Regular scottishrunning guide.com contributor Russell Whittington took part in the annual British and Irish Cross Country International in Belfast last Saturday (10 November) and gave us his take on the event ...
Last Saturday the cream of veteran runners from the UK and Ireland headed to Belfast for the annual British and Irish Cross Country International. Last year's event was hosted in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park - about four miles from my house - so this was my first taste of going on tour with the Scottish Veterans Harriers and it was a weekend to remember.
A replacement for the waterlogged Stormont, the Queens University course provided a relatively flat two kilometre loop with a couple of small hills and some muddy stretches making it quite testing. The event consisted of three veterans races followed by an open race to close proceedings for the day.
The first race was three loops of the course for the women's teams and the male 65-69 and 70+ teams. This resulted in an exciting finish with Clare Martin of England and Ireland's Barbara Cleary heading into the final stages sprinting shoulder to shoulder. Unfortunately Barbara misread where the finish was and stopped a few metres short, leaving Clare to successfully defend the title she won in Glasgow last year. Fiona Mathieson was the pick of the Scottish women and won the 50-54 category finishing fifth overall. Sue Ridley picked up a bronze medal in the F45 category and Liz Bowers won the F60 bronze. In the men's 65-69 category there was another exciting finish between England teammates, Martin Ford and Peter Young, with Martin edging it. They were followed by George Mitchell of Scotland who picked up bronze. England's Les Haynes came first in the M70 category with Gordon Omrie of Wales edging Scotland's Pete Cartwright out in the battle for second place.
The next race was four loops of the two kilometre course for M50-54 through to M60-64. The race was won overall by Graham Sakar of England five seconds ahead of local boy Deon McNeilly of Northern Ireland. Neil Thin of Edinburgh AC was first Scot, finishing in fifth place, and Ian Stewart won the silver medal in the M55 category. Mike Hager of England added another gold medal to his collection in the M60 category with Scotland's Andy McAlinden picking up the silver.
The final championship race was the M35 through to M45 race and the chance to test myself in a tough competition. The field soon spread out and I found myself towards the back, in a race with my Bellahouston Roadrunners club mate Greig Glendinning and Scott Martin of Kilmarnock. I knew that they had been getting similar results to me recently so we worked together to push each other on to the best of our abilities. The race was won by M40 Andy Morgan-Lee of England who beat Ireland's Ciaran Doherty - winner of the M35 race. First Scot was Kerry Liam Wilson with Charlie Thomson narrowly missing out on a medal in the M45 category by one second. I finished down in 71st out of 84, but was delighted to have been given the opportunity to take part in such a prestigious race.
Photo credits: Danielle Glendinning, Alan Ramage, and Clare Barr