u15 and u17 teams: another awesome day at Sutton Park

09 Oct
Emma Withers reports on the National Road Relays at Sutton Park…
18 u15 and u17 boys travelled to Birmingham for the second time in two weeks – a very eventful day!! 
 74 u15 teams set off at 12 midday.  After safely getting the A runners into the pen, I watched them surge forward on the sound of the gun, with much pushing and shoving in such a narrow space it was no surprise that several runners fell, including two of our Bristol and West boys in the first 50m.  Much praise goes to Amos Kingston and Jay Hunt who having a runner fall in front of them both with nowhere to go, somersaulted over him, without hesitation they picked themselves up and continued to run and catch the pack.  Joseph Hull, who managed to miss the carnage, (14.56) led the first team in followed by Jay Hunt, in his first race this autumn season (15.07) and Amos Kingston (15.36) running the fastest time he has ever run at this event, clearly spurred on by the adrenaline of the fall.  
The first of our second leg runners Misha Evans was delayed by a painful stitch on the way round, showed great resilience and bravely finished in 17.37, Fred Cummins determined to improve on his time from 2 weeks ago, finished strongly in 15.27 and Jacob Franklin, showing no tiredness from his 4k run the previous day, clocked 15.45, taking 3 minutes off his time from the Midlands.
Bringing the three teams home, Eoin O Halloran, who waited patiently in the pen for his B runner finally set off after much shouting and waving by his Team Manager to advise the marshalls to set him off, ran an amazing 14.12. Ollie Robertson Kurd ran 16.08, knocking 20 seconds off his debut cross country run 2 weeks previous and for the third team, Joe McNamara, ran a consistent race 19.08, managing a smile in the last 400m.
Our u17 mens first team had a slight change to the line up from 2 weeks ago. With Ollie Harper unable to run due to work commitments, Rufus Thomas stepped up.  Fred Hawker led the team out, being used to the first leg commotion, and ran an accomplished 12.40 in 28th position. Jay Akbar, in his first year u17 category, went gliding round in 14.11 and the ever reliable Jacob Roe in 15.43.  B runners, Steve Kerfoot, looking much more comfortable this time around, improved his time by almost 30 seconds, endurance improving each time following a fast track season.  James Casling, also back to endurance training following a busy track season, 14.34 with an 11 second improvement and Cole Edmonds, also first year and first race this season, 14.36.  C leg runners, Rufus Thomas (13.12) steadily working to overtake, making up 4 places, and brought the first team home in position 32.  Otto Kingston, finally dipped under the 15 minute mark in 14.56, despite his knees not feeling their best at the start and Lewis Adamson, also coming back from injury finished in 14.45, looking comfortable and with clearly more to come in future races. 
We are very much looking forward to the first of the Gwent League races this weekend at Cardiff. 

Under 13 Boys raise their game for the big occasion

09 Oct

Ali Hurford reports…

It must have been something I said in the team speech on the minibus, or perhaps what they all ate for breakfast, but something worked. The first team finishing 16th was a very pleasant surprise plus 5 Pb’s along the way.

Once all 8 boys finally climbed out of the tree, the serious work of getting in the zone began. Thankfully everything went to plan & once the race was over the very necessary job of eating lunch commenced while I waited for the results.

After the usual post mortem many of the lads are now aware that next year they will be even stronger and that if we can keep this up, next season could be very exciting.

Team A

Once again Zac Cox (14.46) ran a very consistent and well paced race, showing great maturity especially as this is his first year racing at this level. Ronnie Wilmott (15.30) took over on stage 2 and well deserved his place in the first team running a PB of 34sec. The final leg was all down to Alex Auton Green (14.56) who made up 8 places and ran so hard his legs were quite stiff the following day. Finishing 16th with such a  young team was very encouraging.

