SUNDERLAND Harrier Brian Rushworth ran himself into a state of utter exhaustion in his bid to win the British Masters’ over-50 cross country title at Herrington Country Park on Saturday.
Despite giving his all, he finished just five seconds behind the winner, Bingley Harrier John Convery, to take the silver medal.
Rushworth entered the race knowing he was far off his best, having been suffering from hamstring and knee problems for over a year.
Indeed, this was only his second race in nine months and his first cross country race for exactly a year.
During this time he had been on a hit and miss restricted training routine and, as a result, his racing fitness went downhill rapidly.
It was clear for all to see at Herrington, that this was not the Rushworth of old, who had won five national masters’ championships since he began his campaign at the age of 40.
“Because the race was on my doorstep, I was determined to do it. But there were times when I thought I might not make it,” he said.
“This has got to be one of the hardest races I have run. I was struggling from the start. I had no rhythm in my stride and there was no flow. It was hard work all the way.’’
Rushworth is not an athlete that would settle for second best, if there was a chance of winning, whatever his problems.
Just after half way of the 8k contest, he had doggedly moved into first place of his category. But shortly afterwards, Convery had edged to the front, with two laps to go to the finish. He determinedly held onto his narrow lead to finish in 30.13 for 14th position overall.
Afterwards, Convery modestly played down his success as he waited for his medal.
He said: “I’m under no false illusion over my performance. Clearly Brian is not fit. I have never beaten him before. He is such a tough competitor.
“At the end he was bending over the fence being physically sick. It shows how much he put into it.’’
Rushworth, who finished two places behind Convery, added: “I was not building up my hopes. I was targeting a medal of any colour. But to come so close to winning gold, I have to be disappointed.’’
And there was another silver lining for Rushworth, as he steered the Sunderland over-45 team to silver medals behind winners Tyne Bridge Harriers.
The other two counters were Tim Field in 41st (31.17) and Paul Redman 57th (32.34). Peter Richardson, 60, was 120th (38.25). Former Sunderland Harrier Roger Wilson an over-70, of Stratford AC, finished 53rd (28.52).
Houghton Harriers had Steven Johnson 78th (34.07) and Sean McGrath 109th (36.28).
SUNDERLAND Strollers took the bronze medals in the women’s over-45 team contest behind Bingley and Hebburn and Jarrow.
They had Judith Shotton 54th (28.53), Alyson West 68th (29.55) and Joy Champion 107th (33.21).
Over-65 Billy Bittlestone was 50th (28.24) and Len Christopher was 70th (30.21) in the race combined with the women.
H Birtley Harrier Lydia Turner gained her schools’ international vest after finishing fifth in the intermediate girls’ English Schools’ Cross Country Championships at Derby. The team was the best placed of the six Durham teams, finishing seventh. The other counters were Sophie Montgomery 57th, Sophie Burnett 77th, Anna Fawcett 85th, Danielle Elliott 96th and Eleanor Daglish 149th.