Parliament Hill Fields in Hampstead Heath, London hosted the ninety-fourth English Senior Cross-Country Championships sponsored by Provincial Insurance Company Limited.
The 1981 race was wide open with several contenders fancied for the senior title. Last year's champion Nick Rose (Bristol AC) was not coming back from America to defend his title, Steve Jones (Bristol AC) had the inter-counties title under his belt and was hoping to complete a win double. Mike McLeod (Elswick Harriers) the senior champion in 1979 was a doubt as he has been suffering from back trouble, and had only completed one race the previous week. Dave Clarke (Hercules-Wimbledon AC) had a convincing win in the BUSF Cross-Country.
Tipton Harriers and Gateshead Harriers were again expected to duel for the team title.
Conditions on the day were described as atrocious with the rain pouring down relentlessly during the men's race. The course consisted of three laps of three miles each.
Julian Goater (Shaftesbury Harriers) took the lead after half a mile and at the end of the first lap, he had established a lead of 40 seconds. Clarke also had a substantial lead over Jones and McLeod who were battling for third place these four were followed by Ken Newton (Sheffield AC), Andy Holden (Tipton Harriers), Steve Binns (Bingley Harriers), R. Hackney and Bernie Ford (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC) and Bob Treadwell (Surrey Beagles AC) close up.
At the end of the second lap Goater had extended his lead to over a minute, Clarke was still well clear of third place and in the battle for bronze McLeod and Jones were locked together.
Goater went on to win by nearly two minutes covering the nine-mile course in 44:39, Dave Clarke was untroubled for the silver medal and McLeod picked up the bronze.
Steve Jones was edged by David Moorcroft into fifth. Moorcroft's run was remarkable as he had thought the three-minute gun was a five minute gun and still had his tracksuit on when the start's gun fired. Moorcroft spent the whole race battling through the 1600 strong field to grab fourth. Flight Lieutenant Julian Goater said after his win "The easiest race I've had for years and years; I wasn't puffing all the way".