Tonbridge and Belgrave provide individual winners at the 2023 Saucony English National Cross Country Championships as Leeds and Charnwood gain the team honours
Bolesworth Castle proved a good if partially flawed venue for the 135th English National Cross Country Championships with inaugural senior victories for James Kingston and Sarah Astin.
A deceptively tough course without any major hills was in a splendid if rather remote setting and also saw eight younger champions crowned in a great afternoon’s racing.
The start of the senior men’s race is the highlight for many of a packed afternoon of competition as thousands of runners spread out over a wide start in the scenic setting underneath the Castle which seemed to add to it being one of UK sport’s greatest sights. Some controversially say it makes the Grand National look like a under-5s point to point.
The winner though provides a great sporting story of his own. Has any runner ever made such a dramatic improvement in just a year than James Kingston?
Last year he was 15th in the junior men’s race almost two minutes down on winner Will Barnicoat and then watched the senior men’s race. When he saw Mahamed Mahamed romp home he could have had no idea that he would be the athlete who would inherit the title from the Southampton man 12 months later.
This winter he has been at a different level but admitted he was pleased to just get close to a team spot in Britain’s team in the European under-23 squad.
But since 15th place at Liverpool in November, he has kicked on even further with a third in Perth and a South of England title which put him among the title contenders. But after breaking clear with Jack Gray it was the Tonbridge man who was the stronger and he won by six seconds in 36:01 for the 12km.
“I was hoping for top five or 10 as there are potentially so many great runners,” he said. “Me and Jack worked together once we were clear but with 1500m to go it became cat and mouse and a race and he tried surges but I seemed to cover them okay and I went away near the end.”
He admitted he can’t believe how well 2023 is going for him.
‘The last few months have been getting better and better. There’s nothing I can put it down to other than consistent training. I ran six times a mile recently and my coach Mark Hookway said aim for 4:40 but I got quicker and quicker and averaged 4:30.”
He intends to run the UK…
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