In 1964 when Joan and I lived in a top floor flat in Muswell Hill Road, my Dad and I went for a walk Westwards across Hampstead Heath from Highgate ponds; as we reached the bottom of the dip, thousands of runners charged towards us from a Southerly direction. We beatled up the hill towards the woods on the West side of the Heath in time to see Andy Holden (the eventual winner) in the leading pack. How could you not be hooked on the National.
About 20yrs years later, I ran against Andy Holden in the Vets National Cross Country Champs in Graves Park Sheffield. Richard Bevan’s brother had fixed us up with some good accommodation so we drove up on the Saturday, stopped en route for a pint and some lunch at the Haycock at Warnsford on the A1., before settling in there and going for an Italian meal in the evening.
Next day whilst changing, a bloke from Liverpool Pembroke joked “ I’ll be effing lucky to come last today”. We toed the line together and sure enough as the gun went off, we were left in the vast field with Andy Holden (local lad) leading the charge into the distance. I managed to pick off a few over the course and ended about 10th from last; my first sortie into big time running. I’d not done any running when in Sheffield as a student choosing to try new sports; Boxing and Rugby.
This piece is simply to reassure Darryl who was concerned about being last in the National at Alton Towers.” No worries” as Kiwis say, I counted at least 30 men behind him until I got fed up and as I told him, there was probably twice that number who dropped out as I’d seen four do so where I was standing!
The National 2011, Alton Towers, Staffs.19th February.
This year, the Committee had agreed to pay for a coach to take us which Peter Rice had given up a day with his family to drive in order to keep down the cost. Despite having to start from Barnet Odeon in the dark and rain at 7am, what a treat it was to be transported in a luxury coach! En route, we had £1 bets on the distance of the journey; Laurence won with 142 miles which was nearest to the actual 140.6miles so he scooped the £8.00 prize, the rest going to help towards the cost of the coach. We arrived in good time surrounded by fields covered in white hailstones which had changed to persistent rain. Thanks to Richard Mc C, we had a large family-size tent as a base which proved a Godsend in the cold, damp conditions.
Ben Boxer was first up and ran well in his U/17 category, then it was Tom Butler. Tom’s feet were so cold in the ankle deep mud which covered the area that I had to remove his socks, rub his feet and then put my gloves on them in an effort to warm them up. He manfully chose to run without socks and did well. Two great quotes from these tough youngsters exemplify their spirit. When I met them at the end and asked if they were ok, Ben said” well, I’m looking forward to the track season” and Tom said” I enjoyed that, pity it wasn’t a bit further”. They handled the exceptionally bad conditions, the call up and hanging about in the pen as confident ,mature young men, it’s a pity that others in their age groups hadn’t the guts to enter too.
The course was changed for the women’s race for health and safety reasons. The hilly route was treacherous and with there having been two broken legs, the St Johns Ambulance people were finding it hard to cope. Uttoxeter Races had had to be cancelled because of the adverse conditions, so the first aid contingent from there came over to assist. Our women had a good number swelled by Sandra who arrived by car and you can see by the results who ran particularly well especially since the majority were first timers all of whom finished without complaint.
Our men aquitted themselves well too having complete teams in both categories. Well done all!
Sandra and I spent some time administering first aid to a poor lad from Sedgefield,Co Durham who had trodden on a pencil which had entered his foot through his trainer. We managed to sit him down on one of Richard’s camping chairs to relieve his pain, but because of the horrendous mud, the St Johns people took a while to get him onto a stretcher and back for hopefully some germ-free treatment.+++++see article below++++++++
An added bonus was that John and Brenda Atkinson came to see us having travelled from Hertford where they’d been to Jenny Evan’s birthday party. Luckily, they only had 8 miles to travel home to Ashbourne.
After numerous photos, we packed up to walk wearily back to our warm, luxury coach, stripping off our filthy gear before climbing in. En route back we had the crackly radio on; l spoilt the first hour of Des’s journey by telling him that the score was 1-0 at Old Trafford (to Crawley) then spoilt John Owen’s day completely by confessing the truth. It should have been a draw! Still, Everton won although Barnet only managed a draw.
The consensus was not to stop at Watford Gap on the way home (there being a WC on the coach) so we were back at just before 8pm; a long day with Sunday morning cleaning our gear to look forward to.
We must do this again, great atmosphere and a “bonding” opportunity.
Thank you Peter for a professional drive and for your support. Thanks to Steve Hewitt and Phillipa for managing and getting our teams out and to Richard for bringing his tent which is probably now ruined and who we forgot to thank on the bus.
Anyone who entered the National and didn’t turn up, if they don’t have a good reason, should at least pay the Club their entry fee as is the norm with other Hertfordshire clubs.