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Emily on the podium at Parliament Hill – 28 January 2017

Jessica Eve Kennedy reports from Hampstead Heath

Jess attacks the climb at Parliament Hill Fields

Before now, any comments I've made about Parliament Hill have been prefaced with the fact that I'd never actually run it.  I'd heard.  I'd watched.  But never had I felt quite brave enough to run the course myself.

We've all heard the stories – almost folklore by now.  Tales of spike horrors, of rolled ankles and mud-swallowed shoes.  So, why on earth would anyone enter a race like this?

Now that I've finally entered and run it myself, I still don't really have an answer for you.

While I can't make sense of my own choices other than to say I'll do a lot to justify a Burger King Bacon Double Cheeseburger to myself, I'm not alone in my madness.  The team was a 44-strong contingent this year – a new record, building on the 43 we had last year.  To break that down a little, that meant we had athletes on the start line of all but one of the 10 races.  I hastened to add, there was a particular display of #girlpower at Parliament Hill, with every single ladies' (sorry, all the single ladies') races delivering noteworthy performances – from a podium position to top team turnouts.

The most impressive result of the day is hard to dispute.  In her Parliament Hill debut, Emily Shaw claimed second place in only the second race of the day, marking Wimborne AC's first ever individual podium result.  Amidst the hive-like hubbub in the club tent, there was a sudden, heightened buzz as the words "Wimborne AC" boomed from the tannoy to announce Emily's triumphant result.  Fellow under-13 girls Sarah Graham and Abbi Slade followed in 152nd and 161st respectively.

Our biggest turnout of the day came in the under-15 girls’ race and led to an impressive 7th place result in the team standings.  A 10-strong team fought their way around the hilly course to finish Abbie Lovering 31st, Amy Mercer 51st, Holly Nixon 69th, Martha Pawson 81st, Anna Kelliher 96th, Bethanie Kingswell-Farr 118th (and in one piece), Demi Goddard 138th, Hannah Fairchild 188th, Izzie Kingswell-Farr 192nd and Emma Graham 253rd.  You'd be forgiven for thinking it was the club's biggest team score of the day.  Instead, bucking the trend of the season, the under-17 girls showed up in force and were led by Grace Copeland – earning a bottom of age-group 8th – to an incredible 6th placed team result.  It was Hannah Slater (52nd), Minty Stubbs (71st), Caitlin Rogers (99th), Romilly Carrick (152nd) and Charlie Radford (153rd) who filled out the rest of the team, proving great depth of quality in the age group.

If we'd had one more athlete in the under-20 ladies' team, that success would have continued up through the age groups.  We would almost certainly be talking about a podium position.  I point that out not to highlight disappointment, but rather point to potential.  Something to build on.  Emma Martin was first in, placing 17th, followed by Olivia Manson (53rd) and the club’s resident X.C. O.G. Abbie Hine (58th).

To round out the #girlpower trend, the ladies' race smashed any previous attendance records with three of us storming or, in my case, struggling our way around the course.  We even outnumbered the men this time – unheard of in any cross-country season but this one.  Hannah Acquah led the charge, not that I could see her for more than those opening few seconds as we stampeded out of the pens.  Behind Hannah came Alicia, seeming utterly unphased by horrors of the swamp-like mud and hill after massive hill.  I came a little after that just glad to get to the line, broken, defeated, as melodramatic as ever.  And this is what it’s like on a dry year?!

There were plenty of impressive results from the boys too, including another big top 20 finish from Harry O’Donoghue who came 13th in the under-15 boys race.  Behind Harry, we had Ben Martin (120th), Josh Davey (151st), Seth Lake (173rd), Charlie Davies (192nd), Sam Hughes (208th) and Zach Fenwick (218th), proving that the girls weren’t the only ones who could go big on the numbers.

The under-17 boys put out a solid team, too, with Joey Kelliher coming in an impressive 32nd and Dan Baynham (93rd), Elliot Symes (143rd) and Edward Dart (147th) also running well to earn an 11th place team finish.

Elsewhere, our under-13 boys were led home by Ollie Rawles (98th). Joe Goodwin was quick on the chase with one shoe less than he started with, placing 103rd, while Joe Healey (193rd), Ben Harwood (223rd), Matthew Lissenburg (261st) and Jay Dunn (273rd) rounded out the team.  After the score was settled between friendly rivals Ollie and Joe, there was to be a second Rawles rivalry to finish off the day.

Rob Rawles and Pete Kingswell-Farr were the only runners we had in the 15km men’s race; I can’t possibly imagine why.  From the moment they set off, Rob seemed determined to stay in front of Pete, while Pete endeavored simply not to injure himself on the course.  And so, after the unfortunate KF tradition of injury last year, this year’s trend was one of Rawles rule.  Rob came 794th, Pete 810th but merrily unharmed.

After my ragged eight kilometres, anyone able to get around 15km of that course has earned my greatest respect.  Respect shown by, err, packing up the tent and going back to the coach before they’ve even climbed the hill… but respect nonetheless.  (Sorry, guys!  We got a service station banquet to get to.)

Well. 44 runners across nine races and every single person in a Wimborne vest made it to the finish line.  That’s no mean feat, even in drier than usual conditions.  We can all at least say we did it.

We went, we saw, we conquered – or in my case, conked out.



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