Saucony Midland AAA 12 & 6 Stage Road Relay Championships – Sat 4th April, Sutton Park, Birmingham - REPORT - written for Athletics Weekly 04/09
Green Machines destroy rivals
Charnwood and Tipton decimate fields, as they stormed to convincing wins; writes Nicola Bamford.
On a bright, mild and calm spring afternoon, the superlative Charnwood AC ladies gave a master-class in road-running talent and team-work; as they successfully defended their regional title with consummate ease. With three club members in the top-ten fastest times of the day; spearheaded by Juliet Doyle’s stunning 16:12 – the Loughborough-based squad – who were resting Jane Potter and Hannah Whitmore after their World cross-country exertions - came home almost three-minutes clear of their nearest rival; Bristol and West AC.
In the men’s race, local club Tipton Harriers equally took a comfortable victory, as the 2008 bronze-medallists hit the front from the half-way point and were boosted by British international; Phil Nicholls’ 25:54 long stage performance.
Taking the opening stage by the scruff of the neck; veteran athlete, Debbie Walters registered the third-fastest time of the day with 16:32, as she brought Birchfield Harriers home six-seconds clear of Coventry Godiva Harriers’ Tina Brown; who was returning from a recent virus.
Brown explained; “To be honest, I’m wasn’t very happy as I’m not that fit at the moment but I really wanted to run today because I knew we had a chance of getting a medal.”
Coventry moved up into prime position during the second leg; however it was 28 year-old Sarah Maude who made the most inroads whilst speeding to a 16:45 clocking, to bring the Charnwood defending champions into the fight for glory.
As soon as the National four-stage and cross-country relay Champions passed over to the experienced Juliet Doyle, the competition was all but over; courtesy of the 27 year-old’s scintillating 16:12 course-record-breaking (???) performance. The recent Silverstone half-marathon winner revealed her feelings post-race; “I was really pleased – I just ran my own race and just tried to enjoy it.”
Midlands Masters cross-country Champion; Clare McKittrick and 23 year-old Gemma Steel continued the club’s fine run of form with solid runs, before passing over the mantle to 36 year-old British Masters cross-country Champion; Tara Krzywicki on the anchor leg. The 35 year-old recorded the second-fastest time of the day with a 16:28 clocking and explained “It’s really nice to be running fast again. I’ve had a good few months of training and I’ve just got a bit of a new lease of life. This is only my second race after injury so I’m more than happy.”
The former British 3,000m steeplechase record-holder steered the Charnwood outlet to a 1:42.21 victory, ahead of Bristol’s 1:45.15 – who were elevated up to the runner-up spot on the final stage by a fine 16:33 run from 26 year-old Claire Hallissey - and Coventry’s 1:45.39.
A delighted team manager, Sarah Whitmore commented; “It was a really convincing result so we’re all very pleased.”
With the third and fourth team placings in the race, Coventry were the surprise package and club president, GB record-holder for the 5,000m and former UK Athletics Chief Executive; Dave Moorcroft added; “We’re delighted, as we’re trying to build a bit of a momentum at the club with both the men and the women, hoping to return to the heady days so we’re really thrilled today – our women showed great depth and a real good age-range. The men have done really well to come second so the good times are coming back slowly and surely.”
Severn AC’s 23 year-old Josh Lilly sped to an impressive 26:42 clocking to get the men’s relay ball rolling. With the second-fastest long-stage time of the day, Lilly held off a spirited challenge from OWLS’ 24 year-old Paul Miles and commented; “It was a good race – I put a put a big burst in about six-minutes from the end and just got away. I held on up the final hill and hope to go a bit quicker in the National.”
Gaz Davies moved the OWLS’ into the top spot after a 14:52 run, which placed him as the sixth-quickest of the day and the Leicestershire club retained the lead until the mid-way mark.
Reigning Champions, Notts AC began to make their presence felt on account of 27 year-old Scottish international; Bruce Raeside’s 14:27 clocking – the second-fastest of the day. Raeside commented; “I’m pretty happy with that – I was still feeling it in my legs after the Middlesborough mile last Sunday where I came second in 4:08, which gave me a lot of confidence. I’ve had a hard weeks’ training so I’ve not eased down for this so I hope to run quicker in the National in two-weeks’ time.”
Soon after, the ‘flying postman’ – otherwise known as Telford’s Chris Davies – ran a dazzling 14:02 short-stage leg to register the fastest of the day. Moving his club into eighth position, Davies recalled; “It went pretty much to plan – I went out hard and felt good. I was hoping for 14-minutes. I won’t be at the National, unfortunately, as I’m doing the Welsh 10-mile Championships next weekend.”
Tipton came into the fore on stage six; courtesy of 25 year-old John Millington’s 14:41 – the fourth-fastest long-stage leg of the day and then further extended their advantage by passing over to Midland cross-country Champion; Phil Nicholls, who scorched to an impressive 25:54 stage – the swiftest of the day by 48-seconds. 86th in the recent World cross-country Championships, Nicholls reflected on his fine performance; “I’m really happy with that after just easy jogging since the Worlds. I just got my head down and ran hard after taking over with us already in the lead, which I didn’t expect. The main aim was just to enjoy it and relax and the high-stress of the World cross so it was nice to get my legs moving again and run for the club. I’ve actually ran the same time here for the past three years, which I’m happy with but frustrated also, but I know I’ve got a lot more to offer at the Nationals – hopefully knock another thirty-seconds off, fingers crossed.”
The seventh stage brought Coventry and Notts into the minor medal positions; as 23 year-old Ben Jones’ 27:05 and 26 year-old’s Ian Boneham’s 26:51 made an impression on the overall outcome. Boneham reflected; “I did a half-marathon last week and I feel I’ve definitely still got that in my legs. I was struggling but tried to make my way through the best I can, but it was pretty hard work.”
Birchfield’s hopes of scraping a medal were dashed on the tenth stage, as Jean Ndyasienga suffered an untimely mid-race injury, which led the 27 year-old to Burundi distance international to limp across the finish-line in discomfort.
With the gold-medallists decided after Millington and Nicholl’s efforts, Coventry and Notts, too held onto their silver and bronze positions with consistent displays of respectable running. In particular, veteran Richard Taylor (14:54) and 26 year-old Midland cross runner-up Matt Lole (26:53) – for Coventry; together with 23 year-old Jonathan Thewlis (14:49) of Notts – impressed in the final stages. Tipton’s winning time of 3:51.55 was over a minute clear of Coventry (3:53.07), and Notts were clear for the bronze with 3:53.39.