The 36th annual running of the PC Joe O’Brien Memorial Cross Country race took place at Coventry’s Ernesford Grange School in bright sunshine on Saturday morning, 19th May….the main event of the day ahead of the Royal Wedding and F.A. Cup Final!
Joe was a community policeman and member of Coventry Godiva Harriers who was tragically knocked down whilst directing traffic in November 1982. A cross country race for local primary schools was then instigated, inspired and organised every year by his friend and colleague PC Dave Watson.
As the event grew in both quality and numbers a second race for “Guest” schools from further afield in the city was added allowing the legacy of the Community Bobby to grow and inspire more children to train for and take part in the event.
It came as a great shock when Dave Watson (by this time retired) passed away in 2011 but the community and friends of Dave rallied around to ensure the event continued. Like all good relay races the baton was passed seamlessly to Di Phillips, a former teacher at Ernesford Grange and close personal friend of Dave, in order that she could become El Supremo of the event.
“The Joe O’Brien”, as it’s always referred to, is a real community event which is reflected by the fact that the biggest Cup goes to the team with the most participants and was won on Saturday by Willenhall Primary who put out an astonishing 150 runners!
As well as the trophies an extra surprise for all finishers was a splendid Coventry Half Marathon medal donated by Coventry University Student Union. As the Half Marathon had to be cancelled due to bad weather we were left with over 4,000 on our hands and what better way to use them up than by supporting local sporting events such as this?
Hopefully the medal will inspire at least a couple of the runners to emulate one of the earliest “Joe O’Brien” competitors, Marlon Devenish, who became Coventry’s only Athletics Olympic Gold Medallist.
D&J Henry, a local Electronic Services company, sponsored Saturday’s race as they have done since the event began – longevity abounds at “The Joe O’Brien”!
Saturday’s races involved 352 children from 11 Coventry Primary Schools (all of whom were delighted to receive a Coventry Half Marathon medal) with the Guest race being won by Bablake.
The winners of the Local race were Willenhall Primary School who fielded a staggering 147 runners!
Many thanks to sponsors, teacher and volunteers that made the race possible – not forgetting the 352 Coventry children of course.
Here’s to number 37 (and another sunny day) next year!