It’s in the solitary pursuit of running mile upon mile and preparing oneself for racing.
For me, for us, the Metropolitan Cross Country League is about building a collective base both as a club and for the wider world of middle and long distance running.
Styled by its advocates as the most competitive cross country league in the country, it offers quality competition without any regard for reputation or glamour. It’s bread and butter, five miles (give or take), balls-to-the-wall racing, where you’re as likely to be rubbing shoulders with a national champion as you are with the hardy V60s still giving their all.
You’ll be sharing a cup of tea or a pint with either afterwards, regaling what could have been, and eagerly anticipating the results and team standings by the time work rolls around again on Monday morning. (God bless the Excel format – as far as co-workers know, I’m still working away).
By Monday evening you’ll be spotting rivals as you trot home from work. Come Tuesday you’ll be training with them once again. On Saturday afternoon, they’re sworn enemies, there to be “put to f*cking bed.” But post-race, they’re “good lads” again all striving for a common goal.
The Met League, like so many local leagues, has no gimmicks and no phoney assertion that it’s the taking part that counts. There’s certainly nowhere to hide if you’re having an off day either.
There is something for each and every one of us – whether dipping your toe into competitive running for the first time, scoring for the team and pushing back rivals, staking a place for “A” team selection or a wiry old racer getting your fix.
Finally, why does the Met League matter? Why do local cross country leagues survive? Because there’s no point striving for National success if you ain’t masters of your own manor first. There’s little point striving for team honours if you’re not a team, just a collection of individuals.
There’s no point beating your rivals unless they too commit to the chase and form part of the community.