Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
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North of Thames Champs/Liddiard Cup Cross Country (October 2014)

The race was  on Saturday October the 25th
PORTUGASE INTERNATIONAL, ANTONIO SILVA of the host club QPH, won his second successive North of the Thames & Liddiard Cup race, at Fryent Country Park, Kingsbury.
It was the second year of the historic races for the events to be combined. The North of Thames Champs was first run in 1883 and the Liddiard Cup in 1947.

Some of the previous winners of the North of Thames Championships included Albert Hill, the Olympic 800/1500 Champion in 1920; He won the North of Thames in 1910 and 1920. Some other names include Harry Hicks; Andy Ferguson; Alan Perkins; ‘Evergreen’ Mike Barrett (who also won the Liddiard Cup more than half a dozen times); John Merriman; Jim Hogan; Tim Briault; Tony Simmons; Dave Bedford; Malcolm Thomas; Grenville and Graham Tuck; Julian Gentry, Phil O’Brien and Keith Cullen.

At Kingsbury, after the small lap in the Men’s race, Orlando Edwards, Silva and Ryan McKinlay headed the field together. For most of the rest of the race, over two large laps Edwards, who ran in his sixth World Mountain Championships in September, headed the race and although Silva looked comfortable at the finish, he only came home two seconds clear of Edwards. 1 Antonio Silva (Queens Park Harriers) 25:38; 2 Orlando Edwards (Shaftesbury Barnet) 25:40; 3 Ryan McKinley (Highgate Harriers) 26:08; 4 Jon Laybourn  (Highgate Harriers) 26:09; 5 Hugh Torry (Serpentine RC) 26:12. 6 Kerr Millar (Highgate Harriers) 27.18. The first Veteran was Chris Beecham an ‘over 45’ man in 9th place overall in 27.57. He had previously finished 3rd twice ‘overall’ in the North of Thames  Senior Championship.
Highgate Harriers took all the Men’s awards, with their 8 scorers finishing within 22 of 132 that completed.

It was only in the last 200 in the Women’s race Eva Mack overtook Emma Burgess, who was only in her second year of running. In third place came Jo Pemberton, who ran 3:18 in the Berlin Marathon but was running her first ever cross-country at Kingsbury.
The veteran winner was Fiona Kennedy (from Ealing, Southall & Middlesex - Sixth overall). She turned 57 the day before. 1 Eva Mack (Hillingdon) 18:10; 2 Emma Burgess (Highgate) 18:15; 3 Joanne Pemberton (Highgate) 4 Rebecca Bunting (London Heathside) 18:38; 5 Jeremiah Cathy (London Heathside) 18:51; 6 Fiona Kennedy V55; 18:51.

An interesting addition to the race was Alina Ripanu (29) who was 13th of the 50 runners. Ripanu ran for Romania in the team that finished 6th in the Final of the 2004 Olympic 4x400 in Athens in 3:26.81 but said “I don’t like 400. I love 800 which I ran 2:01 maybe seven years ago. I ran 2.05 two years ago but at that moment I stopped training and went to work for the Rumanian Police. I came here three weeks ago”

Interviews begin with an interesting person to talk to
ORLANDO EDWARDS: - “It was off the back of the ’Mountain Season', so I took a couple of weeks off and had a break after the World Championships.’
Was Orlando pleased with his result in the World Championships in Italy when he was 33rd?
   “I was a bit disappointed as it was a tricky course; very tight so, I went at it a bit easy then could not overtake people. The World Championships are full of Ugandans, Eritreans, Italians and Americans etc.”
To-day you looked good against that Portuguese international. You certainly looked as though you might even win it. You were having a go!
   ‘Absolutely! I just let him get away on the last hill, which was slightly ironic for a mountain runner. I have not done any hills really for few weeks so, that was a nuisance. I would like to have got him. ‘I knew I had to work hard in the first lap as Ryan McKinley was a quality 3k chase runner, I was aware he was there and I knew the Queens Park runner was there. Silva just looked comfortable and so I did what I could on the first lap, doing most of the work and the second big lap as well and he eased away.’
'You nearly caught him. He looked round as he entered the last 50 metres to the finish'
   ‘He eased away I think. He was comfortable.’
‘You are 39 but you look as good as ever?
   ‘I have been offered a job in the middle of China. It is not a good place for running, despite the World cross being there. There comes a point where I back peddle with my career and the running has taken off. Now perhaps I should take the opportunity but, it would mean the end of my cross country races like this. It really is not a great place for running in China. I still feel I have got a few miles in the legs’
‘When I took up Mountain running at the age of 34, I discovered it, but never knew about it. I was lucky enough to make the GB team that year. I made the team the next year and I thought I would give this a good crack and make it every year till I am 40, which I have done so far. This year was the sixth year on the trot but I have never finished up as high as I would like to have done, that would be another ambition.
I feel next  year I should try again.”

