Men’s SEAA XC relay, Wormwood Scrubs, 20 Oct 2018

Men’s SEAA XC relay, Wormwood Scrubs, 20 Oct 2018

Autumn relay season  –  Madness comes in threes!

Well, has your whamboozled Team manager run the full gamut of emotions or what?!  From [proverbially] kicking a kitten through an electric fan, to perhaps the greatest race I ever saw at Belgrave, this has been some six weeks…

We started with one of the nastiest little episodes I can recall in my 20 years in club athletics when Surrey CAA rejected our entry for the road relays for reasons as trite as it gets.  I entered on the correct day, but didn’t notice the entry had a ‘time stamp’ on it; an oddity several other TMs didn’t catch either.  No amount of persuading or cajoling would do, and what was really unnerving is that never did I get a real person to correspond with, it was always ice-cold missives from the “Surrey online team.”

The decision to exclude us was far too hardline for a fairly low key competition which struggles for consistent quality at the sharp end.  We have the best record in it in the last 20 years, and organized the day ourselves for a decade since of late.  Even Hercules, the venue hosts were not allowed to run an extra team when they too missed the time stamp.  Absolutely bonkers – the Olympics this ain’t.  Suffice it to say there was a yawning gap of four minutes between 2nd and 3rd where our squad would have nestled.

Then, at the SEAA 6 stage, despite happily taking our £120, a rollicking fee for such a short relay, we got no darn numbers.  The B’s couldn’t start, and the A’s a month later, have STILL to be put into the results.  It’s a bit of an outrage, but what can I say… they’re working on it!

For the record the squad was missing loads, and were only about 43rd, but our sextet battled nobly:

Owor  18:00, Buckle 19:42, Finlay 20:49, Mills A 20:24, Hurley 20:46, Cockerell 21:28.

Third time lucky then with the SEAA XC relay.  An event which is finally capturing the imagination of the clubs, despite non-existent marketing from the SEAA.  Many clubs still ignore it, which I don’t really get because it’s always made for splendid fare, and I instantly saw it as something our local lads could really get stuck into when it was founded eight years ago.  We’ve had good fun with a 1, 2, 5, 1, 2, 3, 3…  What would 2018’s vintage bring?!

With a beg, steal and a borrow we assembled a fab four on paper of Goolab, Owor, Buckle and Touse; but off paper they were creaking at the seams a little!  The order was tricky as I did worry about putting Tinos last due to him probably going off in the lead (a difficult running art in itself), and him being so unfamiliar with the course, with the idiosyncratic ways courses are marked, notably this one.  But it was so harsh to ask the skipper Nick Buckle to go last when not race fit, and PO operates best in a scrap, and maestro Goolab also needed help given he hasn’t done a session for months.

To the start then, and Nick B toiled manfully in a really strong field.  15 mins is what we wanted, about 50 secs off the lead, and he delivered to perfection.  Paskar was rechristened Phil in the race programme – I crave Wicksy so much I hallucinate on race entries!  But like his friend, Paskar’s ripped through some fields in his time, but his was a bit special: 14th to 2nd – take that.  But, up ahead the outstanding Poolman of Highgate was going 5 ticks quicker.

So, a near perfect scenario for Nick Goolab, who still hasn’t finagled a session on his comeback, and had to toil for nearly a mile before even glimpsing the redoubtable Robert Wilson.  But then the gap started to come down and down, but we needed a lead to give Tinos every possible chance.  A superb run by Nick, for 4th best of the day, and that lead was a fragile 15 seconds, and Sean Renfer is no slouch.

As feared, one of the biggest problems for Tinos was navigation, for an English XC course does take a bit of nous.  Once you understand the peccadilloes it’s ok, but sometime a flag placing is a ‘yellow brick road’ moment; which way to go?  This happened a handful of times, and fatally a mile from home, when KT went wrong by 30 yards, a mad dash to correct, and with lactic firing through his system, Renfer stung like a bee to open out 50 yards in the next 800.

But the race still had two amazing twists.  Tinos didn’t give up and kept Renfer in check but behind there was pandemonium as Mo Aarun was operating at top speed and suddenly Thames Valley were in contention for the whole darn shooting match.  The last 500 meters were incredible as Aaden cut into Touse who cut into Renfer…  Another 50 yards and the order would probably have been reversed – and we’d have still lost!  What we needed was about another 20 yards…

But all credit to Renfer who dryly observed “that wasn’t particularly enjoyable,” and a great sell to the magic of club athletics, with amazing support from the crowd too, as our image shows.

Ahh, the magic of club athletics – can you beat it?  Sean Renfer desperately runs for the tape, with Tinos Touse closing down, and an incredible run from Mo Aaden ripping into them like a fox let loose in a chicken hutch… Around a dozen spectators can’t help but join in

Was it the best race in my time with the Bels?  Ooohh, close, but I’ll go with the 2001 National 6 stage and Spencer Barden’s intense duel with a flying Mo Farah, which saw us squeak home by 4 ticks.  To this day, I’ve still never seen Mo so dejected and I left thinking, “that boy has fire in his belly.”

Finally, a word for the baby Bees, who toiled manfully and were 5th B team home, which is most encouraging.

1 Highgate H 57:47; 2 Belgrave H 57:48; 3 Thames Valley H 57:49; 4 Hillingdon 58:08; 5 Brighton 58:37…  21 Belgrave H ‘B’ 66:29… 46 teams started, 42 finished.

N Buckle (14) 15:02; P Owor (2) 14:02; N Goolab (1) 13:57; K Touse (2) 14:47.

B:  R Finlay 16:14; B Hurley 16:44; A Mills 16:21; C Warren 17:10.

Fastest:  M Aaden (TVH) 13:26, A Abdulle (Hill) 13:42; R Poolman (Highg) 13:55.