XC – The Nationals
The National, Donnington Park, 27th February 2016
by James Bell
Jolyon Attwool, the Telegraph journalist who of late has been running the Southerns and National XC events and committing those experiences to his broadsheet, wrote in his article of The National at Castle Donnington that ‘It looked like a festival: a Glastonbury with greater lung capacity’. To me the start felt tribal and like others I wanted a sword and shield because it felt like I was going into battle.
There’s a report on the elite activities here so I shall not dwell on who won what races. A summary is that Chiltern League winners did appear in some of the top results and I am still in awe of anyone who is able to pull out the stops and beat their peers in this race.
We were missing quite a few runners on the day. We had two full teams U13 boys (four boys to score) and Senior Men (six men to score). Sadly, we were one short of a team in U15 girls and only Niquole Carter was able to make it in the U13 girls. Charlie Mead (U20) represented the club in the toughest race of all. Starting with Niquole, she is turning out to be a really great runner and is now showing some real promise. Niquole came 300th out of 449 and has also been selected to run in the English Schools and the Intercounties. Like Niquole, Dominic has also been selected to run in those races and he came 179th on the day. Owen and Harry kept close company on the first lap but Owen pulled ahead to finish 324 and Harry 13 seconds behind in 347. Max is just getting back into serious training so did well to finish 383 but Ewan’s spike came off but did well to finish in 405 position. There were 420 runners in the boys race.
U15 girls was an interesting race with 354 runners. The spread of times was vast. The winning time was 16:05 and the last finisher came in in 31:20 for this 4.5k course. Now if you weren’t wearing pink socks, you were clearly not sporting the latest XC fashion. The girls had a great run and all finished between 21-23 minutes, describing the course afterwards as ‘hard’. Come first or last, I have tried to communicate The National’s significance to the juniors and can do no better than Jolyon who states that it was ‘first run in 1876, predating the modern Olympics by two decades’. It is so important that some have tried to make it an Olympic event. I urge all club members including juniors to do at least one and I say this because above and beyond any other race, you may never have the opportunity of running against such an elite field for free.
Charlie has just been getting better and better this season. In The Nationals the U20 men is the toughest race but he came a very respectable 114th out of 152. Well done!
So then to the men. What a bunch! I doubt anyone of the other clubs were threatened by the LBAC elites who spanned U23-V65. Tom Inchley (393) finished first and it just shows what a season he is having as he came ahead of Billy Mead who was 13 seconds behind (411). Ben Corfield (503) was less than two minutes behind Billy and so completes the results for the youngsters. The next three to complete the team were myself and my running buddy and fellow junior coach Warren Rose and Fred Watt. Now before we go any further, I should say that the star performance for me was Fred. Imagine as a V65 you have to run an 8 mile course with hills, mud and a panting front field that laps you. This is tough stuff. Fred did well in the V65 category finishing the course in 1:18.
As a V45 I feared that Warren might inch ahead on this one as he tends to do better on the longer XCs. This was not so, but Warren did narrow the gap from his usual 2 mins down to 1:30 for this distance. I finished in 792 and Warren in 908. There were 1730 runners in the senior mens race that was a gruelling 13km. Oh and as for that Jolyon Attwool, he’s always ahead of me, but one day, one day….