Mike Down’s National Road Relay Countdown – Part 4

It’s dress rehearsal time on Saturday when we will be defending our Midland 12-stage road relay title at Sutton Park for the second consecutive year even though all our major players are not available, it will provide everyone else with the opportunity to prove their form with the National only now a month away.

Those missing are headed by DAN STUDLEY, who has bigger fish to fry in next week’s World Half-Marathon championships in Valencia. Our congratulations go to Dan for achieving this latest career landmark. In addition two of our national cross-country silver medalists OWAIN JONES and ANDY CHAMBERS are unavailable. Owain is away and Andy is down to run in Sunday’s Reading Half marathon where he will be joined by JARLATH MCKENNA, who none the less – being Birmingham based –  has volunteered to run round a short leg on Saturday – all in a day’s work for our Green Man machine.

Others not engaged this weekend are PETE LE GRICE, who will be joining Dan in the Valencia Half, MIKE WILSMORE who has had to pull out due to a short term knee problem, and RICH PETERS on wedding duty (not his own!)

The team we have selected may appear lop-sided with several of our likely National long stage runners requesting short legs, JACK MILLAR due to the fact that, like Dan, he has a big date next weekend when he has been chosen to represent England in the Home Countries cross-country international. WILL CHRISTOFI too is looking forward to a break after his two recent formidable performances in the National and subsequent Inter-Counties championships, while Jarlath, as indicated is doing the Reading Half on Sunday.

The net result is that our team captain STEVE MITCHELL is the only likely long leg runner for next month’s National down for Saturday’s four long opening stages. He will be joined by the equally experienced JACK BANCROFT, who is on the comeback trail from a chronic injury problem, and two of the relatively recent recruits to the team HARRY ALLEN and ANDY WATT, both of whom have made a real impact over the country this winter. Harry’s 66th in last weekend’s Inter-Counties and Andy’s finishing position only just outside the elite top 100 in the National are testament to their burgeoning ability.

The eight short stages will provide interesting information re selection for next month’s National where it looks as if there is going to be a real fight for places in the team. Our more likely long leg trio Will, Jack and Jarlath will be supported by BEN ROBINSON, back after a nasty bout of ‘flu, Loughborough based steeplechase specialist HARRY LANE, and local Bristol trio LUKE EVANS, JOSH MOODY and KURT THOMAS.

On paper it is probably nothing like as strong a team as the one that defended the title last year, but the Midland event has become such a procession in recent years, with many of our runners left to time-trial round, that there is every chance that this could be more competitive all the way. The opposition is likely to be headed as usual by our 2015 conquerors Notts AC and more recent runners-up Cheltenham and County who have made great progress over the last two years.

As always there will be as big a focus on the fortunes of our B team in their quest to also qualify for the National by finishing in the top 25 positions. Chris and I are forever worried on the day, but our remarkably consistent record hardly warrants such concern – 2015 ninth; 2016 tenth; and 2017 ninth. This is a real testament to the club’s strength in depth.

Let’s hope that the weather is not quite as cold and unkind as forecast on Saturday, but whatever happens the year’s target remains the same – to defend our English 12-stage title on April 14 and hopefully go one better than last year and win the race overall with the B team proving that strength in depth by beating all the other clubs that qualify two teams.

In closing I must particularly thank Chris on everyone’s behalf for the major part he has played in assembling the two teams due to my recent indisposition with the Australian flu bug.

PROVISIONAL TEAMS (in running order) – A: JACK BANCROFT, HARRY ALLEN, ANDY WATT, STEVE MITCHELL; JARLATH MCKENNA, KURT TAYLOR , WILL CHRISTOFI, JOSH MOODY, HARRY LANE, BEN ROBINSON, JACK MILLAR, LUKE EVANS.

B: ANDY SALMON, MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI, DAN TITHERADGE, JOSH HABGOOD-COOTE, DAVID AWDE, HENRY SLY, BRAD PONTIN, ADAM WILSON, ROBBIE STEWART, CALLUM BROWN, MATT ROBINSON, MICHAEL CHANDLER

Reserves Steve Goss, John Rooney, Jon Goodland, Torran Elson, Sam Bentley

PS –  it has just been revealed that experienced former international road runner MARTIN PALMER (14:08 5k and 29:17 10k) has rejoined the club and should be available to run in the National.

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