2019 National 12 Stage Road Relays Report
Saturday 6th April, 2019. Weather; dry, clear with a light breeze. Location, Sutton Park, again. 10 of the 12 from a fortnight ago donned their trainers. Darren and Tom were on call to step in for the unavailable Sergio and Dan. The format was slightly different than the Midland 12 stage, in that there were 6 long legs (5.2 miles) and 6 short legs (5.1 k) alternating long, short, long etc. Nyle, Simon, Courtenay, Luke, Gary and Tom were on the longer legs. The big talking point, however, was the fact the Swindon Harriers turned up with a tent and 3 chairs. This showed the rest of our competitors that we meant business.
Nyle braved leg 1, a leg which was loaded with talent. 70+ of some of the finest runners in the country. Sensibly, he opted for a standard digital Casio watch showing just time as he didn’t want to see the pace a GPS device would have displayed as it would’ve scared him! Battling towards the line, he put the club in a respectable 40th.
Ethan, the youngest member of the team was also amongst a lot of high quality athletes. Nonetheless he put in a sterling performance handing over in a strong 42nd place. His time was within a second of a fortnight ago. How about that for consistency!
Simon got his trademark long stride ticking over nicely, determined to better his time from a the midlands, he maintained position and did manage to knock around 10s off his previous leg time.
Chris focused his blue eyes on the chap ahead of him (no doubt wishing he had his dog tethered to his belt) as he set off. Having thrown everything he had at the course, he nearly chundered as he crossed the line. He had caught up a place, also going around 15s quicker than last time out. To celebrate this, Chris opened a keg of Speckled Hen and retired to the team tent.
Courtenay, who we are pretty sure feels no pain, slogged himself in the first half, really pushing hard to try and gain some time up the climbs. Courtenay did this despite having a half marathon the follow day (Devizes half)! He maintained position as the field was become ever stretched out over the course.
As the field was now splintered, it became increasingly like a time trial. You might be around a bunch of runners, you might be minutes away from anyone. Omer stepped up to the start line, shrieking at Chez to hurry up as he was so eager to set off. Off he went, into the distance. Those fast legs of his carried him round the course rapidly, handing over in 42nd place.
Sporting an original harriers vest from circa 1996, Luke (who was stepping up to the longer leg), set off on what looked like his half marathon pace. Having wound up the pace as every mile ticked by, he came racing back home, tongue out, like a spaniel retrieving a ball. He had maintained position and handed over to Marathon man, Darren.
A last minute recruit, Darren is in the middle of marathon prep. 5k is not his chosen distance, but blimey did he deliver a worthy performance. His sponsors would have been proud of his matching kit, but more proud of his finish. Looking strong as he handed over to the legend of the team, Gary.
With numerous England performances under his belt for various distances, Gary called on all of his experience to run a very isolated leg in a superb time. He was also stepping up to a longer leg and as ever, he showed a lot of the younger guys how you race in these situations.
Mark, father of the whippet Ethan, wanted to show his performance gains. After making sure his hair was in order, he set off, chasing a PB on the course. As he came thundering home to the roar of a large group of females near the finish, he had held station and picked up a PB of around 20s. Jessica (his wife) was proud to have this chap on her arm as she strolled back to the tent beside him.
There was a mass start. In fact there were two. The first of which was for all those who hadn't yet run their long leg. Tom lined up with approx. 40 other runners. This no doubt helped him as he was amongst a lot of others from the gun. Without prior knowledge of the course, he hung on to those around him and clawed back a chunk of time (around 2 minutes) from the chaps in 42nd place in front of us.
The second mass start was for the final short leg. Jason, another in the middle a marathon training put his spectacles down, sharpened his elbows and lined up. Jase also benefitted from being in a pack. He actually got back a lot quicker than we thought! He gained us 2 places, bringing us over the line in a strong final position of 41st and posted yet another 15s PB.
That is the 41st best team NATIONALLY, with a final collective time of 4:48:41, which is a phenomenal achievement by a club the size of Swindon Harriers. There were also a few Welsh teams in front of us so English club wise we were top 40. The best thing about this performance? As ever, it was about the team mentality. Cheering each other on, various supporters in their black and white around the course, Chris even shared his keg. There is more to come from this senior men’s team. There are a handful of athletes who can come in, also a few really strong U17s who will be stepping up next year.
What is up next for this Senior men’s team? Well, the track season is about to kick off, then in the Autumn there are the 6 stage road relays which I am sure the club will be looking to put several teams in before the Cross Country league comes back around, which we should be challenging for a top 3 position with the strength and depth we have shown here.
Check out some pictures taken on the day by clicking on the image below.