Paul Clarke and Gianni Epifani led Manx Harriers
to the bronze medals in the team championships in
the Lancashire Cross Country at Blackburn yesterday
when they took 11th and 12th positions in the individual
The honour to be the first Manxman to finish
was disputed throughout the race. Paul is known
as a fast starter and as the runners set off around
the flat part of the course in the first three quarters
of a mile he was well to the fore. Gianni was the
second Manxman not far behind. Paul continued to
power away from his teammate throughout the
first lap but on the second lap the gap was much
smaller. I suspected that Paul had started too fast
and was going to drop down but Andy Fox thought differently
and said that Paul sometimes fades before coming
It appeared that I was right as on the third
lap Gianni passed Paul just before the saucer, the
big climb, and during the early stages of the final
lap he was still well ahead. But Andy was correct
and Paul surged past Gianni on that final circuit
to finish 5 seconds ahead.
Recent recruit Nick Percival and Mark Preston
were the third and fourth scorers for the club.
Nick, who first came to the Island for TT 2000 but
only raced once before this year's Peel To Douglas,
was surprised to be the third scorer. He thought
he was 5th or 6th at best. Former Castletown
and Rushen footballer Mark Preston was never far
behind and made a good solid off island cross country
debut without seriously challenging Nick. They finished
34th and 37th.
Brian Osbourne another former footballer (St
Georges) also making his off island cross country
debut, was always among the scoring six but was passed
by nine times Lancs Cross Country runner Chris Quine
in the middle stages. Chris had made a steady start
at the rear of the Manx Harriers contingent but,
as others began to slow, he eased his way up the
field. Chris finished 41st and Brian 46th.
Paul Curphey, an ever present in the ten years
of Manx Harriers involvement was 18 seconds behind
Brian but was too tired on the final lap to mount
a serious threat to the scoring six.
Britain's World Cup walking star, Steve Partington,
is a great sportsman to help the club out in this
event and has been a member of the winning team
before. But he was one of several runners to suffer
from viruses and described his race as "crap".
He finished in 62nd place, three positions and 25
seconds ahead of Darren Grey who has also suffered
from illness and, after such a promising start to
the winter, was struggling once again on the hills
of Blackburn. Full marks to Darren for gritting
it out but he was receiving plenty of advice from
his teammates not to run again until he is a lot
Glenn Butterworth was another person off form
in 68th position. The course is unforgiving when
you are not fully fit and Glenn has only just returned
from a lengthy injury break. He looked good going
up the hills but couldn't maintain his form and
the last time I saw him he also had to avoid a dog
that crossed the course in front of him.
Team manager Andy Fox was looking for a score
of "about 118" and so the final score
of 188 was very disappointing. I hadn't predicted
with such detail but I was looking for positions
similar to those that Paul and Gianni achieved with
four others in the top 30 so certainly I was expecting
less than 150.
Full marks to Clayton-Le-Moors who won with
118 from Preston with 183 but why did we fall so
far below expectation?
Certainly we missed Tony Okell and Andy Fox who
have scored so highly in the past two years and
even I have been in the top 30 for the past two
years. But these factors were already discounted.
Perhaps the standard was a lot higher this year
but I would dispute this. In all the years we have
competed the standard has remained fairly similar
and most of the guys I have raced against over the
years were in roughly the same positions as normal.
Certainly some of our runners were below par
due to illness although surely these things must
average out across all clubs and we must not sound
like bad losers.
Whilst we will never know for sure why we performed
to a lower standard than expected, perhaps we just
under estimated how well our teams have done in the
past and assumed that winning was going to be easier
this time than it was.
One thing was for sure, all ten of the Manx Harriers
runners ran their hearts out on the day and I was
proud to see their efforts but just a bit disappointed
to see the results sheets.
Roll on next year.