MEN’S 12 STAGE ROAD RELAY, SUTTON PARK, 8 APRIL 2017
A TOP TEN FINISH FOR THE ‘A’ TEAM WHILE ‘B’ TEAM ALSO HAVE A FINE RACE
The club had plenty of grounds to celebrate after this year’s National 12 stage relays. A really
strong performance by our ‘A’ team saw them secure a top ten finish in this prestigious event –
seventh spot just one ahead of mystic Ken’s predicted finish for the team. However, we should
also feel rightly proud of the fact that our ‘B’ team were the second ‘B’ team in the race just behind
Bristol, finishing 37th of the 63 teams that closed in. In addition, young Alex Yee recorded the
second fastest long leg as he sliced through the field on the his fourth leg. He took the club from
16th up to sixth.
As has often been the case in recent years, the weather was almost Mediterranean like. The sun
was to beat down on runners and spectators alike – none more so than Ken, who was positively
crimson faced at the end of proceedings.
Although Chris Greenwood has frequently been our opening leg runner, today we had in-form
Russell Bentley for us on the first leg. The opener is often fast and furious for the first couple of
miles and this year was no exception. Russell ran solidly to bring us home just outside the top
twenty (23rd). On this leg there our only seconds separating four or five places so we were in a
good position to move up. And on leg two, the first short leg, Ben Harding did move us up with a
very useful 15.54, which gained six places to bring the team up to 17th. For Ben a fair chunk of
the winter season had been disrupted by illness, but this run proved he’s back on track. The next
long leg saw James Bowler showing form that bodes well for his forthcoming London Marathon
appearance. James ran a time that all but matched Russell’s. He gained one placed and so by leg
four we were up 16th.
On the fourth leg we had Jonathan Tipper, a relative novice in this type of race but someone who
has been making rapid improvement in recent months. The winner of the Brighton half marathon,
Jonathan had actually run a full marathon the week before the relays. The received wisdom would
not have considered this the ideal preparation for a short leg relay, however, it didn’t seem to have
an adverse impact as he ran well, gaining one spot – which would have been two, had it not been
for an easily done misjudgement about the takeover area.
Next up for us was the much anticipated run of Alex Yee. And Alex didn’t disappoint. As
mentioned earlier, he recorded the second fastest long leg of the day – moving us right amongst
the contenders. His run saw us move up from 16th to sixth. Remarkably, Alex hadn’t actually
raced since being ill after the international cross country race at Edinburgh in early January. It
made you wonder what time he might have posted should he have been race sharp.
Following on from Alex (an undoubtedly hard act) was none other than John Gilbert. As most
people are aware, John has had a number of injuries to contend with over the last year and this
race was part of his comeback. As it’s relatively early days in the return to racing, John was on a
short leg. He showed his mettle though – running our fastest short leg and in the process gaining
another couple of places. John handed over to Chris Greenwood who as usual came up with the
goods. He ran a very controlled race which saw him run our second fastest long leg, keeping us in
fourth place. On the eighth leg, our man from the north west, Jim Savage, who claimed not to be
fit, more than held his own. In fact Jim’s run saw us to move up to the dizzy heights of third.
Jordan Weaver, recent winner of the Stafford half marathon, and someone who’s made such a
strong impact this season, took over on leg nine. He ran just a few tics over 28 minutes and in
doing so kept us in third. With some of the other clubs, notably Liverpool – who had some big
hitters to come in – Ken was thinking that while we might slip back, a medal in the newly
introduced competition specifically for English teams might be ours.
Anthony Johnson took over from Jordan. Anthony’s yet another of our runners who’s been out for
quite a while. He put a shift in, but given his time out it wasn’t surprising that at this stage some of
the other clubs would have runners that might overhaul him. Neil Phillips then took over on the
penultimate leg in fifth. Every leg is tough but eleven can be especially difficult. Neil, being Neil,
gave a commentary to spectators that had us worried about his form. However, it turns out he
didn’t run badly – in fact just a tad slower than Jordan and not much more than 20 seconds slower
than James and Russell.
And we were still in fifth when Neil handed over to Adrian Lowther who was to be our last leg
runner. It get’s a bit repetitive, but Adrian is yet another who is coming back from quite a long spell
out. Adrian coped well with the pressure. A youthful Lincoln runner went past him, but we were
denied equalling our best ever placing in the race when right at the end Adrian was run down by
Tonbridge’s Shaun Molloy. It was cruel (unless you’re a Tonbridge supporter) to watch as we saw
Adrian putting every last ounce into trying to hold him off. But Adrian had run well and it’s no
disgrace to be run down by a a record holding 800 meter runner. So the ‘A’ team did us great
credit finishing seventh – ahead of some very strong outfits and just missing out on equalling our
best ever finish.
In addition, though, we had a terrific performance from the ‘B’ team. They came home 37th ,
second ‘B” team, one place behind the first, Bristol and the performance again indicating the
strength of distance running at the club. At the finish there were 26 clubs behind our B team – the
majority of them A teams.
Obviously as a whole the team ran well, but just to mention a few: Stuart Beaney held his nerve
well on the opening leg (and no, he didn’t pay me to say that), while Che or Stephen Compton as
he appears in the results ran our fastest long leg. Our fastest short leg runner was Joe Hartley
who – like Jonathan in the ‘A’ team – had run a marathon the previous week! And finally, Ben
Smith (who was drafted in late on) ran the last leg for the team and showcased an awesome
sprint finish. Unfortunately your correspondent mistook the runner he was clashing with as a
Bristol runner and got everyone a bit over excited thinking it was a race for first ‘B’ team. While he
wasn’t a Bristol runner, it was still a fantastic finish to witness.
Congratulations must go to Swansea for an incredibly impressive performance. They really ran
away with the race and must have won with one of the biggest ever winning margins. Tonbridge’s
sprint at the end meant we were deprived of being first club from the south. But our seventh place
undoubtedly gave us food for thought for next year. It’s surely not unrealistic to think that with the
necessary planning and availability of a couple we missed today, we could be shooting for a
medal. While for the B team, there has to be a distinct possibility they could go one better than
this year and actually come home first ‘B’ team.
Russell Bentley (23) 27:42 Ben Harding (17) 15:54 James Bowler 16) 27:46
Jonathan Tipper (15) 16:20 Alex Yee (7) 25:37 John Gilbert (4) 15:51 Chris
Greenwood (4) 27:26 James Savage (3) 16:44 Jordan Weaver (3) 28:03
Anthony Johnson (5) 17:03 Neil Phillips (5) 28:07 Adrian Lowther (7) 16:53
Stuart Beaney (53) 30:07 Gareth Anderson (53) 17:51 Tim Lawrence (50)
30:17 Matthew Moroney (47) 18:10 Che Compton (42) 29:37 Thomas
Muddiman (40) 17:26 Calum Fraser (39) 30:34 Joe Hartley (38) 16:42
Peter Lighting (37) 29:58 Sam Rowland (36) 17:43 Tim Alexander (37)
30:28 Ben Smith(37) 18:06
1 Swansea 4.15:06: 2 Bristol & West 4.19.55: 3 Liverpool 4:20:51 4 Notts AC 4:21:29
5 Lincoln W 4:23:07 6 Tonbridge 4:23:23 7 Kent AC 4: 23:26 8 Belgrave 4:23:57