Midland Road Relays – Sunday 16th March 2014 – All’s Well That Ends Well

Any club team manager will tell you that the last couple of days before a regional or national championship race can be pretty challenging but the lead up to this weekend brought a couple of new twists. The late withdrawal of Annabel Gummow and Charlotte Green through illness (we hope they recover soon) led Women’s Team Manager Keith Brackstone to call around warning individuals that the B team had fallen apart and in the end Helen Newberry and Julia Belyavin stepped up to the A team and Lisa Newing was the sole B team runner to go to Sutton Park as she needed the run out and running the only leg for the B team at least gave her a race (and provided the A team with a travelling reserve) but more of that later.

Mike Downs had what is probably a first in that a couple of runners who thought they wouldn’t be available became available so Mike Down suddenly had Owain Jones for the A team and Chris Elson had Ross Grainger for the B team. Fortunately both were declared and so could be run.

After the good news the bad news was a call from U-Drive at 3 p.m. on Saturday to say the mini-bus allocated to the club had broken down in South-Wales and there were no replacement mini-buses available in the South-West and some hasty phone calls confirmed that this wasn’t just limited to U-Drive. Further urgent phone calls resulted in a convoy of cars being arranged – Keith didn’t want a relaxing afternoon watching the rugby in any event.

Anyway on to the Sunday and we will start with the ladies as their race finished first. Some canny leg selections were made in an effort to get a solid start which the team could hold until half-way and then move through. Helen Newberry was kept in the dark until the Sunday – she expected to run the first leg but not for the A team but ran a great leg to finish in eleventh place in 16:19, confirming the great promise she is starting to show over 5ks in recent weeks. The plan was for Anna Burton to gain some places and get back into the mix. Anna lifted the team to eighth with a 15:45 clocking but after some early gains the first eight were quite well away but she was two seconds behind Worcester and 27 seconds behind Charnwood. According to the script Julia Belyavin would do well to consolidate the club’s position on leg 3. Julia obviously didn’t like the script and a great leg in 16:42 saw her pass Worcester, Coventry, Heanor and Royal Sutton Coldfield to put the club in sight of a medal.

On leg 4 Kate Goodhead showed that, despite a sore throat, she is starting to recapture some of her old form as she stormed through to second place only 47 seconds behind Birchfield as she clocked 15:15. At this point the team manager was wondering whether we might reel in Birchfield over the last two legs but the word that the West Midlanders had saved their best to last was well founded. Sara Treacy (14:33) for fastest leg of the day and Catherine Blew (14:34 – second fastest of the day) took Birchfield clear to a commanding win as Jessie Sanzo clocked a great 15:03 for the club’s fastest leg of the day on the fifth leg and Helen Sharpe clocked 15:46 on the final leg to see the club over 2 minutes clear of third placers Notts AC.

Had Charlotte and Annabel run it wouldn’t have been enough to have seen off a strong Birchfield quartet on the day so well done to Birchfield but a very well done to the Bristol & West sextet and especially to Helen and Julia who stepped up to the A team magnificently.

Lisa Newing got back into racing with 17:50 for twenty-first place on the first leg and from the amount of running around she was doing after the race she isn’t that unfit and the race will certainly have helped bring her on for future races – let’s see if she is out for next week’s Pomphrey Sports 5k.

Full results of the Ladies’ Race can be found at:

http://www.race-results.co.uk/results/2014/mw614.pdf    

In the Men’s Race ‘A’ Team Manager Mike Down was using similar tactics alternating strong long legs with our less strong short legs early on – aiming to finish strongly to pull back into the medals. Steve Mitchell was slightly disappointed with his fifth place on the first (long) leg in 25:46 as Jacob Allen was a surprise leader for Rugby in front of some of the more established Midland teams. Loyal club servant Phil Parry finished ninth on the second leg in 14:28 to keep the club in the top 10.

Oli Mott clocked 26:51 to finish eighth but already (at the end of leg 3) some quite big gaps were beginning to appear at the front of the field. On leg 4 Steve Francis returned to racing and showed what a talent he is clocking 13:49 to lift the club into fifth place. Owain Jones was running pretty much in a vacuum but such is his great pace judgment that he stole a place taking 1 minute 41 seconds out of the Birchfield runner to turn a 1 minute 34 second deficit into a 7 second advantage.  Steve Goss put in a good shift as his 14:47 clocking saw only Birchfield come past. By that point the half-way stage fifth was a good position but the club was well off the medals being almost exactly 3 minutes behind Tipton in third place. Leg 7 saw Tom Merson pull back a place as he ran 25:48 but quick legs from Notts, Tipton and Coventry saw the medal gap grow to 3 minutes 18 seconds.

Peter Le Grice started the fight back and a 13:41 clocking saw him consolidate in fourth place and close the gap on the three front clubs even though they were still out of sight. Leg nine saw Ben Robinson pull exactly a minute back on third placers Coventry as he ran 13:40 but even with a gap down to 1 minute 41 seconds Godiva were still out of sight. Enter Will Christofi on leg 10: his 13:47 pulled another one minute fifteen seconds back on Coventry and a sixteen second gap gave Ben Westhenry something to chase. Ben went for it moving into a medal position early and pulling away to complete the penultimate leg in 14:01, one minute and six seconds in front of Coventry. On the final leg Dan Studley looked effortless and you might have been forgiven for thinking that he was cruising but the clock told a different story as it stopped at 13:12 for the second fastest short leg of the day. So a good bronze medal but the gaps to winners Notts and runners-up Tipton will certainly give Mike Down a few sleepless nights before the National and it is likely that the long wait to repeat 1980s exploits will continue. However, among the positives were some good runs by youngsters which bode well for the future and some promising relay debuts for newcomers such as Pete Le Grice and Ben Robinson.

Chris Elson had worked hard to get a strong ‘B’ team out and again there were many athletes running this event for the first time.  A top twenty-five finish would see the team eligible to compete in the National 12-stage relays – so this was the target for the day. Rob Stewart’s 28:56 clocking saw the team off in twenty-eighth place and Rob admitted feeling last weekend’s Duathlon in his legs still. Andy Malloy ran a cracking 14:58 for a short leg to lift the team into the top twenty-five as he finished twenty-fifth. On leg 3 a 30:59 clocking from Phil Lucker saw the team back in thirtieth place but a 15:29 leg 4 from Ross Grainger saw the team making ground as he finished twenty-eighth. Jarlath McKenna ran the fastest long leg for the B team and his 27:51 clocking took the team up to twentieth. Trystan Daniels clocked 15:59 on leg six to gain another place as the team reached the lofty heights of nineteenth. Doug Jewell’s 30:43 on the long leg 7 brought the team home in twenty-first place. Experience was key towards the end as Chris had 3 veterans up his sleeve; on leg 8 Dave Bedwell clocked 16:06 to move up a place and Jerry Hogan also caught a place on leg 9 as he clocked 15:33. Tom Watkins ran 16:59 on leg 10 as he slipped back one place to twentieth. On leg 11 Peter Gandon held twentieth place as he recorded 15:57 which left vet 55 Peter Mountain to finish off the job and bring the team home in twenty-first place with his time of 16:36. Chris now needs to find out if the B team are up to repeat their exertions on Saturday 5th April 2014 – when we all hope Sutton Park will be just as sunny (but hopefully with fewer cars trying to leave at the end!)

Full results of the Men’s Race can be found at:

http://www.race-results.co.uk/results/2014/m1214.pdf