BMAF OPEN MASTERS ROAD RELAY CHAMPIONSHIPS, Mallory Park, Leicestershire, November 19
Despite the mid-November time slot and fewer teams than is the norm taking part, there was nonetheless some good racing with high quality in parts, Martin Duff reports.
The move to Mallory racing circuit was brought about when the BMAF were unable to commit to the high costs involved at Sutton Park now that Birmingham City Council are no longer solvent. Walter Hill, speaking for the BMAF, said: “we had to find an alternative. but we are coming back next year in May,” At the presentations this brought cheers from the assembled runners.
Salford Harriers took the two youngest age groups and, in the six stage M35 event, took the lead on stage two of this technical course with its twists and turns against a biting wind. This was through Karl Darcy, whose 15:04 was the third quickest on offer.
They then extended the lead, particularly through their fourth stage runner Gary Priestley’s second quickest 14:54.
Aldershot, winners of the inaugural Masters, then called Veterans, relay in 1988, were never really in the hunt although they kept the Salford margin down to just over a minute by the line.
Earlier, the fastest stage time was set by City of Leeds’ John Beattie’s 14:32 on the opener, after he hit the front from the gun and went further away as the lap unfolded.
He said: “it’s a lovely surface but then we were slowed by the wind. I am using this as a build up for the Wilmslow 10km where I want to complete a run of 14 sub-30 years.”
At the change over he almost missed the had touch to his stage 2 runner. Maybe this was because relay participants have got used to the non-touch handovers.
Salford also took the M45 race and led throughout thanks to Anthoney Taylor’s first lap 15:41, which then stood up as the best of the age group.
Pontypridd’s Joe Thomas followed him home with the third fastest split of 15:48, but his team fell further back as the race unfolded.
Just headed on that first stage was Trafford’s Jeff Prest and his 15:42 earned the silver lap medal.
The first race away had been the M55 and over and Southport Waterloo led throughout after a fastest race time of 16:30 by Francois Rafferty, who was sixth in the previous week’s Masters International. Just ahead of him there was Cumbernauld’s Stephen Allen but the roles were reversed on this first stage, as they were first and second quickest overall.
Rafferty said of his rival: “he took me going up the hill, then I took him back in the last mile but it was brutal and I expected him to beat me as he got me in the cross-country.”
Thereafter the Southport trio extended their lead but the margin was only 28 seconds at the line.
The M65 men ran with them after David Gill gave Warrington a lead that they were never to lose after his 19:13 clocking. After a slow start, Cambuslang came bouncing back firstly through Paul Thompson’s second best 18:59 then, finally, through Colin Feechan’s best effort of 18:02, which built on his win in the previous week’s Master’s International for Scotland.
An M75 race was offered and Oxford City entered full of hope, but they were the only takers and so were denied medals thanks to a new rule that allows for this only if at least two teams enter. John Exley with an unofficial 22;13 was their fastest, whilst their middle man, Roy Treadwell, was a previous fastest lap runner in these relays as an M60 in 2009.
Uptake in the women’s race was less than in the men’s but there was some quality on show and Bristol & West took two of the age groups and a resurgent Aldershot masters’ team the W35 four stage event.
Their team manager Tad Dicker said they were a team of mums who have come back to the sport after many years away but who were never previously part of any of the great AFD senior relay teams.
They were nearly a minute down on the first stage as Datchet’s Jilly Raw and Rutland’s Helen Pape narrowly headed Jane Potter’s Charnwood, with 18;21. All were then beaten by Aldershot’s Clare Rees’ 18;12 which took them to a mid-race lead that was never surrendered.
Missing the injured Gemma Steel, Charnwood had no answer and wound up more than two minutes down in second.
Aldershot’s third stage runner Lucy Wright summed up their new found spirit when she said: “I ran as a child then just joined from small club Farnham Town.” Last leg runner Karen Andrews said: “It was quite tough with the wind but I thought it best to go out strong and maintain the lead.”
Bristol more or less led throughout the W45 three stage event after Jesse Sanzo’s 18:47 and they went on to win from Huncote by more than four minutes.
A strange feature of the relays had been that the timing mats were some 30 metres short of the change over point. All runners were timed over the same distance but in some races the lead changed before that hand-over. It made little difference but did cause some confusion and Lucy Cooke matched Sanzo’s time but was behind at the hand over.
Bristol stayed ahead, on stage two, but then Annabell Granger compounded the damage with a fastest W45 race time of 18:08 on the third and final lap, which was quicker than that in the W35 age group.
They also took the W55 category and again led throughout after Sarah Everitt’s 19:29 first lap time. She said of her battle with many-time British Masters age group champion Kate Ramsey: “I did most of the leading until the hill and we were together but it was very windy.” These two were quickest overall.
2006 W35 international masters cross-country champion Nikki Nealon anchored for second placed Huncote with a third quickest 19:50 and she explained her recent activities by saying: “I had an Achilles op and was out for a couple of years.”
There was another Master’s International winner behind. It was this year’s W75 champion Angela Copson running two age groups down for Rugby & Northampton, with 23;24.
Anchoring for Bristol was another international as Jill Harrison, who ran in the 1986 Commonwealth Games, completed their win. “I am a W65 now, but I didn’t mind a few hills into the wind,” she said.
The final age group was the W65s where Sally Masters gave Westbury a lead they were never to lose after a 20:39 clocking. Former fastest runner Dot Kesterton brought Steel City close by the finish but they were two minutes down.