Sunday saw the return of the South of England Road Relay Champs at Milton Keynes for the first time since 2019 due to the unprecedented circumstances of the past 2 years. The men alternated 6 long stages of around 8.7km with 6 short legs of roughly 5km, while the women ran 4 short and 2 long around the same courses.
Our women were defending champions from 3 years ago, but this year’s scenario was different with most of our fastest on paper currently away, mainly at training camps and a couple of others unwell with Covid or flu.
Although the team position of 14th might seem less impressive than our famous team victory, it was in many ways just as remarkable as there are few clubs in the area who could still field a complete team of 6 women and finish in the top half with so many among our ranks unavailable.
Fiona de Mauny led the team out on first leg and looks on her way back towards good racing form, handing over in 18th in 18:27. Then Sarah Grover ran a long stage and moved up to 15th with a clocking of 32:24. Eliza Cottington was a late addition to the team and ran very well to keep us in 17th with 20:12 for a short stage.
Natasha Lodge stepped up from an expected short leg to run a long and ran 34:26 to bring the team home in 18th, before Suzanne Swaine also came in to fill the other eleventh hour gap and gained a place on 5th stage with 20:24. Ella Newton then ran a fine anchor leg in 19:15 to move up 3 more to complete the race in the team’s highest position of the afternoon in 14th.
The men’s 12 stage team was just as depleted and also had little left in reserve. 8 of the team were veterans eligible to compete at M35 or in most cases older, but here raced well among the younger guys.
As can often be the case, the fastest long and short stages within the team were recorded on the first 2 legs, as Lewis Laylee ran 27:06 for 15th then M35 Mike Cummings 15:33 to move to 14th. Another M35 Jack Brotchie clocked 28:33 for 16th, then Joe Fenwick moved back up to 14th with 15:59. Joe Elliott is still recovering from recent Covid, but his 29:54 held the team in 20th before M40 Mohammed Ismail completed the first half of the race in 22nd with 17:39.
The next 3 are all M45s, but each gained a place. Andrew Perfect clocked 28:37 on leg 7, Simon Coombes 16:25 on leg 8 and Raj Paranandi 29:12 with the team 19th after leg 9. Probably the most prolific racer in the club, M50 Jonathan Ratcliffe was called into action against some men less than half his age, but kept the team in 19th before M40 Jeff Cunningham ran 28:49 to move up to 18th.
Last leg man Ross Brown brought the team home in 18th with 16:32 to qualify for the National Road Relays in Sutton Coldfield on Saturday 9th April at the end of a tough, but rewarding day at the office.
Ratcliffe demonstrated his love of racing as he warmed up for the relays by placing 39th at the Serpentine Last Friday of the Month 5km in Hyde Park in 18:17 and then 23rd in the Sri Chinmoy 10km in Battersea Park on Saturday morning in 36:41. M60 veterans Tony Harran and Gary Budinger clocked 20:27 and 24:16 respectively in Hyde Park on Friday, while Tim Kerr, Fraser Hagell and David Field ran 39:19, 39:27 and 40:31 in Battersea on Saturday.
Then on Sunday Gen Huss was the fifth female at the Kingston Spring 20 miles road race in 2 hours 23:33 and Robert Nagorski, currently spending some time in Poland, ran 90:25 in the Warsaw Half Marathon Peace Race.