The tenth National Cross-country Championship cannot altogether be designated a success. To commence with, it was fixed too close on the District Championships, hence more than one good man was unable to assist his club. The weather, too, was most unpropitious, and at the time fixed for the departure of the special train for Croydon snow was falling fast, while to make matters worse the wind was bitterly cold. The attendance consequently by no means came up to expectations. Not more than 2,000 spectator visited Croydon Racecourse, which for the first time was used for the event of this description.
Owing to refusal of permission to run over some adjoining fields, the men did not leave the enclosure, round which the competitors ran seven times. The distance was stated to be ten miles, but a glance at the times will show it to be considerably shorter, more especially when the heavy going is taken into consideration. The turf could not well have been in worse condition, and it is no wonder that a large number of starters did not complete the journey.
The result must put down as a surprise in more ways than one. The South London, were less fancied either the Liverpool or Birchfield, but were certainly expected to beat the Godiva, whose forward position astonished everyone. They not only made a bold bid for victory, but finished considerably in front of the favourites, Liverpool. The winners Birchfield, were trained to a nicety, and fully deserved their victory. It is only fair to state that Duckett, when running well for Liverpool, broke down two laps from the finish.
There was no speculation on the placings of the clubs, the whole of the betting being on the individual runners. Snook, who opened at 6 to 4 against was made a warm favourite, and at the start the same rate of odds were offered on his chance. The other prices were:- 3 to 1 Coad, 4 to 1 (at first 8 to 1 ) Hickman, 5 to 1 Shay, and almost any odds others. The Northern champion never showed prominently but the other trio, with Mabbett, were always in the leading division, and then Mabbett effected another surprise by running away from the South Londoner two laps from home. Owing to a mistake, it was generally supposed that the Liverpool men gained second place, but, on counting, this was soon rectified. The arrangements were but indifferent.
The story of the race soon told. The men were drawn up in two lines opposite the stand, and soon after four the signal was given. Fentiman was the first to break the line, but, opposite the paddock, Mabbett, Snook, Coad, and Hickman raced past him, and quickly took a decided lead. Going past the entrance Snook took the lead, and at the end the first circuit was about five yards in front of Hickman, Coad being third, and Mabbett fourth; then came a strong contingent of the Liverpool men, all running in close company, Lewin and Smith who ran locked together throughout, being next, Bowers being absolutely last man. A few hundred yards further Hickman went first, and as far as could be seen from the stand was never afterwards headed. In the next lap Mabbett and changed places, and a wide gap existed between the leading quartette and the next division, of whom Savage was now the leader.