We would like to offer huge congratulations to Post 16 Student, Ben West, who gained 6th place in the recent national English Schools Cross Country event! This is a fantastic result for Ben and we are sure you will enjoy reading this short interview with Ben himself, following such amazing achievement.

*Photos courtesy of ©AdrianRoyle

Well done Ben. So, can you tell us how you got started in Cross Country running?

I started running when I was in Year 5 and joined Bicester Athletics. However, I properly started cross country running in Year 7 at The Cooper School

Are you part of a running Club?

Yes, I am still a member of Bicester Athletics and I also train with Oxford University.

How often do you train?

I train six days a week. Friday is the only day I have off. On Wednesdays and Saturdays I train in Oxford with the University and the rest of the week, I run in and around Bicester.

How does training fit in with your studies?

I have to be really organised. I revise first, after school, then I run. Usually I make sure I try to fit in between one and two hours of school work and revision before I run. On a Saturday I also always put in a couple of hours of revision and work before I have to leave for training.

Has your running helped you in other ways?

Yes definitely. I used to play football, which I really enjoyed, but it is not nearly as sociable as running. With running and the competitions I enter, you meet so many more people. Also, it means I meet people from all over the country and not just in my local area. Running has also obviously improved my fitness, my physical and mental health and my stamina.

Over what distance did the English Schools’ Cross Country take place?

The race was 6.8k and I completed it in 23 minutes.

Where did you have to go to take part?

This race took place in Leeds atTemple Newsam Park.

How many competitors were there?

For this race, there were about 300 competitors in my category. There were also other races going on for other categories which included the Seniors, Juniors and also Girls and Boys categories. I was in the Seniors which includes years 12 & 13 so I was actually one of the younger competitors in my category. You have to be selected for County so it is the fastest from each county that take part; this makes me the sixth fastest in the country.

Have you taken part in many other local or national runs?

Yes. This was my fourth time taking part in the English Schools Cross Country. I took part in the Inter County event the week before. Two weeks before that, it was the Nationals. In December I took part in the Southern Inter Counties; those are the main big races.

Have you got more competitions coming up?

Well the Cross Country season has just finished but I hope to be selected for the London Mini Marathon. That takes place in April and is the last three miles of the main London Marathon. This means I will compete against other young runners in the race, which stretches from Billingsgate Market to The Mall.

What subjects are you studying at Post 16?

I am studying Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry

What do you plan to do after Post 16?

I am planning on going to University to study Bio-Chemistry, but to also continue with my running.

What direction do you plan to take with your running in the future?

I am really working towards becoming professional. I will continue to work towards my ambitions of becoming a professional International competitor but will do so alongside my studies.

What advice would you give to other young people hoping to take up Cross Country Running?

I am very sporty, so I have always loved to try all sports and my advice to other younger students is to have a go at as many sports as you can and find out what you like and what you are good at. I liked trying anything different and running was one that I just really enjoyed. School helped me a lot.  To start with, I was also playing a lot of football but was able to do both football and running at school, as well as the clubs, so take the opportunity to join in and perhaps join teams and clubs. I was enjoying both but eventually, I had to make a choice. Not only did I have to make a decision to spend more time training for my running but there was also the consideration that I could get injured at football, which would have a detrimental impact upon my running. It was an easy decision for me as, whilst I enjoyed football, I had found my passion with my running.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself, your running and your successes?

Well, I have actually been to the English Schools’ track and field. Also, you have to be selected to run for County, each season. You have to have a set qualifying time in one of your races to be chosen and I am hoping to get selected for that again this next season. This will be by about June time. My event is 1500m and I need to achieve a time of 3.58 to qualify.