Saturday 25th of January saw the running of the 2014 North of England Cross Country Championships, held for the second year in succession over Lord Derby`s estate at Knowsley Safari Park. Once again the conditions were extremely testing, and even though we didn’t have several inches of snow on the ground this year, the mud was just as thick and sapping as last time. No Clayton juniors were seen by your correspondent, but five senior ladies and five senior men represented the club. I arrived at about 1pm, right in the middle of a squall and hailstorm of biblical proportions, and felt really sorry for those youngsters who were struggling round at the time. The poor kids were absolutely frozen at the finish!
The five senior girls thought seriously about diving in the sea lion pool, on the basis that they would stay drier in there than doing the race, but fortunately by the time they came to start their 8km event, the rain had stopped. Katie Walshaw of Holmfirth led the 262 strong field home in a time of 30-22 and also led her club to the gold medal. The first Clayton girl to finish in 151st was cross country captain Irene Roche in 42-17, followed by Rebecca Rawcliffe with a time of 44-42 for 183rd position. Georgina Slater with 48-11 took 220th, and the ever reliable Christine Leathley and Sue Allen completed the Clayton finishers in 249th and 255th respectively. Overall, 31st team on the day.
In the men’s race, contested by 614 athletes and run over 12km, Dan Garbutt of Durham City AC, improved on his third place last year to take the title in a time of 41-17. Our first man home was Spencer Riley in a superb 72nd place and a time of 46-43. Richard Briscoe used his impressive road speed to take 338th place in 56-15, and Ryan Wilkinson and Mark Wightman battled hard all the way round with just one second between them at the finish. Mark achieved 380th in a time of 58-28, Ryan just one place in front. As for me, I was pleased to record 65-05, six seconds faster than last year even though my 500th position was eight places worse. Still, I did beat 114 others this year compared to 91 last time. 11 runners lapped me, though one who did not was Olympian Jonny Brownlee who finished 21st overall. With six runners required to finish a team we were one man short, but never mind.
When you take away the roads, fells, trails and running around in the dark with a torch on your head, the XC chromosomes are still at the heart of Clayton`s DNA.
Peter Browning. Full results are here.