ERRA 12 and 6 Stage Road relays, Sutton Park, 11 Apr 2015

A Great Day’s Parry and Thrust

At a most enjoyable finale to a fine season, it is difficult to find a single second that our 18 athletes left out on the course. Not a poor run in sight, and with both teams pointing to major missing talent, it all bodes well for the future.

The races were entertaining and memorable, on a freshly tweaked and tougher course [subtract a minute from the times to get a comparison for the old course], in sunny but windy and crisp conditions.

WOMEN (2 x Long, 4 x Short)

SAS – Who Dares Wins

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SA was a part of history: the first ever Long stage at the National.

I wrote to the organizers after last year with the idea of sending two of the women longer, as I felt that the purist endurance runners weren’t getting a proper chance to show what they could do, and that the race was lagging behind the times in equality for women’s distance running of today. To my pleasure, they agreed, but if you’re going to do something, do it properly, and the idea to put both of the long legs as one and two was a bit nutty and poorly conceived. Certainly, that can’t happen again, and the complaints will no doubt be swift and severe.

But the positive side is that all the ladies who did go long looked really good out there and seemed to enjoy it. Emelia Gorecka stuck her hand up for AFD, and in chatting to her afterward admitted she went out far too hard, didn’t think it through properly and was in a world of difficulty for much of her run. That’s the SP long stage for you EG! She still scored the day’s fastest by 56 seconds, mind you.

We decided to go with our SAS, Sam and Soph, and let Mel blitz a short. The plan worked well as both ran extremely good long legs within 16 seconds of each other. With marathons coming up this was a final blow-out, and the latter turned the former’s gift of 12th into 9th. It was clear right away that this change was going to suit Belgrave.

MJW Tears it up

Up next was Mel who had a brilliant run. Her three short stage teammates drifted 23, 17 and 21 seconds on their times from MK, indicating SP was the tougher mission, but Mel leapt 14 seconds to the good! Some going, and her 9th place in the overall rankings is not too shabby for a kid still learning to drive on the roads.

Poor Zoe has been under the weather for her last three tours of SP, but she kept plugging away gamely, as she always does; and stood guard over our excellent 7th like a sentry outside the palace.  Jojo had a riotous affair – no solo run for her as she and Birchfield’s McDonald teamed up to lay siege on our dear rivals TVH way up ahead. All three teams finished within two seconds of each other, and JJR’s net loss of a pip is a bit harsh – she was almost up a place!

Ballsy Bedford Stalk

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RO’B runs unaware of Bedford’s malfunctioning cylinder head gasket.

Rose would have been pleased to have so much company when prepped for isolation, but her two opponents were anti-social types, and after landing a few hefty blows on our 400/800 purist, they left her be. It was a lonely life, but if only Rose could have known that Bedford had blown a major gasket nearly half a mile up the road she may have run with gladder heart. As it went she only learnt of this unexpected morsel inside the last K, and it was too late to scoop a darn fine club into our sack. Just!

1 Aldershot F&D 2:13:49; 2 Bristol & West 2:16:44; 3 Swansea 2:17:01; 4 Leeds AC 2:20:25; … 8 Belgrave H 2:22:40; 52 teams started, 40 finished.

S Amend (12) 32:54; S Carter (9) 33:10; M Wilkins (7) 17:58; Z Doyle (7) 19:33; J Rhodes (8) 19:08; R O’Brien (8) 19:57.

Fastest long: 1 E Gorecka (Aldershot F&D) 29:53; 2 L Whittle (Royal Sutt) 30:49; J Spink (Bristol) 30:57.

Fastest short: 1 L Weightman (Morpeth) 16:44; L Small (AFD) 17:03; S Treacy (Birchfield) 17:08.

MEN

The lob and the smash

Although the men’s race was a bit of a procession for Morpeth’s outstanding team, there was much fun to be had a little lower down, and our men fought incredibly well to still hold a medal position until inside the final third.

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Kris gets out of trouble at once.

We enjoyed the clinical start that we knew Kris would give us. The first half was tactical and he felt at half-way that top 15 should be a safe bet. But it happens every year, the athletes make the turn for the long run home, and start kicking from two miles out! Kris’s body could only respond with stitch, which lasted a mile, but then he was back to his best, and his 1:23 deficit to the lead was something we could gladly work with.

