Sutton Park – legendary home of British Road relays for the past several decades. All the greats have run here – Brenda Foster, Steve Cram, Mo Farah, Mike Levery, Sid Cordle…..Teams from across Britain had come to compete, with the South East and London looking particularly strong.
SRC were well represented this year, with teams in the M35 and M55 categories. The atmosphere in the park was great, with South Yorkshire friends and rivals from Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Hallamshire present in force to ensure a steady supply of banter and support. Rotherham’s illustrious M65’s again showed their strength, finishing in second place, and giving us all hope for the future if only we can just keep going……
We were really pleased to have a M35 team out this year, with one or two people trying out the joys of road relays for the first time. Teams of six each cover a fairly testing 3-mile course – times are generally considered equivalent to a 5k on flatter course. Looking at previous year’s times a top 20 finish would be a strong result for the team
London Marathon man Brian Rose took on the first leg for the M35’s, clocking a fine 17.21 and bringing the team back in 29th place. Rumour has it that a sub-17 meant he would have had to buy all the Blizzard team dinner, so perhaps he eased off in the last half-mile? Rob Cassy was next, running his first road relay for the club, and expressing some concern that he shouldn’t really be in the team. A fine 18.37 put that idea firmly to bed, as Rob moved us up to 28th on leg 2. Rob, you absolutely belong here.
Stuart Little followed, just a few days after his 35th birthday. The debate about whether vet status should begin at 35 or 40 will rage on, and Stuart is undoubtedly in top form at the minute. Once he got those long legs moving he started eating up the opposition and his 15.48 clocking moved the team up to 22nd. Hopefully he’ll reproduce that time or better at the Donny 5K (where “vets” are properly defined as 40 and above!)
I’d promised Phil Johnson a sunny day in the park, and he’d brought the family along to enjoy the experience. Fair to say he got the very worst of the downpours on his leg, so sorry Phil. It didn’t seem to slow him down too much, mind, and his 18.15 claimed another couple of places.
Ironman Rob Jones took a break from his heavy swimming and cycling training schedule to run leg 5. The heavy showers continued, however, so front crawl might have been an effective technique in the circumstances. He managed to keep his legs going strongly through the now deepening puddles, however, and an excellent 18.26 kept us in that vital 20th place.
And so to leg six, and time for James Thompson. Relay fields can sometimes be fairly spread out by the last leg making for a relaxed run, but no such relief for James. With half a mile to go he had caught up and passed the Wolverhampton and Bilston team, but their runner hung on grimly into the final straight and started to close. Much shouting from the team encouraged James to up his game and hold onto the place. He claimed the soggy conditions had helped as he could hear the runner splashing along behind him and knew he was coming.
So 19th position out of 33 complete teams – a really solid performance amongst some very stiff competition.
Earlier in the day the 3-man M55 team had been in action. We were hoping to improve on our 6th place from last year, and possibly on the SRC best-ever position of fifth by a M50 team of Malc Taylor, Paul Blakeney, Nick Duggan, Mike Levery, Sid Cordle and Mike Quinn.
First leg specialist Jed Turner led the team out. Jed has been in great form in the five-mile race series, and hopes were high that he would improve on his 18.40 from last year. Using great pace-judgement he came into the final corner in sixth place, just behind an inspired Mick Page from Doncaster. We were then treated to the famous Turner sprint-finish over the last 200 metres where he not only left Mick for dead, but also overhauled Glasgow’s Cambuslang team to leave us in fourth place. Jed’s 17.55 obliterated his last year’s time, and promises great things for the upcoming Summer 5k’s
Next out was Mike Quinn, the sole survivor of that M50 team. It’s fair to say that Mike’s build-up for this race hadn’t been ideal, and just a week ago we were thinking we wouldn’t get a team out at all. A combination of calf massages so strenuous they risked internal organ damage, and and array of leg bandages got him to the start line however. The hills – both up and down – proved a challenge, but Mike managed to stay in one piece and his 19.30 kept us in sixth place, setting up a chase on leg three.
So down to me (Chris Ireland) on the last leg. Up ahead South London Harriers had sent new M55 Andy Tindall out, someone I have been racing for more than 30 years, With a recent sub-35 10K to his name he was going to be a seriously tough competitor, and sure enough his 16.35 brought them home first with easily fastest of the day. My 17.20 was good enough to pull us back up to fourth, but unfortunately we were still 20 seconds shy of Tonbridge in third. So mixed emotions – our best ever performance in these relays, but no medals this time out.
A really good day out – it would be great to get men and women’s teams out in more age categories next May, when the sun will undoubtedly shine all day long.