National Cross Country Championships 2022
Parliament Hill, London.
Report – Paul Hawkins
The 2022 National Cross Country Championships took place at Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, London and, surprisingly, the weather was good without any of the recent storms although there was certainly plenty of mud from the recent rains which made the course a good challenge for the 8,000 runners who had travelled from across the country spread across the ten races.
The course included the infamous Kite Hill on Hampstead Heath, the highest point in London. The Stratford team were fewer in numbers than in some years mostly due to Covid and some injuries, while many of the leading seniors chose to aim for fast times in road races this weekend.
The club still had a fine day with the highlight being a top twenty place from Alex Adams in the under 17 men’s race despite him being amongst the youngest in the race.
After recent successes Adams was confident going into the race and was in a top three position for the first half of the 6k course but the thick mud took its toll and he slipped to finish 18th in 22.45.
Team mate Taylor Stubbins had only just recovered from illness and ran well mid-way in the pack finishing in 168th position with a time of 25.48.
Georgie Campbell has had an inconsistent season marred by Covid but enjoyed a successful first season in this age group and ran well to finish 35th (27.48) in a good quality field and will be happy with the performance.
Also, in 35th was the ever-improving Maisie-Joy Spriggs (27.48) in the Under 15 girls race with Niamh Hillard (89, 19.07) next home for the team closely followed by Maddie Linfoot (111th, 19.23) and then to complete the team Tilly Campbell (342, 25.08. Unfortunately, Caitlin Boyle did not finish due to breathing difficulties.
The Under 15 Girls finished 20th team, improving from 24th at the 2020 event when they were in the Under 13 competition.
Before this the Under 13 girls race featured Marijke Tear-Verweij in her first race at this level. Marijke was probably the smallest girl in the race but had a tremendous run in the 3k of mud and was 135th out of 393 runners and said afterwards “Such a big race, so much fun. I smiled all the way round, and I felt proud to be running for my club in the biggest race of the year.”
Next up were the under 13 boys and following late withdrawals there were just the two Stratford runners racing on the 3k course and both performed well with Sam Plumb (221, 14.27) on the comeback trail after a bad bout of Covid and Joel Ledgard (265, 14.50) close for most of the race. Unfortunately, Joel lost his shoe in the mud early in the race which cost him valuable time.
Joel’s mum said “I just wanted to say a massive thank you for facilitating today. Joel (and the whole family in fact) loved it. We were so gripped we stopped for all of the races after Joel’s and shouted for many Stratford runners who I’m sure had absolutely no idea who we were! If you could organise weather like that for every cross country event, that’d be great!
Despite the shoe incident, Joel loved the course and the mud! He will use the event as a learning curve and make sure shoes are done up tighter (or taped on) in future!! Don’t think having to stop, pick up the shoe, take off gloves to get shoe back on, then run the rest of the race with lace untied did much for his time or placing but he thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience!
Thank you once again – Becks Ledgard, Joel and the whole family.”
The Under 15 boys team was the same as last season’s U13 boys and consisted of a reversal of the previous result Joe Lewis (392, 20.42) just behind Seb Hillard (331, 18:56)
The under 20 men’s team ran over a long 10k course and the two Stratford athletes should both be happy with their runs finishing very close together although not running that close during the race. Ned Campbell 144th (40.25) improved by over 70 places from his last run in the Under 17 Nationals while Alex Pester is in his first full cross country season coming 153rd in 40.42.
In the Senior Women’s 8k race with over 1,000 runners, both Stratford runners had reasons to be happy with their races. Emma Bexson was well up the field in 253rd in 37.35. Rebecca Pridham (816, 49.57) has just returned from major health issues and said at the finish “My thoughts apart from focusing like crazy on the surface 2-3 metres in front of me for 8km. wasn’t focused on time today, it was about pacing and holding form throughout. The Nationals were the focus of my post op training, and I am pleased with progress. Looking forward to next season now. Thank you to all those who raced and supported and cheered (especially anyone who cheered me on waaaay back in the womens race, it honestly helped!).”
The final race was the senior men competed over a 12k course of four long laps. With over 2000 men racing the course was congested at the start but everyone coped well with it, although the men probably had the worst of the mud. Two of the three Stratford runners were making their debuts at the Nationals and first back was Phil Reading (1060, 60.17) in his first cross country season followed by fellow debutant Owen Lewis (1651, 79.39) see comments below and National regular Dave Wolstencroft (2020, 84.09), see below also)
All in all, an excellent day for the Club with wonderful team spirit shown by the support all round the course for each race. For many of the juniors they will now be going on to the Inter Counties Championship and English Schools Championships later in March.
Owen Lewis: “With my son competing in the U15s, I was persuaded to enter the 12K Seniors as my second cross-county race in 30 years. Quite an experience, especially the mass charge up the hill from the start. By this stage in the day, large sections of the course were knee deep in slick mud. Somehow I managed to stay upright throughout, and tried to stay honest to the route while others ran outside the barriers to find solid ground. Recovering from a foot injury since November, I took it fairly easy, helped by bottlenecks at several points on the first lap which slowed everyone to a walk. One advantage of being so slow was seeing the fastest runners come past at lightning speed on their final lap, including the eventual winner Mahamed Mahamed and Olympic medal-winning triathlete Alex Yeo who finished third.”
Dave Wolstencroft: “The atmosphere was exhilarating with thousands of representatives from running clubs up and down the country getting together in such an iconic area of heathland with the fantastic view of the whole of London so close and, perfect weather to boot. There was great marshal and onlooker support. The course was challenging with the mass start of over 3000 being channeled into a gap 30 ft wide at the top of a hill, was difficult to get a good start if you are not good at sprinting up hills from the off, there was a wait at the top to get through. The hills were long with a good measure of short steep hills for good measure. The wading mud was challenging at times, especially on the downward bend stretches although it was by no means not the most difficult I have experienced. There were grassy parts of the muddy parts to aim for but then you were not taking the most direct route. I did not fall over at least. One steep section was barely walkable on the last lap. Watching the best cross country runners in the country lap you was inspiring! They seem to glide across the mud as they hustle past-and not sink into it like I do! Some quite long sections were really narrow with only room for two lines, one for the lappers and one for those being lapped! The 12k distance was tough, that extra 3k took its toil and my lack of stamina fitness was quite apparent to me. It was a shame that there were only two senior men running. My time accordingly to my watch was 1.24:03. Take from this what you want, if anything. It was just quite nice to think it all over!.