As I travelled the 200 miles on the morning of the 14th March 2020, to Sefton Park, Liverpool for the New Balance English Schools Cross Country Championships I did not realise that this would be my last event for a very long time.

Over 2000 boys and girls took part across 6 races, representing their county. I had been selected to run for the London Junior Girls team.

On arriving I felt that the atmosphere was different to any previous race.  There were the crowds of parents, coaches, and other interested spectators but the overall noise level felt less than usual perhaps there was some nervousness in even being at such an event at a time when the papers were reporting the deaths of a number of people from a new virus to which there was such little understanding and even worse no known cure.   The sponsors had decided not to attend, perhaps due to concerns about Covid, so there was no opportunity to buy any of the sporting wear that would normally be available.  

Social distancing and mask wearing were not a recognised nor even recommended behaviour.  In fact on sections of the course, parents crowded together, leaning over the course tape, to cheer on their own children and county teams.

The 3km race that I was required to do was tough: the ground was sticky and heavy from the significant recent rainfall.  As I ran I was splattered by the mud thrown from the feet of girls in front of me.  When I finished I was exhausted but also in a masochistic way I enjoyed the challenging experience.

Two days after this race, Boris Johnson made a statement saying: “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact”.  Another week later we were introduced to the world of “Lockdown.” The Prime Minister in a televised address informed the whole country that people must stay at home and certain businesses must close.  By the end of the month Liverpool was a suspected coronavirus hotspot with one of the highest suspected number of cases in the UK.  This was said to be due to the football match that Liverpool had played 3 days earlier on the 11th March against a Spanish side.

Whilst listening to the Prime Minister on 23rd March I did not appreciate that my race in Liverpool 9 days earlier would be the last time that I would experience the excitement and buzz of a mass participation cross country event for another 18 months.