Operation Belfast

5 – Club races
4 – National Championships
3 – 10k races
2 – Park runs
1 – Trail run

I’m racing in my first cross country season for 25 years!!! Writes Derek Clyne.

Suddenly I’m on the brink of toeing the line in a British Championship! It seemed a good idea at Tweedbank in August when Alistair Walker was putting the finishing touches to his successful attempt at World Championship glory.

“What’s next?” I asked. “Fancy building up for a crack at the British Masters XC in Belfast,” he replied.

“Oh I’m up for that,” envisaging 300 oldies in a celebration of cross country. Well not quite – it turns out to be an elite field of 74 – I fear I might be helping to dismantle the course on my last lap. Anyway, we are here and the good news is we can see the start and finish from our hotel opposite Stormont Castle. The bad news is it’s rained in Belfast for 3 days and shows no sign of stopping for us. A quick recce of the course on Friday suggests 4 laps of an inverted B with an 800m straight climbing toward the iconic Stormont building then a sharp turn with a series of muddy open areas with a final shoe grabbing bog before heading out on a new lap.

A quiet Friday night in the Hotel is only broken by the rain lashing the windows. Where was last Sunday’s weather? Race day dawns and there is snow on the hills but the sky is turning blue – surely not.
A light breakfast then I plan a quiet nap before heading over about noon to collect my number and warm up for a one o clock start.
Not quite… At 11.05am my World Champion room mate starts pacing the hotel room by 11.15am, I have serious concerns for the carpet.

At 11.30 I conceded and we head across to collect our numbers. At check-in we bump into former Teviotdale Harrier and now Antrim resident Michael Combe. It’s good to catch up and it seems to ease AW down a wee bit. A further jog around the course confirms its now very soft in places but the sun is now shining.

We all now split up to do our own final warm ups but it’s not long till we are called to the start. Four laps 5 miles. Don’t blast off!!!
The gun goes and after about 600m, things settle down a bit and I’m running alongside Herne Hill Harrier- even better news there are bodies behind us.

After one lap I move on in a vain attempt to catch the group in front. This proves to be my lot as I am clear and moving away from one group but I am actually making no ground on the vest in front. My last 3 laps are run in isolation and I am cursing my cautious start. Meanwhile at the sharp end Ali has settled down in about 25th and is stalking his main rival for the V60 crown. After toying with him for 2 laps, AW makes his move and storms away and by the finish he wins the V60 category by 40 seconds and is 24th overall.

Michael Combe also has a good one finishing 11th overall (5th V40). It’s a good Championship for the Scots with Jethro Lennox winning overall (1st V40) and Colin Donnelly finishing 2nd V55. Meanwhile I’m back in 64th (8th V60) – Where were the 300 plus vets I envisaged? Some of these guys are serious athletes despite the greying temples.

Shower, presentation a couple of beers then into the City centre for a bite to eat and more beer. More good news we missed the Rugby.
It’s in the South of England next year are we going? Well on this form it looks like I need to seriously up my game just to be competitive, but AW will be defending champ and Colin Donnelly will have moved into the V60 category – expect fireworks.

So roll on 2020 I just hope the hotel room has a tiled floor😀