The one hundred and second English National Cross-Country Championships took place at Nonsuch Park, Ewell, Epsom in Surrey. This was the first time the event had been held at this location and the park is situated between Cheam and Ewell. King Henry VIII built Nonsuch as a hunting lodge when he created his hunting estate. Sponsorship was by Provincial Insurance P.L.C. a partnership which has existed since 1975 and was of great value to cross country running.
The course was 9 miles (15km) in length and was three laps plus the start and finishing straights.
Favourite to win his first 'National' was Preston's former foreign legionnaire Steve Tunstall (Preston Harriers), who was aiming to bounce back from his disappointing seventh place in the World Championship trial at Gateshead two weeks earlier - his only defeat all winter. "Only the top runners win the National." says the Lancashire lad, who has taken the domestic scene by storm since returning from his five years in the Legion. "This is the biggest race of the year for me and I'd love to add my name to the likes of David Bedford, Eamonn Martin and Tim Hutchings, who have won it before." Standing in his way amongst the other 2,000 plus entrants was fellow Lancastrian Dave Lewis (Rossendale AC) who finished runner-up last year. In the area championships Bernie Rushworth was the Northern title holder, Jeremy Barton (Blackheath Harriers) won the Southern and Paul Larkins (Wolverhampton & Bilston AC) held the Midlands crown, inter-counties winner was Craig Mochrie (Leicester Coritanian AC). In the team race the two leading Midlands teams seemed to be favourites to battle it out for the title, namely Midlands champions Wolverhampton & Bilston AC and runners-up Tipton Harriers.
The course was muddy and the race was run in freezing rain and some runners were not ready as the starting gun was fired a minute early. Early leaders included Tunstall, Dave Moorcroft (Coventry Godiva Harriers) and Eamonn Martin (Basildon AAC) who surprised many as he wasn't expected to start.
After 2 miles, the leading group consisted of Tunstall, Lewis, Martin, Mark Dalloway (Stourport AC) and Deon McNeilly (Bristol AC). Half a mile into the second lap Tunstall, Lewis, Martin and McNeilly were clear, with Dalloway starting to feel the pace.
There was a stream to negotiate almost halfway around each lap and the second time the stream was encountered Tunstall and Lewis were 10 metres clear of Martin, who was in turn 10 metres ahead of McNeilly and Dalloway.
At the start of the third lap, Lewis had made his move and had 40 metres on Tunstall, who was 40 metres clear of Martin. Lewis's speed in the mud took him further away from Tunstall.
Lewis went on to win by 21 seconds in 44:26, Tunstall won the silver and in the last mile Irishman McNeilly overcame Martin and Dalloway for bronze.
Lewis last won the National in 1985 at a very muddy Milton Keynes and he said "Milton Keynes was muddier. This wasn't so bad. I felt good today but I felt lousy all this week after my cold." Lewis had also been beaten several times over the country by Tunstall and added "I don't mind losing the other ones for this, beating Steve Tunstall added a bit of spice."