SOUTHEND’S Adam Hickey endured an eventful afternoon at the National Cross-Country Championships.

The 31-year-old was among the favourites to take the title.

But his race immediately took a turn for the worse after a freak incident on the start line left him running wearing just one shoe.

“I’ve never had someone clip my heel at the start of a race and take my shoe off before and it happened at the nationals of all races,” said Hickey.

“I then had the dilemma of what to do.

“I could stop there on the start and put my shoe back on while the whole 1,000 and more runners carry on or I could try and continue with just one spike on and see how I get on in the muddiest nationals I had ever raced in.

“In that split second I decided to continue with one shoe on and tried to stay with the leaders for as long as I could.”

Hickey remained with the leading pack for half of the first half of the lap before he began to lose footing.

But Hickey was then reunited with his lost shoe.

“Miraculously, a lap and a half later a couple of the juniors from my team came sprinting over to me waving my spike in the air,” said Hickey.

“I grabbed the shoe with thanks but then had to think how I was going to stop and get it back on.

“Luckily I was approaching a bench so practically and quite oddly I proceeded to sit down as the field of runners passed me by and put my shoe on, tying the laces extra tight!

I’m not sure how many competitors passed me as I sat there on that bench but as soon as the laces were tied I knew I had to get back in the race, no matter how far back I was starting again.

“This was the nationals and there was no way I not finishing.”

And Hickey was able to work his way back up the field to finish in fourth place.

“I must have been roughly in the 20s or 30s when I rejoined the race,” said Hickey.

“The support I got was incredible and one the biggest motivators was the support I was receiving from fellow runners who encouraged me as I ran past.

"That is the true spirit of cross country running.”

But the encouragement was not quite enough to earn Hickey a medal.

"The higher up the field I got, the harder it became to catch the awesome guys up ahead who had decent leads and before I knew it, we were onto the last lap, leaving little time to make up many more positions," said Hickey.

"I did everything I could to get a medal out there but cross country runners are a tough bunch and despite my best efforts I finished fourth.

"I’ve never been through so many emotions in one race!

"My head was all over the place at the end, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but this is cross country and this is why we do it.

"We give it everything we’ve got, no matter what the course, the conditions, the weather, the competition, we leave it all out there