Belles win individual and team gold at South of Thames 5-mile champs, Morden Park

Belles win individual and team gold at South of Thames 5-mile champs, Morden Park

Another win for Saron and team gold for the fab four.

It was just a bare team of four Belles with no backstop, who made the journey down to the end of the Northern Line to run the South of Thames five miler.

But what a day it was, with Saron Haileselase running away with a 40-second victory, Mhairi Hall and Emma Howsham finishing in the top ten, Stephanie Hewitt not far behind, and the four winning team gold.

The South of Thames Cross Country Association is one of the oldest in the country; a few South London clubs got together as early as 1888 for an organised mob match, with the first official Championship races held in 1910.

Originally there were barring clauses to restrict top runners in the five mile race but with receding numbers they were lifted in the early 2000’s with women first being invited to race in 2001.

In the subsequent years the Belles have had a fine record, gaining several individual and team medals and winning the team race in 2013 and 2014.

l-r: Emma Howsham, Mhairi Hall, Saron Haileselase, Steph Hewitt, coach Charlie Dickinson

Morden Park proved to be a good undulating parkland course with the ground soft after some rain in the week but not too muddy.

With men and women running together, the women had to be careful not to start too fast. Saron did take the first lap relatively easy but still entered the second of the three laps with a 20 meter lead.

Despite then suffering from a  stitch she increased this lead right to the end  with a very fast finish overtaking some of the Belgrave men in the process.

This was Saron’s eighth road relay or cross country race for the Belles this Autumn and she has won four of them.

Saron powering past a group of men at the start of lap 2.

Although perhaps starting a little too fast, Mhairi and Emma both ran very strong races to maintain their positions in the top ten throughout the race.

The pair were celebrating their call up to represent Surrey in the forthcoming South of England Inter-Counties match in Oxford in December and here they showed what strong, reliable runners they are.

Cross Country is not Stephanie’s favourite – being a track 1500m runner -and although the race was very much over distance, she battled away giving no ground throughout the race. Her brave performance in hanging on ensured the team ended with a winning margin.

It was such a delightful and well deserved team result. Four friends who hardly miss a session, training together midweek at Battersea together with the Saturday sessions off road and on the hills at Wimbledon.

All four have improved greatly in confidence and strength. Saron and Stephanie will now head indoors for some races on the boards while Mhairi and Emma continue their fine cross country season.

Results from Morden Park, 24th November

(1) S. Haileselase 30:29
(2) E. Mace (Dul) 31:10
(3) C. Crossman (G & G) 31:25

(8) M. Hall 32:46
(9) E. Howsham 33:00
(17) S. Hewitt 35:14
80 women finishers.


(1) Belgrave Harriers 35
(2) Dulwich  39
(3) Kent AC 63

12 teams completed the race.

Race report by Charlie Dickinson.