As there were so many notable performances at the Midland 12-stage Road Relay championship I have split the honours this week into long and short stage sections.
1 TOM RUSSELL – Tom faced a daunting task on the critical 7th stage when he took over not far short of 100m behind one of Birchfield’s Kenyan stars, but he makes a habit of producing his best form for us in relays and certainly did so here by running a perfectly paced leg to pull eight seconds of Tonui’s advantage back and finish right on the Kenyan’s heels in the 4th fastest time of the day of 26:28.
2=TOM MERSON and JON WILLS – Tom at last showed that he is over the pneumonia and injury niggles that have seriously curtailed his training programme this winter by recording his fastest long leg for the club on the 4th stage. What’s more he did it from the front with no one to chase as he took over with a healthy lead, so did exceptionally well to post a time of 27:01 well within half a minute of two of our star roadmen Jon himself (26:39) and Michael Johnson (26:52). It was the 12th fastest overall and followed his victory the previous weekend in the gruelling Dalwood Three Hills Challenge 10M. As for Jon he gave us his usual morale-boosting start to the race by finishing a close third on the opening stage in the event’s 6th fastest time. He had warmed up for the relay by clocking a fitness-gauging 30:37 in the previous weekend’s Trafford 10K, and reckons that with another three weeks preparation he should be spot on for the National. The same applies to Mike Johnson, who was confronted with the unenviable task of chasing the fastest of Birchfield’s Kenyans Jean Ndaysenaga, who as expected ended up with the day’s fastest time of 25:57 on the final 10th long stage.
3= STEVE McGUIGAN, OLLIE MOTT and ANDY CHAMBERS – Steve and Ollie surprised everyone with two ground-breaking long stages that set the B team on course for their best ever performance in the event. Ably backed by the efforts of Matt Crane (28:39) and Phil Parry (29:25) on the other two long legs ensured that we were the top B team by some distance in 9th place of the 60 plus teams.that contested the race. Steve was well pleased to finish as high as 7th on the opening stage in a cracking time of 28:10, while Ollie was only two seconds slower in his first race for two years following a chronic pelvic injury that prevented him doing any running at all for more than 20 months. Andy is included as though he was forced to pull out of the relay due to an acute gut infection he had continued his recent progress by taking the best part of half a minute of his best time when finishing second in 32:38 in the previous weekend’s Southbourne 10K in Dorset.
1= STEVE FRANCIS, CHRIS DODD and MIKE WILSMORE – These three are given top billing because of the remarkable improvement they all demonstrated over their previous efforts at the distance. Steve (14:39) and Chris (15:03) both ran half a minute faster than than the personal bests they have set on the Bridge Inn 5K course this winter, and while admittedly the Sutton Park leg is some 200m short of 5K, due to its hilly and twisting nature it produces times equivalent to a fast flat 5K. so by any stetch of credibility they were both running up to 20 seconds faster than ever before. In Mike’s case his time of 15:05 was simply some half minute faster than he clocked on the course last year. and like Steve and Chris underlines the extra endurance he has developed as a result of his winter training programmes.
2=PHIL WYLIE and STEVE MITCHELL – Phil (14:27) and Steve (14:32) duly clocked our fastest two short stages, Phil’s time equal second fastest overall and Steve’s 5th. Both looked in superb shape, Phil was using the race as a sharpener for this wekend’s National Duathlon championship, for which we wish him best of luck, while Steve looked to have seconds in hand following his fine season over 1,500m on the boards.
3= TOM LOWE – As one of the world’s leading Ironman triathletes now, 15 minutes of compressed effort is hardly Tom’s chosen method of competition these days, but despite a busy work and travel schedule that has curtailed his training programme since his British record-breaking performance in the US Arizona Ironman event last autumn he still ran a quarter of a minute faster than he had in last year’s race.
1 ROB WHALLEY – In his first race since last May’s National Masters road relay championships due to injury problems Rob, never one to do things by halves, went straight in at the deep end by tackling the Masters National cross-country championship and survived smiling to finish a creditable 6th less than half a minute off a podium position and more importantly with no after-effects!
2= PHIL PARRY, HEATH BAMPTON and STEVE GOSS – Despite an ankle injury that has severely hampered his training this winter Phil joined Rob in the Vets championship and did equally well to finish only just outside the top 20 in 5th position among the V45 class before following up last weekend by running his usual reliable long leg (29:25) for the B team in the Midland 12-stage. Like the others Heath too had been nursing a niggling hamstring, but shrugged it off to finish 39th overall and third scorer behind Rob and Phil for our victorious V35-44 team in the Masters cross-country, while Steve’s time of 15:57 was the B team’s fastest short stage in the Midland relay, and apparently faster than any runner recorded in the accompanying 6-stage Masters event. His run lifted us to 7th place at halfway, which was way above anything we had anticipated.
