Report by Chris Ireland
The SRC M55 team have a pretty good record in this event, having claimed bronze and silver medals over recent years, but we have never managed to claim the top spot. Held at Long Eaton near Nottingham, a team of four each run 3k over a fast, flat grassland course. As usual teams had come from across the country to compete in the national championship.
Jed Turner, Les Morton and I (Chris) have been regulars in the team over the last few years, but we were keen to get some younger athletes in to increase our chances. This meant getting new M55 Gary Baker on board – but there was a problem. Gary is a keen Blades fan, and running the race would have meant missing United’s home match against Wigan. Les came up with the solution – he and Gary would run legs one and two, and he would then whisk Gary back up the motorway to Bramhall Lane just in time for kick-off, leaving Jed and I to complete the job.
It was Les Morton. our double-Olympian, who led us off on leg one. Running a well-judged race he moved steadily through the field to bring us back in 4th after the first leg. His time of 12.13 was just a couple of seconds slower than last year when he claims to have been much fitter.
The youthful Gary Baker then took over on leg two. The incentive of running quickly in order to get to the football clearly worked as he became just the third SRC runner ever to dip below 12 minutes on this course, and take us up into third place, with 11.58.
Second-placed Warrington were now well within reach, but the City of Hull team were a long way ahead. Not for long. Jed Turner has had one of his best ever seasons, including a lifetime best at 800m (at 58 years of age!), and he soon put his track speed to work. Whizzing round the 3k course in a very nippy 11.08 he reeled in both Warrington and Hull and came back in first place with what turned out to be an unassailable lead.
Jed was so quick coming back that I almost missed him at the change-over. A well-time shout from Barnsley’s Mark Havenhand warned me that he was coming – thanks for that Mark! Setting off in the lead was something of a new experience at this event, and it occurred to me that all I could do now was mess up all the hard work done by the other three. I put in a hard first mile with the aim of preventing anyone behind closing down early on. Jed, Gary and Les were all shouting support as I came into the last half-mile. A quick look around revealed no danger, and I was able to enjoy the last few hundred metres bringing the team home, with a 10.58 leg time. Behind me Colin Bishop was moving Warrington into silver medal position – his 10.43 clocking proving to be the fastest of the day.
We won by over a minute, in our quickest ever team time. The prospect of getting a gold medal proved more attractive for Gary than United thumping four goals past Wigan in the end, so it was great that all four of us were there at the medal ceremony to collect our gongs.
These relays are a delightful event – competitive, but with a great sense of camaraderie, and held less than an hour away from Sheffield. It would be so good to have teams out in a range of different age groups next year and maybe bring home a few more medals.
British Masters XC Relays 2018