Highland Cross training… in London


I might be almost 600 miles away from the start line, but training for the Highland Cross continues apace. Practice the transition from running to cycling, prepare yourself for the cramp, etc etc, Cross veterans stress. So I did, proposing an eight-mile run followed by about 20 miles on the cycle.

I cantered up the hill to Crystal Palace, comfortably covering the three miles in 20 minutes, before a stitch came on so suddenly I thought I’d been stabbed. I staggered around the park at Crystal Palace for 15 minutes, stopping twice, then attempted to accelerate on the descent to Norwood, only for my stomach to tighten as my stride lengthened. Not the most successful eight miles of running in the world, but eight miles all the same.

Quick change of clothes, sip of water and I was out on the cycle, embroiled in rush-hour traffic. Cycling down Streatham High Road dodging buses and suicidal pedestrians is about as far removed from whizzing down peaceful Glen Affric to Cannich as you can get.

When I was moving, I was moving reasonably quickly, but – as most London cyclists – will concur, the majority of time is spent weaving through traffic or stopped at lights (there are only so many reds that you can run). I was aiming for Richmond Park, but gave up two miles short. I wasn’t tired. I just wasn’t up for the battle with London traffic. Home I pedaled, clocking up a paltry 10 miles – half of what I envisaged. I get over such disappointments by returning to my long-held nonchalant standpoint about the Cross: It is the run that counts. The cycling is the easy bit.

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