This weekend sees the return of the National Road Relays after COVID-19. With both our men and women successfully qualifying two teams at the Midland Road Relays, we’re excited to see how our 2021 teams fare. We’ve caught up with Chris and Mike (Women’s and Men’s Team Managers) in anticipation of an exciting weekend of racing.
A (proposed running order): Jack Millar, Josh Moody, Felix McGrath, Ben Westhenry, Jack Bancroft, Kurt Taylor. Res: Adam Stokes.
B (proposed running order): Joe Connors, Andy Salmon, Adam Wilson, Owain Jones, Will Parkin, Adam Stokes. Res: Steve Kerfoot.
The strength in depth of the men’s squad has always led to the team specifically targeting the ‘blue ribboned’ National 12-stage championship in the spring. Accordingly, it’s no surprise that we have typically been less successful in the autumn 6-stage championship - we have only once in made the podium in the 6-stage championship, taking bronze in 2006. Despite this, the club has a strong record in this highly contested event, having placed in the top 10 five times in the last decade.
On analysis of the of the overall finishing times, if you can average 18 mins per runner (1 hour 48 total time) you have a chance of a top six finish. In our two 5th place finishes in 2015 and 2017, our finishing times were 1:48:02 and 1:47:59 respectively, while our 1:48:43 in 2019 was only enough for 7th.
Four of our runners virtually matched that 18 min target in the recent Midland Road Relays, and history suggests most tend to run some 10 or so seconds faster in the National, suggesting that a position in the top six is again a possibility. However, this year could be different, with the effect of the carbon plate shoe technology, suggesting that a time a minute or so faster (17:50 per athlete) may be needed to make the top six - not beyond us, but a tall order.
Whatever the evidence indicates, our minimum aim must be to retain our position among the top ten clubs in the country in an event that, looking at the likely opposition, promises to be as competitive as ever.
Reigning champions Leeds will start as favourites to retain their title, while there could be a strong challenge headed by this year’s dark horses Cambridge and Coleridge, particularly if their international star Marc Scott races. It should be a close race, with Cambridge only having a little in hand in the Southern qualifying event, where they were closely followed by rivals Tonbridge, Southampton, Highgate, Bedford and Aldershot. Add in Midland Champions Birchfield and other leading clubs including northern challengers Sale, Salford, Morpeth and Liverpool and you realise just how competitive it’s going to be.
Our team will be strengthened by the return from holiday of Jack Bancroft, with the sixth spot entrusted to Ben Westhenry ahead of Adam Stokes, who only just misses out after his impressive new 5K PB of 15:02 at Odd Down last week and pacing duties at the London marathon.
Adam will serve as first reserve and head a competitive B team, with Will Parkin making his Road Relays debut following his new 5K PB of 15:08. They will be joined by Joe Connors and Adam Wilson, while Owain Jones is welcomed back from injury. The final place has been allocated to Andy Salmon, who made a return to racing for the first time in over a year at Odd Down last week, with Steve Kerfoot as first reserve.
Our second team matched the first team’s 7th place two years ago in 38th overall, so they’re targeting the leading six B teams this time, hopefully securing a position in the top 30.
Mike Down, Men’s Team Manager
Women A: Natalie Bretherton, Katrina Entwistle, Rosie Hattersley, Kate Mactear B: Catie O'Donoghue, Lucy Wallace, Jessica Mackie, Frances Arnott
As the women look to follow up their 5th place at Midlands, Katrina Entwistle comes in for leg 2 after her breakthrough summer with a 17:33 5k at Odd Down and 10:10 3000m at the August NAL. In what we hope won’t be her last performance for B&W following her move southwest, Rosie Hattersley takes on the third leg after a similarly successful summer featuring a 17:18 5k PB at Odd Down and a 4:47 1500m in club colours at the June NAL. Rounding out our A team are Kate Mactear and Natalie Bretherton, returning to Sutton Park for a second attempt at the challenging course after superb runs at the Midland Road Relays.
Following her great run on the opening leg at the Midlands RR, Lucy Wallace will be joined by Catie, Frances and Jessica in our B team on Saturday. Fresh from her exertions and win at the Hullavington marathon, we’re sure Catie O’Donoghue will have no problems tackling the 4.3km course, and it will be exciting to see what speed is in the legs a few weeks after her marathon. Having possibly won the award for most Parkruns by a B&W athlete since they returned post-COVID, Jess Mackie will be well practiced at the distance and, with her Eastville experience, is very well prepared to tackle the opening hill. Finally, the team is anchored home by new signing Frances Arnott who makes her debut in the B&W vest.
Good luck to all our athletes and teams competing at the National Road Relays!
Ben Maliphant (Marketing and Publicity)