Choose one of your 78 shiny new freshers pens.
Clear the Pot Noodle remnants from your desk.
Dig out that diary you bought with all the best organisational intentions but has yet to see the light of day.
Get ready to circle some dates. Don’t pencil them in but write in gloriously permanent marker, because that’s right, LUCA IS BACK!! Strap yourself in tight, because it’s going to be a muddy one. If you thought the excitement of freshers week couldn’t be beaten then boy are you in for a surprise, because in just a week and a half comes the lactic extravaganza that is Parliament Hill, the opening day of the LUCA Cross-Country season and definitely one of the finest sights in sport. Forget Lords, Wembley, Twickenham, none have a patch on 250 students ascending the opening incline at Parli Hill.
For the uninitiated, what awaits is a gruelling and hilly but also exhilaratingly fun mud-fest to scratch the cross-country sized itch you’ve been nurturing over summer. Regularly the largest turnout, Parli Hill is a ‘proper’ XC course but also a fantastic way to get into XC racing, since LUCA fields are generally pretty varied. No matter the speed, everyone gets round and some have even been rumoured to smile at the end, disregarding of course the poor fresher who has the dubious honour of being ‘King of the Hill’.
Once the XC season starts, races come thick and fast; in the space of 4 weeks we have 3 races, taking in such varied sights as Parliament Hill of course, the ‘picturesque’ Mitcham Common and the genuinely beautiful Wimbledon Common. After a well-earned respite, in the New Year come 2 more races, this time heading north to the iconic setting of Alexandra Palace and finishing with the flat and fast Wormwood Scrubs.
I think the best thing about LUCA XC, and indeed XC in general is that it is genuinely open to all – in how many sports can so many people of differing ages, levels and experience all compete over the same course? From freshers doing their first run over 5k to GB athletes, everyone can compete and enjoy. Many people run their first proper race at a LUCA race, and they come back. If anyone has even the slightest thought of racing, they should absolutely give it a go.
More fangirling reasons of mine include how XC is simultaneously very individual, but with such a strong team component – far from being focused on your own performance as with road races, every place you gain matters for your team both on the day and over the season. Trophies have been won and lost on turnout (see SMU/UCL men, 17/18 season) so no matter where you come you have a chance to affect your team’s result. Once you add in the ‘unique’ camaraderie of shared experiences with mud and the chance to be outside, feeling alive when we spend so much time indoors and in darkness, then if I haven’t sold it yet then I’m obviously not trying hard enough.
Of course autumn and winter don’t just bring with them cross-country, but also the LUCA Indoor Championships, including the United Hospitals Championships. Much more to come on that nearer the time! You can find all the information for each individual race under the pages on the LUCA website: https://www.london-athletics.com/competitions/xc/2019-20/. If you have any queries/reservations/just want it to start already then get in touch with the founts of knowledge that are your club captains. And just for your diaries, the dates are:
Race 1 – Parliament Hill – 16/10
Race 2 – Mitcham Common – 30/10
Race 3 – Wimbledon Common – 13/11
Race 4 – Alexandra Palace – 23/1
Race 5 – Wormwood Scrubs – 26/2