National Road Relays and British Fell-Running Relays

It’s been a weekend full of relay action. First up, the National Road Relays in Sutton Park, report courtesy of our man on the scene, Simon Deakin.

The womens team were weakened slightly followed by the withdrawal of Alex Gostling with a cold (which also put paid to husband Martin’s participation in the mens B-team). Not to be deterred however a strong foursome of Claire Duck, Jennie Guard, Susan Partridge and Sarah Peterson, making her first appearance of the season, took to the hallowed Sutton Park tarmac.

Claire Duck led off and showing little hint of a midweek injury scare showed that her return to the top level is continuing nicely with a time of 15:20 for 21st position. Jennie Guard followed up last week’s solid WYL performance with a sound 16:49 which left Susan Partridge with a tantalising line of runners to chase. Chase them she did, her excellent 14:56 gaining 16 positions up to 12th from which Sarah Peterson finished the job with an strong 16:04 for a final position of 13th, identical to last year! However, with the likes of Kirsteen Young, Alex Gostling, Emily Birchall and Jess Nixon waiting in the wings there’s the makings of a very strong and talented squad and much to look forward to later in the season.

Rachael Dyson (17:50, 73rd) and Kirsteen Young (16:05, 53rd) turned out for an incomplete B-team.

The men’s race saw two teams starting after the strong performance in Warrington last month. The B-team were led out by Mike Burrett, “fresh” from his endeavours in the Great Yorkshire Run the previous weekend. His 18:50 was a little slower than he was hoping for but still represented a strong start. Michael Wood showed that he isn’t taking too much harm down at St Mary’s (18:35) and Dale Worton provided a much stronger showing than at Warrington with 18:42 on leg 3. Chris Wright ran an excellent 69:59 in his half marathon debut at Peterborough the previous weekend and admitted to feeling a little below his best with 18:33. Let’s look forward to seeing what he can do once he’s fresh! The team was rounded out by Fergus Meade (18:49) and late replacement Geoff Belcher (20:07) for a final position of 36th. Once again, the hallmark of this performance was remarkable consistency with little separating the majority of the team. Any one of these boys could step forward to the A-team and not be disgraced which is what having a strong squad is all about.

Finally, the men’s A-team, as Northern Champions, were optimistic of challenging for a medal. Like at Warrington, the team was set up with the intention of holding our own in the first half before moving through in the second. Joe Townsend, back in form after injury problems, kept his end of the bargain with a strong 17:49 on the first leg. 26th may sound a little remote from the leaders but the famous “first leg syndrome” was in force once again with many clubs front loading their strongest runners. Leg 2 normally sees a shakeout with a lot of changing of positions and it takes a steady head and hand to make the best of difficult circumstances. Carl Smith was entrusted with the job and made a decent fist of it. His 18:16 was perhaps a little disappointing in terms of positions gained (+3, up to 23rd) but, again, this has to be seen in context and the time gap was still manageable.

17 year old Gordon Benson was handed leg 3 and coped admirably gaining 4 places to 19th with . (I didnt see any of this as I was warming up so apologies – make something up!!). At the halfway point the time gap was approaching 2 minutes which left a lot to do. Simon Deakin got on with it and steadily worked his way back towards contention, his 17:21 gaining 7 places to 12th. He also had the pleasure of overhauling Morpeth, which put paid to the main rivals for the first Northern Team gong (of which more later). This left James Walsh with something to work with and he duly obliged in typically energetic fashion, his 17:16 bringing the team into 6th. However, the gap to the leaders, (Birchfield) was 1:36. Surely there was no chance of a medal with the likes of Ben Moreau and Keith Gerrard handed a substantial head-start. But cometh the hour, (almost) cometh the man. James Wilkinson produced, in my opinion, the finest piece of road relay running in the history of Leeds City AC. The likes of Baxter, Bilton, Webb, Walsh and Deakin have hit significant heights before but nothing to touch “Wilko” today! His 16:38 was the fastest of the race by a scarcely believable 20 seconds over regular GB international Andy Vernon and is the 3rd fastest run ever on this course (in its current configuration), bested only by Sutton Park legend Chris Davies and World Champion Mo Farah. The end result of this was 4th spot, just 3 seconds behind Newham in 3rd and 11 behind Birchfield in 2nd. In the end slightly disappointing but boy, did he go down fighting!!

The harriers bandwagon rolls on to the second WYL fixture in York in 29th October followed by the National XC Relays in Mansfield the following weekend. Doubtless great deeds will be done and there will be great stories to tell. Read all about it on!

Meanwhile, in Kettlewell, a muckier kind of relay was taking place. It’s been a few years since Leeds City entered a team in the British Fell-Running Relay Championships, and then they set the bar high by winning the whole thing! Recently more Leeds City athletes have been getting involved in fell-running and we made our return to a competition featuring the cream of British fell-running clubs and athletes, well-organised this year by Bingley Harriers in the beautiful surroundings of the Yorkshire Dales, on a rare gloriously sunny day.

The team was lead off by Mark Bryant on the fast and (relatively) firm terrain of the 4.5 mile opening leg, running superbly to come home in 9th place, ahead of many of the pre-race favourites. He handed over to legendary great club servant (© Athletics Weekly) Doscoe and Alan Buckley, a late replacement for the injured Adam Osborne, who took on the long pairs leg, 9m over a contrasting mix of fast, firm and steep tracks and treacherous wet bogs (a theme of the whole day to be honest). They ran a solid leg, 13th fastest, dropping one position to retain a place in the top 10.

Next up was the navigation leg, a challenge taken on by Greg Hull and Leon Foster, who have been getting involved in a lot of orienteering races in recent years. Even in clear conditions, this was a challenging leg, with checkpoints hidden all over the moor and some difficult terrain to run over too. With Leon restricted by a leg injury on the steep climbs, the pair were a little slower than they are capable of but did enough to return in 15th place, handing over to Chris Birchall for the final 5.5 mile leg, straight up Great Whernside and then straight down again, just the kind of thing Chris loves. He had a great run, 7th fastest leg, making up 2 places to finish in 13th. This was a solid result for the club, ahead of many well-established fell-running teams, going some way to overturning our reputation as “a bunch of road-runners” and setting us up for a crack at the top 10 next time!