The 79th English National Cross-Country Championships took place on a hilly course in Graves Park, Sheffield. The 9-mile course consisted of a small lap and three large laps.
Melvyn Batty (Thurrock Harriers), winner the past two years, had had a tough time this season and missed the Southern championship last month after straining his right ankle. He managed consecutive 100-mile weeks in training but a slight re-occurrence of the injury forced him to drop out of a warm up race. He was bullish before the race and said "My confidence is back although perhaps not quite so strong as it might have been if I could have had a run last Saturday - and the zip is there again, I am fit and ready to challenge Roy Fowler, Mike Turner, Ron Hill, Tim Johnston and Mike Wiggs. Even though I have not raced for four weeks, I reckon that I shall be giving them a scare."
Some great racing thrilled the spectators with a neck and neck race for the individual title and a cliff hanger in the team event. Hill and Turner had beaten each other earlier in the cross-country season with Hill beating Turner for second place in the inter-counties championship, and Turner beating Hill for first place in the Northern.
The start appeared to give some runners an advantage as the hill and the bend favoured one side of the draw. Mike Turner (Liverpool Harriers) took two miles to get in front of the large pack of runners and still held the lead at the end of the first lap from L. Stewart (Vale of Leven AC) and Roy Fowler (North Staff. And Stone Harriers), not too far adrift was Ron Hill (Bolton United Harriers).
On the second lap Hill moved on to Turner's shoulder and their epic battle commenced. As they passed the pavilion they had a lead of 80 yards from Gerry North (Belgrave Harriers).
On the final lap the two leaders pulled away to lead by 150 yards, Turner was aware of Hill's strong finish and set about establishing a gap and as the entered the finishing straight with 100 yards to go Turner led by 6 yards. Hill battled back and with 10 yards to go the race still looked Turner's but with one final effort Hill managed to pass Turner to win with a lean as opposed to Turner's upright stance, the tightest ever finish to the National race. The disappointed loser was the first to congratulate Hill. The Irish runner Jim Hogan (Polytechnic Harriers) managed to edge out Gerry North for third place.