Southern Cross back on

Parliament Hill event rescheduled to February 16 after cancellation of this Saturday’s races

MUD

The South of England Cross Country Championships will go ahead after all on Parliament Hill Fields in London on a new date of February 16.

The championships, which was first run in 1884, was due to take place this Saturday, January 26, but was cancelled on Monday due to icy conditions both on the course and the coach car park area, which organisers considered dangerous.

There was also a concern that about 2500 runners churning through the Hampstead Heath course in such conditions would damage it for future events and general use by the public in coming weeks.

Martin Howard, chairman of the South of England AA cross country committee, said: “Thanks to the continued collaboration of the City of London we are pleased that these traditional championships will continue at Parliament Hill. Revised arrangements are in hand and we hope that as many as possible will be able to make the new date.”

Initially, the South of England had announced the news with a mere paragraph on its website, creating uproar throughout the athletics fraternity from athletes and coaches who had already spent money on accommodation, travel and entry fees.

The initial cancellation was also made with five days to go before the event, giving plenty of time for the snowy conditions to melt – a situation that caused AW readers and contributors to complain to the South of England and City of London Corporation.

Most notably, AW contributor and Belgrave Harrier Will Cockerell began an online campaign to get the races back on track and his dialogue with the organisers in the past 48 hours, where he offered multiple solutions to the problems, almost certainly had an impact on the decision to reschedule.

Some athletes will also still have mixed feelings about the developments as hotels, train and air fares for this weekend will still be lost. Also, rescheduled events traditionally attract far fewer athletes – for example when the 1937 Southern Cross Country Championships was cancelled due to high winds, the re-arranged fixture saw just 32 athletes and four teams turn up.

Jeremy Simons, chairman of the Hampstead Heath management committee, added: “As the home of cross country racing, the City is aware of the bitter disappointment for athletes had the event been cancelled.

“Working with the officials and stewards of the South of England Athletic Association the course routes and access arrangements for athletes and spectators have been reviewed and we hope that the new date for the event will enable as many of the athletes as possible to prepare for the national competition in Herrington Park, Sunderland later in February.”

The news follows a week of heavy snow in most of the UK which caused havoc with the fixtures calendar.

Roughly half of all last weekend’s events in the UK did not take place, with some events simply cancelled and others now attempting to find another date in the busy calendar. The McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge on Sunday was one of the few events to take place – in one of the worst hit parts of the country too – and conditions were so bad that even indoor events such as the South of England Indoor Championships at Lee Valley were called off.

Events cancelled last weekend included (with new dates, if known, in brackets):

» County schools cross country championships for Berkshire (Feb 2), Cheshire, Durham (Feb 2), Essex (Feb 2), Hampshire (Feb 2), Kent, Northamptonshire, N. Yorks, Oxfordshire (Jan 29), Surrey (Feb 2), Sussex (schools & vets, Feb 9), Wiltshire (Jan 26). The South East Schools Inter-Counties at Gang Warily on Feb 2 is also cancelled due to the Hampshire Schools Championships being moved to that date/venue.

» South of England Indoor Championships at Lee Valley and open indoor meeting at Loughborough.

» Grassroots races also cancelled or postponed included Four Villages Half-marathon, Brass Monkey Half, Gloucester 50km and marathon, Fred Hughes 10, Folkestone 15 (Feb 10), Boscombe 5km, Riverbank Rollick, Stratford AC’s ‘Not the Roman IX’ race.

» Cross country events called off included the North Yorks and South Durham League, East Midlands League, Vets AC Champs at Wimbledon.

» This week’s AW, which is out on Thursday Jan 24, carries news of the South of England Cross Country Championships being cancelled with criticism of the decision. The issue, of course, went to press on Tuesday night before the decision to reschedule to Feb 16.

2 Responses to “Southern Cross back on”

  1. Chris says:

    Surely holding the race a week before the National Cross Country is utter madness and compromises both events in terms of competition and the athletes taking part. Although I appreciate London has experienced some `severe’ weather over the last week, it feels a little hasty to cancel such a prestigious event over frozen or thawing ground for what is a cross country race. Only to compound this decision by rescheduling it so close to the blue chip event of cross country calendar for most club runners.

  2. james says:

    I don't see many seniors wanting to do a 9 mile challenging course the week before the National?! Sorry guys waste of time holding this… Even the younger age groups (those with realistic chances in the national) won’t jeopardise their hopes plus coupled with half term holiday I think nice idea but the practicalities means just cancel. Don’t forget the majority of county schools races have been re-scheduled.

    Personally I think the health and safety brigade need to get a life – it is too early to cancel and those who have been running for many years know the “luvy doveys” who cry foul Hampstead wont recover are talking “c~%p”

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