team, giving Oxford the series lead as 63-62. However, I think it is fair to say that the Cambridge women dominated, getting all seven of their runners back before Oxford’s 3rd runner and claiming the individual victory! This closed the gap in the overall series to 23-17 in Oxford’s favour. I was a very happy captain that evening!
Varsity is strange, there is no other cross country event where there will be so few of you in the race and the competitive nature of sport gets to all of us. I don’t hate Oxford and have some very good friends there but, come Varsity, beating them is all that is on your mind. I suppose that it what comes from 135 years of one-on-one rivalry. I expect some people are already beginning to look forward to next year when Cambridge will hope to have strengthened its men’s side and will look to repeat the domination shown by the ladies this year.
Hopefully there will not be such a long gap to my next blog!