It is only once every three years that people in this district have the opportunity presented to them of witnessing the race for the National Championship, but when the chance is afforded them Northerners are not slow to show their love for such like sport by assembling in good force. Those who went to the Manchester Racecourse on Saturday to witness the twelfth annual contest saw the closest finish between two clubs that has ever occurred in the race for the " blue riband." The holders once again proved the winners, but only by the narrow majority of four points. Nevertheless, every credit is due to the Birchfield club for the way in which they stuck to their work when, with two Salford men in treater the " Brums" first man, it looked odds against them. Tom Thornton ably upheld his position as captain of the club by finishing first man for his team, though it took him all his time to beat little " Sonny " Morton, the pair being fifth and sixth in the actual race not quite so close as last year when they were second and third respectively. Hedge (12th), showed improved team, whilst Humphreys (13th). as usual, ran very consistently. Mabbett (17th), hardly ran in his usual style, but the "novice" S. Baker who came in 20th, and 6th of his team, surprised all his club mates. Baker, who had not competed in a race of the kind previously, has the satisfaction of knowing he saved his club from defeat, as without him they would not have won. J. C. Cope, the next of the Birchfield string, was dead out of form.
The Salford Harriers, though beaten, were certainly not disgraced, as they ran the winners closer than any other club has ever done. The absence of R. P. Sykes (whose I knee has gone worse since the Northern race) was sorely felt by the Salfordites. They, however, have the consolation of knowing that they were able to put the best man in the field. In the person of E. W. Parry, the Salford club has got the finest amateur distance runner of the present day, and too much praise cannot be bestowed upon him for his victory on Saturday. He has certainly reached the height of his ambition, and achieved what he said to the writer some time ago he would do namely, won the double event. Farrell again showed himself second best for his team, and I proved once more that he is a runner of more than ordinary merit. That old stager, G. H. Bannister, hardly ran so well as he did a fortnight ago, but he occupied third place in his team, whilst G. H. Morris got a little nearer the front. Cliffe ran up to his form, but the same cannot be said of the captain (T. Wainwright), who is evidently "off colour." The team that was expected to take the wooden spoon showed themselves to be made of much better stuff than they had been credited with. The Worcester Harriers ran a splendidly combined lot, and in C. Souch they possess an athlete of the first water. It was no mean performance to finish second in the actual race. His brother, W. Souch, together with Jeff and Greaves, are also deserving of every praise for the manner in which they kept together. If this club can only get the "tail end" of their team stronger next year they will take a lot of beating. To have four men finish in the first eleven is something to be proud of for an organisation like the Worcester Harriers.
The South London Harriers are to be commended for the consistent manner in which they each year support the " National," and they certainly deserve a better fate than to be placed third or fourth, as they invariably are. Sanders again upheld his reputation as the best of the team, and H. A. Heath also ran well; in fact, the latter was fancied to beat his club-mate.
The Burton Harriers have one good man at any rate in A. Houlding, who finished third, and whatever may be said as to the respective abilities of Houlding and Hickman, the Burton representative certainly had the advantage on Saturday. The other members of the team are a long way removed from their captain's form, but it speaks well for the club that they should journey so far to give their best man a chance of gaining the premier laurels.
After all the talk about the Scotch champion, J. Campbell, one naturally expected to see the Clydesdale man finish nearer than 47th. R. Graham was a long way the best of the Scotchmen, but there was not much to choose between the remainder. Possibly the long railway Journey had something to do with the bad form shown, but in any case, the club deserve every credit for bringing down the team.
It was a great blow to the Coventry Godiva Harriers when their champion, J. E. Hickman, threw up the sponge, though, had he continued, the result would not have been altered. They would still have been at the bottom of the list, a position somewhat different to that occupied by them the last two years, when they acted as runners-up." C. Smith, Lewin, and Mills ran very badly; in fact, of the three, only the latter went the whole course.
The Cheshire Tally-ho ran the smallest team, eight only turning out, and of those two only finished, Samuels again showing to great advantage, whilst the veteran Vickers came in at the tail end.