University of Essex Cross Country Championship
It was late 2011. I was to run my first cross country race since high school.
In previous years the annual event had attracted many entrants.
There was only one medal available. Only one name would be engraved on the historic University shield.
I wanted to be that runner but the high competition, including a well-known fast runner called Sandy, made the challenge an unknown.
As I walked to the start line at Wivenhoe Park I discovered I was wrong. There were only three other runners, all male and none I had heard of before.
My confidence grew.
We set off from the sports pavilion and within a minute I was last.
I continued to run hard around the perimeter of the football and rugby pitches, then the cricket field.
A flat course.
I stayed in last position the entire race.
The winner was Dominic King, the two-time Olympic 50km race walker and one of the best in the United Kingdom having competed at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
I underestimated my competition. But when I later realised the quality of my competitors I learnt not to always compare myself to others. I ran my own race and was pleased with my effort.
The time did not matter and instead my measure of success was my tight chest and ragged breath; I had given all that I could.
The soft grass and absence of spectators reminded me of my cross country days.
Yet, the experience was extra special because I ran with a professional athlete (albeit from some distance away) and my then-girlfriend (now fiancée) supported me.