Newark Showgrounds hosted the one hundredth and twelfth English National Cross-Country Championships. This was the fifth time this venue had been used for the race after visits in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996. The length of the men's 'National' was cut from nine miles to seven and a half. Sports Company View From once again sponsored the event,
Keith Cullen (Chelmsford AC) had returned to training after a troublesome knee injury and was considered to be among the favourites along with Eamonn Martin (Basildon AAC) who had won on two previous visits to Newark. Also strongly fancied were last year's runner up Barry Royden (Medway AC). Area champions were Mark Steinle (Blackheath Harriers) - Southern, R Findlow (Bradford Airedale AC) held the Northern, R Birchall (Birchfield Harriers) was the Midland champion and Glynn Tromans (Coventry Godiva Harriers) was the Inter-Counties winner.
Salford Harriers (Northern Champions) and Blackheath Harriers (National champions in 1994 and 1995) were hoping to contest the team title with the favourites Bingley Harriers and Tipton Harriers (Midland Champions). Bingley captain Colin Moore said: "We won it last year with a team similar to the one we'll have this time. And I can envisage it being as close as last year."
Heavy rain in the week before the race had made the going soft. After two miles the lead group consisted of Justin Pugsley (Birchfield Harriers), Cullen, Chris Robison (Omega RC), Craig Kirkwood (Tipton Harriers) and Mark Steinle.
At the end of the third mile Cullen had opened up a gap on and Royden, who had a lead over Pugsley, Robert Quinn (Kilbarchan AAC), Mark Hudspith (Morpeth Harriers), Matt Smith (Tipton Harriers), Spencer Newport (Blackheath Harriers), Mohammed Fahiti (Thames Valley Harriers), Robison, Steinle and Tony O'Brien (Liverpool Harriers). The race appeared to be within Cullen's grasp but over the next three miles Pugsley caught and overtook Cullen. Royden and Newport also caught Cullen who had now slipped to fourth.
Pugsley went on to win by 11 seconds in 38:32 from silver medalist Royden, with Newport in third place.
After the race 27-year-old Pugsley told Jason Henderson at Athletics Weekly: "How do I feel? I feel like singing." And broke into: "Pleeeease release me, let me go!" Pugsley had just become the first Birchfield Harrier to win the men's National since J. E. Webster won at Leamington Spa in 1928. Pugsley who was third the previous year also said "I hate running, I really do. It's the bane of my life ... my nemesis. I would much rather be singing in a West End musical." Royden said "I'm pleased with that,Keith was getting too far away and I said to Justin, 'Come on let's go for it. "Keith looked to be struggling on a muddy stretch at the back of the course and we pulled him back quickly. Justin took it on from there and I wish I hadn't said anything to him." Cullen said: "I was absolutely disgusted with myself."