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  • sparkhill1926

English National Cross-Country at Bolesworth Castle, Cheshire, Saturday 25 February 2023

The ‘National’ is a special race and is the culmination of the domestic cross-country season. The atmosphere is fabulous and the starts of the senior women’s and men’s races still get me excited to this day, even though I’ve seen them on 20+ occasions. For those at the club who haven’t done a ‘National’ it is a must. You are missing out.

This year we were at a new venue not far from Chester. It was in the countryside and was a pleasure to visit.

It was a flat course and dry. The day was chilly and with a light wind it was close to perfect for cross-country. Several of us remarked that due to the way the land lay, if it had rained significantly before the race the course appeared very capable of becoming a mud fest.

We travelled in two cars (special thanks to Jenny and Barry for driving), arriving in plenty of time for our races. It should be pointed out that while Barry was queueing to get his car in to the car park, Andy L and I decided to get out to find the ladies and erect the club flag. Before we could get the flag out of the boot, Barry drove up the road 30 yards, requiring Andy and I to chase after the car. Now, we’re not saying it was deliberate.

As they have done all season, Jenny and Manisha did the club proud. Both set off really well and maintained their efforts all the way to the finish. The course might have been flat but it was sapping, so well done to you, both.

There was a field of 774 and the finishing places for the ladies were:

640th Jenny

653rd Manisha

There was sufficient time for the ladies to get some warm clothes on and cheer on the men. As always, really appreciated.

You will observe from the places in the men’s race that Barry, Andy W and James were very close to each other. If I add that there was only 9 seconds between them at the finish you might want to draw your own conclusions. I’m not one to jump to conclusions but all three in unison when they saw me said they’d worked hard all the way to the finish. Rob, as an ex-policeman, might say they’d got their stories sorted before I came in.

I think 12 minutes between the 3 of them finishing and me coming in was ample time. Rob, Andy L and I had good races and even though we were towards the rear of the field I can assure you that we worked hard all the way.

That’s what Andy and Rob told me, and I know I did. I’m slightly concerned by reports from Andy L himself that he was near the front after 400 yards.

Out of a field of 1,472 the men’s finishing positions were:

1,206 Barry

1,209 Andy W

1,210 James

1,376 Andy L

1,387 Rob

1,437 Craig

There were 99 teams that finished and I’m proud to say we came 99th. I’m going to put a positive spin on this because that is what Barry likes. So here I go. Manchester Harriers AC finished 98th and if we hadn’t run they’d have been last. Therefore, we made at least one team happy.

Thank you for Hollie and Tahir coming to cheer us on. I know we didn’t disappoint.

James stepped up to the mark and had pre-booked us into a Thai restaurant in Nantwich. Thank you, James. We had a fabulous meal and a laugh reflecting on the day. All set off home with a spring in their step. Okay, I’m lying here, because in getting up from the table we were as stiff as boards and struggled to walk to the cars. It was even worse when we got home.

Here’s to next year’s ‘National’. Don’t miss it.




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