ERRA NATIONAL ROAD RELAYS, SUTTON PARK,BIRMINGHAM, APRIL 14,2018
DAY OF DRAMA SEES CLUB ACHIEVE EQUAL FIFTH PLACE AND ALEX YEE RUNS THE FASTEST LONG LEG
In a highly eventful day for the club, Kent AC men’s team came equal fifth in the National 12 stage relays, and Alex Yee ran the fastest long leg of the day. I say eventful day, as the officials in their wisdom, made the highly controversial decision to halt the race at the end of leg eleven (when we were vying for fourth place) to have a mass start in order to bring things to a speedy conclusion. If it was towards the back of the field, a start of the slower teams might have been understandable. But to stop the race when teams were competing for a top ten finish really seemed an extraordinary decision. It resulted in the top three at the time being allowed through (Tonbridge, Highgate and Swansea), while Leeds in fourth extricated themselves from an official and continued, while ourselves and Lincoln in fifth and sixth were stopped and were forced to join the mass start.
Before the drama unfolded, Russell Bentley got us off to strong start on the opening leg. He ran considerably quicker than last year and brought us home just outside the top twenty. James Bowler, who’d been ailing with a bad cold, managed to move us up quite a few places, to fifteenth. Whilst our position fluctuated a bit, Jordan Weaver, Gareth Anderson, Ben Harding and Noah Armitage-Hookes all put in strong efforts to keep us in contention.
Whilst the team had been performing solidly throughout the early stages, on leg seven, Alex Yee, scorched round the course in a fantastic time of 24: 57. John Gilbert kindly informed us that this was an eye watering 4.38 per mile pace. On the day it was by some distance the fastest long leg. And whilst there may have been a course change in recent years, Alex’s time compares favorably to some of the British distance running greats who people revere from the 70’s and 80’s era. Alex stormed through the field and brought us up to sixth. Pete Lighting held things together and we remained in sixth on leg eight. A predictably strong run from John Gilbert brought us up to fifth, so an improvement of one place. Then although we only dropped one place, came leg ten, which is where another aspect of the reference to an eventful day comes in. It was on this leg that Joe Hartley ran. Joe, who has been running very well of late, was actually scheduled to be running for the ‘B’ team. However, James Connor’s unfortunate withdrawal meant Joe was drafted in. It wasn’t quite on the scale of Callum Hawkins, but there were some similarities to what happened. Initially all seemed well as Joe reportedly got off to a strong start. However, half way into his leg, supporters got a bit worried. He looked pained and was emitting noises that didn’t sound good. Then towards the end there was real concern when he started to weave across the road a bit. On the ascent up the finishing hill he gave real cause for concern. Happily, although Joe virtually keeled over at the finish, he didn’t take long to revive. The medical check soon thankfully gave him the all clear.
After Joe, on leg eleven, Chris Greenwood again showed what a fine relay runner he is. He hunted down and passed the Lincoln runner, and was closing fast on the Leeds runner, but only to discover that he wasn’t able to hand over in the normal manner as the race was being halted. So when it did resume, after a lengthy delay, poor Lawrence Avery was in a terrible position. He’d be precluded from warming up and then instead of having the opportunity of endeavoring to chase down the Leeds runner, he found himself in the midst of a huge crowd of runners. Reportedly Lawrence could barely see Chris come in and he didn’t see the Lincoln runner come home. Consequently he was unaware of the gap we had on Lincoln, and so in effect making it more of a time trial for him rather than a proper race. It seems that at the mass start Lawrence could see the Lincoln runner, but with the large numbers and the twists in the course, this wasn’t the case throughout. Incredibly it turned out Lawrence ran 21 seconds slower that the Lincoln runner and this was the time gap that Chris had handed over. Not one to make excuses, Lawrence’s run was undoubtedly made more difficult as the restriction on his warm up very likely led to a tweaked calf. Last leg running usually provokes a fair level of anxiety, but with what Lawrence had to contend with his stress levels must have been sky high. With the Lincoln runner coming in ahead of Lawrence, they were originally listed as fifth team. Probably due to Ken’s “promptings” this has been rectified and we are now listed as finishing equal fifth. Obviously we will never know, but you do wonder how things might have turned out had it not been for the bizarre decision to stop the race so early. Lawrence would have had the Leeds runner in his sights and been able to run more competitively against the Lincoln runner. Still, that’s now all in the realms of speculation. What we do know is that we achieved our best ever finish in the race. Moreover, Alex Yee ran the fastest long leg since the course redesign, and as mentioned earlier, taking various factors into account, it’s a time that compares well when set alongside times done by some of the iconic names of British distance running. In addition, we also had a very strong performance from the ‘B’ team. The ‘B’ team actually finished 31st and second ‘B’ team – a few places behind Bristol and West who were first ‘B’ team. There were actually sixty-three teams that closed in and so for our team to finish around half way gives a measure of our strength. A peak at the results shows a number of well known teams behind our ‘B’ team.
Finally, a note for your diaries. On Saturday May 19th, Alex Yee will be running the Highgate Night of 10,000m PB’s. As usual there will be a series of races at the Parliament Hill track. From what I’ve heard, Alex will be in a class field so there could be fireworks.
KENT AC WOMEN MAKE FINE IMPRESSION ON THEIR FIRST APPEARANCE AT NATIONAL RELAYS.
Although they have qualified in the past, somewhat surprisingly this was Kent AC women’s first appearance at these championships. For a combination of reasons, some of our stronger runners weren’t able to make it. However, the team we had out did the club proud. They performed heroically in achieving their 21st place. To put this in perspective there were 48 teams that closed in. And while that number included B teams, it was nevertheless hugely encouraging that our team came better than half way up the field.
The first leg always brings with it a certain amount of pressure, so it was as well we could call on Amy Clements’s experience to lead us off. It was also thought that running the opening leg would give Amy the opportunity of having a real competitive run – and it certainly did. Amy actually brought the team home in sixth place after running what proved to be the eighth fastest time of the day. For much of the leg, Amy was battling for fourth place with Clare Duck from Leeds, an England international and highly respected club runner. Amy may have t lost out to the Leeds runner, and to a couple of fast finishers on the run in, but this race suggested that she’s not far away from full fitness after the injury woes of the last nine months.
It was inevitable that after Amy’s leg we would go down the field, but we actually held our own extremely well – especially when you consider the calibre of runner our team were up against. On the second leg Georgina Wiley ran strongly to bring us in 15th team. Against strong opposition Bethanie Shakespeare ran well to keep us in the top twenty. Then Sarah Hanley ran a solid long leg and actually moved us up to eighteenth. She was followed on the fifth leg by Susie Fairbrass, maintaining the family tradition of Kent AC running, and doing really well to keep us in eighteenth. On the final leg, which is always hotly contested, Abby Clydes, managed to keep us close to a top twenty finish. It was tough for Abby having to run the last leg, but perhaps not as stressful as watching Joe, run his leg in the men’s race (see men’s race report).
No doubt about it, the team really deserves praise for their performance in what can be a really intimidating atmosphere. With the strength the women have now, perhaps next year we can have both an ‘A’ and ‘B’ team mixing it with the top teams in the country.
National 12 Stage Relay 2018