Carl Marston’s On the Run: Hectic spell for runners, and Millar’s fine race in Belgium

Suffolk's John (Jack) Millar, on his way to sixth spot while representing England at an internationa

Suffolk's John (Jack) Millar, on his way to sixth spot while representing England at an international meeting in Belgium earlier this month. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

The overlap of cross country and road running is always a busy time. Athletics correspondent Carl Marston spotlights various events, recent and future, and plots Suffolk runner Jack Millar’s fine progress on the international stage

The start of the junior race at the final NESS Cross Country League meeting of the season, held ay G

The start of the junior race at the final NESS Cross Country League meeting of the season, held ay Gosfield School, Halstead. Picture: JOHN HYLAND - Credit: Archant

We are in the middle of a very busy time of year, when the cross country season is reaching a crescendo and preparations for Spring marathons are in full swing.

The NESS (North-Essex and South Suffolk) Cross Country League staged its final meeting last Sunday, at Gosfield School, while the fourth race in the equivalent Suffolk Winter League was held at Nowton Park, in Bury St Edmunds.

Looking ahead, on the roads this weekend is one of the most popular events on the regional calendar, the Tarpley 20 and 10-mile road races, always a good gauge to see how the marathon training is going ahead of potential marathons in April and May. The events are organised by Saint Edmund Pacers and held at Thurston Community College.

Meanwhile, on the national front, some of Suffolk’s and Essex’s leading runners, young and older, will be in action at various flagship cross country events over the next few weeks.

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This Saturday sees the English National Cross Country Championships, at Harwood House, Leeds.

The Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships, incorporating the World Trials, have been scheduled for Loughborough, on March 9.

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And the English Schools Championships – with Suffolk fresh from celebrating three individual age group titles (for Ruby Vinton, Lewis Sullivan and Maia Green) at the recent Anglian Schools Championships in Abington Park, Northampton – will be held at Temple Newsam Park, Leeds, on March 16.

Meanwhile, Suffolk’s leading light, John (Jack) Millar, has been enjoying a terrific winter on the national and international cross country circuit.

And Millar warmed up for this weekend’s English National Championships, when he will be running as a senior for the first time, by representing his country in another race on the continent, earlier this month, in Belgium.

The 21-year-old Ipswich Harrier was the first England senior finisher at the Cross Cup event in Rotselaar, which doubled up as the Belgian National Championships, despite initially missing his Eurostar train at St Pancras and having to take a later train.

Millar, who is coached by Stephen Hicks at the Harriers, and is a third year maths student at Bath University, led home the quartet of England internationals in sixth spot with a time of 28:29.

The other English senior male athletes in action in Belgium were Jack Gray (ninth), Alex Teuten (11th) and Corey De’Ath (14th). The race was won by Belgium’s Lander Tiigat in 27:20.

“It was an enjoyable race, although the start was a bit manic,” explained Millar.

“There was a quick – ‘on your marks, go’ – but the field wasn’t too big. The course was flat, with six 1,500-metre laps, although the final 300 metres to the finish were on thick mud and then sand, which made up for the lack of hills.

“It was a good weekend, even though I missed my train, having not taken into account the check-in time,” added Millar, who plans to drive to the Nationals Championships this weekend.

Track steeplechase specialist Millar, who comes from Helmingham, near Otley, relished his first taste of major international competition at the end of last year, when running in the under-23 men’s race at the European Cross Country Championships, held in Tilburg, Netherlands. He won a silver team medal as part of the Great Britain squad that day, in December.

Millar celebrated his first outing in an England senior vest last month, at the IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Elgoibar, Spain, where he finished 14th. He is supported by Vivobarefoot trainers.

Finally, congratulations to Colchester Harriers, who won the aforementioned NESS League title by winning their fifth team race from six at Gosfield School last weekend. The Harriers also won the junior section.

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