MIKE DOWN’S NATIONAL CROSS COUNTDOWN NO3

13 Feb

IT’S WOLLATON PARK VIA ARMAGH PAPER CHASE!

With the first of our big winter targets now just ten days away and counting, it’s time to reprise what our runners have been up to since the Midland cross championships. Our Tri-Counties champion and South West silver medallist FELIX MCGRATH, who missed the Midland event due to a holiday in the States, returned to action with a reassuring effort in the popular Alsager 5M. Despite racing almost straight off the plane he was well satisfied at holding five minute mile pace all the way to finish a creditable 13th in 25:02.

On the same day further south marathon man PETE LE GRICE also returned to competition in the Chichester 10K. Unfortunately he suffered a minor problem with his breathing, albeit nothing like as devastating as he had experienced in the Frankfurt marathon back in October. The net result was that he had to be satisfied with a time of only 30:59, though he is unworried about this latest episode and has already begun his training build-up to the London marathon.

Meanwhile not so far from Chichester at Sherborne in Dorset JOHNNY SUTTLE failed by less than half a minute to win the Blackmore Vale Lions Half marathon, finishing a close third in 75:08.That weekend also saw the welcome return to action of JACK BANCROFT, who has been sidelined with a chronic achilles problem since the autumn, and hopefully just in time for the spring road relays he clocked an encouraging 15:23 just ahead of JOSH MOOODY at the Cardiff Parkrun.

Moving on to last weekend congratulations are due to JACK MILLAR, who had led our team home  in 4th place at the Midland championships. As a result of his performance there as well as as his two earlier top ten finishes in UK Cross Challenge races at Cardiff and Milton Keynes, he was selected for the six man England team that contested the latest Belgium Cross Cup race. It was Jack’s first international selection on the continent and he more than did himself justice by finishing third Briton in 11th place.

Jack was not our only runner in European action at the weekend, as ANDY CHAMBERS, who has been honing his fitness for the National on a warm weather training trip to Spain, saw off the challenge of a Finnish track champion to win a local 8K race in an impressive time of 24:36, and that too despite losing some ten seconds through taking a wrong turn near the finish.

Main focus on the home front at the weekend was the club’s promotion of the latest Gwent League race at Chepstow racecourse. JOHNNY SUTTLE, who is a glutton for punishment and another of our runners in heavy marathon training, led Chris Elson’s team to another overall victory in 6th place. He was chased all the way by our evergreen vet GRAHAM BREEN in 9th place, while behind our leading pair OLLY SHEPPARD produced his best run of the winter in 12th place, with ROB FARLEY 21st, ANDY COOKE 22nd, MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI 27th and PETE BAINS 30th, all in the top 30 of the huge field to confirm our superiority.

Attention now switches temporarily back to the road this week and the annual pilgrimage to Ireland for the Armagh international 5K. Not only is it one of the year’s PB havens, but if you want to make the year’s top 50 5K times, it`s a race you simply can’t afford to miss – a veritable Vapourfly paper chase! Our BTC training group needed no inviting, with a near full strength squad making the trek across the Irish Sea. At the last count our prospective line-up included HARRY ALLEN, PETE BAINS, JED BARTLETT, CALLUM JONES, JACK MILLAR, JOSH MOODY, OLLY SHEPPARD, KURT TAYLOR, ADAM WILSON and MIKE WILSMORE.

Kurt travels despite having only just shaken off a nasty bout of flu, but unfortunately FELIX MCGRATH, who has been nursing a heavy cold since the weekend, has wisely decided to pull out to concentrate on making a full recovery before next week’s d-day. Another of our National runners missing will be ANDY WATT, who though managing a hip strain did complete a gruelling midweek grass session successfully with our cross captain OWAIN JONES.

An Armagh review will follow in next week’s final countdown to the National.