NORTHERN MASTERS 5000M TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS, LEIGH SPORTS VILLAGE, LEIGH, UP NORTH.
JULY 27th 2016
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT: JARROW MARCH
BACKGROUND TO RACE & SOCIAL CONTEXT
Northern England, also known as the North of England, the North or the North Country, is a cultural region of England. It is not an official government region, but a geographical concept. Many people in the North omit certain sounds from sentences in casual speech, such as saying ‘I’m goin t’shops’ or ‘I’m going to shops’ as opposed to ‘I’m going to the shops’. The word ‘the’ is often not used in UK northern dialect.
The North of England is often stereotypically represented at events or stage performances through the clothing worn by working-class men and women during the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially by those working in factories, mines and farms. Men would often wear a collar shirt or grandfather shirt, and trousers with a waistcoat or jacket along with a flat cap. For added authenticity, a whippet is generally considered to be de rigueur (t’dogs bollocks).
The working class (also labouring class and proletariat) is the people employed for wages, especially in manual-labour occupations and in skilled, industrial work. The working class can be contrasted with a so-called middle class on the basis of differential terms of access to economic resources, education, cultural interests, and other goods and services.
NORTHERN MASTERS AND LEIGH HARRIERS
Formal running competition traces its history to the 19th century and an English game called “hare and hounds” or “the paper chase”. Posh English schools in the south of the country, and as far north as Rugby and Southam, started competing in cross country races in 1837, and established a national championship on December 7, 1867. It was held on Wimbledon Common in south-west London, later to be popularised by the musician Mike Batt with his catchy theme tune to a BBC children’s series, ‘Remember you’re a Womble’. It was the first cross country race that was considered “open”, or could be run by anyone. However despite being an open race, it was mainly run by wealthy, land owning ‘dilettantes’, or as they were known in t’North, ‘soft twats’.
In 1839, Clem Arkwright – Hill, no relation to Sir Richard Arkwright – Hill, owner of Cromford Mill, the world’s first successful water powered cotton spinning mill, caused a sensation when he entered the national championships and won the race despite having his whippet poisoned the night before. This paved the way for a new era in running, and in 1840, Leigh Harriers Working Men’s Miners Institute & Railway Mechanics Federation of Allied Textile and Leather Goods Workers Guild Athletics Club, was formed. In 1841, the club was amalgamated to become Leigh Harriers Working Men’s Miners Institute & Railway Mechanics Federation of Allied Textile and Leather Goods Workers Guild and Building and Woodworkers International Athletics Club (subsequently known as t’club). After 1841 no further amalgamations were allowed due to the inability of fitting the club name on vests.
In 1956, t’club hosted the very first Northern Veterans Track & Field Championships, and continued to do so every July since. Many famous names have run the race, including Sir Richard Arkwright – Hill’s grandson, Ron.
AT LAST – THE RACE REPORT
Defending Northern Masters 5000m Track champion, McCarthy Senior, Life President and CEO of the McCarKiss Endurance Project, prepared for this year’s race in his usual precise and structured way. He forgot his spikes. A quick emergency phone call to Mrs McCarthy and the spikes were duly delivered to the stadium. This absolutely reaffirms McCarthy Senior’s obsessive compulsive disorder of turning up for races at least 3 hours before the start, something he has managed to successfully imbue in McCarthy Junior, and for which he’ll be forever grateful.
The usual order of events in master’s races during the warm up is to skulk behind all the other entrants, pretending to tie your laces, whilst simultaneously looking at the age grading pinned onto the back of vests. Along with McCarthy Seniors training partner and fellow M55, Dave Gill (he of the infeasibly short and tight shorts – see previous post from the Wirral Seaside Run), all entrants were successfully analysed. There were only 3 M55’s in the race. The initial internal delight of this news – yes we’d definitely get a medal if we finished – turned sour when Dave announced on the start line that the other M55 was Andy Staveley, our arch rival from Bolton who had consistently whipped our butts over 5K. Upon hearing this news, McCarthy Senior turned round to see if he could locate where Staveley was, and in doing so went arse over tit onto the floor. Trying to remain calm, McCarthy Senior was helped to his feet by several old men, wiped down and pushed back onto the start line amidst sniggering and raised eyebrows.
The race plan so meticulously worked out in the months leading up to the race between McCarthy Senior and Gill had to be quickly reconsidered. The plan was to go out with laps of 1.26 to 1.27 to come home in a time around 18.15 – the winning time from last year. As the starters gun was raised, the two training partners looked each other in the eye and like conjoined twins declared, ‘Oh Fuck it – let’s just see what happens’. This carefully designed second plan was fool proof – something would surely just happen.
There’s an old saying with t’northern runners, ‘Rub that Vaseline on my balls will you lad?’ but that’s not the one that fits into this story. The one that we want to recall is this, ‘N’er cast a clout till May is out.’ No one quite understands what it means but it could be interpreted as ‘make the bastard run as hard as you can, he might be having a shit run’. And that’s what happened. Finding ourselves leading the Bolton nemesis after the first mile, Gill was taking the huge field of 3 M55’s round in laps of 1.26, bang on target. McCarthy Senior followed a few metres behind, tracked closely by Stavely. As the race unfolded, mile 2 brought the expected decline in pace, and Gill started to tread in t’northern treacle (especially thick in t’north). At this moment, McCarthy Senior was clipped by Stavely, and stumbling forward ignored the apology whilst shouting back that he was a dickhead. The rush of adrenalin caused McCarthy Senior to surge past Gill and into an unwanted lead. The remainder of the race was only now going to be fear of being overtaken in the last 200m by those two bastards behind.
We have a slight divergence in the story here to report that McKEP’s only female athlete, Jude Peck, had turned up at the track and was continually running around the outfield urging on McCarthy Senior and Gill. McCarthy Senior did the usual trick when you pass someone cheering you on – adopt a grimace, speed up for a few strides and don’t acknowledge them.
The bell for the last lap rang in McCarthy’s ear and by this time still ahead, it was shit or bust. A final burst from 300m was enough to hold off the chasing pack (of 2), and McCarthy Senior brought home the gold for McKEP in a new personal worst of 18.45, followed by an even more personal worst for second by Gill in 19.02. Where was Billy Big Balls Staveley the crowd wanted to know? Crumpling over the line in 19.11 – ha, you tosser!
Medal ceremony and prize giving at end of t’Northern Masters 5000m Track champs.
Reflecting on the race later over a pint of mild and some Woodbines, McCarthy Senior and Gill could now look forward to the British Masters 5000m Track championships at Alexandra Stadium in September, sure in the knowledge they’d got as much chance of winning a medal as McCarthy Junior has of completing a triathlon. However, ‘N’er cast a clout till May is out.’