Get Dirrrty!

Eastern Athletics XC and British & Irish Masters’ International XC

by Pete Mackrell


Last Saturday was evidently a day for dirty running. Close to home, 10 members completed the Dirt Half whilst further away, 10 more were competing in cross country. Of those, a hardy bunch of eight men and one girl made the trip over to Keysoe to participate in the Eastern Athletics Cross Country Championship.

The Eastern Athletic Association is a curious thing; it consists of the geographically diverse counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire. It organises various events including an annual cross-country championship which dates back to 1937 (for the men, women have been included from 1992!). It used to be a high-profile event and it has some high-profile former winners, however in recent years it has fallen from grace somewhat, participation has dropped and some years it wasn’t held at all. This seems a shame, although perhaps it’s inevitable with so many events on the calendar.

LBAC hasn’t entered for many years and whilst we’ve never been a big hitter, we do have some pedigree in the event. Steve Earley won the U15B race in 1983, Mike Shevyn the U17M in 1989 and Emma Langdon the U17W in 1999. Our glory year so far was definitely 1997 when Gail Duckworth (whatever happened to her?) won the Masters (V35) race and our U13 boys won the team prize.

But that’s enough history, what about this year? It was a dry and calm day so perfect running weather, although the recent rain had left the ground heavy and the infamous lake plus an additional water feature in the form of a ditch were well filled. First up for the club was Imogen Chesterton who’s been on great form winning her age group in the Ampthill Trophy and finishing 12th in the Chiltern League at Oxford. Although she’s been struggling with an injury, she had a superb race to finish in a fine 3rd place finish (out of 22). Here’s hoping she can continue this form over the winter and beyond.

The eight men raced over 12km making it one of the longer races of the winter.  It was a three-lap course which was similar but longer than the typical Chiltern League lap, thus three trips through the lake and ditch. Pre-race hilarity was provided by Nigel Chesterton realising he’d forgotten his shorts, but in true forgotten kit style, James managed to dig out some hideous orange ones for him to wear (does James specifically take these to races in the hope someone has to wear them?). Nigel made a swift change and sprinted to the start line whilst everyone else waited for him!

Performance of the day has to go to Rob Elmore, who is also on a great run of form recently finishing 2nd in the Ampthill Trophy and winning the Love Luton 10k. He started strong and simply got stronger as all the other contenders dropped away, thus Rob becomes the club’s only ever senior winner at this event. Rob forced our occasional friend – but frequent rival – Simon Coombes (running for one of his other clubs, nobody quite knows which) into 2nd place, although Simon took the consolation of being first vet. The rest of the LBAC team consisted of Pete Mackrell (8th), Tom Kimber (11th), Stuart Blofeld (13th), James Bell (15th and 2nd V50), Sam Dear (16th) Adam Haylock (26th) and Nigel Chesterton (30th). Stomach issues seemed to be the order of the day with Pete, Sam and Adam all suffering at some point, something in the Keysoe water?

With six to score in the team prize, LBAC had a strong team closed out in 16th place which took home the gold medals. Yes we were the only team with six runners, but who cares! Unfortunately we’re not allowed to take home the impressive silver trophy which is far too valuable to be left in our hands.

It’s got our name on it!

All in all, I think everybody really enjoyed their day out. The event felt far more laid back than your typical Chiltern League, although the quality of competition was still good. We’ll see where next year’s event is and hopefully try to defend our titles. Full results can be found here.

Meanwhile, up in Aintree, Gail Duckworth was running for England Masters in the annual cross-country match between the four home nations plus the Republic of Ireland. This is one of the highlights of the Masters running calendar and selection is extremely tough and sought after, only four people are selected in each five-year age group. In her category Gail finished 4th and she was the 3rd English scorer which ensured England comfortably won the gold medals. This is the 11th time Gail has been selected for this event and with her soon to move up to a new age group (sorry Gail) there’s every chance it won’t be her last!

Gail’s England vest