Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Inter Counties Championships (March 2016, Part One)

In the Senior Men’s race over 12k, the conditions were good with mild weather at Crofton Park, Longbridge, despite the recent cold winds and rain soaked courses.
The 12000m Men’s race, over the undulating terrain, was exciting to watch. Dewi Griffiths, the five times Welsh Champion and 20th in the European, 2nd in the Cross Challenge Liverpool was first in the one at Cardiff. It was running in the Final cross challenge at Crofton Park, on the 12th of March. The race was a three man battle for the last 10,000m but Adam Hickey, who was 2nd in the National, went into a lead of 30 metres in the middle of the race but pursued by Griffiths and Jon Taylor, running to-gather. It was in the last 1500 Griffiths had gone to the front but was never completely, out of danger, till the last finishing straight of 200m or so but, by then, Taylor was well back. He was still well ahead of the rest and, unlikely to be caught for third place.

DEWI GIFFITHS “I had been third and second in the last two years so, I wanted to finally get on the top step. 10 years ago I won the Under 15 race here.
I think if you really want something very badly you are really going to fight for it?
“Last year I finished second in three British Championships so, it has probably made me train harder than ever in the winter. Hopefully come the Summer I will get some quick times,’
‘Adam Hickey broke you at one time in the race!
“I thought he was going but, me and Jon took it in turns to run after him and, we nearly got back. Jon unfortunately could not get back that last 5 metres to get with him and I was then able to get a second wind on the last lap. I sat behind Adam for a bit, got my breath back a bit. I just had a little bit left at the end. I guess I wanted it a bit more because I was 2nd and 3rd in the last years I guess. Hickey broke away at one time and I thought he was gone but me and John took it in turns and nearly got back. John unfortunately could not get that last five metres to him. I managed to get to him and was able to get a second wind on the last lap. I sat behind Adam for a bit. I got my breath back. I had just that little bit left at the end. I guess, so I wanted it a bit more after 2nd and 3rd in the last years I guess.”
His coach has been Kevin Evans “He has been my coach for 10 years so, we have been through a lot together.”
Dewi is a farmer “I live on a farm back home, I have been helping out. It is one of the busiest times at the moment with the lambing.”

ADAM HICKEY" You still had a good run coming a close second. A Hell of a race?
“Three musketeers! I knew these boys are keen on this race so, we were just pushing each other.”
Second in the ‘National’ was good. (Jon Hay 42:00; Adam Hickey 42.16; Nick Swinburn 42.53 and Andy Maud 42:55)
“I was almost happy with that. My cross country season had been a shocker as, up unitll February time I had been in the most injury ridden period I have had since trying to do triathlons. I was happy with the racing recently but I knew it would be hard against these boys.”

JONATHAN TAYLOR How about his race?
“It was a tough race but a better surface from what we had all year so, I thought I would do a bit better but the other two were a bit too strong for me.”
Of the races over the last few years, which one would you point to as being the most special?
“I don’t think I have ever run as well as I did at the World cross country championships in 2013 when I was 31st (First British runner in Poland. 102 started)
‘I have had some good races since but never done quite as well. I am hoping to recreate that form.’
His coach GORDON SURTEES, coached Dennis Coates for the 1976 Olympics and, I did an interview with Dennis and Gordon after that. Coates made the final
‘I have done a bit of steeple chasing, because of my coach so, I know a lot about the steeplechase (Taylor has done 8:38.05 in 2012)
He also pointed about people who were in the first few in the National who were yet behind him in the North Eastern.
First six of 261 finishers:- 1 Dewi Griffiths of the Swansea AC club West Wales 37:13; 2 Adam Hickey (Essex) 37:18; 3 Jonathan Taylor (North East) 37:50; 4 Sam Stabler (Leistershire) 38:31; 5 Alex Teuten (Hampshire) 38:43; 6 Kojo Kyreme (Surrey M40) 38:53.
First three Counties out of 27 that closed in 1 North East 78; 2 Scotland East 239; 3 Middlesex 294.