3= MARK SCRUTTON and KEITH BRACKSTONE – Mark and Keith, two of our V50 stalwarts, have played an invaluable role in the club’s success in the past fortnight. Mark was drafted into our V35 team at the National Masters cross following the late withdrawal through illness of of Steve Goss and Mick O’Doherty, and without him as our fourth and final scorer in 69th place we would not have won the team gold medals. Keith for his part bravely volunteered en route to fill in for the B team at the Midland road relay following Andy Chambers’ late withdrawal and more than belied his years (I won’t reveal how many!) to clock a time only just over 18 mins and hold our position among the top ten teams.
1 HOBIE MARTIN – Hobie capped his fine season by finishing a close 5th – only 14 secs down on the winner – in the English Schools Inter Boys cross-country championship to earn himself selection for the England team in this weekend’s Home Countries Schools international. It follows his fine 6th place in the previous fortnight’s Inter-Counties U17 championship and confirms his postion among the most promising young distance runners in the country.
2 ZAK TOBIAS – Zak produced his best run of the winter to finish less than half a minute behind Hobie in 12th place in the English Schools race, though it left him naturally disappointed that he had got so close to joining Hobie on the England team.
3= LUKE GRENFELL-SHAW – Luke proved that he is a name for the future by finishing a very creditable 36th and second Avon runner – in the English Schools Senior Boys championship. He has been improving all winter and this was almost certainly his best race yet.
1= REBEKAH RANDELL and LUCY McALISTER – It would be invidious to try and compare Rebekah and Lucy’s performances as they were over vastly different distances. Rebekah may have had an unassailable lead and no one to chase on the last leg of the Midland 6-stage road relay championship, yet undeterred she scorched round the final leg to clock the second fastest time of the day as she anchored our women’s team to their runaway triumph. Her time of 16:36 was also good enough to gain her a slot in the top 20 times recorded since the event started in the year 2000. As for Lucy she seems to be in the form of her life and followed up her recent new personal best in the Bath Half by finishing a close runner-up to Kenyan Robyn Koech in the Hastings half-marathon. The gap between them at the finish was only just over half a minute, and while Lucy’s time of 75:50 was two minutes slower than her time at Bath, the difference is amply accounted for by the testing hilly Hastings course, a fact reinforced by the comparatively slow men’s winning time of 68mins exactly by another Kenyan Gordon Mugi.
2= IMOGEN AINSWORTH and CHARLIE WILLS – With her recent injury problems now happily resolved, Imo proved she is fast approaching her best form again by setting the 4th fastest time of the day (16:52) in the Midland road relay championship, a time enhanced by the fact that like Rebekah she was in a virtual time-trial situation as she took over from Grace Crane with a commanding lead. Charlie for her part demonstrated that the Leeds air is certainly doing her no harm as she produced her best run for some time to post the 6th fastest time of the day (17:14) and put our team within striking distance of the lead on the third stage.
3= VICKY TESTER and GRACE CRANE – It would be remiss not to mention Vicky and Grace’s contribution to the women’s team’s triumph. They faced the unenviable task of deputising for international pair Kate Goodhead and Ellie Wimshurst, and certainly did not let the side down. Vicky’ 18:31 kept us in contention on the second stage, while Grace was only 12 secs slower and against the odds took us into a winning lead on the 4th stage.
1 AMY CHALK – Amy followed up her confidence-boosting bronze medal in the National Masters cross-country championship the previous weekend by finishing 4th in the Hastings half marathon just ten seconds behind Ethiopian Kidist Yichenku. As with Lucy ahead of her, Amy’s time of 77:35 was clearly worth some two minutes faster on a more favourable course.
2 ANNABEL GRANGER – Annabel made her first return to serious competition in the National Masters cross-country championship and though out of commission through injury and motherhood for some three years looked as if she had never been away as she followed Amy home in 4th place to lay the foundation of our overwhelming team victory.
3= CAMILLA BRIGGS and NIKKI BROOKLAND – Camilla’s 8th place in the Masters cross-country completed our convincing team success, while Nikki, who missed the cross-country, made up for it with a fine run in the Midland 6-stage relay, putting us in the bronze medal position on the first leg with the day’s 8th fastest time overall of 17:33.
1 ANNABEL GUMMOW – Annabel just goes from strength to strength. Her remarkable 22nd postioin – second European finisher – in last weekend’s World U20 cross-country championship in Spain is a tribute not only to the coaching of Chris Wooldridge but also to her ability to produce her best under championship pressure. Once again she knew if she could keep UK champion Emilia Gorecka in her sights she would not go far wrong, and in doing so by her own admission she almost ran herself to a standstill. Even more significant is that both of them are still only 17 and will be eligible for this race for another two years. Watch this space!
2 OLIVIA SADLER – Olivia may not be at the same level as Annabel yet, but she cemented her status among the top girls of her age group in the country by following up her 5th position in the recent Inter-Counties U17 championship with another creditable 7th place finish in the English Schools Senior Girls event. She considers herself primarily as a track runner and looks sure to benefit this summer from the endurance she has developed during the winter campaign.
3= VICTORIA KENNY – Victoria may suffer somewhat from being in Olivia’s shadow, but she too has been steadily improving this winter season and capped it by making the first 50 in the younger English Schools Inter Girls championship,. In what proved a very competitive race she finished well within a minute of a top ten place and led the Avon team home.
MIKE DOWN (25-03-11). .