Sunday, 27 April 2008

National Road Relays

Saturday saw the annual 12 stage road relays take place in Birmingham's Sutton Park. A fixture on the endurance calendar for many years this event has been graced by the greats of British distance running. Its easy to imagine how it must have been in its heyday with all star teams from Bristol, Gateshead, Coventry Godiva and the like doing battle round the undulating but spectacular course.

For our Wells team we were looking to build on last years 18th place and were able to count on a few returning runners to boost our challenge. With Eddie Richards, Frank Tickner and Pete Grist back in the line up and Eliot Haimes making his 12 stage debut for Wells we were able to get round some 5 minutes quicker than last year and finish in 12th place, which was about as good we could hope for.

Up front Leeds retained their title to add to the National Cross Country and consolidate their spot as the top endurance club at the moment. Personally I had a solid run on the last long stage after a 3.5 hour wait to get into action. It was pretty windy by mid afternoon but my 27.01 clocking was my fastest round here and on tired legs was a satisfactory result. I can't wait to race again on fresh legs !

At risk of being labelled a heretic by the traditionalists I would have to say that this event feels like it is past its sell by date. Sure there are some great aspects to it. The course is a challenge and the alternating long and short stages make for variation and cater to the middle distance and long distance guys in each team. But the sad reality is that the face of endurance running has changed. Mass participation is the name of the game and the competitive club scene is much smaller now meaning that many clubs struggle to field a solid team. Realistically only a handful of clubs have a shot at a medal in this event. While its a nice day out and an opportunity to catch up with old friends there is precious little action for the 4 and a bit hours of running required for the 12 stage relays.

Without being bold I fear that the 12 stage will die a slow death as fewer teams can compete each year. The good news is that the shorter version, the 6 stage, held in the autumn is a far more competitive event and the Saucony Cross Country Relays at Mansfield are a real racing festival with the participation of the kids teams as well. Both events thrive. So here's an idea to revitalise things. Turn the 12 stage into mixed men/women relay. Or to be really radical, add the short/long formula into the 6 stage and drop the 12 stage altogether while moving the cross relays to be an early April post World Cross season finale.

1 Leeds City AC 4:09:40
2 Notts AC 4:11:01
3 Belgrave Harriers 4:11:58

12 Wells City Harriers 4:23:34
Eliot Haimes (24) 27:50
Jack Bancroft (28) 16:25
Ben Tickner (19) 26:47
Frank Tickner (11) 13:55
Andy Hennessy (9) 27:38
Jon Gilling (14) 16:23
Pete Grist (14) 28:59
Rob Parfit (15) 16:47
Alan Jones (15) 30:05
Eddie Richards (15) 15:59
Adrian Marriott (13) 27:01
Jon James (12) 15:45

Full Results

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Kenyan Olympic marathon team announced

Today Athletics Kenya (AK) announced a formidable team for the Beijing Marathon.

The men will be: Robert Cheruiyot (4 time Boston winner), Martin Lel (3 time London winner) and Samuel Wanjiru (Fukuoka winner and coached by Olympic Silver Medallist Koichi Morishita). The reservers are Luke Kibet (World Champion) and William Kipsang (2008 Rotterdam winner)

The women's team looks slightly less formidable and is headed by Catherine Ndereba (World Champion from Osaka and Olympic silver Medallist) who is joined by Martha Komu and Salina Kosgei with Rita Jeptoo as reserve.

It will be interesting to see if the team learn the lessons of preparation for warm/humid conditions. All too often Kenya's marathon runners have underperformed at major championships. The omens are good with all of the men stating in recent weeks a desire to run in Beijing. All three are shrewd business men and understand the value of an Olympic medal. As for previous experience, well Cheruiyot was 4th in the hot 2007 Chicago race and Wanjiru has lived in Japan for several years and is used to the asian summer. While on the women's team Catherine Ndereba has a proven hot championship record with her Athens and Osaka.

So top marks to AK for getting the selection right. With Mubarak Shami (formerly Richard Yatich) of Qatar and Viktor Rothlin both showing good form this year and strong Japanese and Korean teams it should be quite a race.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Reflections on London

All too often sports events fail to live up to the hype but this year the Flora London Marathon really delivered. The quality at the front is hard to put into words. With a group of 9 going through halfway on world record pace and then slugging it out for podium positions in the closing miles this really was one of the best marathons i've seen. The first three all ran 2.05 and 3rd-5th ran the fastest times ever for that position. Not many people would have believed that you could run 2.06.17 and only finish 5th ! And all that in the face of wind and rain and in the closing miles which undoubtedly slowed proceeedings.