Team B

I decided to give Vijay Sanjeer (16.02) a shot at running a PB by placing him on first leg and it clearly worked by 21 sec. Joey Taylor (16.23) thankfully did not fall over this time and ran another very consistent race on the second stage before handing over to Max Finning (17.21) who closed in the team for 42nd but definitely had the loudest cheer in the finishing straight due to his wonderful Naruto signature effect in the closing stages. I feel I will need to refine this a little before the next race.

Team C

The first stage is always very fast so Felix Pearson (17.35) ran very sensibly at the back of the pack and in doing so also recorded a PB by 13sec which should give him great encouragement for the rest of the season.  Likewise Ben Pocock (18.25) on the second stage keeps chipping away at his times so we ended the race on yet another PB. Although we did not have a third leg runner both of these lads gave it their best shot.

We are now all gearing up for the Gwent League on Saturday and confident we can put on a competitive performance to try and get ahead of our Welsh rivals!

Mike Down’s National Road Relay Roundup: Senior Men

09 Oct

TOP SIX RECORD MAINTAINED

All I can say is well done guys for yet again exceeding pre-race expectations to maintain our position among the top six teams in England.

When HARRY ALLEN, after being laid low by a chest infection, decided he was in no fit state to do himself or the team justice in Sunday’s National 6-Stage road relay championship at Birmingham’s Sutton Park, it seemed unlikely we could do more than make the top ten if even that such was the competitive line-up this year. That however took no account of the close knit determination of our current squad that, backs to the wall or not, proved they had the spirit to rise to the challenge, while as if to emphasise this Harry himself volunteered to run round the last leg to ensure our B team finished.

With Harry the fastest runner in our silver medal-winning Midland team missing, the target we set of an 18 minute average per runner was always going to be difficult to meet, and so it proved, though in the end we only finished 7 seconds a man down on that in what were much windier conditions than encountered in the Midland championship.

JACK MILLAR set the example required with a storming opening stage of 17:46 that left us only just outside the top ten of the 80 teams that qualified to start in the National final. Clearly benefiting from a recent training camp with his ex-Oxford colleagues in Majorca, he not only settled in the huge leading pack up the long drag to the top of the course, but made the critical split as the pace at the front quickened from the dog leg turn to home and maintained his position on the long run back to the initial changeover.

Next up ANDY WATT, whose new found form was the revelation of our Midland silver medal-winning performance, followed up what was surely is best ever midweek training session by running more than ten seconds faster than his excellent Midland effort, his 18:05 moving us up two places to a position just inside our original top ten target.

This left late substitute ADAM STOKES with the daunting task of filling Harry’s shoes on the third stage, but though eventually losing four places it was only to the small group of runners that he got involved with early on. Underlining the stamina that saw him win the previous weekend’s Barnstaple half marathon as part of his preparation for the Inter-services international marathon in Washington at the end of the month, he hung in there most of the way to complete the job required of him in a creditable 18:40.

Like Adam, DAN STUDLEY is also in the middle of a heavy mileage programme in preparation for his marathon debut in Spain this December. Though predictably not perhaps as sharp over this relatively short 6k distance as in past years he still dipped under the 18 minute barrier; his 17:57 lifting us back into the top ten again and close enough to the teams ahead not to rule out further progress.

Well conditioned to this sort of situation over the years JARLATH MCKENNA, as reliable as ever and despite having no one within striking distance, set about the task of closing the gap on the Southampton and Sale runners some way up ahead to give our anchor leg runner KURT TAYLOR a chance of making it into the top six. And once again he delivered the goods, not only passing the Bedford team but leaving Kurt with a real chance of achieving our goal with another fine leg of 18:06, which was more than 20 seconds quicker than last year.

Needing no further invitation Kurt resolved to past the Sale and Southampton runners as soon as possible before settling down to a holding operation as he was not feeling 100 per cent himself. His was a true captain’s effort, and while he had to make sure of holding off a furious chase by top North East club Morpeth, he clocked 18:09 to finish 7th overall much closer than we had been at the Midlands to Birchfield who were less than a minute ahead in 6th. With Welsh champions Cardiff, competing as guests in 4th place, it meant we made the top six in the English championship race that was, as anticipated, dominated at the front by last year’s all-conquering National champions Leeds City and Southern title-holders Aldershot, the latter having to settle for the silver medals, with the bronze going to a Cambridge and Coleridge team that had World Championship 5000m recruit MARK SCOTT to thank for a blistering leg of 16:46, which was by far the fastest of the day.

