Phil Wetton reports:
It was back to the spiritual home of cross country and the scene of many Southern and National championships as Parliament Hill played host to the English National Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
As the National championships rotate every 3 years between venues in the North, the Midlands and the South, this year saw the turn of the southern venue and a 12k course around the hilly terrain of Parliament Hill for the senior men.
This being a London venue it could almost be counted as a home fixture for the Valley men and this was reflected in a good 16 man team for the seniors and a 2 man junior U20 team.
In the largest senior men’s National field for many years there was a total of 2005 finishers and it was great to see 2 Valley men in the top 20, with Mohamud Aadan in 16th and Chris Smith in 18th, with the Valley men’s 6 to score team in 40th place out of 145 finishing teams.
For the U20 men’s 10k race there was a total of 190 finishers with 2 Valley junior men in the top 100, Toby Clyde in 55th and Robert Vallance in 90th, but with prior commitments preventing the final 2 members of the team from racing they were unable to finish a complete 4 to score team.
The course at Parliament Hill is well known to many cross country runners and has a well deserved reputation for being a tough course due to the number of hill climbs and the almost obligatory Parliament Hill mud.
Saturday’s race did not disappoint, as despite no rainfall and some weak sunshine helping to raise the temperature a little on race day, rain from the previous 2 days added to some heavy overnight rain ensured there was plenty of mud on course!
It was a 2 lap race for the senior men, with each lap traversing up and down the muddy fields around Parliament Hill and then extending into the woods to provide the necessary 12k race distance, the final lap finishing with a fast downhill descent onto flat ground for a 200m sprint to the finish line.
For the start of the senior men’s race it was an incredible sight to see over 2000 men charging up the first hill, with Mohamud Aadan and Chris Smith leading the way for the Valley men near the front of the field.
With so much mud on the course making it very heavy going it was always going to be a race of attrition, and at the end of the first lap there were already gaps opening up at the front of the field, with Mo sitting just outside the top 10 and Chris just a few places behind.
The second and final lap saw Chris use his great hill running strength as he closed the gap on Mo to within 6 seconds by the finish, both Valley men having great runs to finish inside the top 20 and less than 90 seconds from the race winner, with Mo in 16th place in a time of 40m 33s and Chris in 18th place in 40m 39s.
Following on from his 6th place in the Southern XC Champs this was Mo’s best ever finish in the National XC Champs, while Chris is no stranger to the top 20 and his amazing set of top 20 finishes in the National continues to be a source of great inspiration to his Valley team mates.
In such strength sapping conditions it was no surprise that the next 3 Valley men home were all marathon men, with Andrew Mitchell continuing an excellent season to be third man home in 476th place in a time of 48m 56s.
Peter Scannell never looked troubled by the muddy conditions and ran a strong race for 4th scorer in 544th place in 49m 50s, while Christian Nielsen used his marathon strength to good effect to finish in 686th place and 5th scorer for the team in 51m 24s.
The 6th and final scorer for the team was Ewan Ross, a new addition to the team this winter and he coped incredibly well for his first time in the mud around Parliament Hill, especially as he wasn’t racing in spikes and he somehow managed to skate over the mud to finish in 705th place in 51m 39s, which placed the team in 40th place out of 145 finishing teams.
Manuel Da Silva and Steve Norris are both no strangers to Parliament Hill and it was a close race to the finish between the 2 of them, with Manuel finishing in 756th in a time of 52m 07s, just 11 places and 7 seconds ahead of Steve in 767th in 52m 14s.
More at home on the track than the mud Simon Baptist did very well to finish in the top half of the field and he was very happy to cross the finish line in 905th place in 53m 42s.
Having been in good form all winter Greg Bennett refused to let the mud beat him and he was only just outside the top half of the field in 1064th place in a time of 55m 27s.
Mike Wilson once again teased his team mates by saying for the second successive race that this was going to be his final race for the Valley, if so it was a good final performance to finish in 1120th in 56m 03s, and here’s hoping we see you again next season Mike!
Next Valley man home was Richard Bell who ran a well paced race to finish in 1282nd place in a time of 57m 59s, and he was followed by Charlie Morris who did well to complete the course with very little training, but he forgot to wear his time chip and so unfortunately wasn’t recorded a finishing place in the final results.
Paul Woodgate and Jason Sewards once again renewed their winter race series over the country, with Jason having got the better of Paul by just 2 seconds in the Southern XC Champs in January, it was Paul who turned the tables on Saturday with a very good race to finish in 1683rd place in a time of 1h 04m 28s, ahead of Jason in 1748th place in 1h 05m 57s.
Completing the 16 man team for Saturday was Valley talisman Simon Maddison, a veteran member of the team who still enjoys his running and a good example to all those his junior, he took on the mud and defeated it to finish in 1975th place in a time of 1h 20m 23s.
Ahead of the senior men’s race was the junior U20 men’s race, which was raced over 2 laps each of 5k to make up the 10k race distance.
Still in his first year as an U20 athlete Toby Clyde continues to impress this season and he did well to finish just outside the top 50 in 55th place in a time of 37m 19s, though he was slightly disappointed not to have finished higher it still points to good times in the future.
Robert Vallance has also shown some good form this season and he put this to good use in the muddy conditions to have a strong race to finish in the top half of the field in 90th place in a time of 38m 58s.
Fielding a 2 man U20 team and needing 4 to score for a complete team it was a shame that the junior men missed out on the team results, but with both Toby and Robert finishing in the top half of the field they flew the Valley flag well for the junior men.
With the exception of the Inter Counties XC Champs on March 7 and the Middlesex Vets XC Champs on March 22, that’s it for another cross country season.
Many thanks to all those who took part this winter, whether racing, marshalling, supporting or helping in general, everyone’s efforts are much appreciated.
Next up on the race calendar is the men’s 12 Stage Road Relays in Milton Keynes and Birmingham on Sunday March 29 and Saturday April 11.
So keep the dates free and keep on running!
Continue reading 2 VALLEY MEN RACE INTO THE TOP 20 IN NATIONAL XC CHAMPS