National at Wilton Park, 1989

Tommy Murray, winner of the senior men’s race

The National Cross-Country Championships of 1989 had many talking points or points of interest.   For instance

  •  Steve Ovett, Olympian, former world record holder for 1500m , English cross-country international, was running for Annan.   He had moved to Kinmount House in 1988 and joined Annan AAC racing in District Relays (eg Twechar), District Championships (Kilmarnock) and now in the National at Hawick.   There had been all sorts of stories about him in the Press – the SAAA were going to change the residency rules so that he could run for Scotland after three months, the finish at Kilmarnock had been changed to a stony, rutted lane to negate a finishing sprint by him and so on.  He was a big draw for the 1989 National.  ( See the picture below)   The press had come to watch Ovett and all went to him after he had finished.   His reaction?   “You shouldn’t be taking to me you should be talking to that guy over there who has just won the race, ” pointing to to Tommy Murray
  • Paul Evans the very good endurance runner from England, temporary Scotsman, was also running – for Springburn Harriers.   A member of Belgrave Harriers, he joined Springburn saying that his mother’s family had come from Glasgow and he wanted to run for Scotland.   He ran extremely sparingly for the club, ran well in a couple of races in Scotland before deciding that he was English and racing for GB in the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics. Never actually represented Scotland.
  • Clark Murphy, the first Scotland based runner to represent GB in the World Cross Country Championships, after Scotland was dropped in favour of a British team.
  • Malcolm Campbell, the Winchester runner, and almost an echo of Paul Evans, in that he ran for Scotland before changing his mind.  He won the Youths championship running for Clydebank AC.    Campbell also won the English Youths cross-country championship from Jon Brown over 4 miles on 20th February 1988


These factors were all important to the day’s racing – almost as important as who won the actual races.   But the weather that day was dire.   Doug Gillon in the “Herald” described the Hawick national as having  “The worst conditions in living memory,”   before going on to give this instance of these conditions: “The mud on one hill, 150 yards long and with a gradient of one in nine, was pouring like a lava flow by the time the runners were on their third circuit.   Elsewhere there was a foot of slushy water and some runners finished barefoot. ”  Colin Shields reported in his excellent centenary  history of the SCCU “(Runs will take place) Whatever the Weather” that 5 inches of snow had fallen overnight “in the worst weather experienced during the entire winter, and that snow had continued to fall throughout the day leaving a covering of slippery snow over an underfoot morass of mud.”

The map of the course,  above, is an interesting one, and  Wilton Park in Hawick is very pleasant and normally the start of a good day out.   Have a look at the map, and then try to retrace the runners’ footsteps next time you’re there.   You’ll find that the hill referred to is indeed steep – maybe contour lines should have been added!    The following  article from “Runner’s World” had some more detail on the trail and on the weather conditions.

After all that, how did the actual racing go?  For this one, we can’t better Doug Gillon’s report for the “Glasgow Herald” and we’ll print it along with the results.