The fortunes of our B team were obviously diminished by the enforced change to the A team and, as already mentioned, we had to rely on Harry Allen to shrug off his chest infection and run round the final stage to make sure the team actually had a finishing position.

At least our first pair JED BARTLETT and HENRY COCHRANE were as originally selected and gave us the start we had hoped for. Jed, though like one or two others not feeling at his best, matched his Midland run, his time of 19:04 leaving us 60th on the opening stage and close enough to the pack of runners just ahead of him for Henry to underline the promise he showed in the Midland championship by reining in a dozen of them with a time more than ten seconds quicker than for the C team then at 18:52.

ADAM WILSON maintained the progress with a time nearly a quarter of a minute faster than he recorded at the Midlands of 19:25 to gain another four places and hand over to NICK ROBERTS in 44th position. Nick, himself an eleventh hour replacement, did well to hold his own, and despite losing a few positions, achieved his goal of breaking 20 minutes with an encouraging effort of 19:56.

PETE BAINS, who by his own admission is in his best form for years, then took over for the penultimate stage and not only regained the lost ground and a bit more to leave us just outside the top 40, but as at the Midlands produced arguably one of our best runs of the day, his time of 19:30 being almost half a minute faster than his Midlands effort, when he had been a similar amount quicker than in last year’s race.

This left HARRY ALLEN to shrug off his chest infection and ensure the team finished. Sensibly running well within himself he did enough to lift us into the top half of the select field, his time of 19:09 leaving the team to finish 38th and ironically matching the A team’s 7th position overall in the unofficial second team race, though even closer to arch rivals Birchfield who were just two seconds ahead!

In retrospect Harry’s absence from the A team arguably had little effect on our overall 7th position as he would have had to clock a time around 17:45 to have a hope of avenging our Midland defeat by Birchfield and closer to 17:20 to challenge London club Shaftesbury-Barnet for 5th place.  To conclude then we certainly made amends for last year’s disastrous 18th place finish, but it is a sobering thought that champions Leeds were nearly four minutes ahead, and if we are to reduce the deficit we will need every one of our leading runners charged up for the 12-Stage.

Ironically we would have had the club’s current top man PETE LE GRICE  on board if he had not been refused  an elite entry for the recent Bristol Half marathon, and he duly underlined what the Bristol race had missed by smashing his personal best to finish 12th and second Brit in 64:21 behind a posse of African runners in Sunday’s Cardiff Half, to which he had switched as final preparation for his GB debut in the Frankfurt marathon at the end of the month. Among others in action at Cardiff MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI followed up his 2:28 10th place in the previous weekend’s Warsaw marathon with 34th position in 70:58, while back in 57th ANDY DRAKE set a new pb of 74 mins and bits.

Elsewhere ANDY CHAMBERS warmed up for this coming weekend’s opening UK Cross Challenge race at Cardiff by scoring a runaway victory in the Bournemouth Festival 10K in 31:29, with clubmate OLI SHEPPARD also on the podium in third place.

Our attention now switches to next month’s national cross-country relay championships at Berry Hill Park, Mansfield on November 2nd, with a first warm-up scheduled for Saturday’s opening Gwent League race at Cardiff. Meanwhile please let Chris know if you want to run this weekend or either of us if you are available for Mansfield.

u15 and u17 boys take on Midland Road Relays

30 Sep

Emma Withers reports…

17 u15 boys and u17 men travelled to Sutton Park for the first race of the up and coming autumn season.  Armed with the club tent we arrived on site in good time, allowing those who hadn’t run at Sutton Park before to recce the course and acclimatise to the unusually warm conditions. 

