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It’s a High Five Challenge!

Mike Down sends in his preview of the Senior Men's challenge to retain their Midland 12 Stage Road Relays title for an incredible fifth race in a row.

Good luck to all our athletes and teams racing tomorrow!

Since the club was rebranded as Bristol and West our Senior Men have established an impressive record in our area Midland 12-stage road relay championship.

Winning it for the first time in the club's 140 year history in 2006 – B&W’s previous best had been as bronze medallists in 1979 and 1989 – we were silver medallists in 2008, bronze medallist in 2010 and runners-up again in 2011 before winning it for the second time in Olympic year 2012.

The race was cancelled in 2013, but we were medallists again in both 2014 (bronze) and 2015 (silver) before embarking on a triumphant unbeaten run in the four times the event has been held since from 2016-2019.

Unable to attempt to extend our winning run over the past two years due to the pandemic, we will be lining up on Saturday aiming to make it a high five!

As such we are bound to start as the favourites, but bearing in mind that our margin of victory the last time the event was held three years ago over top Birmingham club Birchfield Harriers was just 33 seconds after some four hours of racing, there is no room for complacency.

With home advantage, Birchfield as ever are likely to be our main challengers, along with Notts AC, who were our main challengers for the Midland cross country title that we won again for the first time in the club's history back in January. It's a given that they will be keen to avenge that defeat, while fledgling Cheltenham club Western Tempo are also capable of mounting a challenge.

The yawning three year gap since the race was last held means that there will be many new faces in action, which makes overall form difficult to assess and in consequence it's difficult to make any gilt-edged predictions.

What's more we will be missing three of our first choice runners Pete Le Grice, whose training has been limited by injury problems over the past year, Mike Wilsmore and Ben Robinson, who is defending his National dog racing title in Northumberland this weekend. However Mike and Ben will both be available for next month's English National 12 stage championship.

On the credit side our international distance runners Dan Studley and Johnny Thewlis are both down to run. Dan is back after a long injury lay-off due to achilles tendinitis, while Johnny will actually be making his long awaited debut for the club in a team event.

They will be joined on the four long stages by two of our most consistent first team runners Felix McGrath and Jack Bancroft, who is in hard training for his first marathon at Manchester the following weekend.

There are only four long stages in the Midland championship race as opposed to the six in next month's National, which frees up our cross country star Jack Millar and in form team captain Kurt Taylor, who won the Fleet Half Marathon last weekend, to run short stages, where they will be supported by Owain Jones, Ben Westhenry, Josh Moody, Will Parkin, Harry Allen, who is also making a welcome comeback after more than a year out of action, and Adam Stokes, who replaces the injured Andy Watt.

Chris Elson has been exhaustively assembling our B and C teams, with the B team out to better their 8th position in 2019 and ensure that we can field two teams in the National by finishing in the top 25.

Mike Down

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