Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Nielson Hall and others at the the SEAA Championships 2011)


NIELSON HALL, who runs so well over tough courses like Trent Park, Alexandra Palace Park and Hampstead Heath this season, won his second successive Southern Championships at Parliament Hill Fields, on the 29th of January, writes Alastair Aitken.
  It was a chaotic start where quite a few were held up. As they came down the hill, at the end of the first lap Hall, was running with Ben Tickner, ahead of a group.
After 11/2.laps Hall, who was lightly tanned from a week in Barbados, never looked like losing with Tickner having his best ever race over undulating terrain, a good second and, back to form Jon Pepper third.  
   The mud was not quite so treacherous as last year because the icy winds of the previous three days had dried up the Heath quite a bit. Hall came in with some blood on his achilles tendon, as the chip had dug into it during the event but no serious damage done.
   For me it was interesting to see that 'Great' character from Herne Hill Harriers, 'All rounder' Andy Lee Gerrard bringing up the rear of the field in 885 position but he is someone who appears to get more verbal support round the cross country courses than the 'Stars' at the front.
Nielson Hall's club Bedford & County were first team with 129 points, ahead of Aldershot Farnham & District 122, and Highgate Harriers third 278 points.
Highate Harriers were last placed in the Southern in 1997. Their runner Scotsman, orienteer, Murray Strain (12th) made up for  Ben Noad (Who had intended to run but was slightly injured). Noad expected to be racing again soon, probably in the 'National' at Alton Towers.
It was interesting to note Highgate's 'C' team finished ahead of two of the leading 'A' teams in the North London area who were London Heathside and Hillingdon AC!
   1 Neilson Hall (Bedford & County) 48:23; 2 Ben Tickner (Wells City Harriers) 48:40; 3 Jon Pepper (Enfield & Haringey AC) 49:00; 4 Chris Smith (TVH) 49:06; 5 Gary Thornton (Kent AC) 49:06; 6 Glenn Watts (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) 49:21; 7 Dean Lacy (Cambridge Harriers) 49:24; 8 Kevin Heywood (Bideford AC) 49:27.
" I felt strong and comfortable in the first lap.' He remarked about his successful racing recently " Things appear to be moving in the right direction.  I have been training with a group which includes Kevin Skinner and Janes which has helped me with my speed."
About his brother FRANK TICKNER, who is one of the very best in the UK and recently won a quality cross-country race " We used to train together when we were young." About Frank he said that unfortunately, because he trains so hard, he gets injured from time to time and has plantar fasciaitis at. the moment.
   About the Southern this year Ben Tickner was particularly pleased because he usually only likes running on flattish courses .However about the Southern he said " I have a shocking record at he Southern so was very pleased with result because my positions have been 26th and 10th in the past"
" I have not raced for a while so I was very pleased with the result and to have a run out. I was ill a few weeks ago as well. I had surgery last year so really building up from that still. I feel I am through that and just getting fit again now which is really exciting as it is nice to progress. I love Parliament Hill. It's my favourite course."


Naomi Taschimowitxz (21) who was second in the Southern Senior in 2010, is at Trinity College, Cambridge, studying economics and was varsity Cross Champion in 2009
On Saturday she was at the head of a group of five at half way but moved clear in the later stages of the race. She is coached by Taunton's Charlotte Fisher. She has had injury problems last year with her ankle but did cross-training that kept her going and started to train again well in December. She added " I first started running at 15 but not that much till I got to University."
After Nicola Sykes of Bedford in third place was HOLLIE ROWLAND of Norwich City.
   Hollie Rowland considered her best run was in Dublin in 2009 " I came fifth in the European cross country Championships Under 23. That was possibly my best result. I have had a bit of a hard season this season. I have been living in Germany with my parents. I have just been training on my own. I did not do well at Liverpool which knocked my confidence quite a bit. I feel a bit better after to-day!
   ' I started running when I  joined a club in Germany. I joined  City of Norwich when I came to Norwich for my University, about 31/2 years ago'    'Just this weekend I came back to the  UK and moving in with a friend in the Hull area and, In August, going out to America. A Scholarship at IONA COLLEGE.  It will give me two years to get a Masters, train and go to a new country which is quite exciting."
Now that there are well over Two and a half million unemployed in this country Hollies' remark, rings very true when she said " Can't get a job here really as there is nothing going! You spend all this time at university and you think that will help me get a job. Maybe the country will have turned around a bit by the time I come back?!"
   Southern First Six in the Women's race 1 Naomi Taschmimowitz (Taunton) 29.47; 2 Nicola Sykes (Bedford & County) 30:11; 3 Hollie Rowland (City of Norwich AC) 30:18; 4 Lauren Deadman (Havering Maysbrook) 30:31; 5 Amy Campbell (Shaftesbury Barnet) 30:40;  6 Georgie Bruinvels (South London Harriers) 30:51. Teams 1. City of Norwich 75; 2 Serpentine RC 111, 3 AFD 116.


Richard Goodman, the Under 17 Southern winner last year, after coming third at his first attempt , won the Southern Under 20 in convincing style at Parliament Hill Fields on the 29th of January, as he continued to show his immense potential as a  future international runner.
At Parliament Hill Fields he joined the very early leader Arun Abdi of Newham Essex Beagles, shortly after the start, then drifted clear for the rest of the race.
Richard did turn his ankle over once in the race but he did not feel it had done any damage. He had been injured after the first Met League that he won at Claybury.
   The race for second place was on till the last loop between Andy Combs and Liam White. Combs, coming home a few seconds to the good.1 Richard Goodman (Shaftesbury Barnet) 25:58, 2 Andrew Combs (Tonbridge AC) 26:14, 3 Liam White (Hercules & Wimbledon 26:38. Teams - 1 Tonbridge AC 59; Shaftesbury Barnet 61 AFD 67.
   " I started running for fun when I was 11. Just doing it for fun. In 2007 I came 3rd in the Nationals Under 15. I thought this is good. From there on I have not run as well but getting up to standard now. Moved from Tonbridge to University and so now coached by Mick Woods'
   ' I suppose looking back a highlight was getting GB selection at Liverpool but although I got sixth spot, I redeemed myself in Portugal a bit and actually did pretty well so that is a highlight definitely
   ' I train with some people at St Marys and sometimes at Aldershot as well where I run with Johnny Hay and all that lot. A good group to train with"
   " I have been running for six years but only in the last two years I have taken  in hard training. I have changed coaches and Mick Woods is my coach now.
Richard Xerri is in your club the Editor of Runners Digest?.  " He is a really good physio and I have had physiotherapy with good massage as well"
   'This season I started off with 16th at Liverpool. After that I joined Mick Woods and started training with the St Marys group at Teddington and, it has brought me on as the group down there is quality.'
   ' When did it all begin "  When I left primary school and went to secondary school and then I got more serious about it. In the last couple of years I have started training hard. I have steadily improved and today was a breakthrough. Looking back now to other times I won the UK Schools Games in Cardiff in 2009 and I got a bronze in the English Schools but today was really pleasing coming third in the Southern Junior."

Alastair Aitken

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