Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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World Trial and Inter-Counties Part One (March 2013)

Southern Champion, Frank Tickner, the 'National Champion' of 2009 at Parliament Hill, virtually led from the start to the finish over the four lap boggy, Crofton Park course, at Longbridge.
However, after a lap of the lightly undulating hills, there was still a large collection of runners just behind him that included Northern Champion, Steve Vernon, who had decided not take up the pace, as he usually did but stick behind Tickner with the rest of the best like Jonathan Taylor and Mike Skinner with him. Andy Vernon was further back. At the very back of the large front group was the man who has made the most progress in the season in the UK to get amongst the best in the country and amazed many by being fourth in the National, Shaun Dixon of Middlesex.
Dixon was suffering with flu and had to drop out after the next lap because he was unable to continue. "I came down with a nasty flu bug and was not even sure I should travel to the race" he told me.
          Tickner increased his lead over his nearest rival Steve Vernon in the last lap and Andy Vernon came through for third but left it too late to challenge Tickner, who was the favourite determined to win and take the best prize from the McCain's Challenge overall.
       The First Eight were 1 Frank Tickner (Avon & Somerset) 33:54; 2 Steve Vernon (Greater Manchester) 34:05; 3 Andy Vernon (Hampshire) 34:11 2; 4 Jonathan Taylor (North East) 34:19; 5 Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley Ladies) 34:32 ;6 Miles Ozbazghi (Yorkshire) 34:36; 7 Philip Nicholls (Staffordshire) 34:56 and 8 James Wilkinson (Yorkshire) 35:00
        First Three Counties:- North East 108; 2 Yorkshire 147; 3 Scotland East 259.

FRANK TICKNER

"You have run 8:31.40 for the steeplechase. Do you want do that event in the Summer?"
I don't particularly enjoy the track. I just don't get much out of it personally. I can never mirror cross country to the track'
"You were sixth in this event last year so to win today was good
 " Last year  was a bit of anomaly. That and the National (4th) were just awful races. Two weeks before in Antrim was where I ran won of my best races of my life. Maybe I was carrying something.It was a real disappointment.
   In the race to-day you decided you would go into the lead and dominate it, so that someone would not overtake you in the middle of the race but I noticed you made a specific move when you heard the words ringing out loudly from the speakers that Andy Vernon was moving into a high position.
" Yes; that leads back, primarily, to the Cross Challenge series which meant it was  basically me or Andy. If he had beaton me today then he would have got it but if I got it I would have the points to win."
   "I noticed you and John Davies who won the Under 20 race, did the Southern but decided not to do the 'National'
     That was not a conscious decision. I was just not around that weekend. Because I knew that I had raced
before the Southern (Surrey League on South London's course) and I got in couple of big mileage weeks in the lead up to this. It was not due to resting, I would have loved to have done it."
   Besides the National you  won the Southern at Parliament Hill which must have been a bit special for you.
 'Of course and, it is in London so it is very convenient. I was just not around 'National' weekend.'      
 'I had heard, on good authority, that Steve was going to try new tactics and not go out ahead in the race but sit in.'
                'Someone kept on saying 'Let him do the work'
   Steve Smythe said you were controlling it most of the race generally and your answer was:-
      ' You, say that but you never can control it.Obviously when I started going away, being in control I suppose.  You never know. Johnny Taylor looked so comfortable, just glancing round but in the end he faded."
     
STEVE VERNON

'You were second today but  the Northern must have been a pleasure for you to win again'
'5 Northerns is massively important. Only two people have won it as much as four times before Mike Turner and Ron Hill. To pass their record  was absolutely fantastic so that shows the achievement.'
        You won the National in 2010 at Alton Towers but this year you lost in a battle with last year's winner Keith Gerrard!
    'I was very disappointed with the National, that was my aim that and the Northens. To lose the National to being over confident. I had won the Northern by over a minute and I ran hard from the start and did not get away so to lose was not in my plan.'
   The Inter-Counties is not a race you always run well in.'
    'The Inter-Counties was not in my plans but came back to do it'
      However because it was muddy it must have suited you more than if it was very dry like the last two years!
   ' I have an injury (Long standing) in my back so can't run on the track or on the roads much because I get a nerve problem. I tend to run when the course is hilly, up and down or muddy--Nottingham was like a road race with little hills.'
     It was muddy today enough for you. A bit like it was Alton Towers when you won?
       ' That was a swamp.'
     Of the Great runs you have had which one would you select as your best memory
       ' I think winning the Northern for the fifth time by over a minute also, top 10 in the European cross-country Championships. I have always wanted to achieve that. and I was 10th before Christmas. To finish 10th in the European is something pretty special. If  I could only take one of those away it would probably be the 'National' win. When you have won the 'National' cross country it is fantastic. My biggest achievement probabley was to obtain 7 senior medals in 8 years.'

ANDY VERNON
'How did it go?
' Better than expected. They were nice to me. It was a little bit slower than I thought it would  be. I thought they would go off pretty hard, at a descent pace. Either I am fitter than I thought I was or it was not fast. I am not sure.
I tried to play it 'canny' and that was why I stayed back so much. I was hoping they would look round and think 'Oh he is not in the race!'.I would always just be there.I would try and pounce on it.
In the end he made a move coming down the hill and I did not have it in my legs.'
 You had an injury problem so there were doubts about your fitness or even competing at all?
   I had problems after running in the indoor meet in Glasgow.. I ran for a couple of days after that and it started hurting so I had tot take some time off."
   I spoke to you here, the year before last, about the possibility of you going for altitude training but, as far as I know, unless you spend huge amounts of time at altitude the benefits are a lottery. Mo Farah goes for very long periods and you can see the benefits with his two Olympic Gold medals.
    I can afford to go a couple of times but he can afford to go all the time Can't he!"
   Indoors must have given you a bit of speed and you can now see, whether you want to do it or not in the future.
   'Exactly' I do enjoy racing indoors and I have done it a couple of times'
      Do you still see the future for you is in cross-country or track. The latter you might want to get faster
     My work is for the track now. I don't take cross-country seriously as I used to. I do it for a bit of money and to keep in touch with racing really. The European cross country Championships is the only one I try to go there and do something."

Alastair Aitken

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