Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Steve Vernon - English National Champion 2011

STEVE VERNON won the National Senior cross country at his fifth attempt at Alton Towers reports Alastair Aitken  Vernon gained his first medal coming third place in 2006.
The last time there was a quagmire was at Milton Keynes, when Dave Lewis won from Dave Clarke in 1985. This year, on the 19th of February, it was even worse conditions because, it was colder with constant drizzle for much of the day and, with the addition of hyperthermia for a few of the youngsters in the early race with some fallers in the mud.It was nearly all called off, for health and safety reasons but the organisers managed to adjust the courses a bit to take a little out of the 'sting' of running through consistent mud. As the readers can imagine with the sludge the fields were littered with shoes, sucked in by the mud. Eventually, when the programme caught up with itself,  the racing was very exciting.
In the senior race 1310 completed and an over 70 runner called Ronald Hill ran round beating six finishers in 1:20:29. For those with  long memories Ron Hill won the Senior National in 1966 and 1968, the year he came sixth in the Olympic 10k in Mexico (1966 was the first of my Nationals for Highgate Harriers). It is almost impossible to imagine someone who was 'World class' on all surfaces as a young man, at the tender age of 72 running in such gruelling conditions as
Ron did. Any of those 'Stars' of yesterday, particularly in the media who are now in their 60's, let alone 70's to have the 'balls' to do what Ron did! I think he should be given a round of applause!
Now for the sharp end. One of the first to really force the pace up front was Nielson Hall, who had great hopes for a place in the first three, after winning the Southern and Met Leagues over tough courses. he was joined by a relaxed looking Steve Vernon and Mike Skinner  At half way Vernon and Blackheath's Skinner were matching strides out in front with Tom Lancashire having caught Hall and running with him
In the last lap Vernon (35:11) went ahead and came home well with Skinner (35:32) next, Tom Lancashire (35:59); James Walsh (36:10);Jon Pepper (36:17) Bruce Raeside (36:24); Phil Wicks (36:25),Ben Noad (36:36), Paul Rogers (36:39) Nelson Hall (36:45) and Dave Norman (37:07) making the first dozen home.  In the case of Wicks, who was seventh, he told me after his record breaking run in the Wokingham Half Marathon the Sunday before " I will do the National and then Inter-Counties but not going to go to he International,if I made the team as I am going to do the London"  Ben Noad, who was one place behind him was back in the 30's on the first small lap before coming through but right off the pace so he will hope to have a better run in the World Trial. The one person who appeared to have a high placing, above expectations, was Paul Rogers of AFD who came in behind Noad but ahead of Hall.
The first three teams were  Leeds City AC 188; 2 Tipton 235 and 3 Beds & County 272.,
STEVE VERNON (Stockport)
"It was a massive day for me. The last couple of weeks have been really tough. I put pressure on myself knowing I was running well and the course would suit me. I wanted it so bad. I nearly talked myself out of it because I wanted it so bad"  
Coming second to Tom Lancashire in the Northern Championships!
" I did not have a great race. I ran like an idiot that day. I was so confident and was running so well, that I tried to run away from him and everyone like a mad man. You can't run away from people like Tom Lancashire that easily!. To-day was different."
He started running at 12 to 13 years of age and, his coach is Dave Turnbull  " He is a very good motivator and was a 2:20 marathon runner. I love running as well and I have not stopped yet!
The National at Alton Towers:-
" I felt comfortable in the first lap. I think I knew I had a chance of winning. When I knew I had won the race was with a lap to go. I just pushed on and got a 20 metre lead on Michael Skinner. Then I knew I had the race won."

You are a miler and a cross-country runner now so, which do you enjoy the most?
" Definitely the mile. I like the track stuff."
You had a very good race in the Northern cross country Championships!
" My form has been really good so I was happy with getting third in the National."
" In the National at about half way you moved into fourth position behind Nielson Hall. He was running then in third place behind Skinner and Vernon. Hall is noted for being very good on severe courses?
" He looked strong and I knew he would be a tough one. For the first lap I was sort of tracking him really and then trying to stay with him. I noticed he was looking quite tired and managed to push past him. Then there was a little gap between me and him and the next group. I held on for the medal because I really wanted that. The race was really tough all the way."
" When did you first start running'
" When I was 12 or 13. Till I was 17 or 18 I still played football and did other sports. It was from then I started taking it more seriously.
" Was your BMC mile of 3:58:03 a bit of a breakthrough at Crystal Palace in 2007?
" Yes, but I think 2008 when I ran 3:35.33, after my first full year training with Norman Poole that was a big breakthrough year for me and then going to the Olympics."
" What are his qualities?"
" He is just very thorough .He really looks into everything. He knows when to back off and when to push. He has got massive experience really. He has coached a lot of top middle distance men. He really puts the work in all aspects.He makes sure we are doing the right things, nutrition-wise, psychology, everything. He tries to learn as much as he can regarding sports science. He is really a  top lad"
"Tom do you think you would go up  to the 5000 metres in the next couple of years?"
" It is not something I am thinking about now, maybe eventually. 1500's are what I focus on and what I enjoy most which is important."

Alastair Aitken

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