National Relays Race Report

Dominic Easter takes you through the 2015 National Road Relays…

Womens results

Mens results

Another fantastic day of racing, another set of medals and another story that needs to be told…

Preamble
– Drop-outs in the week of the race meant the women only had one team and Edwards and Meslek had received last minute call-ups for the men.
– Several of the team had been warm-weather training in Portugal, lots of weight was lost although perhaps not in the manner we’d have liked.
– Coach Townsend put petrol into his diesel car and was stranded on the M1, meaning the cries of “you’ve got to nail it from here!” would be missing from Sutton Park for this year. Can’t think of any other contribution he makes.
– There was a new course, which included two new hills, hence the slower times.

Backs against the wall then – time for people to step up!

Women’s race
The feedback from my last report was almost universally positive, but one criticism I did receive was that there was not enough focus on the women’s race. Be careful what you wish for ladies…

Heather Sellars was on leg 1 for the women and she fared exceptionally against some really strong athletes to come back in 32.02 for 6th place and 12th fastest long leg. Heather and Non Stanford have both been ‘recruited’ by Joe and Lisgo respectively – great work lads. Tirunesh Dibaba still isn’t returning my calls but she can only hold out for so long right?!

Heather passed on to Susan or SV#1 (the v stands for victim, and the s stands for a word that rhymes with fits and starts with sh). When Susan runs she really runs (as the Townsend drainage system discovered last week), clenching her teeth (and other parts of her anatomy) she showed tremendous grit (not to…) and advanced the team up to 4th (4th fastest, 31.02).

As previously mentioned there were drop outs in the week of the race, however fortunately Rachel Friend has made it clear that she’ll be there for us (when the rain starts to fall) (Friends joke) (sorry). She ran very solidly on her A team debut keeping the team in the top 6 with 20.27 (82nd fastest).

Becky Townsend also stepped up from the B team and maintained 6th place with 19.42 (46th fastest). Becky has really slotted into the training group well since moving back to Leeds. It’s as though she’s part of the family.

Katie Parry was on the penultimate leg, I don’t really know her well to make a joke, and I didn’t see her run so I’ll stick to the facts: 18.42, 27th fastest, advancing the team into the top 5. Well done Katie!

Where to start with Charlie Wills? She ran in the wrong number, left early and seemed to manage to leave all her kit behind. The fact that this woman is a Doctor and responsible for the welfare of actual human beings is truly terrifying. However she did get the most important bit right, the running. She took the women into a fantastic 4th place with 18.47 for 29th fastest.

Top work ladies, Aldershot really are there for the taking if we can ever get that dream team out. As I say to myself regularly on nights out, no point dying wondering.

Men’s race
Despite being in Portugal for the full two weeks Tesfaye seemed impervious to the disease which had left everyone else stricken. Therefore he shall henceforth be known as ‘The Man With The Iron Stomach’. TMWTIS led us off with 27.44 for 15th place (32nd fastest). The quality of the field was evident, we were going to have to really fight if we wanted something out of this race.

If it’s fighters you need, there’s no man better than Mike Burrett. He moved us up into 9th with 16.09 (41st fastest). I took Mike’s son Corey over to the final corner to cheer him on (I know what you’re thinking: “you mean he’s good-looking, talented AND a nice guy?! Surely not?!” Believe it). Witnessing Mike dig deep and respond to Corey’s shouts was all the motivation I needed for the rest of the day. Hero.

SV#2 Joester T was up for the second long leg of the day. When the chips are down you need real club men who’ll flog themselves for every second, Joe is that guy. He ran 28.49 (88th fastest) and maintained our position. Due to Phil’s earlier mishap Joe took on the responsibility of head shouter – giving athletes the information they needed, encouraging and demanding that we all gave everything for the cause.

Ossama Meslek was up next. It is testament to the progress he’s made over the last year that he was disappointed with his 16.52 effort. He might have lost a couple of places but he’ll be all the stronger for the experience.

Big Gordon Benson was on leg 5. He’s in the middle of the international triathlon season and he still turns out – great guy. As he set off, tremors were said to felt as far afield as Milton Keynes. The pavement put up a paltry resistance before yielding to his will, his 27.38 (22nd fastest) advanced us to 7th place – the comeback was truly on.

Dreamy Jon Wills was up next (swoon). He eased past one and looked great while he did it – up to 6th place (15.57, 23rd fastest).

Big Cragg, was on leg 7, he found out he was running a long at 11 the night before and took it in his stride for the good of the team. The importance of his effort cannot be underestimated, he ran 28.30 for 67th fastest. We were now in 7th place, Morpeth were clear in 1st, Notts were clear in 2nd. As Mike Burrett put it, we needed some heroes in the second half…

Up steps Happy Tom Edwards, or Incredibly Nervous Tom Edwards as he appeared at the time. However, as your Grandad always tells you, a bit of nerves is a good thing, executing the perfect race and claiming the coveted ‘run of the day’ (runs of the day went to Susan) – he took us up into 5th and put 3rd place firmly in our sights. Some people suggested he might be trying to impress someone. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Very unusually the arrival of Deakin coincided with great excitement. As he ran past I overhead a conversation between a man and a young boy: “That’s Simon Deakin, I had a few good battles with him back in my glory days” said the man. “I’m not interested Grandad” replied the boy. A cracking run from Deak (28.07, 49th fastest) maintained 5th place but, crucially, significantly reduced the gap to 3rd.

As ever, I am reluctant to describe my performance. However fortunately, I was approached by a stranger after the race. (Was she a very attractive girl? Does it matter?! But yes, yes she was.) She had this to say: “as I watched you run, it was as if all the sorrow and despair left me; I felt infinite; as though … as though I could live forever.” A bit much if you ask me, but there you go. Up into 4th, the gap to 3rd was now under 30 seconds (15.49, 18th fastest).

SV#3 Carl was on leg 11. He ran 28.08 for 50th fastest, however this only tells half the story. Carl perhaps had the worst of ‘Susan’s virus’ (as it has affectionately come to be known). He made rapid terrific inroads into the athlete in 3rd in the first half of the race, however in the second it was more a case of making sure he didn’t mess his shorts. Anyone who saw his sprint to the bushes at the end of his leg will attest to this. The gap to 3rd was now 40 seconds.

The stage was all set for Silly Salter. A member of the club from when he was 10, Salter was bang up for it. A quick discussion between the brain trust (Easter, Townsend Jr and Salter) concluded that the hills weren’t as bad as everyone was making out, and that there were times to be brave – and this was definitely one of them. Salter went off HARD. By the top of the hills the gap was already down to 15 seconds. That gap continued to close and by the pool he was into 3rd from which a now rampant Salter accelerated through to the finish were her was promptly mobbed by his teammates and mass hugging ensued (I really enjoyed this bit, see Becky’s photos).

Job done.

On the warm down, somewhere between Carl’s 11th and 12th dump of the day, Carl, Salt and I reflected on the day’s events. Demonstrating uncharacteristic maturity we all concluded this: the main thing we will take away from our running careers is the friendships we make and, in twenty years time when we meet for a pint, we’ll recall the day Salter snatched us an unlikely bronze at the national. That is what make relays so great, you’re running for your mates..

I would advise you all to make sure that, next year, you do everything you can to make sure you make your own contribution.

Have a great track season everybody, see you at the Northern 6 stage. I promise not to get beaten by any girls this time.