The playing fields of Hagley Park School in Rugeley, Staffordshire were hosts to the forty-eighth running of the Senior Women's National Cross-Country Championships. Local club Cannock Chase AC helped facilitate the event that had attracted over 2500 entries of which 469 were for the senior women's race. The two-lap course over 5.200 m included four steep hills and two streams. The race was sponsored by ICL.
The race had attracted the cream of England's cross-country runners and Kath Binns (Sale Harriers) was hoping to defend her title. Sandra Arthurton (Leeds City AC), the Northern champion, and Regina Joyce (Crawley AC), the Southern title holder and inter-counties winner, were planning to challenge for the individual championship as were the 1979 runner-up Ruth Smeeth (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC) and 1979 bronze medalist Penny Forse nee Yule (Unattached). Christine Benning (Stretford AC) was unable to compete due to injury.
In the team event Aldershot, Farnham & District AC had finished a lowly seventh in the Southern championships and would need much improvement to retain their title.
On the first lap Wendy Smith (Borough of Hounslow AC) led a group consisting of Ruth Smeeth, Kath Binns, Regina Joyce, Penny Forse, Gillian Dainty (Birchfield Harriers), Angela Mason (Birchfield Harriers), Christina Boxer (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC), Paula Fudge (Borough of Hounslow AC) and Sandra Arthurton. At the start of the second lap Wendy Smith was still in front followed by Ruth Smeeth, Penny Forse and Regina Joyce. At this stage Birchfield looked likely team winners with four scorers in the first twenty. Wendy Smith was unable to maintain the pace on the second lap and dropped back to finish seventh. This left Smeeth at the front and Ruth opened up a gap to second placed Forse, Joyce and Binns were battling for third. On the last hill Smeeth developed a stitch, but managed to triumph finishing seven seconds clear of Penny Forse. Joyce grabbed third with Binns fourth.
Ruth Smeeth told Athletics Weekly after the race "When I knew Chris wasn't running, I knew I had a good chance, but I would have liked her to have raced".