Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, London hosted the one hundred and sixth English National Cross-Country Championships. The race had been staged at Parliament Hill eight times since the war - more than anywhere else. The list of winners reads like a who's who of English cross-country running Frank Sando (1957), Basil Heatley (1961), Mel Batty (1965), Mike Tagg (1969), Dave Bedford (1973), Brendan Foster (1977) and Julian Goater (1981). Many people consider Parliament Hill to be the 'home' of English cross-country. The course was described as combining hard climbs and deep mud along with fast stretches and consisted of three laps plus the start and finishing straights making a total of nine miles. Part of the course previously used was unavailable due to the installation of a gas main and a new course had to be devised. The major sponsor for this National Championship was the Corporation of London who are custodians of the Heath.
Favourites for the individual title included Richard Nerurkar (Bingley Harriers) who had been in good form at some of the European events. Steve Tunstall (Preston Harriers) mastered the mud at Corby to win the Inter-Counties. Area champions were Dave Payne (Tipton Harriers) who held Midland title, Dominic Bannister (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) held the Southern and the Northern was in the grip of Bashir Hussain (Stockport Harriers).
The team title appeared to be a battle between the holders Tipton Harriers and Bingley Harriers who were trying to capture the Frank Wynne Cup in their centenary year.
Spencer Newport (Blackheath Harriers) was first to show up the hill from the start and a main group consisting of Andrew Pearson (Longwood Harriers), Paul Roden (Sale Harriers), Billy Dee (Luton United AC), Dave Payne, Martin Jones (Horwich RMI Harriers), John Downes (London Irish AC), and Sam Carey (Warrington AC) battled it out on the first lap.
On the second lap, four had broken away Dee, Nerurkar, Roden and Payne and these led by 20 metres from Jones and Downes. The leading quartet remained unchanged through the lap and extended the gap on the second group to 50 metres.
On the final lap Dave Payne made a bid for individual glory as he broke away at the start of the circuit. Roden and Dee pursued Payne with Nerurkar just off the pace. Payne's break separated him from Dee and Roden but Nerurkar began his challenge with a mile to go and Payne was unable to respond. Richard Nerurkar went on to win in 42:52, David Payne was ten seconds behind for second and Paul Roden third. After the race Nerurkar who had won the title three times in four years said "I felt stronger the longer the race went on. It was a hard race. You just had to dig in, it was that type of course. It was the toughest National course I've ever run. Parliament Hill is the best place to win."
Dave Payne remarked "I made an effort on the big climb on the last lap, and I got a bit of daylight. But over the last half mile Richard had too much in the legs for me. "I'm happy enough. I wanted to better last year's position." This was definitely the case as Payne improved on his sixth place at Newark.