Kate Avery was impressive with her liquid stride pattern and, was challenged by Ellie Vernon, who also ran a good race with Louise Small from the strong Aldershot & Farnham club and coached by Mike Woods third. Small had been 2nd in Antrim and 2nd at Cardiff . 248 senior women finished the race at Crofton Park

To KATE AVERY- I said she appeared so smooth with her running these days, watching her on U tube. That must have been something she appeared to develop recently! “To-day, the thing is just having a bit of confidence to just go and run. I just ran and if I got away, then I got away a bit I never made a decisive effort thinking I have got to go now!
Which race would she point out as being something very special to her?
“It was nice to get a European medal, especially under the circumstances. . .  My Dad had passed away two days before and I found it very hard to even go out running.
To do that and get a medal was a bit of shock to be honest“. European cross country Championships senior women:- 1 Sifan Hassan (Holland) 25:47,0; 2 Kate Avery (GB) 2:55.00; 3 Karoline Bjeekeli Grovdal (Norway). Her Father often went with her to races and was very supportive)
KATE AVERY started running “From school. I found I was good”
It was obvious that her Father took a tremendous amount of interest in Kate’s success as a runner and so, it was a double blow for her to lose him. Something else I should have done my homework because, I did not realise a friend of mine, who I interviewed, very many times, over the years Tony Simmons, is her coach now“

STEVE VERNON coach to Ellie Vernon “She got very ill over Christmas and she struggled after the Edinburgh cross country and had a few races but, ran the Alsager 5 miles miles a couple of weeks ago and won that with a solid time, on a windy day.(27.17 her second fastest over the distance) ‘To-day she gave Kate  Avery a good run for her money and Kate has been on fire this Winter. I am really pleased for El to-day.’
Does Steve run a lot still “I don’t race anymore? I stay fast enough to beat my wife.”
You achieved something monumental with higher placing in Nationals than anyone. In doing that would be enough to retire on?
“That was what I wanted to do. I wanted to break that record of seven individual medals. I got the eight and I was really pleased but I wish I had won more. If I had known then, what I know now, in terms of preparing for those races then I think I could have done better but, you can always say that in hindsight but you learn and that is why I am learning all the time as an athlete and now as a coach. It is going well.”

I interviewed Richard Goodman this season; after he won three Metropolitan Leagues and the North of Thames then ‘Bang’ he got injured and was out.
He seems tremendously talented.

“He is a nice guy but I don’t know how he trains. Some people get injured. It is a brutal sport on the body. Being consistent is key, absolutely key. You have got to find that sweet spot where you don’t break down and the maximum training you can do to get to be the best you can be but, then consistent. It is no good putting in four weeks at 100 miles a week back and then, having three weeks off and doing it again. You put six months of 70 to 75 mile and good quality sessions. Part of coaching is finding out an athlete and, working with the athlete to understand what they can do.”
Your club Stockport is good!
“Dave Turnbull coaches a lot of the athletes there and I coach a few of them. It is good pedigree. Dave has been coaching there for years and developed a brilliant squad of athletes. Group training works and people get inspired by each other. He has a group of young lads and you have got to push them. If you want to do well in races you want to get to the top of your training group and, that was me.“

ELLIE VERNON “To-day was good. I was pleased with that. It was a really tough course. When I got here I did not actually realise that the big hill was going to be in it so, I realised I would have to race tactically, not too hard down the hill.”
Things have gone well “I was ill after the Europeans. Things did not go to plan in that but, I have had some really good races  it was just unfortunate the Europeans were a bit off because, that is where you want to race well there’
‘Steve has got a really good training group. I know all the work he puts in at home and in the evening. That is all the extra stuff you have to do to be a really good coach, very thorough. He is good fun at training as well. You don’t want to go there and it is just hard work all the time. You want to laugh and enjoy it and be around really nice people. It was really nice, when we were both competing we did train together and did a lot more runs together but now it is nice, because I literally go to work with him. I can train and he is coaching, really nice. Lucky.”

LOUISE SMALL You had a good run “I was really happy. I started well then I did BUCS which was not so great for me then as a Primary School teacher I balanced my work with running. It is school in Cobham Surrey. It is a lovely area to run round.
1 Kate Avery (North East) 29:02; 2 Ellie Vernon (Stockport Harriers) 29:16; 3 Louise Small (Hampshire) 29:57; 4 Claire Duck (Yorkshire) 30:12; 5 Jess Judd (Essex) 30:52; 6 Steph Mcall (Surrey) 30:57.

First three Counties:- 1 Yorkshire 116; 2 North East 203; 3 Surrey 234.

Alastair Aitken

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