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The South of England Cross-Country Championships
Parliament Hill – 30 January 2010

The bionic man reports.

In 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.

Fast 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 log!!!)

On 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 years.

In the 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.

In the 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 them.

In the 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.

Our 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.

Then 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.

The 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!

Before 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. 

I would like to take a moment to thank all of the drivers, supporters and everyone else that had a hand in the day.

                                                                                                                                    Graeme

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 Dorset 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 camera click here

Results from Parliament Hill:

 

Under-13 girls

93 – Abbie Hine – 14:27

119 – Sharon Hutchings – 14:56

 

Under-13 boys (16th team)

34 – Ryan Walbridge – 12:30

83 – Piers Copeland – 13:08

107 – Alex Diment – 13:27

120 – Jordan Symington – 13:39

 

Under-15 boys

144 – David Long – 18:41

156 – Jack Snook – 18:47

 

Senior Women

220 – Lynn Hutchings – 41:52

280 – Annie Dougall – 45:06

 

Senior Men (61st team)

252 – Graeme Furley – 1:03:05

350 – Jerry Shield – 1:06:25

434 – Stewart Little – 1:09:36

496 – Anthony Clark – 1:11:28

603 – Craig Dixon – 1:16:24

635 – Graham Whiffen – 1:18:18

677 – Roy Long – 1:20:34

692 – Paul Hine – 1:21:36

727 – Ian Kennedy – 1:25:05

769 – Jeff Hinsley – 1:29:08

793 – Steve Snook – 1:38:46

 

Daryl Davies started in the senior men’s race but was forced to pull up with an achilles injury.

 
 
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