Joseph Hull in his second year at u15 level, taking on the A leg, led the first team home in 14.29 (25), handing over to Eoin O Halloran, who ran with great determination, making up 14 places finishing in 14.21 (11).  Misha Evans held onto 11th position, 14.58 bringing the first team home in 43.48.  11th team overall. 

Second Team, with newcomer Nick Pestell, despite almost missing the team bus, was not late to the start and stuck closely to Joseph, crossing the finish in 14.52 (31), handing over to Amos Kingston who held onto 31st position, 16.43 and on the final leg, Fred Cummins, returning from injury, 16.12, making up 5 places (26).  26th team overall, 47.47.

Third Team, led out by Will Chapman, struggling with painful knees, 17.03 (43) handed over to the very experienced, Zac Roe 17.17 (36) making up 7 places. Jacob Franklin the final runner, 18.45 (33), making up another 3 places, kept up the pace. 33rd team overall, 53.05.

Fourth team, unfortunately having lost a team member to injury, set out with Ollie Robertson Kurd, in his first cross-country race, 16.28 (40), handed over to Joe McNamara 18.27 (37) showing such a huge improvement, knocking over 3 minutes off last years time.  Regular training is paying off!

 

The u17 men set off at 12.25 following a gentle warm up.  There had been much discussion in the first team and a plan devised to try to run under 40 minutes.  Led out by Fred Hawker, who as planned, stayed in the top ten, finishing in 12.32 (8), taking 42 seconds off last years time, handed over to Ollie Harper, running here for the first time made up 3 places, finishing in 12.59 (5). On the final leg Steve Kerfoot, 8 seconds quicker than last year, 14.14 finished in 9th place.  Finishing 9th team overall and delighted to be under 40 minutes in 39.45.

Otto Kingston, led the second team out, finishing in 15.13 almost a minute quicker than last year (35) handed over to James Casling, following a track season taking on 400m hurdles, 14.45 (28) making up 7 places and the ever consistent Jacob Roe, bringing the team home in 26th place overall, 15.58 (45.26). 

 

A special mention goes to Nathan Marchant (time tbc) who made his debut with the Senior Men’s team and also Henry (19.03) and Billy Cochrane (23.33), who have been assisting and pacing the u15 and u17 boys recently in training.

 

As always the boys displayed excellent team spirit and teamwork; a good day’s running.

 

Under 13 Boys kick off the winter season with gusto at Midland Road Relays

23 Sep

The day began very positively, everyone on time, standing room only on the minibus plus lots of enthusiastic new members to the team proudly wearing their Bristol & West vests.

After an uneventful journey we proceeded to park & although this was not straight forward it bore no resemblance to what was to follow four hours later.

Being first race off at 10.45am meant we were blessed with perfect racing conditions.

Once the lads had eventually climbed out of a wonderful tree which they always manage to find the serious task of racing took over & I was really impressed how well everyone managed the change overs. Clearly practice makes perfect.

Some of the under 13 lads relaxing in the sunshine!

The first fixture is always very difficult to decide the teams & running order & this year although not perfect it could have been a lot worse.

The A team consisted of Zac Cox (14.45) running a remarkable first leg finishing in 12th position & so I had to leg it to the start to alert Joey Taylor (16.20) he needed to make his way to the line. Despite an unfortunate fall half way round & a bloody knee Joey ran a very strong race & is well capable of running close to 16 min next time. The final stage was down to Vijay Sanjeer (16.23) who has recently shown great promise on the track. Running a very senseable  race he bought the team in for a very creditable 12th place overall. Considering the three members of this team have never competed at this event before I was delighted with this result.

