Sir Sefton Cross Country Championships

Race Reports

Race report by Sam Juson.

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of making my debut for the Civil Service Athletics Association (CSAA) at the Sir Sefton Branker Cross Country Championships based at RAF Halton. The trophy is named in honour of Sir Sefton Brancker, a pioneer in military and civil aviation who died in an airship crash in 1930, 20 years after his first flight. The event has taken place in his honour since 1931. Pre-selection for the qualifying team was deemed from season’s best times from the previous year, and fortunately I had done enough from my time in Aberystwyth 10km (35:57) to make the squad! All teams had to enter and declare 9 runners during registration, where only the top 6 from each team were eligible to score points that contributed towards the final score.

So, I made the long trip over to Buckinghamshire from Bristol, and arrived fresh faced, but with fairly tired legs from a steady 15km around Bristol the evening before. Luckily my marathon training plan had a 40 min run scheduled – ideal timings for a CX race! I knew the standard was going to be high when I stepped into the club changing rooms and people were asking what size spikes they were going to wear, and I was standing in the corner with an old pair of trusty Hoka’s. Our head coach was an incredible man called Ian Satter, sporting a budget Harrison Ford haircut and in full retro England Athletics tracksuit – a Steve Herrington look about him, trying to live in the glory days of his previous running success! He made me feel extremely welcome within this new team, and I found out after the race that he was handing over the reins to ‘younger blood’ after 35 successful years, so wishing him all the best in whatever he goes on to.

It was a fairly elaborate set-up for the race, and it was also nice to see the big TV cameras filming for the Civil Service Sports News – not the most popular channel I’ve heard of! Going in blind was quite a nice feeling, as it allowed me to completely focus on my own pace and not worry about those who were around me. The course itself was very well laid out with marshals at all the critical points. It was four laps of the station playing fields, with a nice woodland track and some tree jumps included, all contained within the RAF base.

The first 3 runners over the line were also part of the CSAA team, and after doing a bit of digging, the top 2 (Jack Millar and Ed Bovingdon) both have 10km pb’s of under 30 minutes! Very impressive, definitely a humbling experience to compete against such a high standard of runners. Although the CSAA had the first 3 over the line, the RAF boys had packed in well behind and took a lot of the remaining top spots which meant that we initially thought they had taken the Sir Sefton Branker trophy. The twist then came when the RAF Team Manager said that one of the pack was not one of the 9 declared runners, which meant my teammate had pipped the 6th RAF runner and we beat them by 2 points! My final time was 41:38 for the 10.5km course, with about 180m of elevation gain, making me the 6th positioned CSAA runner – meaning that I was included in the winning team. I seem to be making a habit of being the slowest runner in the top team, but I’ll take that…

I was pleasantly surprised when we went back to the club house for presentations and refreshments to find they were serving out large boxes of fresh fish and chips from the local chippy in Holton, as well as a great selection of hot and cold drinks, biscuits, and cake!
Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday afternoon at work! Looking forward to the next event is the 10km Road at Battersea Park in May. 

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