It’s a pretty, harmless name, isn’t it? Pett suggests a run that’s furry, that lies on your lap purring or snoring, one that you could teach tricks to, if you had the patience. The Pett cross country race, on 11th March, was the last of the East Sussex Cross Country League events for the 2017-18 season, and while not exactly wild, it is certainly not domesticated. It’s a cross-country course par excellence, beginning with a long downhill into a wood, twisting and turning to emerge into open fields round whose perimeters we ran, then back into the wood, turning this way and that until all sense of direction is lost. It’s hardly ever flat and, if I thought it was muddy the last time I ran it in 2016, that was nothing to the mud this year, after a rainy winter.
I set off cautiously and only fell once, not catastrophically. A marshal bade me beware of the steps on a downhill stretch. What steps, I wondered - all I could see was yet another muddy hill. Halfway down I tripped on something, but, falling backwards, I put my hands out behind me and landed something like a dancer from the A.V. Alexandrov Academic Song and Dance Ensemble of the Red Army in one of their Cossack pieces. At the top of another slope, a Hastings Runner, whose club organises this race, greeted us apologetically with the news that we had gone off course, as someone had tampered with the signs. It didn’t matter too much and, slipping and sliding, we emerged onto a field and up to the finish.
I was not last this time, finishing 185th out of 187. Other Striders put in some impressive performances. At the end, in the village hall, the seasons prizes were presented, Anna Norman of our club being most improved woman, Anneka Redley was third in the Senior Women, while Dave Dunstall, Peter Weeks and Terry Ward all won their categories of M55, M65 and M70 respectively. It was also gratifying to hear a speech from Brian Winn, who had collapsed with a heart attack at the second event of the season, Warren Hill, and had been recovered by the air ambulance. Not only was he alive to tell the tale, he also ran the race, finishing well before me.