For the uninitiated, the Liddiard Trophy is a QPH hosted Cross Country event in Fryent Country Park, and you can read more of the history, and the man behind the event here.
‘Liddiard’ is always a special event, one of my favourites in the calendar, but this year’s was a corker. First up, it was the big 7-5 for the Liddiard Trophy, first run in 1947 (the keen eyed will notice the arithmetic doesn’t add up here. You know why….it’s the C-word). By the time we get to our 70’s most of us are well over change. Not the Liddiard. To go with the magnitude of the anniversary our creative QPH bods (Sam and Emma) have been busy the last few months and created a new logo and sustainable 3D-printed finishers medal for the occasion...
There had also, as ever, been a flurry of organisational activity behind the scenes to get us all to the start line. A special mention to Bill O’Connor who managed the seemingly impossible, and successfully navigated a tranche of local government bureaucracy in the run-up. Worth a medal in its own right!
As if all the new bling wasn’t enough, the church hall, acting as race HQ was also transformed. At first glance all seemed normal...
Shoe washing station, check.
Goodfellas-esque polythene covered floor, check.
Kitchen, check. Wait… is that a barista style coffee machine in the corner? Oat milk with that, sir? Liddiard, stop messing with my mind!
A huge shout out to Georgina, our barista for the day, and our army of master bakers, (coordinated by Jodie) who had grafted away to whip up a spread Paul Hollywood would find hard to fault.
Heading from the hall to the field, I knew I could at least rely on the familiar course for some continuity. Same field, same markers, same flags. Except Storm Ciaran had blown through earlier in the week, dumping a significant quantity of rain on the course.
“Undulating grassland” it may have been on Wednesday, but by Saturday morning it was transformed into quite frankly, the most gloriously wet, muddy, course with a long puddle that puts Bedford to shame...
Perfect XC conditions! Have it! A good time was had by all, and there’ll be results out, and stuff on Strava if you like that kind of thing. But maybe the most pleasing result was the number of new Hoops attending cross country for the first time (in a field of around 250, our biggest turnout in recent times), and the looks of unbridled joy (or was it regret?) on their faces as they squelched around the course.
I had encouraged a few people to attend, describing it as a good ‘gateway’ XC event to try out. If you’re hooked now folks, check out Hampstead Heath XC for some proper class-A action.
Did I mention Liddiard is run equal? Well it is. So there. Those who have seen the Liddiard Trophy will know it’s a spectacular specimen. And every year the winning men’s team get to hold it aloft, and bask in its glory for 12 months. There's never been a women’s trophy… which isn’t very equal, is it? And for that reason, time has been carefully spent by the Sutherlands sourcing a trophy for the winning women’s team. The sense of pride Emma Sutherland, our new President radiated as she introduced us to the trophy was clear for all to see, and fittingly reflected the importance of the moment. But who to name it after? Over to you Emma…
“Before we announce the women's results, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise for the fact that we haven't had a women's trophy before now. We've spent the last year looking for something that is fitting. It turns out that it's quite hard to find a good trophy, but we settled on this vintage one with sustainability and elegance in mind.
Although this will still be the women's Liddiard, we'd like to give the trophy a name. We thought long and hard and wanted to honour someone who has been a big part of this fixture. Someone who puts in a lot of work behind the scenes, is a long time supporter of the event (for 30+ years) and has put up with Bill's running exploits (for many more). On behalf of the club I'd like to present the Tricia O'Connor Cup”.
Beautifully put. I bet you all know Bill O’Connor, and all he does for the club. But now you know it’s a family affair, and Bill’s wife Tricia has tirelessly supported the club behind the scenes for a number of years as well. Who better to name the women’s trophy after?
The look of…tell you what, I’ll shut up again and let Tricia do the talking…
“Thank you so much for the surprise. I feel very honoured to have my name on one of your important trophies. I am very touched that you appreciate my help over the years.
It has been my pleasure to help and I have enjoyed it and it has been great to be part of the club as it is such an important part of Bill's life.
One of our daughters was saying today how she remembers coming as a child when we did the teas and then as a teenager coming to help. She is now 38 so I guess it has been a good few years. It is so wonderful to see the club become what it is today after going through some difficult years. Thank you to you all for what you do for QPH”.
Lovely. And I hope if Tricia and Bill’s daughter ever pops back to help she can whip up a double-shot, extra hot, oat milk caramel latte, because the times they are a changin’.
Keeping it a family affair, Bill’s sister Mary O’Connor was also present, and gave out medals. If you are not familiar with Mary’s running exploits, check them out. She’s a proper running legend.
What else? The men’s team bagged 3rd place (hurrah!), there were frogs (and a newt), and some arithmetic mistakes, but nobody’s perfect. Maybe our Liddiard (r)evolution will continue, and we’ll have an excel sheet next year? And maybe for our 100th we’ll all just stay in bed and let AI predict the winner… Liddiard 2048: And the winner is… Tim Lewin.
Frankly, well done if you’ve made it this far and stuck with me through this self-indulgent amateurish prose. I’m nearly done. Honest.
A final note to say Liddiard is always a hugely special event. This year’s was no different, but also felt different, better, thanks to the immeasurable efforts volunteers have put in the last 12 months, injecting new blood into the event. Whether is was paperwork, arguing with Parcelforce, designing medals, laying markers, gazebo wrangling, marshalling, baking, barista-ing, or all those other tasks I’m ignorant of it takes to put on a race, everyone played their part. Thank-you. For me that’s what makes Liddiard unique, and us all proud to be part of the club that comes together to put on an event like this.
Oh stop blubbing for goodness sake… this is XC… now go dig out your thermos, we’ve got Parliament Hill on Saturday!