Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

McCain UK Inter Counties [heading] UK Challenge 2012 - part 1


Keith Gerrard had an emphatic victory in the McCain UK Inter Counties & UK Challenge Senior race, on the 10th of March. In the 12000m race over the undulating but, to a great extent, dry course, at Crofton Park, Longbridge and after the first half of the race completed, it was unlikely that he would be overhauled. His victory was similar to his National win at Parliament Hill two weeks before. However, the viewing was brilliant at Crofton Park which made all the races exciting to watch reports Alastair Aitken.
   A large group was led for the first lap by the Surrey and Shaftesbury Barnet runner, Kojo Kyreme, before Gerrard took over closely followed by a large bunch led by Ricky Stevenson, Jonathan Taylor, Jonathan Brownlee.
Frank Tickner was still close at hand, who was top points scorer overall in the season for the McCain Challenge.Phil Wicks was in the bunch further back. When Gerrard started to put in a slight effort, just before half way it split the field up and Ricky Stevenson, Jonathan Taylor and Jonathan Brownlee followed by Frank Tickner were next. Kevin Hayward (7th) was also still there but Jonathan Hay (10th) was in the second bunch but gaining valuable senior experience as a last year junior, just behind Glenn Watts (9th) who had his best major cross-country race ever.
   In the last couple of miles Gerrard was clear but Ricky Stevenson had to work hard in the last quarter mile to hold off Phil Wicks for second place. Wicks had come through for third.
First six of the 278 finishers were 1 Keith Gerrard (Lancashire) 34:57; 2 Ricky Stevenson (North East) 35:06, 3 Phil Wicks (Surrey) 35:11; 4 Jonathan Taylor (North East) 35:23; 5 Jonathan Brownlee (Yorkshire) 35:25; 6 Frank Tickner (Avon & Somerset) 35:30. First three teams 1 North East 48; 2 Surrey 224; 3 Middlesex 370. It could be noted that the first Middlesex runner, Highgate's, Shaun Dixon in 21st place, improved on his 61st in the National.


How did the 'National' compare with the Inter-Counties for him
" Very much the same sort of race. I just kind of broke away in the middle of the race. I just tried to maintain it. I did not want to leave it to the end."


" I was very pleased with the race. I knew Keith was going to be a lot stronger than me so, when he wanted to go away it was never going to be a problem. I am just happy with the training I have been doing. It was all still focused towards the track so, I was happy to come out and do this as I am a miler.'
   What was his best race ever?
   " Probably at Edinburgh when I beat them over the short course of 4k. That was the time when I could step up to a good level in the sport. It was January 2010. It was in the beginning of the New Year. A week after that I ran 3:56 for the mile indoors. So I was in good shape. Then I got a little bit greedy, although I had been in good shape. . I always wanted more and, that cost me two seasons with illness and injury pushing it too hard. Now, I almost feel I am under-training. I don't feel I am doing a great deal of work in training but, it is getting the balance right. I am starting to get it right and I am 23 now'
   'I started running at 15 for fitness for football at my school in the North East and then it went from there. I did some racing and I won so I joined my local club and it just took off.'
   ' I was second today and have had a good Winter for the last couple of years but, nowhere near the training in other winters. I am now probably getting the dividends from that now. I take a rest day once in every two weeks which I have never done before.'
   'I am going off to Kenya on Monday for five weeks training!.


"I have been training for the marathon in six weeks time. I have been training really hard for that and got quite a lot in my legs but, felt really strong today and worked my way through on every lap to take some runners. In the early stages I was in the pack but just in the top ten.The races always go off quick. As long as you are in the pack it is OK'
   ' I was really pleased to get a medal today'
   'I purposely have not raced very much in my build up but nice to take the race in and keep things fresh.. I will do the Eastleigh 10K in a couple of weeks time."

FRANK TICKNER the McCain Challenge top points scorer

'You must be fairly pleased with sixth?'
" Not particularly, No!. The same story as after the National (4th). Poor two weeks ago and a poor run today really.'
' I had three very good races consecutively after Christmas-Edinburgh, Cardiff Cross Challenge series and what seemed to be a good run in Antrim'
"If you had been injured for a long time and you then came back, you do a few good races then perhaps, because of the long break before that, you lose form and things don't go quite so well before you have an upsurge again that lasts longer through the cumulative training I would imagine!
                      " Hopefully there will be a second peek. The steeplechase is the next target.I have started track training a few months back. My best ever time is 8:31 but if run that again it would be good enough for an 'Olympic 'B' standard' The 'A' standard' is 8:23 so, I  have to knock off 7or 8 seconds of my best for that.'
   " You have always showed so much determination and 100% motivation to win the National cross country and concentrated your efforts  just on the National as an end in itself, rather than also thinking about the summer season of steeple which you have done lately. That I think may have made a difference!. Ben said to my son Andrew, when we were in the pub this time last year when you were injured jokingly that ' You owned Parliament Hill.' I heard from someone that you were not doing the huge mileage you were doing before in order to win the 'National'
 "The mileage has been relatively high but not as high as previous years. It has been a mixture of the worry of recurring injury and trying to keep that under control. In the last two months the mileage has dropped a little bit and I have started to do some  track sessions which I would not normally do at this time of year. I need to get started early, given what is happening this year.Hopefully the results will come."
Regarding that comment in the pub by Ben trying to win the National " No not this year which was a real shame as, I had a really good run in Antrim when I beat a number of good Kenyans. I was 11/2 minutes away from James Walsh.'
'There have been two sorts of comebacks now and this is the second comeback, as the injury re-occurred a year ago.  You are right you get back up to the level and you then go through troughs and peeks and maybe I am in the trough at the moment"
  You have won the National twice they must be big memories?
  "Luckily I won it at Parli Hill (2009) before so, I was not quite distraught as I could have been two weeks ago. That is the big race you want to win each Winter.'
The most memorable of the two?
Parli Hill. Steve Vernon got away from me with a kilometre to go and I had to really fight. He is a tough guy but it was a  stronger field altogether. The one in Sunderland (2007) everyone was going off to Africa for the World cross country so a few people did not race then. Parliament Hill was the fondest memory really but unfortunately I could not replicate it this year.'
What  brought you into athletics?
" I did it at school and my Dad has always run throughout his life. He runs very well on not a particularly huge amount of training ever and he was not elite but always a good runner. Always encouraged us and my brother Ben started."
" It was interesting for you to know  your brother won the Southern at Brighton this year?
"I was absolutely thrilled a brilliant result"
" He has been in your shadow for a long time?"
" He certainly would not be on the track.The manner of his win in the Southern  was spectacular as well in a sprint finish. Not for Phil Wicks poor guy but it is family first and all that! He has been running well and it was a brilliant result for Ben. He is a guy who can be fairly lax with his training at times but had a big spell in the last couple of years."

Alastair Aitken

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