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Running for joy

With the cross country season about to begin, Oxford’s squad take us behind the scenes at their training camp in the Derwent Valley. Last year the Cross Country team had a phenomenal season, winning both the men’s and women’s blues varsity matches for the first time since 2010. They also showed their depth by winning four out of five of their seconds, thirds and reserves matches, a feat which will prove challenging to repeat at this year’s away fixture.

Training out on the streets and fields of Oxford in term time and at their Iffley road base, the large squad of men and women have fostered an inclusive and warm atmosphere in their club, which is reflected in their support for one another at races. At this year’s pre-season training camp six freshers joined 18 returning runners, and their soft tissue therapist, for a long weekend of running.

Based at the Gibside national trust property, the team completed two Cross Country grass sessions, the local park run, and multiple runs around the local trails and woods. An additional key aspect of Cross Country training, especially for those who are recovering from injury, is cross training and foam rolling recovery sessions. The runners participated in cycling, swimming and circuit sessions, alongside clocking up the miles, across the weekend.

Four members of the men’s team took part in the Simonside Fell race during the weekend with OUCCC veteran Aidan Smith winning the event and second year Tim Harrison placing third. They won £100 in prize money between them with this impressive start to the year’s racing set- ting them up well for the coming months.

Whilst the team maintained a cheerful atmosphere through low ropes courses, quizzes and cooking, this light-heartedness is paired with a strong desire for success. With running diaries, Strava obsessions, and friendly rivalries over weekly miles, the group couldn’t be considered complacent.

Club Captain Helene Greenwood told Cherwell: “Now that all the summer miles are firmly in the bank, everyone’s really looking foward to the cross country racing season ahead.

“Culminating in the varsity matches against Cambridge, Michaelmas is an exciting term for the club and there’s a real buzz in the air at the training sessions. All the team members are working together to push themselves to the absolute limit of what they can achieve.”

Greenwood told Cherwell that beyond defending their Varsity victories, the club would also like to repeat their “podium finishes at the 2019 BUCS cross country championships, maybe even with medals of a different colour this time round.”

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