A look ahead to this weekend’s British and Irish Masters Cross Country International at Wollaton Park
Competing on home soil on Saturday, England will be seeking to continue the outstanding success that they have had in this fixture since its first inception in Wrexham in 1988 when there were just six titles on offer, three for both men and women.
For the first time there will also be women’s W70 and a men’s M75 categories, making it 17 age groups in all and England’s Fred Gibbs, who will compete in the new age group, will be seeking his sixth title.
England dominated in 14 of the 15 age groups in the team stakes last year, but individual titles were a bit more spread around.
Led by Claire Martin England won four of the seven women’s titles in Bute Park and five of the eight men’s titles.
All four of England’s defending women’s champions are back and Martin, who moves up to the W40 group, could take her fifth title in a row. W65 Angela Copson goes for her seventh consecutive individual gold, while Philippa Taylor (W45), who has Julie Briggs in support and Janice Needham (W60) each try for a hat-trick.
England has four men defending and Chris Greenwood (M40) has been on top form in the 2XU Surrey League, while Michael Aldridge, the BMAF 10km champion also goes. M45 Tim Hartley won the Shepshed 7 outright earlier in the month to prove his good form.
Bob Atkinson (M55) and Martin Ford (M70), who is seeking his sixth title in this championships, are also back to defend.
M35 James Thie, who won outright last year, again leads the Welsh team. England’s Matt Barnes makes his debut in this event and could be a challenger. Wales’ Austin Davies, a four-time M45 winner now in the M50s, was looking for his fifth gold but is a late withdrawal through injury.
Wales have two survivors from the first race 26 years ago. Dic Evans, who was fourth then, runs in his 25th Masters International match and claims to have represented Wales in 50 successive years from young athlete to now, aged 68. Pat Gallagher, who has won five titles, starting with the W35 in 1989, goes again for Wales in the W65 group having also finished fourth in 1988.
Scotland can again call on Falkirk’s Fiona Matheson in the W50 class, where she will be seeking her fourth successive title as their best chance for individual success but may have to beat England’s Clare Elms.
The Republic of Ireland has won seven successive M35 team titles, as the only winners since the age group was introduced back in 2007. They have also had the odd success in the men’s team stakes but have not won a women’s team award since 2010.
Ireland’s Martin McEvilly won the M65 group last year and he looks to retain this time. Old hand and multiple world veteran champion, Jim McNamara goes for them in the M75 group.
The Republic have had considerable success in the women’s events over the years and Carmell Parnell has been the W55 winner for the past four years. She goes again this year to seek her ninth win, to become the most successful female runner in the history of the event. Parnell is currently tied with Karen Marshall on eight wins.
Northern Ireland have Terry Eakin as their best chance of a placer in the M65 group, but neither of their two medallists from 2013 return.
11.30am: All women, M65, M70 (6km)
12.15pm: Men M50 – M60 Race (8km)
1.15pm: Men M35 – M45 Race (8km)
2pm: Open race (8km men/6km women and M65+)
» See the November 20 edition of Athletics Weekly for full team lists, while coverage of the event will be included in the November 27 magazine