Cross-country running event at Horspath suffers sudden and controversial cancellation on Saturday
The South of England Inter-Counties and Masters Championships at Horspath near Oxford was called off on Saturday (Dec 9) just minutes before start of the races, much to the disgust of the hundreds of runners present.
Organisers described the course as “unsafe” following torrential rain that swept over the UK this week.
Such was the last-minute nature of the decision, competitors in the under-13 girls’ race were on the start line when the meeting was cancelled, with many deciding to run anyway.
Oxford City’s John Exley said: “I was outraged. There was nothing that was any more dangerous than the usual cross-country course. The courses were all as last year and SEAA (South of England Athletics Association) approved.”
Dispelling rumours that a medical 4×4 vehicle got stuck in the mud, the 75-year-old said this was not the case. “The 4×4 was our own course setting-out Land Rover, although it was pencilled in for transporting the first aiders or injured athletes where required.”
Exley added: “We spent multiple hours setting up the courses and it was pretty troublesome without the Land Rover and cancellation came just five minutes before the first race. The under-13 girls, who were on the start line, were so disgusted that they all set off and ran the course anyway. Then most of the other athletes also went round their respective courses.”
The South of England were swift to take to social media to announce the cancellation, describing the venue as an “unsafe course”.
The Horspath course adjacent to the BMW Mini car plant is always challenging and can be very muddy but has been used for more than 50 years in all conditions.
This news follows last month’s cancellation of the London Youth Games at Parliament Hill in north London. On that occasion the distance running legend Dave Bedford accused current cross-country organisers of “having lost their way” following what he calls an “inexplicable cancellation”.
Bedford blasted: “I fear we have stealthily ushered in an era where the default position is to cancel, rather than go ahead.”
See the Dip Finish column in the December issue of AW magazine for more.