Inter Counties Champs – Captains Report
by Allan Bogle
While Northern Ireland was shrouded in cloud and rain yesterday the rest of the UK basked in glorious sunshine. I am not sure what weather conditions the 100s of mountain runners that competed in the Inter Counties in Blackburn would have preferred?! With competitors collapsing on the finish line, vomiting on the steep climbs and turning crimson in the sunshine (Seamus Lynch), I think I know the answer.
The Inter Counties is a race with teams of up to 5 runners all battling to see who the UK’s top hill running county is. With this year’s race taking place on a relatively ‘fast’ and not very technical course the field was loaded with both top mountain runners and road/ track specialists.
With a slight delay to start of the men’s race (as paramedics attended to a collapsed athlete on the finishing line of the female race) the gun sent the runners off onto the three lap course around Witton Country Park. The initial pace was as blistering as the sunshine as the 100 runners headed into the shade of the forested slopes. NI’s Allan Bogle lead the field for the first half mile but it wasn’t long before the gradient steepened and the more experienced trail runners took over.
It could be argued that the chosen course was not particularly exciting as it was made up of three 3.5km laps (with an extra small loop during the first lap). However it could not be argued that it wasn’t a real test of the runners’ physical abilities. At the sharp end of the field it was mountain runner Tom Addison battling it out with road runner Shaun Dixon. Yorkshire man Addison is the current leader of the English fell running championship and is having a real breakthrough year, however his climbing abilities succumbed to Dixon’s (Middlesex) speed. Dixon who just last week posted 30:16 for 10,000m will able to pull away from pre-race favourite Addison in the closing stages to win by 30secs.
A bit further down the field Team Northern Ireland were fighting it out with the other counties desperately trying to replicate last year’s team result of 4th place. Allan Bogle led the team home in 26th followed by Iain Whiteside in 30th, Seamus Lynch in 32nd and David Steele in 45th. Although the team finished strongly they did not do enough to be in the mix it with the top teams. The team prize went to Middlesex- interestingly, a county whose highest point is only 153m!!
Although Northern Ireland only managed to achieve 9th place in the team competition (1 place in front of Cumbria- the UK’s most famous mountain running county) they all took a lot of positives from the race and left Blackburn with a new sense of determination to make improvements in aspects of their running. With a top class field, scorching heat and well deserved post-race ice-cream the memories of this year’s inter counties will last a lot longer than Seamus’ farmer’s tan.