Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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THE ENGLISH NATIONAL 2012 - part 1

Comments by Eamonn Martin and Ken Norris

The 'National' cross country was run over Hampstead Heath in the London Olympic Year, on the 25th of February and had more bite than in recent years because, there was no World cross country for the first time or World Trial this year Reports Alastair Aitken
I interviewed two previous winners of the 'National' that I thought would prove interesting, to add to this report.
I talked to them before the senior race was run..
   Firstly KEN NORRIS of TVH, a 1956 Olympian, who won the Senior National in East Anglia in 1955 and was a medallist four years running in the 'World' International cross country Championships.
   "The National is a race every cross country runner wants to succeed in'
   ' I remember my first National senior race at Parliament Hill Fields when I was third behind Frank Sando and Peter Driver. I can remember the course over Hampstead Heath. First  there is a pretty steep hill but once you get over that it is undulating and reasonable running but I found the twists and turns interminable."
   EAMONN MARTIN of Basildon AC who first won the 'National' in 1983 at Newark (Following on from his coach, the late Mel Batty who won twice. One of those times Mel I saw win well at Parliament Hill Fields in 1965.
Eamonn:- " The National was the race I wanted to win more than anything else!'
' I think with the National you look back at the history. When I won the National I thought at the time I must be the worst athlete to have ever won the National! Of course it is what you go on to do after that, Commonwealth Games, winning the 'National' again and being a British Record Holder, London Marathon winner and going to the Olympic Games.'
   'You are going to carve out a really fabulous career. ~When I won I thought I was not worthy of it but you grow from that. It allows you to grow into a completely different athlete."
   The first eight in this year's National out of well over 1½ thousand runners:- 1 Keith Gerrard (Newham & Essex Beagles AC) 35:56; 2 Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers & AC) 36:07; 3 John Beattie (Newham & Essex Beagles AC) 36:13; 4 Frank Tickner (Wells City Harriers) 36:27; 5 James  Wilkinson (Leeds City AC) 36:32; 6 James Walsh (Leeds City AC) 36:31; 7 Ashley Harrell (City of Norwich) 36:37; 8 Neilson Hall (Bedford & County AC) 36:52.
First six teams:- 1 Leeds City AC 219; 2 Tipton Harriers 304, 3 Stockport Harriers & AC 310, 4 Bedford & County AC 325, 5 Highgate Harriers (Southern Champions and, injury hit like Newham & Essex Beagles who were 7th)  6th  were Nott's AC 413.
   The Race:- As they went up the second long hill, before disappearing out of sight on the first of the two large laps
Shaftesbury' s Glenn Watts was leading a very large select group. Keith Gerrard was keeping out of trouble on the left flank and tucked in very handily behind Steve Vernon and others was previous winner Frank Tickner whom I thought would win. The evening before I  exchanged emails with Bob Smith, the Manager of the Newham & Essex Beagles team who told me that he thought Keith Gerrard would win!'
' When they came down at half way Gerrard looked good with Steve Vernon and Beattie in attendance but Frank Tickner had dropped off by about 20 metres and, I wondered if he was biding his time but perhaps, from what I heard later, that his training seriously for the steeplechase may not have included the very heavy mileage that made him a 'King' of Parliament Hill before.'
   ' Gerrard gradually found himself pulling away in that second lap and won well but Steve Vernon never gave up hope of gold till the last part of the race. It was interesting to see previous team winner and International Dave Taylor of Blackheath & Bromley, at the age of 48, coming a creditable 108th
   KEITH GERRARD " It was the second of the two laps I decided to go.'
' It had been in the back of my mind since Christmas onwards to try and win the National. It was in the last 4 or 5 weeks I thought I am going to win.. I had competed at a high standard in the 'States'  but it is more special to win this back at home."
    STEVE VERNON " I was very disappointed because I wanted to retain my title. Keith was very strong today. He has the speed on the track and the dry going played to his strength today but I am a strong runner'
   To win four Northern Titles was something for Steve Vernon to be proud of?
       " That was good because a '.Wins a Win'
    About Steve Vernon's impressive National Senior record is worth pondering on as he explains
      " In 2006 I had a bronze medal here, 2007 I did not run, 2008 A bronze at Alton Towers, 2009 a silver medal here, 2010 a bronze medal at Leeds, and 2011 I won at Alton Towers (in thick mud) and 2012 2nd! I have got to be pleased with that.'
   ' I love cross-country but I have had a lot of injury problems in my leg due to my back when I run on flat surfaces (sometimes bumpy flat one's too). I get nerve problems down my leg. so, I can't do any road or track racing.'
'Cross-country like this is brilliant I can do this."

Alastair Aitken

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