Capricious weather conditions on Tuesday 21st March made for added challenges for the 188 runners competing in the 134th Wilson Run but favourite Joe Bird, 18, led all the way and came in with a time of 1hr 13 09.
18-year-old Bird (E), from Penrith, triumphed ahead of second-placed Fergus MacMillan (SH) (1.15.52) and third placed Ben Van Dijk (H) (1.18.23). Maria Page, 17, (R), from Pembroke House Prep School, Kenya, who took gold for the girls, came 13th with a time of 1.30.10. She was ahead of Georgina Boyd-Moss (L) (1.34.16) and her elder sister Izzy Page (R) (1.35.21). School House won the House competition for the boys by 118 points, beating Hart and Evans in 2nd and 3rd place. Robertson won the girls’ competition
Joe, who is Head of Evans House and has attended Sedbergh School since the age of 11, put his success down to a cool head. He said: “I had a really good day. Although the hour before the race was difficult, mentally, in the run up to it I’ve tried to remain really calm, to stay focused and I’ve been fairly relaxed. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most has been helping and encouraging others in the qualifiers. It’s an important part of the event; it’s not all about one day and it’s not all about those of us who regularly compete. I will always remember the roar from the crowd as I went around Library Corner, and how I felt a sudden sense of relief as I knew I had won it. Last year was a big learning curve for me and I spent a lot of time looking at the course and experimenting with nutrition. I felt that my body had matured and that I was capable of running longer distances. I have to thank my teachers and friends, who all supported me and kept me calm.”
Maria Page pointed out that despite the top three girls all being Kenyans, they developed their interest in running at Sedbergh. Maria said: “I didn’t like running before I arrived in the Howgills but something about the hills just made me want to keep doing it, and I just love training with the running team and the boys, too. We have such a great bond. The hardest thing about the Wilson Run was the build up to it – the pressure that comes from all the talk about it, but as soon as I started running, the nerves went away, I got into the run and was fine. I’ll never forget the last stretch after Library Corner; the whole crowd went completely crackers and I had tunnel vision!”
Jonathan Lidiard, Housemaster of Evans and a former pupil himself, said: “I’m incredibly proud of Joe and so impressed by his response to bouncing back after the disappointment of last year. He has come back stronger and prevailed despite the pressure being even greater on him this time around. He is such a superb young man and has worked so hard for this success. He can be very proud of the effort he has put in and in the way that he leads others and sets a good example. His two younger brothers were watching today and we know that his younger brother Spencer, in Year 11, is showing great form already.”
Headmaster Andrew Fleck said: “As ever, we saw tremendous support out in the fells and on the road-side from the runners’ families and friends, and we could not run the event without the local farmers who let us run over the land. This year’s course was particularly arduous for the runners, which made it slow. There was some doubt as to whether the event could go ahead but staff ran the course yesterday and this morning to assess the situation and, as was the case 100 years ago, the pupils were not deterred by bad weather. What stands out is how pupils change through training and qualifying for this race; even some of the most unlikely runners are there on the day, ready to give everything they have to it, and their faces tell their story and satisfaction as they come through the finishing line. Everyone can be proud of their achievement today.”