Metropolitan Cross Country League
Currently, the league is made up of 22 athletic and running clubs from Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex.
There are 5 Metropolitan League cross country fixtures held in various locations between October and February. Male & female athletes from aged 11 upwards compete at each fixture and there are 7 races which are categorised as, under 11s, under 13 boys, under 13 girls, combined under 15 boys and under 17 men, combined under 15 girls and under 17 women, combined senior women and veteran women then finally, senior men and veteran men. The senior and veterans races also include divisions one, two and three.
Everyone that completes their respective race, no matter what position they finish, scores for their club. These points are calculated after each fixture. After the final fixture the league results are totalled up and the winners are crowned.
The Metropolitan Cross Country League was formed on 23 March 1966 at a meeting of interested clubs at the Primrose Public House in Bishopsgate, London. The eight clubs attending were Ealing Harriers (now Ealing, Southall & Middlesex AC), Essex Beagles (now Newham & Essex Beagles AC), Hampstead Harriers (now Barnet & District AC), Highgate Harriers, Ilford AC, Polytechnic Harriers (now Kingston & Polytechnic AC), Thames Valley Harriers and Woodford Green AC (now Woodford Green with Essex Ladies AC). Hillingdon AC was asked to join the League for the first season.
The first fixture of the League was held at Hainault Forest on 29 October 1966 with over 260 runners competing in the two races. The Seniors & Juniors race over 5 miles was won by Bob Ellis of Thames Valley Harriers and a 2 ½ mile race for Youths and Boys was won by David Williams of Woodford Green AC. Thames Valley Harriers won the team events in both races and went on to be crowned the inaugural League champions in both age groups. In the initial seasons, four matches were held, increasing to five matches in the 1971/72 season.
Courses that have been used by the League include Alexandra Palace, Chingford, Claybury, Cranford, Hainault Forest, Hilly Fields (Enfield), Horsenden Hill, Parliament Hill, Ruislip, St Albans, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Uxbridge and Wormwood Scrubs.
The most successful individuals in League history at senior level are Julian Gentry (Newham & EB) with a massive 18 wins and Svenja Abel (Highgate) and Teresa Tuohy (London Irish) in the women’s race with seven victories each. Amongst the previous names to have won Metropolitan League races are luminaries such as Dave Bedford, Julian Goater, Eamonn Martin, Colin Reitz and Gary Staines. Thames Valley Harriers boast 15 men’s league titles, but none since 1999/2000, whilst Woodford Green with Essex Ladies AC has 11, six in the last 10 years. Highgate Harriers put together a remarkable sequence of seven successive women’s League titles from 2002/03. Record fields have been recorded in recent years proving the popularity of the League in the cross country calendar. 353 men finished at Claybury in November 2009, whilst 140 women have finished on three occasions, October 2006 and October and November 2008.
What the League has done throughout its existence is to be continually open to change and fit for purpose for the member clubs. As a result, an Under 13 Boys race was introduced in 1972/73 and a Veteran Men’s team competition in 1979/80. Numbers briefly warranted a separate Under 15 Boys event in 1982/83, but this only lasted two years. In 1994/95 races for Women and Under 15 Girls were introduced, proving popular enough to allow a Veteran Women’s team competition in 2001/02 and separate races for Under 17 Women and Under 13 Girls in 2007/08. This was also the year when two divisions for teams were introduced within the one Senior Men’s race. For 2010/11, this format has been extended to three divisions for Senior and Veteran Men and Women, with the introduction of overall trophies for the best senior and junior clubs. These trophies have been named after the League’s founder Howard Williams, who single-handedly, administered the League from its inception in 1966/67 through to 2010, at which point he was appointed Life President of the League. He has been helped in later years with the computerization of results by first Sean and Deborah Butler (Hillingdon AC), then Gavin Collett (Hillingdon AC) and it is Gavin Collett who has taken over from Howard as League Administrator.