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

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