WITH more than 1,150 teams taking part across 10 races, the 2012 English Cross Country Association National Championships offered by far the most severe test to date in the event’s 27-year history.
And with some of the UK’s most recognisable mud-running exponents laced up, it was always likely to prove a stiff test for the 27 in Harborough AC colours. But that was not to say there weren’t some excellent performances on the day.
The 45th-place finish from the under-13 girls’ team of Mollie Watson, Charlotte Ellis, and Niamh Watson was 24 better than that managed 12 months earlier, and secured what was a tremendous mid-field return among the 89 entrants.
Their male counterparts could not quite match the example set over the same 2km course, but the trio of Joshua Hampton-Ridding, Max Sillifant, and William Parry battled hard to take 79th.
Also running in that age bracket were Lewis Dinsdale and Ben Sleeman, as part of an incomplete ‘B’ team.
In the next group (under-15s), and over the same route, both girls and boys had incomplete teams. But neither duo allowed that to daunt them, with Otis Harrison, Ben Morris, Martha Clapp and Dominque Harrison all acquitting themselves with solid runs.
In the senior ranks, both men and women fielded two teams apiece. And while the women’s ‘A’ team of Hannah Eveleigh, Yvonne Scarrott, and Karen Brooks may have placed one position lower than a year ago in 54th this time, they did post a time 20 seconds quicker than in 2011. The ‘B’ team of Lin Farrow, Lianne Brooks, and Sarah Ward also took a top-100 finish, with 97th. And Marise Taylor was unlucky to find herself in an incomplete ‘C’ team for the undulating 3kms.
Over the longest distance of the day – 5km – the racing was rounded-off by the senior men.
In 123rd place were the ‘A’ team of Martin Gore, Graeme Rolfe, George Nolan, and Will Clapp, with the ‘B’ squad of Martin Hughes, Kenny Anderson, David Ward, and Pete Leach just over 30 places and 14 minutes back, in 155th .
Club cross-country captain Will Clapp said: “To turn out such a large number of runners is great – irrespective of whether they ran as part of a complete team or not.
“It takes something extra special to still commit to giving your all knowing the team won’t “finish”. And the senior women were third best team from Leicestershire, and the men were the fifth-best. For a relatively small club to produce such results against the very best in the country is great.”
Another Harborough club member focused on numbers at the weekend was Rachael Hardman, contesting the 2012 Rutland Marathon
The start of winter was in stark evidence around the shores of Rutland Water as – amid heavy rain and close-to-freezing temperatures – Hardman successfully completed number 11 of 12 in her marathon challenge in 4hrs 18mins, giving her a splendid top-half finish.
Her epic endeavour’s concluding event should be in more amenable settings, in the form of the Lisbon version of the 26.2-mile trial.