Herne Hill men 4th & women 5th in South of Thames Cross Country Races

Mike Cummings photo credit to Mark Hookway

Herne Hill Harriers had a smaller than usual turnout on the men’s side for this year’s historic South of Thames Cross Country Association Championship races, which gave the women from the club the opportunity to for the first time ever in a championship race field more female athletes in number than their male colleagues could muster.

However it was the seven men who achieved the higher team position on the day, going one better than the eight women who finished fifth in Beckenham Place Park on Saturday afternoon.

On a deceptively chilly day, Harriers men’s team were fourth in the six to score contest in a traditional annual fixture that dates back well over one hundred years.

Mike Cummings was our first HHH man in 20th, just ahead of M45 Simon Coombes in 21st and Jeff Cunningham 24th. Jonny Whittall 41st, Ben Millar 47th and Eoin Brady 54th were the remaining team counters and were backed up by M50 Jonathan Ratcliffe in 75th after he had also raced the night before in Battersea Park.

The women were led by Grace Leyland, who had another good run to finish ninth female. Next was Suzanne Swaine in 19th place, then Jenni Nandi was 38th, Samantha Whiting 48th, Alison Beck 70th and Penelope Cummings 75th completing the scoring six in the team. Other Herne Hill finishers were Flora di Carlo 80th and Eibhlin ni Bhradaigh 85th. 

The night before saw another big race, the Friday Under the Lights 5 miles road race in Battersea Park. Here there were seven athletes in Herne Hill vests, six men and one woman on an evening that showcased some great depth in quality of south of England based club runners.

The first Herne Hill man was actually second claim George Withers, wearing his red and black colours and recording a big PB of 26:16 which equates to much faster than his previous times over this sort of distance and finishing very quickly in the final 200m. Next man was the ever improving Ryan Willmott, running 26:50. Jack Brotchie and Eriç Dol paced themselves well clocking 27:08 and 27:33 respectively.

Sophie Harris went out hard and had to hang on during the final lap, but she rallied well in the last kilometre and finished fourth female with her 27:55 for another good performance against strong opposition.

Robin Jones raced less than two weeks after his recent marathon PB in the USA and returned a decent 28:21 as third M45 finisher and Jonathan Ratcliffe ran 29:04 as second M50.

Sunday saw 14 teams of 3 contesting the Herne Hill Harriers club Christmas Road Relay on Tooting Common using 2 laps of the parkrun route for each leg, around 3km per team member. 

The great majority at this fun event were young athletes with one or two parents and also some not quite so young athletes over 60, including club coaches James McDonald, 62, and Steve Knight who is actually in his 70s. Jeff Cunningham ran the fastest individual time and an under 13/under 15 boys trio of Dylan Gillies, Warren Wilson and Alex Wilson, who somehow defied the handicapper to get into the same team were clear winners on a misty morning.

Geoff Jerwood