Warwick Racecourse hosted the 1956 English Cross-Country Championships on a 9-mile 300 yard course that included fast stretches and consisted of stubble, plough and two wide ditches, part of the route left the racecourse and included some adjacent farm land. The course was soft underfoot but not heavy and conditions were mild with some rain. A crowd of well over 5,000 spectators watched the 571 competitors.
Gordon Pirie, the winner of the individual honour on the last three occasions, has been unable to train due to Achilles tendon trouble and had not raced since December, he took part only to assist his club and was not expected to figure at the sharp end. Early favourites for the individual race included Ken Norris (Thames Valley Harriers), Fred Norris - no relation (Bolton United H. and A.C), Derek Ibbotson (Longwood Harriers and R. A. F.), the Northern champion and Denis O'Gorman (St. Albans City) an Irishman who has received permission to compete. South London Harriers were attempting to retain their team title.
Gordon Pirie got off to a swift start but it was not long before he faded. Frank Sando (Aylesbury Papermills AC), Ken Norris and Derek Ibbotson were also to the fore. At the end of the first lap Ken and Fred Norris were in the lead with Derek Ibbotson, Johnny Wild, Eddie Hardy, George Knight, Alan Perkins in close attendance.
At the end of the second lap the two leaders Ken and Fred Norris had opened up a significant gap and were locked in an intense battle. Ibbotson was struggling after feeling the effects of a tough R.A.F. Championship course three days earlier and he lost several places.
On the final lap Ken and Fred Norris were locked together until 300 yards from the finishing line when the younger of the two namesakes Ken spurted and the gallant 37-year-old Fred was unable to respond. Ken Norris had stretched the lead to 30 yards by the time he breasted the tape. The large crowd gave them a great ovation.
Derek Ibbotson recovered from his earlier challenges and made up several places in the last two miles to take third place, Frank Sando came in fourth with Alan Perkins fifth.
Good packing enabled Sheffield United Harriers to win the team title for the first time in their history. Thames Valley Harriers the Southern champions edged out South London Harriers for second place. Third team was South London Harriers.