It was a dreary Wednesday afternoon, and a crowd of chilly-looking runners were gathering in Beit Quad, sporting distinctive navy and red vests rather than the gowns and mortarboards donned by a large proportion of the graduating students around campus. That could only mean one thing: it must be the start of another year and another cross-country season filled with mud, sweat, and beers. And cake.

The first challenge facing the squad of 70 was navigating the London Underground to reach cross-country Mecca: Parliament Hill. After some confusion getting the correct Tube line and Oyster card top-up-related delays, the team made it back above ground at Belsize Park and completed the remainder of the journey on foot. They arrived in good time before the starting gun, leaving the freshers and new members plenty of time to ogle at the size of the challenging hill that faced them from the start line. After some brief warming-up, an obligatory pre-race team photo taken by a rival team captain, and plenty of toilet stops, the squad headed for the start line at the base of the mammoth Mount Parly Hill. The race organiser’s instructions were barely audible after chants of “I-C-X-C” broke out amongst the Imperial ranks, and another slightly more explicit ode started up amongst the team of King’s College. Yet without much further ado the race was underway with a short blast on a whistle, and the shouts and songs of the athletes gave way to the rapid thuds of 260 pairs of athletic legs ascending the rather steep slope. Having donned the notorious home-made “King of the Hill” T-shirt, ICXC-fresher Robbie Holland took on the tradition of racing to the top of the hill, and impressively made it up in 2nd place! He later went on to remark that the athlete who beat him to the summit managed to maintain the ridiculous pace whilst Rob himself struggled around the remaining 8km at a considerably slower speed than the initial surge.

“After the valiant athletes had regained their breath, the cake bingeing soon began”

Once at the peak, the race leaders struggled to follow the questionable signage but after a short diversion around some minor foliage they were back on track, zooming down the grassy tracks, across the barren heathland and through muddy ditches. Corner-cutting was rife, but as any experienced racer knows: if a marshal doesn’t see it; it didn’t happen. The course was a newly refined version of the route from previous years, with the girls completing 2 gruelling laps of the park and the boys undertaking an even more gruelling 3.

In the Men’s race of 146, star performer Chris Olley led the way home in just under 29 minutes, and was reasonably closely followed by Chris Thomas in 5th place, and club favourite Harry Scriven in 9th place. Oliver Newton placed 18th and Daniel Ayers had no problems competing against his alma matter King’s, finishing in 25th and rounding off Imperial’s A team. This placed the team in 2nd place in the league and just 3 points behind Brunel in 1st, but more importantly 14 points ahead of arch-rivals UCL (who currently sit in the bronze medal position). In the Women’s race of 113, Sarah Johnson breezed to 2nd place in 22:24, followed by Kate Olding in 5th, Women’s Captain Anna in 9th and highest-ranking fresher Georgia Curry in 10th. Unsurprisingly, with all 4 team members in the top 10, the Women’s A team now sit top of the league, 11 points ahead of UCL. Imperial’s B team finished 3rd and just one point ahead of King’s in 4th. Perhaps more impressively still, Imperial fielded more runners in both the boys (36) and girls (30) race than any other university!

Robbie Holland revels in the glory of his club-endowed accolade // ICXCAC

After the valiant athletes had roared the rest of the squad to a sprint finish and regained their breath, the cake bingeing soon began. The first baking session of the season was of a very high calibre, with top quality baked goods brought from all corners of the club from freshers to finalists. For the post race socials the squad’s thoughts initially remained with food; heading to the local GBK to the joy of the manager (who made the team pose through an Instagram frame without offering sponsorship). After filling their stomachs to satisfaction, thoughts quickly turned to sourcing refreshing beverages, with the team meeting at Acton’s finest bowling alley for a couple of games of skittles and more than a couple of the aforementioned beers to celebrate a thoroughly successful start to the cross-country season.

The next race in the LUCA XC League is on 1st November, meeting in Beit Quad at 1pm. For more information about the club and join our mailing list please email run@ic.ac.uk.