Geoff Newton vying for selection in the England Masters Cross Country Team trial

Geoff Newton was vying for selection at the England Masters Cross Country Team trial in Derby

The International and the selection races are arguably the most prestigious masters races in the UK and Ireland. The possibility of being selected to run for your country has most of the best age group runners from all over England converging on Derby to take part in the selection race.

By contrast the British Masters Cross Country Championships (which can be entered by anyone who can prove their age) is poorly attended. When I ran the British Champs at Tonbridge in 2022 there were 5 starters and 4 finishers in M75 and a rather unfit Geoff Newton was 2nd M75 finisher. By contrast the England  selection race this year had 13 entries and 10 starters. Richard Bloom who won the Tonbridge race in 2022 did well to finish 6th this year in the selection race.

The Derby selection races were piggy backed onto a North Staffs Cross Country League Race at Markeaton Park. The over 65 categories ran ca 6km with the women. The younger age group men ran with the men’s league race. The women and old men ran 3 x 2km laps.

Geoff Newton in action at the England Masters Cross Country Team Selection race

A high standard field made Geoff’s task a tough one

There was a substantial hill in each lap. Numerous young athlete’s races had cut up the ground nicely before us, so spikes were the order of the day. Piggy backing the races onto the League means that the racing is more fun but the downside is that you cant see the wood for the trees so to speak and it can be difficult to know where you stand in your age category. The younger age groups and the men’s league ran 4 slightly longer laps.

John Exley led this year’s M75 selection race but was passed by Malcolm Weir on the last lap. Recording a time of 30:10, Malcolm claimed victory, with John arriving 22 seconds later to take the runner up spot. Ryde Harriers member Peter Young was 3rd M75 in 30:53 and Peter Giles from Hercules Wimbledon was 4th in 32:18. Peter Giles won the M75 category in the International last year. I was 7th finisher in 32:52, not far behind Martin McNally from the Northeast who was 5th in 32:22.

Geoff Newton vying for selection at the English Masters Cross Country Team trial

It wasn’t to be on this occasion for Geoff but he gave it his best shot

The International may be a great occasion but it is a significant commitment in time and money. For most participants it takes up a whole weekend and for most people it means air flights and hotel accommodation. Not to mention the dinner and presentations at a posh hotel on the Saturday night. Masters athletics gets no central funding. The athletes of the 5 nations pay their own expenses and for most / all their kit (England runners do get a free vest).

Malcolm Weir also won the M75 selection last year but elected not to run the international which let me in as first reserve last year. However, if you are not strapped for cash it provides great racing, it’s a great social occasion and a chance to see the sights of the host city. I would probably never have seen Glasgow, Belfast or Dublin without it.

Anyway, that’s probably my last chance gone. Even if I live to 80 there is no M80 category.


Race report written by Geoff Newton