When the inauguration of the first Cross Country Championship of England took place in 1877, promoted by the Thames Hares and Hounds and South London Harriers, paper-chasing in the Midlands was almost unheard of; in fact, until the Spartans paid the Moseley Harriers (the then only organisation of its kind the district) the compliment of a visit about five years ago in order to run a friendly match, and with a view of letting them into the know of how 'these little affairs' should be managed, the sport and delight of a run across country had not become sufficiently known to be appreciated by the Midland men, and if the condemnatory remarks which were applied to this branch of athletics by certain daily papers had been heeded, is very probable that no further advancement would ever have been made; but instead of this abuse having the desired effect it only tended to increase the popularity of the sport, and was conducive to the formation of a second local pack of harriers, who now rejoice in the name of the Birchfield.
Such rapid progress was made by these two clubs as to lead to the inauguration of the Midland Championship on the same principle as the one now in question. In the year, 1880 the last-named club, having succeeded in defeating their old opponents, the Moseley, by a large majority, were elated with their achievement that they decided to have a go for the National Championship, which, greatly to the surprise of our Cockney friends, they carried off in rather hollow style. Since that time the metropolitan clubs have never had a look in, and although very strong inducements have this year been offered by one of the London division to secure the services of all the best talent, their efforts have proved in vain, and for the third consecutive season they have had to succumb to Birmingham club.
This year the Midlands was represented four clubs, the additions being Edgbaston and Camp Hill Harriers, the former occupying third place in the Midland event. The latter have also exhibited symptoms of being a rattling good club. Since the decision of the local honours proved such a very tight race between the Birchfield and Moseley, the result of Saturday's meeting was regarded with a very great amount of interest by their respective partisans, each doing their utmost to place the best possible team in the field. The absence of Carter from the Moseley, of course, considerably reduced their chance, and therefore to retain their laurels it was absolutely necessary that every runner should get himself into the best possible form for the occasion, which they appear to have done in a manner that must be highly gratifying to the club.
In addition to the team who represented the Birchfields at Sutton Coldfield, on the 11th ult., the names of Wall and Mills also figured starters at London, but, owing to an unforeseen occurrence, the latter was unable to go. Alexander, whom this club were depending upon for a place amongst the first half-dozen, owing to a rheumatic attack in the legs, accompanied by a severe cold, was rendered quite unfit to take part in the race, and great credit is due to him for turning out under such unfavourable conditions. Jones also, who had the misfortune twist his ankle in the previous event, was far from fit, yet, despite these drawbacks, the holders of the Midland Championship were made hot favourites, and odds were laid on them. The only London club who was expected to make any stand against these two Birmingham clubs was the South London Harriers, who have been showing greatly improved form of late, and the recent performances credited to Liddiard were sufficient to induce his fanciers to take short odds against him for the actual winner. Like several others, however - notably Turner, of S. L. and Davis, of Edgbaston, and Jones, of Birchfield - all these predictions were quite upset, and there was entire collapse several distinguished runners.
The Moseley and Edgbaston both made their journey up on the Friday night, the former taking their headquarters near the town and the latter securing a roosting-place at quiet little sport in the village of Roehampton. The Birchfield and Camp Hill Harriers both left Birmingham by the 7-35 train on Saturday morning, arriving in Euston at 10-30. The representatives of the former club having deposited their bags and equipments, went for a stretcher in the direction of St. Paul s, wending their way towards the Thames Embankment. Having made a careful survey of all the principal places of interest in the immediate vicinity, adjournment was made to the Underground Railway, Gower-street. from whence they were rapidly whirled to Farringdon-street, and in a short space of time the stag-bearers were directing their attention to the requirements of the inner man. This important matter having been settled, a retreat was beat for Waterloo Station, and hardly had we seated ourselves in the train before found ourselves at Putney.
Here exchanging means of locomotion from the iron horse the quadruped, we were soon on the way to our destination, and after a drive of about fifteen minutes the village of Roehampton was reached, which was by this time beginning to get pretty lively. Hardly had the Birchfield crew been housed than came their old rivals, the Moseley team, in a four-in-hand, followed in rapid succession by the remainder of the contesting clubs, and in a very short time all were busy preparing themselves for the test they were about to undergo. It was close upon four o'clock when the little army of runners emerged from the secluded spots provided at the King's Head Inn, and tended their way on to the Common, where some 2,000 persons had assembled to watch the start, including a large majority of horse riders of each sex.
Having been marshalled into their respective allotments, punctually at 4-5 they were despatched on their journey by Mr. J. Gibbs. Passing the Well House the positions were:- Lock leading, closely followed by Liddiard, Stenning, Leslie, and Dunning, with George a few yards in the rear. After about three miles had been covered George, was leading, with Law, Dunning, and Evans in close attendance, Law occasionally going to the front until the last mile or two, when George shot away and soon held a commanding lead; meanwhile T. Lawrence, who had been running with splendid judgment, was coming along at a rattling pace, and gradually forced himself into second position.