The B team started with Daniel Jarrold (16.09) competing for the club for the first time plus young in the age group so he could not of wished for a better start. He ran with great maturity & was not phased by the fast pace in the early stages. An experienced Ronnie Wilmott (16.04) ran a very useful second leg picking up several places on his way as well as running 52 seconds quicker than last year. So the final leg was down to Max Finning (17.12) who is very new to the group & still learning how to train & race. He clearly was enjoying himself & there is much more to come form Max in future races. The B team finished a very respectable 20th

The C team was set on its way by Felix Pearson (17.48) who made the most of the competitive start & so running 41 seconds faster than last time which shows what a difference a year can make if you continue to train consistently. Likewise Ben Pocock (18.28) also beat his previous time & continues to improve as well as enjoying the occasion. Another new recruit to the u13 ranks is Barney Thomas (18.10) who showed real staying power right to the finishing line to bring our final complete team in 30th.

Apart from being the only club the to finish a C team we also started the only D team & this is thanks to Archie Green (19.21) who stuck solidly to his task on the first leg. This shows what remarkable team ethos the group has developed & everyone plays their part.

Overall the day went well from every perspective until we attempted to leave. As we approached the minibus it became very apparent we were well blocked in. However about half  an hour later & 101 three point turns James Green our in-house  driver finally made it out. The highlight of the day was probably the services on the way back but after such a fun day the chips were well deserved.

I am looking forward to our next away day again on Sunday 6th Oct, the National Road Relays.

MIDLAND WOMEN’S ROAD RELAY – SATURDAY 21st SEPTEMBER 2019

23 Sep

Keith Brackstone reports…

The club entered three teams for the Midland Road Relays and Team Manager Keith Brackstone was in the enviable position of having more runners wanting to race than available places. The team tactic was to have a strong start and try and hold on to a medal position with the Team Manager expecting a very strong Birchfield team to be likely winners if recent history was anything to go by. Natalie Griffiths ran an exceptionally well judged race to move up from sixth at the half-way point to finish second in 15:19 (fifth fastest leg of the day) as Bryony Gunn (14:55) gave Birchfield the early lead. On leg 2 Hannah Pollak ran 16:20 to come home in fourth place as Birchfield extended their lead. At this point Taunton AC were second and Charnwood were third. Izzy Talbot Price produced an absolute stormer on Leg 3 to lift the team back into a medal position as she clocked 15:49 (fifteenth fastest leg of the day). Catie O’Donoghue held a 10-second lead over Charnwood at the start of the fourth leg but was never going to hold off Great Britain International Gemma Steel and did well to dig in and hold off a fast finishing Floren Scrafton as Westbury Harriers closed to within one second at the end. Catie’s time was 17:06. Birchfield were indeed clear winners with Charnwood second and Taunton AC a surprise third in their first Midland Championships.

Becky Pierce led the B team off clocking 16:54 in twenty-second place. Katrina Entwistle produced her best race for the club to date as her clocking of 16:22 lifted the club into tenth place (a real A team performance). Lucy Wallace ran 17:21 to finish eleventh and Sarah Everitt clocked 17:11 to hold on to eleventh place at the finish (surely the fastest F50 time of the day).

Julia Belyavin showed she is returning to form with a 17:07 first leg for the C team A as she finished in twenty-sixth place. Alice Watson clocked 18:25 to bring the team home in twenty-ninth place with Emma Clarke picking up one place on Leg 3 as she ran 18:52. Louise Cronin (another F50) ran 18:28 on the last leg to bring the C Team home in thirty-second place.

There was great team support for each other on a very hot day at Sutton Park and we now look forward to the National Road Relays on Sunday 6th October 2019 when it is likely to be a lot cooler.

Monthly committee update #6

23 Sep

Each month we’ll usually profile a different committee member, give an update on what the committee’s been working on, and look forward to future projects. This month, we chat to Betti Farkas, the club’s new officials and membership secretary, who has an impressive athletic history!

Meet… Betti, officials and membership secretary

Tell us about your role at the club

I have a combined role at the club as a membership secretary and officials secretary. Both roles are very exciting. The first one is more of an admin job, but I am the first to get to know the people joining or willing to join to
our club and it’s great to help them with their first steps. The second is more about meeting and bringing people together. In my last few weeks I have already met some amazing people who have been volunteering for
decades and have such great experience and knowledge. I have learnt a lot from them even if I thought I know a lot.

