The 'National' was 125 years old on the occasion of the 2001 event. Maiden Castle in Durham was hosting the race although the contest started in 1876 this was the one hundred and fourteenth running as several were missed due to the two world wars. View From sponsored the event and around 1500 men were expected to start. The course consisted of a mixture of fast playing fields, challenging hills and had some great views.
Keith Cullen (Chelmsford AC) and Rob Denmark (Basildon AAC) were amongst the favourites. Area champions were Billy Farquharson (Mansfield Harriers) - Midland, Nick Francis (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) - Southern and Alan Buckley (Gateshead Harriers) - Northern. Glynn Tromans held the Reebok Inter-Counties title.
In the team event Tipton Harriers were considered the side to beat with Northern champions Bingley Harriers the most likely to push them and the Hudspith brothers spearheading Morpeth Harriers' challenge.
Despite the sunshine, the temperature was below freezing when the starter fired the pistol. Simon Cotton (Tipton Harriers) was the first to show opening up a 10metre lead before the first of the three laps had been started, the main group consisted of Emile De Jong (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers), Cullen, Rob Denmark (Basildon AAC) and Barry Royden (Medway AC). A mile into the race Denmark had a slight lead over Farquharson, Green and Cullen.
At the halfway stage of the race the leading pack consisted of Green, Farquharson, Cullen, Denmark, Will Levett (Vauxhall AC), Nick Francis, Royden and Sam Haughian (Borough of Hounslow AC). On the second lap the hills broke the group up with Openshaw and Cullen opening a lead over Haughian who in turn had a lead over Levett in fourth then came Francis, Farquharson, Green, Royden and Denmark. Haughian, who won the junior championship in 1999 fought his way back to the leading pair. On the third lap Cullen had to retire with an injured back, this left Openshaw and Haughian shoulder to shoulder in the battle for the title. Francis had moved into third. Haughian had a slight edge throughout the last lap and Openshaw's was in striking distance to launch his fast finish. A battle royal took place in the finishing straight with no quarter given. Stride for stride they matched each other until the last 50 metres when Openshaw moved ahead to win by two seconds in 36:52, winning the 'National' at his first attempt. Billy Farquharson came through to win the bronze medal.
After the race Mike Openshaw, who only lives five miles from the course, said: "I've never even watched a National before, never mind run one. "I came and looked at the course and it didn't look too muddy, so I decided to run. I wouldn't have run if it had been really muddy, but it's great to follow in the footsteps of people like Mike McLeod and Brendan Foster. Sam gave me such a hard race, he's as tough as a coffin nail. I was very tired in those closing stages. It's alright having a flying fast finish but you've also got to be strong enough to get through the mud."
Silver medalist Haughian said "I wanted to get a good start, because I had a bad start at the Trials, so I just got myself into a good position and it was a boost psychologically when Keith pulled out. It's a shame he had to drop out but until then I was just thinking 'hang on to third'. Keith and Mike had pulled away from me and I had to work hard to get back so it gave me a lift when Keith dropped out. Before I'd been thinking 'the longer I can stay with them the better' but when Keith dropped out I started to look at it differently and when it got to a mile to go I thought I'd try to get ahead. A couple of times I could hear him breathing hard but I just couldn't get away from him."