Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Inter Counties CC Part 2 (March 2017)

At Prestwold Hall, Loughborough 11th of March 2017

First six of 262 finishers over the 8000m course: - 1 Jessica Judd (Essex) 34:03; 2 Clare Duck (Yorkshire) 30:07; 3 Gemma Steel (Leicestershire) 30:13; 4 Louise Small (Hampshire) 30:13; 5 Phoebe Law (Surrey) 30:18; 6 Chloe Richardson (Worcestershire) 30:31.

First three Counties of 27 declared 1 Surrey 170; 2 Scotland East 199; 3 Hampshire 250.

JESSICA JUDD, THE British Universities and National Champion followed up with a win at the Prestwold Hall course
Her modest reaction afterwards, if you can put it that way, was “ I can’t believe it.“

Cross country this year has been something you appear to do well in!
“ I like it’

When did she start to move into the lead?

“In the last field round the cabbage patch. I found myself in the front and I thought rather than hang back, I’ll just go for it and just went.”

She declared “It would be nice to do a World Cross as I have never done one. I think I could do quite well. Uganda is the home of running, like Kenya and so it would be an experience to go.“
May I digress here, for just a minute. I would like to make a point regarding the British selection policy of 2017, as no senior men have been selected to date, even though some would prefer not to go and, train for other things.
The selection policy stipulates, as a must have “The athlete have realistic potential to achieve an individual top 30 for Kampala (Where the World Cross is on the 26th of March) or at future World Cross country Championships”
To my mind that knocks out the incentive for the British athletes to test themselves, as they have in the past, against the best in the World. For obvious reasons, the first 40 on the day would, more than likely, as before include about 35 Africans, not only running for their federations as teams. Take Kenya, as an example and also, those from other strong African countries. Runners quite often, conveniently joined other countries so they can expressly have the chance of running in major events like the World (or European cross countries).
Surely getting experience should be paramount for the UK cross-country runner considering everything or improvement will be stagnating in the UK.
Some years ago it used to be the first 9 men in the ‘National’ selected for the International (The Old World Cross) with just one individual exception. Either a No 1 junior or some individual likely to win but, unable to do the National. Everyone else who made at least the first 8 in the ‘National’ went to the International (Old) World cross countries. How things have changed!

Continuing my talk with Jess Judd. You are running better than ever but, are you still going to concentrate on track.

“I must start my speed regardless of whether I go to the World cross or not. I am just going to have to leave the endurance a bit but I think I have enough endurance to still do a World crross but, I really need to start speed work’

This year:-‘ I think the 800/1500 I can see myself as doing but I think I am going to do a 5k & 3k as my cross country has gone so well. I would like to get a good race this year and do all the World qualifying times, that would be fabulous but, we will see.’

When you look back now over the years these cross-countries are important events for you.’
‘I think  it makes up for all those rubbish years that were really, really hard and, it has worked and I just could not believe it to-day. I am over the moon.’

Which was the most special of the three wins for you? The runners you were with today were very good!

‘I think it is always good to do this one, it always seems like the main one. It feels like the main one.
My Dad said ‘The National’ is the one. When I ran it as an under 13’s he would never imagined that I would be doing it as a senior.’

Cross-Country does not get the publicity it should?
‘None of the cross races do. I always liked the Inter-Counties, being at Birmingham, it gets more expensive so they moved it.
For the ‘National’ It deserves more publicity because, everyone can turn up and run. You don’t get that in America and places. It is unique and you need to keep it’

2nd was CLARE DUCK, who runs for Leeds City“How did the race go for her?
“It was hard work. There was quite a big pack of us to start with until we went into the second lap, then it was Gemma, Louise and Jess who pulled away a bit. I think this was a tough course and harder than last year, with a long drag. (She was 4th last year). An improvement for me definitely. Last Summer went quite well with the English 5k title, that was a surprise.’

Her job in the hospital “It is hard work sometimes, quite a stressful job. I really enjoy it and I just build my training around it. A good routine I think. I like having my work and come home and go for a run and do my training.’

Things have gone better ‘Even better than last year.”

Her coach Mike Baxter who ran in the International (Old World CC) for England 1969; 1970 & 1973.

3rd GEMMA STEEL:- “My shoes came off at about half way. One at half way the other one later.’
You have had some very good races since we last talked a couple of years ago, particularly on the road must have given you some satisfaction
‘Probably the Great North Run a few years ago when I was 2nd in 68.13, (The year she won the European Cross country Championships in Poland)
The Beech to Beacon 10k was another (31:26.18 at Port Elizabeth USA in 2014); Europeans I won that one and nearly won the Great South Run.’

Do you like the road more than cross-country?
After to-day I think I do! (She laughed). I taped the shoes up before to-days race. I lost a couple of positions but then caught them up again with a mile to go and then, the other shoe went off so, I was hobbling all the way round.”

You are still as enthusiastic as ever
“I still enjoy it am appreciating it a bit more now to get to this level and I am enjoying as well

4th LOUISE SMALL. “I did not have quite enough at the end. I was feeling pretty good the whole way.
I was 2nd in the National and I was really pleased with that. I did not feel as fresh today as I did a couple of weeks ago with a strong finish. (National 1 Jess Judd (Chelmsford) 29:07; 2 Louise Small (AFD) 29:10; 3 Clare Duck (Leeds) 29:21; 4 Emily Hosker-Thornhill  (AFD) 29:27).

The Southern, you looked good coming up Parliament Hill after the first big lap.
‘I was second to Emily Hosker. I have not quite got on the top step yet,

Is she going to do track in the Summer?
‘Definitely .5k and 10k’

Her best performance over the years “Probably last year when I ran 15.40 (15.41.94 at the BMC Grand Prix at Watford in May 2016) - which was a bit of a breakthrough.’

Did she still want to continue with cross-country?
‘I really like cross country. It sets one out really well for the track season.’

When and how did she come into running originally
“When I was 14/15. My brother used to do cross-country at school and so I just started up myself.
Mick Woods, my coach, picked me up at a track race and said ‘Come down to the local club’

Mick Woods is very good because he seems to be able to feel exactly what people are like during races and he encourages them.“
“Exactly “

Alastair Aitken

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