Testing national champs push runners to the max

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Speed, strength and endurance were all put to the test as Matlock AC members were pushed to their limits at the English National Cross Country Championships.

Wollaton Park was the venue for the day’s competition. There was no sign of Great Britain’s Brownlee brothers this year and the winner was local runner of Derby AA, Ben Connor in 39.35. The ladies’ winner was Jessica Judd of Chelmsford AC.

For MAC Lucy Kuszinski was first up, running in the 3k U13 girls race and steadily working her way through the field with a strong run to finish in 17.39. There were 467 runners. Birtie West then took to the start line for the 6k U17 mens race and seemed to be enjoying the heavy underfoot running, finishing in 24.48.

An outstanding run from Elsbeth Grant (16.38) saw her claim fifth place in the 4k U15 girls race, ably supported with a strong run from Lizzie Webster (19.02). There were 426 runners.

Fronting up to a brief period of rain - and narrowly avoiding a flying club tent from Gosforth Harriers - the ladies (8k) were represented by Jade Stone 32.16, Hayley Gill 38.25, Christine Howard 39.23, Alison Pye 41.30 and Jan Forrester 47.10.

In a field of 788 runners, Jade 52nd place in a great achievement to cap off her cross country season. The ladies also won the mini battle of the local BDL Club teams.

Finally, the men (12k) lined up for the final bog-fest, enjoying a convoluted mash up of lap lengths over ground that by now was well and truly ploughed up. Colin Davenport 46.34 Zak Hodgkinson (without his timing chip), Mike Blair 49.16, Ian Watson 55.21, Pete Wilmot 55.26, Antony Lester 1.00.58 and Mick Moorhouse 1.06.27 made up the Matlock team. There were 1,800 runners.

Meanwhile, on Thursday evening the penultimate MAC age-graded 10k Handicap Race took place from Arc Leisure to the Pav, Matlock Bath via Hall Leys Park and back. Storm Doris? It should have been Storm Mike as Mike Blair took dual honours in Thursdays 10K handicap with the fastest time of the evening in 36.57 and also the age graded win 75.76pc.

He narrowly pipped a resurgent Karl Webster by 0.2pc, and Tessa Jackson show the benefits of a week’s warm weather training in the Canaries with a well deserved third place. A good turnout of 17 considering the conditions which included a pleasing five ladies.

So the ladies course record was under threat and both Roseanna Croft and Emma Machin dipped under Andrea Atkinson’s previous record but Emma takes with record with a run of 47.04.

Overall Blair stretches his lead over Les Thurston in second, but it’s still close enough for a change at the top in the last race in March. And there is a big battle for third.