My clubmates had a good day with Al Jones and Tim Hawkins both going sub 2.40 for the first time with 2.38 and 2.39 respectively and a combined improvement of nearly 15 minutes which just goes to show what you can do with thorough preparation. Jon Gilling was just outside his PB with 2.43 and I'm sure that Tim and Al's runs will have convinced him that he can be in the 2.30s next time out. And Paul Rose also ran a sub 2.45 to book a championship start again for next year. Top of the ladies pile was Jenny Moore with another near miss at the 3 hour mark.

Best of the Brits was Dan Robinson who ran a PB and another well judged race while Tom Abyu committed himself to go with OQ pace but slowed in the second half. His third marathon in 6th months and some recent ill health making the task just too big. Toby Lambert ran his first sub 2.20 and while he will have been hoping for a bit faster I'm sure he will be relieved to finally get a good marathon under his belt. With only 4 guys under 2.20 this was hardly a vintage year for british mens marathoning. No doubt the armchair coaches will be having a raging debate on the internet message boards as to what needs to be done but if you look back 5 years at the long mid-distances its clear that we are now reaping what we sowed with a lost generation of distance runners.

The good news is that the young guys starting out seem to be making good progress. The team for the world cross this year contained plenty of guys just out of uni and they need to push on now and that will feed through into the marathon in future. There is definitely some good stuff going on in the US which we need to tap into with several of the World Cross Team being based there and just last week my Butler Uni based Wells team mate Andy Baker ran 13.55 for 5000m.

If I was an ambitious 22 year old and I hadn't got the speed to compete at the mile I would plan for the marathon right now with a view to a 2011 debut as a 25 year old. If its good enough for Hall, Ritz and Wanjiru ...


Thursday, 10 April 2008

Remember the Vaseline

3 days to go and a couple of final tips to make London as enjoyable as 26 miles of hard labour can be.

The forecast looks good. Nice temperature, light breeze and there are going to be showers about. So keeping dry before the start is essential. An old t-shirt to keep warm and a bin liner with holes in the top and sides for head and arms is a good standby. Who cares what it looks like if it works !

On a cool damp day you can be fooled into not drinking enough. You still need your fluids so start drinking early in the race. Sips of water from 3 miles onwards.

And finally a pot of Vaseline to grease up before the race. Only on your feet if you have done this training. But definitely groin, nipples, armpits and anything else thats going to rub.

I'll be watching on TV and internet and hoping that all my friends have a good run.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Relays in the snow

Sunday morning greeted the entrants for the South of England 12 stage Road Relays with 6 inches of snow and a biting northerly wind. Not exactly what you would expect for a spring day. Whether it was the snow, proximity to the London Marathon or just another sign of declining numbers of serious runners only 36 teams managed to field a complete 12 man line up this year. At least our new tent left us well protected from the elements during a race that takes over 4 hours.

While Belgrave and AFD swopped the lead a couple of times before the Bels ran out comfortable winners the action behind was limited to say the least, with teams well spread out after the first few stages and only a few changes of place. My Wells City Harriers team put in our best performance at this event finishing in 7th place and with a few more big guns likely to be back in the team for the Nationals we will be hoping to improve on last years 18th place. For a couple of our guys this was their first experience of the relays since returning to the sport for the first time since school days and both Elliot Haimes and Matthew Lewis put in well paced runs to keep us in contention.

My 5th stage effort was another step forward after last weeks half marathon win with the second of the two 4.3k laps being about 15 secs quicker than the first to give me the equal 10th fastest time of the day.

It was a shame to see my Toronto team mate Neil Renault on the sidelines with a foot problem but he takes a mean photo judging by this effort !

1 Belgrave Harriers 4:00:01
2 Aldershot, Farnham & District 4:01:25
3 Woodford Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 4:04:23
7 Wells City Harriers 4:15:05

Fastest Long Legs:

1 Robert Russell Thames Valley Harriers 25:44

2 Dave Wardle Woodfrd Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 26:09

3 Ben Moreau Aldershot, Farnham & District 26:10

4 Adam Bowden Harrow A.C. 26:11

5 Simon Jones Belgrave Harriers 26:13

6 Neil Speaight Belgrave Harriers 26:14

7= Ben Lindsay Aldershot, Farnham & District 26:18

7= Stephen Hepples Newham & Essex Beagles 26:18

9 Simon Plummer Woodfrd Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 26:21

10= Adrian Marriott Wells City 26:42

10= Ewen Malloch Woodfrd Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 26:42