Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
Reports

Middlesex Cross Country Championships (2016)

Wormwood Scrubs, January 9th

The Middlesex cross country had been won by many good runners since the 1950’s. Olympian Ken Norris won it four times in the 1950’s and Dave Bedford, the ex-World record holder for 10k and his friend Mike Beevor, won it etc,
This year 2016, RICHARD PHILLIPS, after being close to winning races so many times, which included second place last year, pulled off a good victory at the Scrubs.
“The last time I can remember winning a County title was 25 years ago as a schoolboy in Somerset” said the forty year old, City Insurance Lawyer with AIG.
It was an intriguing race with Philips leading after one an a half miles with Chris Rainsford, Chris Smith, the four times London Champion, Robel Bahelbi, and then came Bob Patterson, just behind him.
As they went into the second large lap, on the surprisingly fast surface, after the heavy rains, Chris Rainsford, moved ahead with Smith and Phillips behind that.
Rainsford, who did find it a bit slippery at the back end of the course, held onto the lead till a quarter way through the final third lap, when Phillips took over and held on to the finish.
Phillips remarked he was running 50 to 60 miles a week but preferred 70 to 80 and pointed out “I get to train on the North Downs and in muddy fields.”
He looked back to the Southern when he came 15th in 2014, as the result that gave him confidence but finds it harder now to recover quite as quickly as he used to.
At the scrubs when he went into the lead for the final time, on the last lap with still a way to go he said “I just kept hoping.’ He added “It was a proper race Chris took it on then me, Chris Smith-Everyone had a go.
I was surprised, although I know I am in good shape. I thought it would be muddy to-day but nothing compared to when I am running at home.’
I is looking forward to Parliament Hill in the Southern. It is a bit longer. The Southern and the National are the big targets. I will see how it goes. It was a surprise second in the Middlesex last year at Alexandra Palace. I had trained in the morning before that. That sort of course suits me down to the ground, as I am not as good as a road racer. Regarding this year’s Middlesex, when he had had a forced rest with a cold he remarked ‘it was not a particular target but thought I would give it a go.’ Looking carefully at his recovery he is getting older he said. “I pick my races and hit them hard!”
Highgate Harriers had their winning team in the first 22 out of the 179. Their leading runner Chris Rainsford said “I was happy because I did not come into the race 100%. I tucked into the back of the group in the first lap. The three of us started to pull away and, through no real effort I started getting a gap and managed to pull away a little bit. It was not in the plan. I thought I would sit in most of the race and see what happens. As I sensed I was getting a bit of a gap I thought well, I’ll keep running how I am; there is no point in slowing down. I was in the lead for a good lap and a half. It was quarter into the final lap Rich got me. I found I was running along and slipping.’ He made an interesting analogy “You know if you are Bournemouth and you go to Old Trafford and you are one nil up till the last minute and the wing scores and it is 1-1. You are happy you come away with a point but disappointed because you almost win.”

Svenja Abel, like Richard Phillips, had suffered with a cold earlier in the week but had a comfortable victory which, she enjoyed having.
After a mile it was Abel leading Tracy Barlow and Ashley Scott-Wilson. The latter was soon to drop out with back trouble.
Abel has to gauge her training carefully, after her cycle accident in the latter part of last year but certainly looked in good form and, had little difficulty keeping ahead to the finish. After Tracy Barlow came Sarah Pemberton, who was a good third.
SVENJA ABEL regarding her race at the Scrubs “I did not feel perfect this morning as I felt a cold coming on. I thought for the first lap I would just run with the group, and then take the lead. I did not know who was there.
I did not push it too hard and I enjoyed it. This time it was really enjoyable. Naomi was not there but Tracy Barlow was, who won the Southern Inter-Counties. The Met Leagues are harder than this race to-day. I am not complaining.’
‘After my accident my back is not right so, I have to see the physio (Gavin) once a week. I did a track session and my body seized up so, I could not run the rest of the week. I am not able to train as well as I want to.
I keep running, which is important for me. I had not been keeping running for so long, for a long time and, get injured. My body will say ‘No running for me for the next few days’.
Talking to Henry Dodwell he told me she had run on the grass in the park. Svenja swims and does work in the gym too, to make up for the times she does not run because of that recent injury.
Henry thinks she will have a good cross-country season and already the Met League and the County Champs have gone well.

Both Toby Clyde (U20) and Terry Fawden (U17) retained their titles from last year.
TOBY CLYDE (18), “I am at Oxford University ,so I am running for them. They are strong this year and, smashed Cambridge. I have still got a long way to go to get in the Oxford team, unfortunately. The running has been Okay but I have been juggling the work.’ He is doing an English degree at University.

In the Middlesex there were quite a few of you together before you were able to get away. “The Ealing runner went really fast leaving us behind and, I got ahead of him, as we were going round that big hillock in the middle and from then on. It was about a mile to go’ round that.

MUKTAR FARAH who was 2nd
‘You opened the race up?
“There were too many of us coming down the back field. I thought I should open it up and try and see who sticks with me. It was good to come second but I would like to have come first”
Have you had a good year?
“I started off not running very well but, getting better as the season goes on. Today there were five of us coming round the second lap that was with a mile to go, and I thought ‘Go for it!’ I held the lead for 800m.

Georgia Fear, who a year ago gave up her international career as an ice skater, after injury, battled to victory in the last 800m in the U17 race, having run the rest of the race with last year’s winner Hannah Viner till then.
It was interesting to see two Under 15’s third and fourth overall, in the combined age group race, India Weir and Kosana Weir of TVH.
On her race GEORGIA FEAR said “It was really fast. Hannah and I made a gap from the group quite early on. We stayed together till the last Kilometre than I started to pull away. It was just trying to stay in the lead. It was a battle it really was. It is a fairly fast course but it has got a couple of sneaky little hills.
Does she consider she is mainly a track runner?
“I don’t know if I am just a track runner. Both I think.”
You competed for England as an ice skater. Do you do that anymore?
‘No, I quit skating after my injury, which meant I was injured for most of my cross-country season last year. Middlesex last year was my first race back from injury. Now I am all sorted and it is over a year.
One of my sisters is ice skating and been in Canada for a week training with her partner and, going to try to make the Olympic team.
You were frail when you were young now you look stronger?
“I am able to compete with the older girls now. I put strength work into my routine. I do basic stability work. Core stability, ankles and that kind of thing and, I also like to do physio so, I don’t get injured again, maybe once or twice a week so that I can stay competitive.

TERRY FAWDEN, who studies at Highgate School. I went to the front to kind of control the pace. I wanted to try and stay in a group of people. I then went to the front and stayed there.
When did you actually move clear. “It was on the second lap, just before the straight at the bottom and, I got a little bit of a gap and decided to go.”

Alastair Aitken

Back to Reports Index

Back to Archive index