How did you get involved with athletics and what is your proudest achievement in the sport?

My love for athletics started when I was 10 years old. My P.E. teacher was also an athletics coach who ran after school sessions and asked me to join. From that moment running became an everyday activity in my life. My career as an athlete went really well until 2001. I became Hungarian champion 30 times in my age category in 100m, 200m, long jump and relays. My proudest achievement was taking part in the first World Youth Championship in the 4x100m relay. Unfortunately, in 2001 I had a bad injury and had to stop competing for a few years. During this time I finished my studies at the Hungarian Sports University graduating as a P.E. teacher and a few years later as a Sport Manager. I missed the track so much, so I started to train again in 2006, but at the same time I practised officiating and became a qualified coach.

I feel very lucky to have a view of athletics from 3 different perspectives: as an athlete, coach and an official. I have learnt a lot from athletics and that’s why I want to help to this club as much as I can.

As a coach:
I moved to Bristol in 2014 and I can still remember my first time where I was warmly welcomed by coaches and started to train 400m runners. Being a coach and helping someone to reach their goals brings me so much joy, nearly the same feeling as competing expect I am not the one who had to go through the hard sessions and struggle to walk home after. But hard work always pays off.
As an official:
I love to be on the track as an official. I started as a helper when I was 13 and I am glad I started that early because it is very good to know the rules whether you are an athlete or a coach. Officiating is always a lot of responsibility, a new experience and I am getting to know lovely people.

What do you like doing outside of athletics?

As an individual I love being in nature and I get to enjoy this through long walks and adventures with my son. I like to try new sports or activities and I am always up for a new challenge whatever life brings me.

 

What have we been working on?

Recent committee projects include:

  • Analysing the results of the membership survey – see our next steps here.
  • Developing a ‘people and performance’ strategy – this will be the makings of our new development plan. Coaching coordinator Paul Filer and vice-chairman Mike Down have been talking to people around the club to get their views.
  • Working on a new communications strategy – a new-look website is coming VERY SOON – we’re aiming for a launch date in October. We’re also creating a welcome pack for new members.
  • Planning for a future club house project – this is still in the making, but we are doing everything we can to negotiate a proper home for us at Whitehall.
  • Planning club events – the new Pomphrey 5k series is up and running.
  • Sorting finance for important Whitehall maintenance – considerable negotiations were required to sort out funding for some much needed maintenance, but we’re happy to report that we are now in a good place!

What’s coming up?

We’re excited to have our new committee members, like Betti, fully ingrained in the committee team. We’re going to work particularly on the actions that came out of the membership survey, with the new website, development plan and Whitehall negotiations continuing to take up much of our time.

ps don’t forget about our club welfare officers, who play a role in the committee. If you have any concerns then you can contact Emma and Paul on safeguarding@bristolandwestac.org.

BWAC Membership Survey 2019: key thoughts and actions

23 Sep

Over 100 club members completed our membership survey this summer. The BWAC committee have analysed the results, and are committed to making the club even better based on suggestions from our members.

Here’s some of the feedback we received, and the actions we’ll be taking!

The website is not user friendly

We’re in the process of updating the site, and are hoping to launch a slimmed down, super easy to use version in October! Thanks to club member Nicko Brooke who has been helping with this. If you have any ‘must haves’ for the new website, then let Ellen know on marketing@bristolandwestac.org.

Can we have more advice on things like injury prevention and nutrition?

Watch this space for a new series of talks for BWAC members on topics of use to athletes of all disciplines…we’re planning the first speaker session for November. We’ll also be adding useful links and sources of advice to the new website!

Can there be better communication about upcoming events, particularly for juniors?

Hopefully our new fixtures information on the new website will sort this one too!

Juniors want to be able to try lots of disciplines when they are young, but also to have clear development plans…

Paul Filer and Mike Down are working on our new performance and people strategy and development plan. As coaching coordinator, Paul will be leading work to support our awesome team of coaches, and to ensure that we develop our young athletes to their full potential.

