Some measure of how well the women performed can be gained from the fact that the net time of the A team would have given them silver medals at the Midlands by some 90 seconds!
As a measure of the progress the team has made, all six of those who had posted times on the 4.33km circuit previously improved their personal bests.
Natalie produced a cracking first leg, running exactly 48 seconds faster than her Midland time to set the 26th fastest time of the day (14:54), only 1 second slower than such a luminary as Lois Small. To bring the team in 19th place on the highly competitive first leg was a wonderful start for the team, and it’s great to see Natalie achieving her true potential again.
Katrina was somewhat nervous before the start of her leg as this was her first race since the track season. Despite the nerves, Kat pulled through the field nicely to finish in 15:42 and hand over to Rosie in 16th place.
Rosie knocked 33 seconds of her 2019 time, clocking 15:20, showing how much she has improved over the intervening two years and moved the team up to 11th place. Kate Mactear had a sprint cycle race in Bristol before heading to Sutton Park, but this “warm up” appeared to work. Kate ran a storming last leg, 16 seconds faster than her Midland time to bring the team home in a fine 7th place. This was the best performance by the Bristol & West Ladies since Jasmine Finney, Kate Maltby, Charlotte Taylor-Green & Imogen Ainsworth took silver medals in 2015.
Not to be outdone, the B team also produced the goods finishing 32nd overall and 6th B team.
Catie was apprehensive before the start, wondering if her gold medal marathon run a fortnight earlier was still in her legs. But Catie need not have worried, as she ran 36 seconds faster than her 2019 run in a fantastic 16:20.
On leg 2 Lucy continued her come back from injury picking up 11 places and running 28 seconds faster than she did at Midlands finishing in 16:16. Jess Mackie is another one of our rapidly improving ladies and who, along with Lucy and Evalina Jarbin, is going to make their mark on the forthcoming British Master Cross-Country Relay later this month. Jess picked up a further 7 places, running 16:25 to hand over to Frances on the difficult final leg. Frances was making her debut for the club and this race was her first race for some time. A measure of how well she ran can be gained from the fact that only 4 of the 12 women running the Midland Road Relay ran faster than Frances’ 16:40.
Both teams exceeded expectations, well run all!
Chris Elson (Team Manager)
As a team manager it is hard to be anything other than well satisfied when all the members of your team match or exceed expectations to clock their fastest time for ten years and meet the club’s top ten target.
The standard of the National Road Relays has certainly increased in recent years. Despite offering the clubs fastest time for 10 years, the senior men managed 9th - their time would have placed them 6th in 2019 and 2018.
At the front, Aldershot’s virtually all international line-up slashed half a minute from the previous record of 1:43:14 set by Mo Farah’s all-conquering Newham and Essex team back in 2009. Behind Aldershot, for whom Jack Rowe clocked the day’s fastest time of 16:33, the next four clubs to finish posted times that would have been good enough to win the title in most previous years.
Three reasons for the soaring standards spring readily to mind: the perfect weather conditions, the influence of the new shoe technology, and the stimulus of a return to serious racing after the pandemic.
Jack Millar, who thrives on the cut and thrust of opening relay legs, was entrusted with giving us a good start, and duly proved he is getting back to his best form in anticipation of the coming cross-country season. Up the opening climb, Jack shadowed the large group chasing the early pace set by Highgate and Derby, and it was Hugo Milner for Derby who came out on top, piling on the pace to set the tone for the day with a blistering time of 16:47. Behind him, Jack never looked overstretched by the fierce pace at the front and held on well to finish in 17:21 – more than 40 seconds better than his Midland time and our fastest of the day – to keep us in close touch with the front of the race in 15th place.
Taking over from Jack, Josh Moody faced a daunting task to keep us in the hunt. Never a fast starter, he remained unfazed when five or six runners from behind stormed past as they made their way up the opening climb. But Josh is an expert at how best to pace himself, and, refusing to panic, cranked up the pace from the turn to not only regain the places he had lost but take three more to move us up to 12th in a fine time of 17:54, which was some ten seconds faster than he had recorded at the Midlands, in perhaps his best ever road performance.
Felix McGrath needed no invitation to take up the chase, and though feeling he is still lacking his normal punch after a long season on the fells, he is never one to shirk a fight and, like Josh before him, ran some ten seconds faster than two weeks ago to gain two more places and put us in the top ten for the first time at halfway.
Up next, Ben Westhenry was determined to consolidate that top ten position, but by his own admission went off too hard and ended up paying for it on the long run home, to fall to 16th. He may have lost a couple of places, but not too much time as his 18:34 was still faster than he recorded at the Midlands.
The penultimate stage was left to Jack Bancroft, and though admitting to being undercooked after a holiday, he still clocked exactly 18:00, to pull back one more position. All importantly, Jack closed the gap on the teams ahead, giving Kurt Taylor a chance of getting us to the top ten on the anchor leg.
It called for a captain’s effort from Kurt, and he duly delivered. Looking remarkably relaxed and controlled throughout, he carved his way past the six teams ahead to finish a clear 9th in 17:49, a full quarter of a minute quicker than he had posted in the Midlands.
The combine efforts brought our overall time down to a fantastic 1:47:34, our fastest for ten years!
Our B team more than held their own to finish in the top half. In a three-place improvement on 2019, they ended up 35th in 1:54:48, an impressive near four minutes faster than they recorded in the Midlands.
Joe Connors may have only just made the top 50 on that punishing first stage, but his time of 18:35 was more than 20 seconds faster that he had run at the Midlands, and you cannot ask for more than that.
Next up, Andy Salmon, in his first race for the club since re-joining, may have fallen eleven places but he more than justified his spot by comfortably breaking the 20min target with a time of 19:44, which Adam Wilson’s 19:46 matched as he regained three places to leave us 58th at halfway.
It was very encouraging to see Owain Jones back in action after injury on the next stage, still managing to break 19 minutes, his 18:51 pulling back another 7 places to leave us back where Joe had finished on the opening stage.
We were on the front foot now and Aled Anderson, a late substitute, really warmed to the task and, quite remarkably, went nearly a minute faster than at the Midlands to claim another eleven places, lifting us into the top half of the field. He put his progress down to familiarity with the course, but his 19:15 suggests he is certainly improving fast.
Aled’s impressive effort left Adam Stokes to anchor the B team home, and despite having run round the London Marathon pacing his partner to a 2:57 PB, he still had enough in the tank to clip a few seconds off the time he set at the Midlands. His 18:37 was good enough to gain us another five places and cross the line 35th overall, concluding a successful day for both our senior men’s teams.
It would not be right to finish without extending our congrats to our fine ladies team on their 7th place finish.
Mike Down (Team Manager)
Results Women A – 7th (6th A Team)
Women B – 32nd
Men A – 9th
Men B – 36th
Under 17 Women – 10th
Under 15 Girls – 35th
Under 15 Boys – 24th
Under 13 Girls A – 14th
Under 13 Girls B – 28th
Under 13 Boys A – 21st
Under 13 Boys B – 32nd