On Saturday 2nd February, at 5:45am, 50 brave ICXC runners boarded the coach, ready to set off and compete in the BUCS Cross-Country Championships hosted by the University of Exeter.
At 6:06am, a not-so-brave ICXC over-sleeper arrived and the club was finally able to depart.
After another 3 solid hours of sleep on the bus to finish off the short night, the athletes began to wake up and admire the snowy rolling hills of Devon.
Luckily, the sun was shining and despite the chilly weather forecast everyone was buzzing to reach their destination and conquer the course in what promised to be a thrilling day of racing.
For the girls, braids, hair ribbons, and glitter displaying Imperial’s blue and red were hastily put into position as they approached the race location.
Upon arriving at Bicton College the squad had time to scout out the route, with particular areas of interest including the daunting (but optional) lake water feature followed by a steep hill climb and the dreadful incline to the finish.
With their numbers and game face on, the women kicked off the day of competition with their 6.7km race set to start at 12 sharp.
Just like the racers, the spectators were also warmed up and ready, along with their megaphones, cow bells, vuvuzelas and air horns.
With 619 women lined up and ready to go in the biggest race of the day, they could expect plenty of congestion and lots of pushing and shoving to make their way out of the pack.
Impressive performances included GB athlete Dani Chattenton’s 7th place, followed by Alex Mundell in 61st position and Kate Olding in 81st, together with admirable achievements from the rest of the women’s team.
The second of the three races was the Men’s A race in which the 6 fastest men from each university competed.
Unfortantely, the air-horns were left airless after the Women’s race thanks to the phenomenal support and cheering for the rest of the team. This meant that the valiant supporters now had to rely solely on cow bells, vuvuzelas, a megaphone, and their voices to motivate the runners around this gruelling course.
After an extremely speedy race, the 1st Imperial athlete home was Luke Caldwell in an exceptional 11th place, followed by a top 50 for Dan Mulryan who finished 49th, Niki Faulkner in 57th, Oliver Newton in 126th and first-time A-racer Charlie McFadzean in 148th.
Lastly, a total of 522 runners set off for the Men’s B (for “Banter”) race where the rest of the boys proudly represented Imperial.
After the lake feature saw Women’s Captain Charlotte take a graceful tumble in the Women’s race, it was fresher Matt Ryan’s turn with a legendary dive worthy of an Olympic gold (see photo montage above).
Overall, there were again fantastic results that saw Joe Pomfret in 126th position, finishing with exactly the same time as Thomas Bayley in 127th, former Club Captain Matt Douthwaite in 130th and current Club Captain Fergus Johnson in 137th. Likewise, all the boys were triumphant and congratulated for their remarkable efforts.
As is tradition, post-race baking was in order, and after BUCS XC it was more like a feast. Pistachio cake, croissants, millionaire shortbread, brownies, cookies; everbody had prepared their best recipes.
Before leaving our camp and taking down the flag, it was time for the classic team photo with an additional feature: BUCS bandanas made from some of the finest race tape they had managed to find on the course.
After a refreshing shower and well-deserved rest, the dress code had changed. Blue and red racing vests off, matching tie-dye T-shirts on.
The team then headed for dinner at an unlimited Chinese buffet (fries, curry, cakes, haribos - was it really Chinese?), passing by Exeter’s Cathedral and admiring the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England on the way.
Dinner was filled with lots of ear, calf, and bicep touching along with more merry antics such as eating a spoon full of a spice or herb that best represented oneself.
Before heading towards the final destination of the night, the team took a mandatory stop at a pub called “The Imperial”.
It was now time to head for the famous BUCS XC after-party at Lemon Grove (University of Exeter’s version of Metric) for some boogie! Lots of boogie actually, because with the ridiculous levels of air conditioning it was probably colder on the dance floor than outside…
The following morning, many of the team asked themselves whether their sore legs were from the race or from the outrageous shapes cut on the dancefloor. They may never know.
Before departure for London, some were brave enough to venture into the blinding sunshine quickly enough to see Exeter’s cathedral in all its glory.
The club would like to congratulate all the runners for their stellar performances on Saturday and wish them well as they go again in this Saturday’s famous Hyde Park Relays and after-party.