It was good to be back doing this race again after missing it last year. I was hoping to add to my wins from 2007, 2009 and 2010, but know full well that competition can be tough, I lost to Simon Deakin in 2011 and have finished behind Keith Gerrard and Antony Ford in the past, all top quality runners. I rounded out the year with a decent run at Ribble Valley 10k and trained pretty well throughout the holiday period, so I was optimistic in starting the year with a good performance.
As has been the case for a number of years, the race takes place at Witton Park in Blackburn. I was up against quality opposition again with former club-mates Gary Priestley and Tom Cornthwaite (now both Salford) being the main threat, my 2011 conqueror Simon Deakin wasn’t there though. The course is 9.9km and consists of four laps which include one big hill, “the saucer” followed by a very muddy descent of a few hundred metres back to down to the end of the lap, the rest of the course is quite flat. The muddier the course, the more the race would favour Tom and Gary, thankfully for me with the exception of the descent from the saucer, the conditions were good underfoot.
The race got underway in typical cross-country fashion with a mad dash to get near the front which quickly whittled down to myself, Tom and Gary. After only a few minutes of running I turned my left ankle and lost a few yards on Tom who was setting a fast pace. It only disturbed me briefly and I managed to get back alongside him with Gary a few yards behind. I took the lead before the saucer then ran hard off the top of the hill and charged down the muddy descent, which gave me about a 10 second lead at the start of the next lap. I was determined not to let go of my advantage and pressed on at a hard pace and by halfway my lead had doubled. The second half of the race continued in this fashion with my pace remaining steady throughout and I finished 50 seconds ahead of Gary Priestley, who came through strongly to finish ahead of Tom Cornthwaite.
I was very happy with my run and it went perfectly to plan, the only downside was that Blackburn Harriers lost out to Rossendale in the team honours, still, it was pleasing to finish ahead of Salford who boasted a strong lineup.