ECCA Men’s National Cross Country Championships 2019, Harewood House, Leeds

ECCA Men’s National Cross Country Championships 2019, Harewood House, Leeds

Taking our medicine!

We owe the National so much, as our purple patch at the race between 1930-1970 [incl. four wins] sowed many of the seeds for the great Belgrave name that we know today.  “Oooohh, that’s more than we gave you!” said the lady I returned our unused numbers to in the registration tent, as a bundle of 15 was indeed torrid.  But no-one’s panicking.  If one peers at the make-up of our squad these days it’s more geared to speedsters, rather than sluggers, and the amount of injury around is pretty scary, but they’re not bad injuries per se, just niggly enough to prohibit a day trip to Leeds, only to make things worse.  Our National aspirations will come again, but this was a day to take the punishment with grace and have gratitude we finished at all.

Steve Jones at his first National in claret and gold.
James Morris enjoying the sunshine.

The course and weather were both glorious – what a place!  We had Steve Jones and James Morris to thank for closing in, who calmly anchored us home, and a position of 51st is not so terrible really.  Stick in three more ‘heavies’ into our team and we’re suddenly top 15. The TM toiled badly, but he only had himself to blame for being so race-shy of late, and then two fearsome blisters, on each heel, reared up mid-race to make my unbroken 20 years of Bels Nationals something of an ordeal.  Neat coincidence though:  I was 4th scorer on debut in ’99, and 4th scorer again in ’19. 

Nick Buckle is coming in to some form.

The skipper Nick Buckle is still working his way back to full fitness and whilst top 200 was just beyond him, he was swimming with the sharks and put up a valiant defence of the Parker Bowl for first Belgravian home at the National.  Andrius Jaksevicius wasn’t pleased with his run, but had scored a fine 69 for the Half the previous week, and takes his second Cross-country Plate in style, congrats to him.

Andrius takes the XC plate for the 18/19 season.

And in another neat coincidence we notice that Paskar Owor started the decade with his first National – at Leeds – in 2010, in 89th, and now finishes the decade at Leeds in 88th.  So at this rate he should win it in, er, 792 years.

Twenty years of Nationals

On a personal note, what do I make of 20 years of Nationals for Belgrave?  Here are some reflections:

It’s a marvellous race, so tough and challenging in some of the worst weather and conditions I’ve ever known.  You’re under constant pressure, as it’s so fast from the gun.  Take it easy at the start and you’re in the heaviest of traffic and the race is basically ruined.

The TM’s 21st consecutive National.

Belgrave have fought really hard, more often than not in the top 20, with multiple top 6 returns and of course the astounding win in 2004.  So it’s been a good generation and a massive improvement on the torrid sequence of 1978-’98 where so often we failed to finish, and once posted over 5,000 points when we did.  We’ve cast the net far and wide, by using 61 scoring athletes [see below] from some 20 nations, and instead of bemoaning that we couldn’t get our stars out more, we should be grateful that we got them out at all, for what a difference they make.  And look at those stars!  A wonderful Who’s who of Belgrave endurance running for the first 20 years of the millennium. 

Belgrave scorers at the National 1999-2019

1 scoring run [alphabetical order]:

Zek Abery; Spencer Barden; Russ Dessaix-Chin; Lander Eguia; Kevin Gadd; Darren Gauson; Martin Holm; Simon Jones; Steven Jones; John Kimaiyo; Soren Lindner; Dave Mason, Kyle Marks; Patrick McDougall; Mark Miles; Alex Miller; Alex Mills; James Morris; Doug Morton; Dan Mulhare; Tom O’Beirne; Luke Pikett; Mark Pollard; Stephen Sharp; Nick Smallwood; Kassa Tadesse; Taras Telkovsky; Mike Trees; Mike Webb; Tim Weeks; Matt Whiting; James Williams; Pete Willis; Joachim Wolfe; Steve Zealey 

2 scores:

David Anderson; Don Anderson; Nick Buckle; Nick Bundle; Phil Carstairs; Arne Dumez; Allen Graffin; Knut Hegvold; Charlie Herrington; Andrius Jaksevicius; Jason Lobo; Roy Maddams; Rob Mcharg; Kevin Nash; Hassan Raidi; Tim Watson 

3 scores:

Roger Alsop; James Fairbourn; Lee Hurst; Al Stewart 

4 scores:

Paul Freary

5 scores:

Mal Byansi; James Kelly

6 scores:

Paskar Owor; Phil Wicks

18 scores:

Will Cockerell


1 M Mahamed (Southampton); 88 P Owor 39:47; 146 A Jaksevicius 40:40; 214 N Buckle 41:40; 908 W Cockerell 48:46; 1127 S Jones 50:50; 1273 J Morris 52:18.  2006 finished.

1 Leeds 110; 2 Tonbridge 191; 3 Bristol & W 313… 51 Belgrave H 3756.  144 teams closed in.