The South of England Cross-Country Championships
Parliament Hill – 30 January 2010
bionic man reports.
December I, as well as many others, received an excited call from Ian
asking if I wanted to be in the team to go to the legendary Parliament
Hill fields again this year. Despite initial hesitations which always
arise when this race comes around, I was convinced by Ian’s usual line
which he employs to get me on board, ‘We could have a great team this
year!’ So not wanting to let him down, or anyone else on the team, I put
my name down and forgot about the conversation.
forward a month and a bit and at 6.40ish I am huddled on the tarmac
outside QE with the rest of the team before boarding the bus to take us
to London. Despite many little grumbles many of us successfully drift
off to a fitful sleep (apart from Stewart who manages to sleep like a
arriving in London it is clear that we are very lucky. Despite being a
little cold, it is not wet or windy, which makes surviving a day outside
on the hill that much more comfortable. My initial thought when arriving
at the ‘base camp’ and glancing at the opening hill is something along
the lines of ‘that’s not as bad as I remember’. This made me much
happier, and more comfortable until I started watching the junior races
… and suddenly I started remembering how tough it had been in previous
Under 15 Boys David and Jack worked hard on what quickly became a course
full of sticky mud, both finishing closely together in fantastic times.
Abbie is looking apprehensive, is she worried about the race? –
she needn’t have been – or perhaps she doesn’t trust her dad with
the safety pins as her number is attached to her red vest. Graeme
looks on, totally up for it.
Under 13 Girls Abbie got stuck in and had a great run, and Sharon who
has had troubles with illness recently has showed that she has the metal
to come out the other side and still manage to compete with the best of
Under 13 Boys Ryan, Piers, Alex and Jordan all put in great runs. Most
of these lads are in their first season, and this being their first big
event bravely stood up to the challenge and tackled it superbly.
This view gives a flavour of what running at Parliament Hill is
all about. A determined looking Ryan is in the middle of the pack.
senior women, Lynn and Annie, also put in a great effort as the course
was becoming more of a marsh than parkland.
The senior women’s race gets away from the start line as the
runners head for the big climbs.
it was time. The senior men made their way down to the start line. Once
there I am pretty certain many of us WACers thought the same thing, ‘How
did Ian manage to get me here?!’ The sight of the hill and the gathering
of more than 800 men, and the knowledge that in 15kms time it will all
be over, brought nerves and excitement to the fore.
race itself was as tough as ever. Sticky mud, testing hills and strong
competition, there is no doubt that this is the mother of all cross-countrys.
One moment you feel fantastic as you pass some lad who looks like he
should be pretty good, the next you wonder if you’re still going as an
old boy that looks like your granddad flies by like you are stood still!
you know it, it’s all over and you’re heading back to the team tent to
trade stories and find out who came where. This year, I was lucky enough
to beat Jerry into first, with Stewart, Ant, Craig, Graham, Roy, Paul,
Ian, Jeff and Steve all battling hard on the course to come in with all
of us feeling proud of our achievements. I am sure that if Ian asked us
then to do next year’s race we would all say no ... but I am even more
certain that come December we will all get the excited phone call again,
and once more we shall take on one of the toughest races of the season.
like to take a moment to thank all of the drivers, supporters and
everyone else that had a hand in the day.
Typically Graeme has played down his own performance in this report. It
wasn’t ‘luck’ that saw him head Jerry to become the first WACer to cross
the line at all.
His story is an inspiring one so stands re-telling. Graeme was the
innocent victim in a road accident in 2006 and this left him with
horrific injuries which included internal injuries (his spleen had to be
removed), a broken arm and a couple of broken legs. Then followed a
series of operations to rebuild his broken limbs, he was
wheelchair-bound for almost a year (the metalwork he has built into his
skeleton and his subsequent racing form have earned him the moniker
‘Bionic’ from his team mates). This Parliament Hill race is the longest
race he has competed in since the accident. Graeme lives with legacy of
those injuries every day and he did have concerns going into this event
as he continues to deal with aches and pains, further corrective surgery
is likely. But putting those worries aside, could he, in the darkest
days of late 2006 possibly have dreamt of running like he did at
Parliament Hill and also winning selection to represent
in the Inter-Counties Championships in 2010. The body may have been
busted in 2006, but the mind was strong. Graeme has extraordinary levels
of determination, bravery and belligerence and can serve as an
inspiration to all of us.
For a slide show of photos from Parliament Hill from Steve Snook’s
Results from Parliament Hill:
– Abbie Hine – 14:27
– Sharon Hutchings – 14:56
Under-13 boys (16th team)
– Ryan Walbridge – 12:30
– Piers Copeland – 13:08
– Alex Diment – 13:27
– Jordan Symington – 13:39
– David Long – 18:41
– Jack Snook – 18:47
– Lynn Hutchings – 41:52
– Annie Dougall – 45:06
Senior Men (61st team)
– Graeme Furley – 1:03:05
– Jerry Shield – 1:06:25
– Stewart Little – 1:09:36
– Anthony Clark – 1:11:28
– Craig Dixon – 1:16:24
– Graham Whiffen – 1:18:18
– Roy Long – 1:20:34
– Paul Hine – 1:21:36
– Ian Kennedy – 1:25:05
– Jeff Hinsley – 1:29:08
– Steve Snook – 1:38:46
Daryl Davies started in the senior men’s race but was forced to pull up
with an achilles injury.