London Cross Country Champs – Parliament Hill – Sat 19 Nov 2016

It was a weekend punctuated by Storm Angus and its aftermath, writes Shona Cowper. Luckily for those doing the SEAA XC Club Champs at Parliament Hill on Saturday, Angus was yet to show its face and there was sun to accompany them on their frolics around the park. The route had changed for this year’s race, which means that comparing times to last year is a bit pointless. Unfortunately they hadn’t re-routed us around the hills instead of over them so we still had those to contend with. Thankfully though, there was barely any mud! This did make a slight change from the mudbath of last year and probably pleased TFL somewhat as it’s always a bit grim getting onto the train after a race covered in mud.

There was a 25% increase in the overall number of senior ladies competing in this year’s event. This did not negatively impact the ESM ladies’ team though as they came in 13th – same as last year. First over the line for ESM was Sarah Gerrie who came a very commendable 47th overall. Sarah led the team from the beginning and there seemed no way of catching her. Second for ESM was Shona Cowper who was being chased down by Fiona Kennedy towards the end. Turns out there’s nothing like hearing people shouting “Go Fiona, you can catch her!” as you run by to make you pick those legs up to get yourself over that finish line. Fiona came in only 3 seconds behind Shona. Having trailed Pat throughout the race, Leanne Smith caught her towards the end but a surge of power from Pat in the finishing straight propelled her back into the fourth and final scoring place for the team, with Leanne following close behind. Carol Jones (aka Nikki Shelley for the purposes of the race) came in 6th and Christine Meek, Nikki Baker and Gill Morgan rounded off the ladies’ efforts. Hopefully we can encourage some more of the ladies to get involved in the XC races – they really are a true test of stamina and mental willpower and pay dividends in overall running fitness. And let’s not forget keeping the legs ticking over through the winter before all those spring half and full marathons people have signed up for!

Thankfully for the men, the relatively dry ground meant that it wasn’t churned up by the time their race came around. Simon Shaw, shown left tackling one of those hills, took the first ESM place for the men’s team (48th overall). Simon was 34th in last year’s race, at which point he had just finished peak training whereas this year he’s only done a few parkruns, apparently. Frankly, if that’s what parkruns make you run like then maybe I’d better get down to Northala Fields more often! Manish Kunwar went past Nick Steel early on in the race but Nick settled in to proceedings and retaliated later on to come in as the second finisher with Manish close behind. Nick is a relative newcomer to XC under the ESM name and he’s been putting in impressive performances at the events so far. Santosh Rai was next to cross the line for team ESM, followed by Rob Brown, Michael Hellyer (just getting the better of Mark Kencroft) and then Mark Delahunty. Second-claim member Michael was “borrowed” from Ealing Eagles for the event but lost his chip, unfortunately, so doesn’t feature in the results. [Editor’s note: You’re only supposed to enter first-claim members for this event, so some might call it divine retribution!] Mark D is usually keen for a battle with Rob but not this time it seems. We’ll put it down to post-marathon PB legs from Frankfurt for now but we all expect the battles to re-commence at the next event. Nar Garbuja (Krishna) continues to show improvement, while veterans Ian Leslie, Steve Plested and Rob Howells rounded off the day’s efforts for the club. The men’s team also finished 13th but fared slightly better than the women’s team as there were more men’s teams involved. An impressive 415 completed the men’s race, a significant increase on 2015.

That’s it from Parliament Hill until next year. And when I say next year I actually mean January at the Southern Cross Country Championships. After all the weekend’s cross country and mud running at Herbert’s Hole there must be some more people tempted to test their mettle against the hills?

Thanks to Michael Hellyer and Leanne Smith for the photos.

ESM results summary

Men: 48 Simon Shaw (V44) 35:19,, 104 Nick Steel 37:22, 118 Manish Kunwar 37:36, 147 Santosh Rai 38:13, 175 Rob Brown (V50) 39:05, Michael Hellyer nt, 184 Mark Kencroft (V45) 39:21, 227 Mark Delahunty (V40) 40:23, 256 Nar Garbuja 41:36, 292 Ian Leslie (V55) 42:45, 332 Steve Plested (V65) 44:38, 480 Rob Howells (V65) 52:41

Women: 47 Sarah Gerrie 25:01, 55 Shona Cowper 25:30, 57 Fiona Kennedy (W55) 25:33, 110 Patricia Thomas (W50) 27:24, 112 Leanne Smith 27:31, 156 Carol Jones (W55) 28:59, 182 Christine Meek (W55) 30:11, 184 Nikki Baker 30:20, 194 Gill Morgan (W55) 30:57

Full results here