While some of our athletes travelled up to Mansfield on Saturday for the national cross country relays, eighteen of us made a somewhat shorter journey across to Berkeley Fields on Horsenden Hill, where ESM was hosting this year’s North London Championships, writes Fiona Kennedy.
Phil York did a great job of tweaking and improving the traditional circuit, removing one tight turn and moving the start and finish to within a short jog of the Tir Chonaill Gaels clubhouse (rather than in the middle of a field, as per tradition!) There was plenty of positive feedback about the course afterwards.
After a wet morning, the weather was kind to volunteers and runners alike; the rain paused and did not return till after the event. Not only that, but those of us who’ve been running here for decades thought it was the firmest underfoot that we had ever experienced. As Louise put it: “where’s the mud?!”
The women set off first on a two-lap course of 6km… or thereabouts, and Shona led the team home in eighth: “I ended up having to dig deep to deal with a Heathsider who overtook me with about 0.5k to go – managed to take her on the bit beside the canal before the end but it was a struggle to hold it to the finish line!”
Fiona Kennedy was next home, though her race had some unscheduled stops to let her calf pain ease off. On the plus side, this did allow her to get her breath back for the finish, and she clawed back a good few places in the final kilometre!
Lynn Wilson enjoyed her battle with Carol Jones. Carol prevailed by a few seconds in the end, and apparently said that she wasn’t trying to overtake Lynn but the runner in front. Lynn didn’t seem convinced: “It’s a race, everyone for themselves!”
Patricia Thomas, Louise Prince and Jane Ruhland were within sight of each other throughout, but the gaps remained fairly constant and they came home one after the other. Beverley Packwood completed her first cross country for the club this year, and the team was completed by another trio: Barbro Julin, Sophie Pesticcio and Annette Galloway – Annette’s first foray into cross country.
The men had three laps to tackle. Like Shona, Simon Shaw ended up in eighth place, which gained him the honour of first Vet. He felt he went a little too hard at the start of the second lap in pursuit of a Hillingdon runner that he had in his sights: “Rather too eager to overtake him and realised that I should have been a bit more patient as those gradual, low-percentage inclines, which I find particularly tough, took their toll in a rather gruelling third lap. Yes, they were the wrong type of hills and I still cannot find a sprint”.
Nick Steel appreciated the home support and repaid it with his trademark sprint finish, which never fails to entertain. The Hillingdon runner he overtook seemed to stumble and for a moment we thought Nick had barged him, but it turned out the Hillingdon runner had caught the back of Nick’s shoe.
Santosh Rai was hard on Nick’s heels – though not literally on that occasion – and the scoring team was completed by veterans Rob Brown, James Steel and Steve Plested. Martin Wilson was another to make his 2017 cross country debut, reflecting afterwards: “Great course and conditions but you still need to be very fit to run decent cross country”. It’s very true, but it’s also true that there’s nothing like cross country to get you fit!
Thanks to all the officials and marshals (Nikki Baker, John Falvey, Simon and Alison Turrell, Jean King and Keith, Jennifer Jones, Olov Hansen). Jean also managed to take the great action photos featured here, and you can find more of them on the Facebook page.
ESM results summary
Men: 8 Simon Shaw (V45) 30:25; 15 Nick Steel 31:05; 18 Santosh Rai 31:19; 42 Rob Brown (V50) 33:52; 51 James Steel (V45) 34:46; 72 Steve Plested (V65) 38:16; 90 Martin Wilson (V65) 44:15
Women: 8 Shona Cowper 23:53; 21 Fiona Kennedy (V60) 25:35; 33 Carol Jones (V60) 27:02; 34 Lynn Wilson (V60) 27:08; 37 Patricia Thomas (V50) 27:58; 38 Louise Prince (V45) 28:15; 39 Jane Ruhland (V50) 28:31; 46 Beverley Packwood (V45) 29:14; 52 Barbro Julin (V55) 31:21; 53 Sophie Pesticcio (V40) 31:29; 54 Annette Galloway (V45) 31:44
Full results on powerof10.