We need a branded tent and flags at events!

Yes, we do! We’re working on getting the new(ish) tent branded, and on getting some new flags in time for the cross country season.

Facilities at Whitehall need improving, and we’d like a clubhouse please

The clubhouse project is ongoing, with continuing negotiations with Cabot Learning Foundation, who own the Whitehall track. We’ll make sure we communicate better about this and give members regular updates on what’s going on.

Can we have more socials please?

We’ve set up a small social team to run a series of get-togethers during the cross country season, and we’re hoping to run some Christmas events for the track and field teams. We’re also aiming for events that bring the whole club together: watch this space on those!

We also had lots of suggestions for different types of sessions (hills were popular) and changes of venue…these will be fed back to the coaching team.

 

MIKE DOWN’S NATIONAL ROAD RELAY COUNTDOWN NO2

23 Sep

EVERY CLOUD CAN STILL HAVE A SILVER LINING!

On the face of it my concern that with so many of our first choice runners missing we might be up against it in the Midland 6-stage road relay championship may appear to have been unwarranted as our expectations were comfortably exceeded. How else to view our three teams’ results, with the A team beating all bar the hot pre-race favourites and defending champions Birmingham’s top club Birchfield Harriers to take the silver medals, and the B and C teams quite remarkably finishing 10th and 17th respectably among the huge field of 122 teams that started.

While our teams’ performances are a glowing recognition of the club’s ever increasing strenth in depth – what other club, for instance, could boast one of its third team members ending up with a time among the top 50 of the close on 700 runners that covered the undulating 6K lap round Sutton Park – there is need for caution in one’s conclusions. As you all know one of my favourite maxims is that the watch never lyes. Let me explain.

The brutal reality is that our overall time was still less than a minute faster than we clocked in 5th place last year and actually half a minute slower than we subsequently recorded when finishing a very disappointing 18th in the National. That if you recall heralded an interrogation on what had gone wrong. What’s more when we last won the Midland 6-stage two years ago and went on to finish a creditable 5th in the National we posted a time nearly two and a half minutes faster at 1:48:33 compared to this year’s 1:50:47. Admittedly it was a freakishly hot day and all six of our runners bar Andy Watt ended up running vitual time trials, yet no one clocked a time within a minute of the day’s fastest.

So it’s feet on the ground time guys and to be realistic a statement of where we are fitness wise at this early stage of the season, with many of you only recently returning to serious training after holiday breaks. True as that may be we have only two weeks to find at least three minutes – half a minute a runner – to be genuinely competitive in the National. All six of our runners need to break 18 minutes to give us any sort of a medal chance, but more of that in next week’s preview.

For now it’s time to celebrate Saturday’s successful day when perhaps the biggest surprise was the brilliant start we were given on the opening stage. “So Watt” was ANDY’s characteristically modest response as he gave a model lesson in how to deal with the varied contours of the tough Sutton Park circuit. Refusing to get involved with the initial skirmish at the front up the long drag to the top of the course, he methodically worked his way into a position just behind the leaders. Perhaps he was goaded by the sight of one of his current training group FELIX MCGRATH (18:11), who was running for Newcastle Staffs, setting the pace with Bath’s former junior international ALEX CARTER (18:07). He was never able to get on terms with either of them, but passed everyone else among the early pacesetters to finish only ten seconds down on the lead in a time of 18:17, which was nearly half a minute faster than last year’s (18:42). It was surely his best ever run at Sutton Park and continued the progress underlined by his recent 10K pb of 31:11 at Stirling.

HARRY ALLEN for his part had probably expected to have a few more to try and hunt down on the second leg, but found himself soon in front and left to open up as large a gap as possible aware that the Birchfield team appeared to be backloading their challenge with their African star OMAR AHMED set to run the anchor leg. Following his third place in the Bristol Half the previous weekend, Harry was expected to post our fastest time and his 18:03 duly extended our lead over Birchfield, who were now up to 4th place, to almost a minute.

