Runners dig deep in tough conditions

Joe Rainsford of Heanor Running Club
Joe Rainsford of Heanor Running Club

Heanor Running Club’s junior athletes were the stars of the show for the club at the Midland Counties Cross Country Championships at Stafford Common last weekend, with Joe Rainsford the stand-out performer as he secured a top ten finish in the U20 men’s event.

Following the cancellation of the Southern championships earlier in the week, the Midlands event was given the go-ahead despite overnight snow that completely blanketed the course.

Held in incredibly difficult and testing conditions, courses were shortened to take into account the grim conditions, and 15 Heanor RC members made the journey to run, with Rob Rainsford and Tony Weatherson also lasting the day to support those in action.

Jack Saxton got the Heanor RC interest underway in the opening event of the day, the U13B event. Saxton churned it out and finished an impressive 25th to improve on last year’s finishing position in the same championships.

Following Saxton, Joe Rainsford took to the line to compete in the U20M 7k event. Rainsford exceeded all pre-race expectations to grab himself a spot inside the top ten.

Rainsford led the race through the early stages and found himself in the leading group of nine at the end of the first lap. As the race progressed, four athletes gradually eased away to decide the medals amongst themselves and the race began to get strung out. Rainsford’s (23:17) strength told though in the closing stages and he eventually crossed the line an exhausted and elated seventh.

Danielle Smith and Ellie Baker lined up next in the U13G event and both put in admirable performances as the state of the course worsened. Both girls were taking part in their first regional championships and gave excellent accounts of themselves. Smith finished 24th and Baker 114th.

Milly Newton carried on her tremendous cross country form with a 17th-place finish in the U15G event. Following on from her fourth place in the county championships and bronze medal in the North Midlands Cross Country League, Newton (19:50) ate up the course and still has another year in the age category.

With the course now resembling a quagmire of mud and snow, Jo Potter and Glenda Alton took to the line for the senior women’s 7k event. In a race dominated by Matthew Walker 10k race-winner Juliet Doyle of Charnwood AC, Alton (34:14) and Potter (36:49) ran admirably in the conditions to finish 98th and 118th respectively.

In the final event of the day, Heanor RC had eight men competing in the senior men’s 11k race. Horrific conditions made attempts at racing nigh on impossible, with the race instead becoming a battle of wills just to make it to the line.

Mark Powell (36:40) led the team home, closely followed once again by Chris Rainsford (36:49), with both finding the going tough and finishing a below-par 29th and 32nd respectively.

A little further back, Ashley Deeming and Adam Biggs enjoyed a close battle in the mud. Running together for the majority of the race, Deeming’s (39:23) strength and experience finally told as he crossed the line 64th, with Biggs twenty four seconds further back in 70th.

Jon Curtis (42:43) and Mike Richmond (43:22) continued their good winter form to complete the team counters, the duo crossing the line 122nd and 139th respectively.

The efforts of the sextet were enough to see the team improve on last year’s position by places to finish a creditable sixth overall.

Backing the team up with fantastic efforts in their first taste of Midland Counties Cross Country action, Paul Mercer (46:56) finished 198th and Richard Charlesworth 231st in a time of 49:20.