Race report – Saucony National Cross Country Championships 2018
Saturday, 24th February 2018
The sun was shining but the temperature gauge told a different story as Halesowen athletes converged on Parliament Hill by trains, planes and automobiles for the 2018 National Cross Country Championship. The view from the top of the Hampstead Heath was inspiring and you could pick out the landmarks of Wembley, The Shard and the telecom tower across the capital on such a clear day.
A packed timetable of races throughout the day started at 11am and it was good to see a Halesowen vest in almost every race. Megan Parker (251/276) was the 1st to run for Halesowen in the U17 Women (a long day for the Parker family with Dad, James, running in the senior men’s race at 3pm). Next was the U15 Boys (Sam Manning 149/504), U17 Men (Matthew Wilkinson 229/356), U13 Boys (Tom Harris 455/570), U15 Girls (Lottie Roberts 104/464).
Onto the Junior Women, who were taken on an extra small lap in error! Lily Higgins finished a credible 23/146 and Abigail Saker completing the line-up for Halesowen (74/146). Kristian Bailey (141/220) was the only Halesowen runner in the Junior Men’s race after Men’s Captain, Peter Dear, opted not to run through injury but still made the journey to the capital for moral support.
The penultimate race of the day was the 8K Senior women’s race, with a 5-strong team from Halesowen, led by Captain Cosimetti. A record field of 1113 runners meant it was hard to spot our runners as they charged up the hill from the lido. Melanie Hepke (554) led the team home, followed by Rebecca Moore (558), Caroline Lambert (787), Anna Cosimetti (947) and Helen Attwood (1078).
Finally, the senior men’s race kicked off at 3pm. Another record field of 2328 runner included 13 of Halesowen’s finest. “Original old gold” vests were proudly adorned by Andy, Bill, Alex, Mark and Andrew (I’m sure these vests were older than most of the runners in the race!) The bottle-neck at the top of the hill meant most would end up walking for a short period through the gate. I decided to go full-pelt up the hill to avoid the crush. This paid off and I managed to get through the gate in the first few hundred without having to walk, unaware of the chaos behind (Mark Hadley almost got trampled after tripping over!!!).
However, after the first mile, a pain in my left leg meant my gains were short-lived and I had to ease off. Dave Turvey showed strength as the race progressed and I lost sight of him before the last lap 5K had even started.
With such a big field and large laps, this was the last Halesowen vest I saw until after the finish. Dave Turvey (542) brought the team home, followed by me, Adam Cross (800), Mark Hadley (984), Dave Lewis (1131), Phill Scarr (1247), James Hoult (1309), Alex Morgan (1466), Bill Nock (1752), James Parker (1850), Andy Nock (1935), Mark Higgins (2067) and Jamie Sircom (2307). Andy Carruthers had his first DNF after a calf injury. Halesowen finished 95/162 full 6-man teams (67/90 teams in the 9 to count total).
Considering the National is one of the longest races of the season, it seemed to be over in a flash. In no time at all, we were back at the club tent. The Nock Brothers had their hip-flasks out and thoughts had turned to post-race refreshments and what pubs were showing the six-nations near to Marylebone Station.
For me, after a forgettable performance, it was one of my most memorable races to date. Travelling together with club members on the train reminded me that it’s not just about individual goals and where you finish but about being part of a team and enjoying the comradery on a great day out!
Thanks to all who helped out on the day by driving, supporting and organising others – Up ‘Owen!!!