EVA MACK (29):- “I went into the lead in the last 200m. One Highgate ahead of me and one behind when I made my move.’
A lot of running this year?
   ‘Track. Doing 800 (2:13.7) and 1500 (4:42.6). I ran at Claybury a couple of weeks ago and came 24th.’
She came from the Czech Republic 10 years ago.
   ‘I am studying and looking after my three kids right now. They are 2, 4 and 6!
Coach:- “I train in a pack with Roger Williams.“

EMMA BURGESS (28) She was 30th in last ATW Met League but this appeared to be her best run ever over the country?
  “I know! I was so pleased. I felt really nice. I felt really comfortable. This is my second year of real running. I started a couple of years ago when I joined Highgate so; I am quite new to it. It is my second cross-counry season.’
This is the highest position you have got in those two years?
  ‘By a long way. I was 2nd woman in a 10 mile race in Mersey but this is the highest position in a cross-country or any league cross country race by a long way!
Memories of the race at Kingsbury
   ‘I was jogging round with Louise Faherty (Highgate) beforehand. I joked with Louise saying to her ‘Thank goodness I will never be leading the race because I would never find the right way.’ Then when I started running, I was at the front leading and I thought, ’Oh no; I am going to go the wrong way; because I was not sure of the way to go. I knew there was a girl just behind me. I knew, as I have not got a sprint finish at all, I would try to open up a wide gap and felt really good but I was pleased with how I ran.’

JO PEMBERTON (28) it was your first cross country to-day and you were third. What were you doing before then?
   “  have been a member of British Military Fitness and they have a running club. I have done a few 10k races, and a few half marathons and did my first marathon in Berlin last month and did 3:18. I have been training a bit on Tuesdays with the guys on and off. I saw everyone at Highgate training at Parliament Hill Fields, when I was there with Military Fitness.’
‘When I started training for the marathon I wanted to have another option.”

Junior Race- First 3:- 1 Dalton McGuigan (Shaftesbury Barnet) 15:33; 2 James Woolridge (London Heathside) 16:06; 3 Sam Lloyd (Hillingdon) 16:44.

DALTON McGUIGAN (19) :- “It was at the start of the big lap after the small lap I went ahead. From there on I picked up a bit. Last month I was with Shaftesbury Barnet for the European Clubs Juniors. I came fifth (10.03.79 in the 3k steeplechase in Spain). Position-wise it was quite good, as I got good points for the club. I was disappointed with my race and my times.’
‘In the Summer I was doing club races and junior leagues.’
Is Cross country your favourite?
   ‘Last couple of years cross-country has probably been my worst thing. I was pleased with the run to-day. It was just a hard race.’
   ‘My times have not really improved since I was an ‘Under 17’ A bit ‘on and off and ill’ for the last few years (He ran 9,44.31 for the 3k steeplechase in 2012). Hopefully in the next year I will get back into it and get some good PB’s and stuff.
   ‘I have been training with a group at St Mary's University. They have got a really great range. Hopefully I will make big jumps over the next year or so. I finished High School last year and took a year out, just to keep my options free. I did not want to go straight into Uni but I went down and trained with the St Mary’s runners.
   ‘Even though I had a rubbish Summer I had a good winter and I am starting University next year at St Mary's.’
   ‘I am going to still train with them this year. I just want to train with good people. I am enjoying training again.’
When you were very young did you do well?
   ‘When I was ‘An under 17’ I was ready for a big breakthrough and I ran a really good times, at my age for the 3k steeplechase and so, I was hoping to qualify for some big races in the next couple of years but it did not pan out. As an under 17 I ran descent times and stuff and thought I was capable of winning English schools but I was a bit immature then. Not big race experience’

Alastair Aitken

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