Two Senior Ladies and Six Senior Men travelled just an hour across the country to the lovely venue of Wollaton Park, Nottingham for Saturdays English National Cross Country Championships. The championships were being held at the Nottingham venue for the second time in four years but organisers used a completely different course to the last time, with a gentle uphill start and then various loops over the undulating grass parkland, alongside the lake, across a couple of shallow ditches and to the delight of the photographers (and at times the gathered crowd) through various boggy areas.
For those who have never taken part in a ‘National’ it is really a unique experience with runners from all over the country making the annual pilgrimage to run and test themselves against the course, sometimes the weather, and other runners of all standards. From Olympians to 60 minute Parkrunners, everyone is welcome. There are now approximately 800 in the women’s race and 1800 in the men’s race and the ground literally shakes as the runners set off from the starting pens. The two senior races follow on from the eight Junior races held earlier in the day and clubs turn up en-mass to support the juniors and then the juniors support (or cheer loudly) as the seniors try to navigate the courses that the juniors had previously churned up.
The Senior Ladies race consisted of two large laps with a final 800 metres up a separate finish lane and was approximately 8km in distance. The race was won by Jessica Judd of Chelmsford AC, whose achievements include finishing 4th at the last Commonwealth Games over 800m. Our Senior ladies were represented by Rachel Wakefield and Susan Twardochleb, with both using the race as part of their marathon training. Having watched their children compete earlier in the day respective family honour was at stake and making sure they didn’t fall over was a definite bonus. Both ladies ran strongly and Rachel was our first finisher in 544th position in a time of 44:05 with Sue finishing in 667th in 47:53.
The final event of the day was the Senior Mens race held over 12km and the Men faced 1 Extra Small Lap, 1 Medium Lap, 1 Large Lap and 1 Extra Large Lap with the final 800m again up a separate (marshy) lane followed by a final downhill sweep into the finish. The Mens race was won by Ben Connor of Derby AC who finished 16th at the recent European Cross Country Championships.
We had six Senior Men representing the club, with Milton Keynes based Stephen Ratcliffe finishing in 576th position in a time of 50:03. Our next finisher was Tim Twentyman who having completed the race realised he had suffered the misfortune of losing his timing chip somewhere on the course so did not receive an official position or time. Unofficially Tim would have been approx 878th in a time of 53:34. Next in was David Crowther who ran strongly to finish in 1057th in 56:01, with Martin Bailey running a controlled race on return from injury finishing his 17th consecutive Senior National in 1128th position in 57:07. Mark Cotton used his marathon fitness to finish in 1466th in 63:00 with Paul Wakefield closing out our team in 1604th in 67:37. Unfortunately due to Tim’s lost chip we were not awarded a finishing position.
Congratulations to all 8 athletes who represented the club at the English National Cross Country Championships, next years event is being held at Parliament Hill, London and it would be great to have even more club members travel down, take part and have a weekend away in the city.