Representing England in Dublin

The 28th British and Irish Masters Cross Country International Championships

Santry Demesne, Dublin

by Gail Duckworth


On Saturday I was representing England in the annual Home international for the 10th time! I can’t quite believe that my first English vest was in 2002 in the W45-49 in Cardiff. The event moves from country to country each and this year was The Republic of Ireland turn to host it. So, 13 years later and in the W60-64 I competed in Dublin.

The format is the same each year with all women running together W35+ with the Men 65+ over 6K. In our race each country can select 4 runners’ with 3 to score. England usually has more depth and reserves are named some of whom travel and then run in the Open race. The men have two other highly competitive races M50-64 and M35-49 both over 8K and the Open follows these.

As you can imagine the standard is incredibly high and selection is based on events during the year especially Masters National Championship races and also current form. This year I had won the National 5K Road Championship in June on the tough Horwich course (20 mins 36 secs) and the track 5000 at  Alexander Stadium Birmingham (20 mins 12 secs). I had also run the Admiral Bay Swansea 10k in September in 41 mins 11 secs which currently tops the W60 rankings by nearly a minute.

Unfortunately Cross Country has never been my best discipline, although I enjoy running in them and obviously have had good success I really do struggle in the mud.

Arriving Friday evening into Dublin airport in torrential rain I knew the course would not suit me. And it didn’t, despite it being fairly flat the 3 lap course churned up more and more and the torrential rain continued!

The race took off with its normal fast start and despite my best effort I was again no match for Carmel Parnell from the Irish Republic who won the W60 category and took her tally of individual gold medals to 10 which is the record for the event. Finishing someway behind her however I did finish 2nd W60 overall. A silver medal is still an achievement and it also meant I lead the W60 team home to win the gold  team medal.

In the evening there is always a Gala dinner and Awards Ceremony where mud is replaced with glad rags and of course in Dublin a drop of Guinness replacing sports drinks.

Collecting your medal is always a proud moment and this year to my complete surprise and delight the team manager asked me to also collect the women’s overall trophy which England had won. I have never won an individual gold medal and there were some outstanding English runners there she could have asked  but she said I had been a consistent member of the England team for many years…..I think that makes me old!  🙂