Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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Start Fitness 5th MET LEAGUE (February 2018)

Start Fitness METROPOLITAN LEAGUE 10th of February by Alastair Aitken
Trent Park

PETER HUCK was to some, a surprise winner of the fifth Metropolitan League race of the season.
Having said that Huck, who works as a construction consultant in London, looked comfortable throughout the race and, led Richard Goodman and Abdi Abdulle, running together, out of the small lap and into the big lap. Huck continued to pour on the pace and it did look like Richard Goodman might catch him, at one stage but Huck was too strong on the last long hill up to the finish. Goodman said the tough course really tested his dodgy hamstrings but, he was a clear second with Abdulle holding on for a good third.

The sweetener for Goodman was achieving the overall league prize of £375 & £200 of Start Fitness vouchers, having run, and won, three of the stipulated four of five league races you have to do for consideration. The first seven women and men obtain money prizes.
Huck said “I have not raced since New Year’s Eve, on the road in Spain but training has been going really, really well and some of that was in the mud in Epping Forest.’
‘It was a good run out for the National at Parliament Hill. I did feel Richard was going to catch me on the last lap as, I knew it was going to be a tough race”  

It was noted that Thomas Butler had his best ever Met League to come 5th overall in the race and, the first junior in the event. John Steed, that remarkable, 82 year old, managed the tough course with the awful conditions very well, coming 410 of the 412 that completed.

Hannah Viner, the overall women’s winner, followed up her victory in the last Met league at Wormwood Scrubs in January with an even more convincing win. Going ahead straight away and, by the time they had completed the first smaller lap Viner was leading Isabel Clark by thirty metres with Gemma Barry going up to third at that stage. That was the order at the finish and at no stage did Viner look threatened. About the lashing rain and cold wind all afternoon, she just said ‘It was horrible’ It was worse in those two senior races than at any time in the earlier part of the day.
Gemma Barry of Hillingdon AC, was pleased to have her best result in the league. She said she was also pleased and quite surprised to win the Middlesex cross country Championships at Perivale in January. She pointed out “In my training I do cycling and swimming to stop injuries but it is only running I do competitively”

Highgate Harriers senior men increased their lead in the league and, it was the first time since the league races began in 1966 that a club had won consecutively for six years which Highgate has done here.
Looking back right through the years one must admit Thames Valley Harriers had the most wins overall and Woodford Green men for a few years, before Highgate made a real impression. Shaftebury, in the days of Dave Bedford & Hugh Starkey used to be fairly prolific too..
Talking about the current situation. The combined women’s and Men’s results for the Howard Williams Trophy, went to Highgate for the seniors and Woodford Green & Essex ladies for the juniors.
It was interesting to see London Heathside win the ladies senior league which, in recent years has been more a battle between Highgate and Serpentine RC.

If one had to just mention one result from the younger age groups, it would be for the Under 11 year olds, as Shaftesbury Barnet’s ten year old, Gianleo Stubbs, a  Christchurch Primary schoolboy at Barnet, won all his five Met league races.
In the Under 11 girls Asmaa Abdirahman of Hillingdon, won for the third consecutive time.

Jimmy Geller, who won the Under 13 at Welwyn and then lay on the deck for several minutes afterwards, always appears to run very hard in racing and winning at Trent Park, was no exception. Richard Thurston a Woodford Green coach said “He runs like that in training too so we have to watch him.”

The Under 13 girls race was won by Keira Fannery, the talented girl footballer for Arsenal FC. She was using the running as a good way of keeping fit and, a change from football which is, her first love and, besides a 10th at Wormwood Scrubs she was 1st at Uxbridge in the Met League.

In the Under 17’s Victoria Park & Tower Hamlet’s, Yusuf Bizimana, ran a well controlled and tactical race, to win after coming back from an injury and, his hopes of big things as a junior in the Summer could be assured, as he ran PB’s of 1:55.22 for 800 indoors & 3:55.28 outdoors in 2017. In second place was Woodford’s Joseph Geller who won the previous time at the Scrubs.
Freya Stapleton of Herts Phoenix, an Under 15 was successful, following her win at Claybury & Uxbridge. Freya, who loves cross-country running, finished  ahead of two talented runners Lia Radus (U17) and Grace Ingles (U15).

Eric Shirley, who was a finalist in the Olympic 3000 steeplechase in 1956 and AAA Champion three times, as well as being a good local cross-country runner for Finchley Harriers (Now Hillingdon AC) was watching at the Wormwood Scrubs 4th league match and said at the time “To-day there is nowhere in the UK that would have attracted as many runners competing at one venue to race.” He also felt that those bodies in charge of athletics tend to be only interested in the National teams, rather than grass roots athletics! (Which of course this is).

Martin Bateman of Hillingdon AC has done stirling work, using this website as an avenue for all to read about the Metropolitan cross-country league and, also one must praise Janice Bowman (Trent Park AC) the Administrator, because there have been larger fields of senior Men and women’s races (2017-18) than in any other time since it all began in 1966.

Alastair Aitken

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