Andrius had a little gem of a run, an advance of two and leaving more than a dozen bodies laid out over the ensuing 400 yards for the Lion to devour. And goodness wasn’t he hungry! PO has done the last 12 National relays for us in a row – spring and fall – and if there’s been a bad ‘un, let’s hear about it. This was one of the very best, and no fewer than 14 fell to his powerful, rhythmic stride, and suddenly the hardware was just 44 seconds away.

Man for Tomorrow

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Gus looks a bit like a bug here, and he behaved like one too; allowing very few in the top 6 a moment’s peace.

Gus is a dazzling talent, and he ripped us up to 4th in fine style, while still bemoaning the loss of a sub-16 clocking. His future is seemingly bright, if we keep on top of his tender calves. Next up Craig who too had an excellent run, putting away Bedford with no mercy but having to bow to a tsunami from Paul Pollock, the day’s 2nd fastest.

Nick was in the firing line, and to his great credit moved us right back onto the coattails of Kent, while Central zoomed by. A fine effort and it set up the ever masterful skipper Dan to calmly steer us into podium territory with a run that spliced the times of PO and CR. There was now a buffer to 4th with silver just 34 ticks away. One of the best sights of the day was then Sharpy, stubbornly protecting that medal position for all his worth. We have seen fairly little of SS in the last few years due to injuries, but if he really wants it, he can yet win another medal at SP one day.

Taras had a brutal run, as the runners coming by refused to accept hitch-hikers. This stage is traditionally the most competitive of the lot and Messrs Houston, Horton and the legendary Deakin combined to give TT a rather soul-destroying tour. But he never stopped fighting and his time was very respectable. And with a juicy buffer to 7th didn’t Polly hold the fort a treat! Not only gaining on 5th, but prising four precious ticks out of Kent 300 yards back. Defiant stuff from he, and a dead heat for bragging rights with Mr Bundle.

Alex has given us three terrific races up to now, but this was a huge ask. He unflinchingly accepted a long stage, when our team collapsed on Wednesday, and was lumbered with the graveyard shift to boot. Not very nice – especially with the evergreen James Connor taking aim, not to mention Highgate’s neatly named Murray Strain, and the fined talent that is Olley of Tonbridge. But Shaftesbury were passed by our man, while Bristol crept up menacingly.

Wonka dispatched by SBH shrub, again.

Down to the ‘Pillar then, a little fitter than MK, but only that. Bristol never gave me a chance, but Shaftesbury’s teeny-bopper Ben Rochford kept me royally entertained; disappearing up the road, then coming back, then off again on the big descent, then back closer and closer, but I ran out of road alas.

So there it is; to lose messrs Goolab, Wicks and Trainer within 10 minutes of each other on “Black Wednesday” three days out was a bit of a sickener, but you know what? Even with them, this would have been Morpeth’s day I fancy; they were so good. And how nice for the greatest club servant in the last 40 years, Ian Hudspith, to finally win a 12 stage, into his 45th year. An inspiration to all.

Fare thee well and thanks

Here ends a memorable season for both squads (not forgetting VLM!), reviews for which will appear soon. Most particular thanks to Charlie for his deft and skilful match management on the day, juggling two teams, and providing us with such a well-equipped tent; and also to Alan B., Bill and Leo for their inspiring support out on the course.

1 Morpeth H 4:21:52; 2 Notts AC 4:23:06; 3 Leeds AC 4:25:04; 4 Central AC 4:25:52; … 10 Belgrave H 4:29:57; 67 teams started, 59 finished.

K Gauson (22) 28:21; A Jaksevicius (20) 16:28; P Owor (6) 27:25; G Upton (4) 16:10; C Ruddy (4) 27:42; N Bundle (5) 16:31; D Mulhare (3) 27:32; S Sharp (3) 16:42; T Telkovsky (6) 29:16; M Pollard (6) 16:31; A Miller (8) 29:52; W Cockerell (10) 17:27.

Fastest long stages: 1 M Callegari (Shaftesbury B) 26:41; 2 P Pollock (Kent) 26:49; 3 J McDonald (Luton) 26:52.

Fastest short stages: 1 S Mitchell (Notts) 15:01; 2 C Parr (Gateshead) 15:08; 3 P Nicholls (Wolverhampton) 15:15.

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