SEAA Road Relay Champs – Milton Keynes – Sun 16 Mar 2014

It was a nail-biter to the last, but our men achieved their aim of qualifying for the National Road Relays in Birmingham in two weeks’ time. The qualification challenge was to finish within the top 25 clubs – no mean feat with several of our top runners unavailable. The 12 stage event alternated a long leg of 7664m with a shorter loop of 5053, so there was scope to incorporate both endurance athletes and track specialists in the team.

1500m specialist Jamie Taylor-Caldwell got us off to a good start. The first leg of this high quality race is always competitive, but Jamie brought us home bang on target in 25th. Ben Waterman, who normally races over 800m, confessed to going off a bit too quickly, but he picked up four places and just missed catching the next two ahead of him. Despite training 90 miles a week, London Marathon-bound Rob Wilson also won four places, leaving the team in 17th at the end of leg three. By the end of leg four, Luke Nicholas had gained a further two places to 15th, and this was maintained by Chris Hepworth over the longer leg that followed. This proved to be the high point, and from then on, it was a question of staying above that critical 25th spot.

Track specialist Stewart Davis was drafted into the team at short notice and he struggled valiantly over a much longer distance than he is accustomed to, but slipped back to 21st on leg six. It was a tense affair thereafter. Max Wells-Pestell held position over the long leg, then Archie Jones slipped back a place. Guillaume Adam then delivered the team’s fastest long leg to bring them back to 20th. His tactics were allegedly rather unconventional though, including a (for him) somewhat pedestrian 4-minute kilometre mid-race. One wonders how fast he ran some of the others. Rob Brown and Steve Elson each won a place, and novice Santosh Rai took over in 18th, with the unenviable task of running the final leg. No pressure, then, Santosh! A parkrun regular racing in a club vest for the first time, he ran a personal best for the distance and no-one can ask for more than that. Although local rivals TVH and Hillingdon overhauled us on that last leg, the team was more than satisfied to close the event in 21st.

The women ran a 6 stage race, with all legs running the shorter loop. There’s no Nationals qualification criterion for women’s teams, which was fortunate, with several of our faster women missing. In-form Sarah Richardson led us off with a competitive run, taking several scalps in an impressive turn of speed over the last 400 metres and handing over to triathlete Shona Cowper in 20th. Shona found herself detached from other runners, but kept focused on the task and ran through the 5km marker in a personal best time. On leg three, the experienced Fiona Kennedy picked off four competitors to bring the team back to 20th. This position was broadly maintained by Patricia Thomas and Grazina Narviliene on legs four and five, but Carol Jones slipped back to 23rd on the always-competitive final leg. Thanks are due to Carol for stepping up at short notice to replace the injured Kat Mertens. With a couple of teams disqualified, the club ranked 21st on the final reckoning, which was a commendable performance from a team with only one member under 40.

With unseasonably warm temperatures moderated by a cooling breeze, it was a very enjoyable day out for the club, and the penultimate chance for our road runners and track specialists to compete together before the start of the track & field season. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get everyone together for the team shot above, but we did our best. (Who’s the shifty-looking interloper in red?)

Results summary

Men (7664m): Jamie Taylor-Caldwell 26:05; Rob Wilson 25:30; Christopher Hepworth 26:14; Max Wells-Pestell 28:10; Guillaume Adam 25:22; Stephen Elson27:11; (5053m): Ben Waterman 16:25; Luke Nicholas 17:21; Stewart Davis 20:11; Archie Jones 17:47; Rob Brown 18:43; Santosh Rai 19:19

Women (5053m): Sarah Richardson 19.45; Shona Cowper 21:09; Fiona Kennedy 19:38; Patricia Thomas 22:46; Grazina Narviliene 20:35; Carol Jones 23:00

Full results here.