It left JED BARTLETT, who had only come into the team due to ADAM STOKES being involved in a car accident the day before, with a daunting task on his debut in the event, and although he predictably lost gound to the chasing pack, cool head Jed showed no sign of panic and ran his own race to just hold off his fast closing Birchfield rival with a creditable effort of 19:04.

It was now up to team captain KURT TAYLOR to preserve our narrow lead, but he had the Brummy club’s Sutton Park specialist WiII RICHARDSON (17:28) to deal with, and having only just resumed serious training wisely let him go when caught on the opening hill, but stuck to his task and consolidated our silver medal position with a time only just over 10 seconds slower than Harry’s of 18:15.

Next up WILL CHRISTOFI, who has just started a new teaching job in Essex, was faced with the unenviable task of knowing that he would have needed a course record time to give ANDY CHAMBERS  any hope of holding off Omar Ahmed on the anchor stage. But Will has been having to fit his training in round his new job and this was his first race of any kind since the early summer, so while satisfied with the way he felt he had run, his time of 18:49 was only enough to consolidate our silver medal poasition well clear of our old rivals and eventual bronze medallists Notts.

Despite ANDY CHAMBERS  knowing he faced a fruitless task chasing Birchfield’s pocket rocket, he had not travelled up from Exeter to cruise round in view of his plan to run the Swansea Bay 10K the following day That would have been understandable in the circumstances, but flogging it hard all the way he was rewarded with another creditable mark of 18:19, which meant that four of the team had all clocked times within a quarter of a minute of one another to provide a solid platform for next week’s National challenge.

As for the B team OLI SHEPPARD (19:58) did not have the start his recent training efforts had suggested, but still broke the 20 minute barrier to finish only just outside rthe top 30 on the opening stage. The pack of runners lined up ahead  was just the cue newcomer to the team JOHNNY SUTTLE, who has been training with Bristol & West AC’s ‘Whitehall Runners’ since joining from London club Queens Park Harriers, needed, and he duly gained nine places to move us up to 23rd with what proved to be the team’s fastest time of 19:24.

If DAVE EAGON, who had moved up from the C team following Jed’s corresponding promotion to the A team, felt he had a point to prove, he certainly did so as his 19:30 – the team’s second fastest – lifted us another eight places to 15th before handing over to ADAM WILSON, who was only eight seconds slower, his time of 19:38 being some half minute quicker than last year and maintaining the relentless progress up to 12th. Another new face to the squad Bristol University graduate FELIX RUSBY (19:46) advanced another place on the penultimate stage to 11th, leaving 800m specialist OTIS MONDIR to prove he is more than a two lap wonder by gaining that one vital place to  finish the team in the top ten with an impressive time of 19:33.

Meanwhile the C team owed their remarakable 17th position to a flying 4th stage by young HENRY COCHRANE, who with his long standing injury problems behind him underlined his natural talent with an eye-catching time of 19:03. Earlier LEE GAWLER (21:09), who had to move up from the incomplete D team, finished only just outside the top 50 on the opening stage, while another newcomer to the squad from Bitton ROB FARLEY was some half minute faster, his 20:30 moving the team up 13 places to 39th. Club stalwart ANDY DRAKE (20:19) then passed another five before Henry’s spectacular effort gained ten more positions, leaving  ANDY COOKE, whose 19:47 was the team’s second fastest and PETE BAINS to lift us into the top 20 for the first time. Pete’s time of 19:59 was more than a minute faster than last year’s and arguably one of the club’s best performances of the day.

All in all then, as my fellow team manager Chris Elson concluded, as successful and rewarding a day as we could have hoped for, but all must accept that we need a productive next two weeks of work if we are to make the mark we want to at the National.

PS ANDY CHAMBERS shrugged off any residual fatigue form his Sutton Park effort as well as the rain and wind  to equal his pb of 31:22 and finish 7th in the Swansea bay 10K.
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