Midland Road Relays, Saturday 19th September
Not unexpectedly, in the absence of internationals Rob Bugden on RAF duty and Rob Whalley, who was getting married, our men failed to defend the title they won for the first time in many moons last year. They had to settle for the bronze behind the top two Birmingham clubs, Birchfield and Tipton. There was very little in it throughout, finishing just 37 seconds down on winners, Birchfield, despite their fielding a half African team!
Although our supergirls reasserted their superiority over the men by matching last year’s silver in the women’s championship behind holders Charnwood, they actually finished further down on the winners than the men. Not that defeat by the Leicestershire club was unexpected as they are the reigning National road and cross-country champions and hot favourites to win the title again next month.
Charley Coffey (15:29) shook off the cobwebs after a long break from racing due to her medical studies to give us a good start in 4th place of the 60 plus teams that started the women’s race. Taking over from Charley, Katie Knowles (14:56) wasted no time in giving chase and was soon up in the silver medal position, which Rebecca Randell (15:05) consolidated on the penultimate leg despite running in total isolation.
It was still an impossible gap for Claire Hallissey (14:35) to close, but unphased she took up the cudgel with a vengeance, and though never able to see the leaders tore round the last stage in the second fastest time of the race – around a minute faster than she had done before! Katie and Becky’s times were also among the top ten quickest.
Behind Claire the B team, given a fine start by Emily Merrick (15:41), never looked back. Ellie Wimshurst (15:33) ran next and underlined what an asset she is going to be to the senior team with a time on her debut at U20 level only four seconds slower than Charley’s. Debbie Niccol (15:47) maintained the progress on the third leg before Ruth Mitchell (16:18) proved she is more than just an 800m runner by anchoring the team to an impressive 5th place. It meant only three other clubs beat our second team.overall. Keep it up girls!
Even our C team of Vanessa Brann (17:33), Erica Golland (17:46), Vicky Tester (17:15) and Sian Davies (17:09) more than held their own , finishing in the top third of the field in 18th place.
The men were given an even better start than the women as Phil Wylie, in full flow, completed his preparations for this weekend’s World Duathlon championship, for which we all wish him best of luck, chased the first of the Birchfield Africans all the way on the opening stage to clock the team’s best time of 17:45, which was to prove the day’s 9th fastest overall.
Steve Gallienne (19:09), who has just started at the St Mary’s College elite performance centre, was given his first chance in the A team, and perhaps not surprisingly was really hyped up for the occasion, but he let no one down and despite losing a couple of places kept us in close contact with the leaders.
While Jon Wills (17:53) actually lost another place when Telford’s Sutton Park record holder Chris Davies passed him with the day’s fastest time of 17:14, his own time was only just outside the top ten best and he lost little ground on the new leaders Tipton.
It set Tom Merson (18:04) the sort of challenge he clearly relishes, and as ever running his heart out he gained no less than three places to finish right on the heels of the leaders. This left Steve Mitchell (18:37), who had only just come back from holiday, in an unenviable position of the best of Birchfield’s Africans, the recent Cardiff 10K winner John Ndaysinaga (17:16), in hot pursuit. Hardly surprisingly Steve had to play second fiddle to his flying rival, who overturned the deficit to restore Birchfield to the lead that his fellow countryman had given them on the opening leg!
Tom Russell (18:00) was then left with an insuperable task on the anchor leg as he was never within sight of the Birchfield and Tipton runners, yet by the end he had reduced the gap to just 37 seconds on the winners and was within shouting distance of runners-up Tipton.
It was as good a performance as we could have expected and was capped by the notable effort from the B team, who led by the evergreen Phil Parry (18:52), achieved our best ever position of 9th of the 84 teams. Following Phil, Rich Peters (19:13), having his first outing since being laid up all summer with achilles tendinitis, had to suffer the galling fate of being three seconds slower than his fast improving kid brother Matt Peters (19:10), who took over from him for the third stage.
Dan Woolford (19:29), Dave Green (19:33), and Nathan Young (19:20) brought the team home, though the outstanding performance of the second string came from Sean Hazell (18:54), who opted to give up his place on the B team to young Matt Peters so that he could be in a race on the first stage for the incomplete C team. And what a good decision it proved as he stuck to Phil’s heels all the way to produce what was possibly his best ever road race performance.
It was unforunate that we had to withdraw the C team at the 11th hour, and both Keith and I would beseech you to consider the team manager’s virtually impossible position when someone drops out late the night before an event. If there is any doubt about you being able to run, please keep us posted during the week of any likely problem, such as a niggling injury or ongoing sickness, and we then have a chance to have someone standing by to take your place if you eventually have to pull out.
Enough of that. Now let’s look forward to the National next month when we hope to be stronger. The women must have an excellent chance of medalling, while the men too can certainly give our two Midland conquerors a better tun for their money. To be successful everyone will have to run on average 20 seconds faster. So let’s use the next month’s training to make sure you do just that! Final selection will be made after the opening Gwent League weekend.