Cross-country running has made remarkable strides in public favour during the last few years, and so far as this district is concerned the Derby and County A. and C.C. have kept the flag flying high, and done much to promote and encourage this healthy and, above all, clean sport. It is owing to the enviable position this club has gained in the cross-country world, and the excellent way they have managed important events, that Derby has been selected as the venue of so many big runs during the last few years. True, Derby is most favourably situated in the matter of train facilities, and the local club are exceedingly fortunate in being able to secure the use of the admirable Racecourse (thanks to the kindness of the rare good sportsmen who are at the head of the Derby Recreation Company), but alter all it is a great compliment to the club and to Derby that these championships should be allocated to our town year after year. First the Derby club were entrusted with the management the Midlands Junior Championship, and they worked that wonderfully well in more ways than one; then the following year the Senior Race took place here, last March we had the International, and now on top of this comes the contest for the National Championship. No town in the country can boast of such a record as this, and it is one to be proud of.
Last year's national took place at Haydock Park - when, owing to the secession the Southern Counties, there was an entry of only 16 clubs. Since then the unfortunate breach has been healed, there is no doubt that the inclusion of the Southern champion (A. E. Wood) in the International, and his great victory at Derby, has done much in that direction. But be that ad it may, there was a record entry of 25 clubs for today's (Saturday's) race, the Northern Counties entering ten, the South eight, the Midlands five, and Ireland and France one each.
Included in these teams are, of course, the finest long-distance runners of the day, and the race was bound to be a great one and brim full of possibilities. his present form A. E. Wood was established the favourite for individual honours, and local sportsmen will not readily forget his marvellous victory over Bouin last year. But there were several others who had strong claims for this distinction, and perhaps the most notable of these was J. Murphy (Hallamshire H.), the Northern Champion. Then the claims such famous runners as G. Pearce (Highgate Harriers), F. C. Neaves (Surrey A.C.), H. D. Baldwin (Derby), W. Coales and F. M. Hibbens (Thrapston), E. V. Loney and E. Green (Birchfield), C. Harris (the Irish champion), and J. Keyser (the French champion), could not overlooked. For team honours there was bound to be a thrilling struggle, and consequent upon their defeat in the Midlands Senior by Derby, Birchfield Harriers had made up their minds to go all out to retain the title of national champions, whilst Hallamshire, who were the previous holders, were equally determined regain the distinction. Then Highgate the Southern champions, greatly fancied their chances, and next to these came Derby. However, much depended upon the going, but in any case the race was practically certain to be the most memorable of recent years, and a veritable battle of giants.
The proceedings were advertised to commence at 2.45, by which time the attendance numbered several thousands. The weather was dull and threatening, but the boy scouts race, at any rate, was not marred by rain. Before three clock £100 had been taken in cash at the gate, this being altogether apart from the ordinary ticketholders admitted. A special train from London brought about 400 visitors, and big contingents came from Sheffield and other places.
It was a quarter to four o'clock before the National could started, owing to the late arrival of one of two teams, and it was a fine sight when all the men lined up at the starting point. With the exception of Sparkhill, who had withdraw owing to the illness of several of their men, all the teams turned out, and altogether 247 men took part, and in their varied colours presented a picturesque appearance.
Amongst the notable absentees were W. Coales who was suffering from neuralgia. Mr. Eggleston affected a fine start, and the men were heartily cheered as they dashed past the Grand Stand. The distance was ten miles, and practically constituted the steeplechase course of the Derby Races. The going was on the heavy side, but favourable. Ruffles (Highgate) was the first to forge ahead, followed by Baldwin and Day (of Derby). On passing the judges' box, after going a mile and a quarter, the first dozen were in a bunch, and the leading man was Wood, the International champion. Following him came Neaves, Murphy, Wallach, Keyser, and Baldwin, so that it will be seen that several of the cracks were at the head of affairs. The time this stage was 6mins. 37secs., and all the men were well together.
The second time round Murphy and Wood were practically together, but the Hallamshire man took the hurdle first just ahead of Wood. Next Wallach and then Midland senior champion (Hibbins), followed by Harris, Neaves, and Baldwin, and so far there was little in it. The distance here was two and a half miles, and the time 13mins 20secs. The pace, therefore, had been remarkably fast, and it was evident that Wood and Murphy were out to beat one another, and the Hallamshire man was trying to wear the Southerner down by putting on the pace. Wood led the way into the country, the next round being a mile and three-quarters, but going over the hills Baldwin went to the front, followed by Wallach, the Northern star. A tremendous cheer went up when it was seen that the Derby man was leading, and ran past the Grand Stand to the accompaniment of ringing cheers. He was going strong too.The first twelve were: - Baldwin, Wallach, Hibbins, Aldous, Murphy, Neaves, Wood, Keyser, Buckley, Scott, Massey, and the veteran Pearce. Baldwin and Wallach were well in front, and moving finely. The time here was 24mins. 36secs. and Highgate were packing best, and looked like winning the team honours.
At the end of six miles Wallach had assumed command, and thirty yards behind him was Baldwin, who was going well, but looked rather flushed. Murphy was third, Aldous (Hallamshire) fourth, Keyser fifth, Neaves sixth, Hibbins seventh, Scott (Broughton) eighth, Massey ninth, Buckley (City and Suburban) tenth, Cook eleventh, and Straw twelfth. Next came Wood, but the International champion had had enough, and retired from the track, as did Hibbins. The time here was 35min. 55sec., and the team positions were: 1 Hallamshire, 99 points; 2 Highgate, 138 points; and 3 Birchfield Harriers, 166 points. Hallamshire at this stage had five men in the first twenty-two. Coming into view again it was seen that Wallach was still in command, and next in order came Keyser, Murphy, Baldwin, Aldous, Scott, Buckley, Cook, Massey, Lord, Pateshall, and Ruffell. Wallach had a clear lead of Neaves, and the times were: Wallach 47min. 33sec., Neaves 47min. 36sec., Keyser 47mm. 42secs. Neaves, the Surrey man, dashed the front on passing the stand, and went to the fore at a clinking pack. Derby were not going very strong here. Barnes was their second man, White next, and Thexton next, these three running together, and some distance behind came Frearson, Sewell, and Martin, but Hallamshire, with five men in the first 18, had the championship at their mercy. The pace here became cracker in the last lap, but Neaves forged ahead, and eventually secured individual honours by about 100 yards from Keyser, the French champion, with Wallach a good third, and these three finished very strongly, and comparatively fresh. Next came Scott (Broughton), Murphy (Hallamshire), and then Baldwin, who thus finished sixth.