The Beauty of the Steeplechase

25th October 2019
BY Oliver Hall, Sixth Form pupil

Senior Steeplechase, the ten-kilometre cross-country course that has been run by senior boys for centuries, took place this week and was a superb spectacle as always.

There is something unique about cross-country and the camaraderie that comes with it at Winchester College, which I never hear about from friends elsewhere. The fact that it is optional and primarily a house competition, rather than focusing on individual places, brings out the most competitive and the most jovial all in one race. The mix of fancy dress and serious runners all competing to earn valuable points for their houses, as well as enjoying themselves, adds to the nervous atmosphere at the start of the race and the elation at the finish line as everyone comes across thoroughly muddied and exhausted but smiling.

The course itself is truly spectacular in its design. Heading down past St Catherine’s Hill and along the river, the footpath offers quick runners an opportunity to lay down a fast pace before the ground underfoot becomes much looser. Through the valley, the route turns to grass and then mud as a steep and slippery downhill section brings the runners together again, with a two-kilometre section through fields adding yet another tricky surface to deal with before runners turn back and cross the bridge to head home. The only constants on the course are the beautiful views and support from the marshals at every turn.

This year for me was particularly special. Before the afternoon kicked off, I hadn’t expected to be anywhere near the front of the pack so leading for much of the race allowed me to enjoy the course more. Crossing the finish line first, on behalf of my house, in front of everyone who had come to watch, was genuinely an honour and delight that I will never forget.

Contemporary photography ©Carson White (pupil)

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