The National Road Relay Championships made a welcome return to Sutton Coldfield on Saturday after not being held for the past two years due to the pandemic.
Illnesses and injuries left a number of club squads depleted for this epic all afternoon long relay event and Herne Hill Harriers were among those suffering from these issues. However, with some contender clubs unable to start, Herne Hill finished both a women’s and a men’s team in very respectable positions. The women placed 15th and the men 25th, but the Herne Hill highlight was a fabulous run from Arlo Ludewick as he moved the men up from nineteenth to fifth place on the second of the twelve stages, and in doing so recorded the second fastest short leg time overall.
The men had a superb start as the combo of Lewis Laylee and Ludewick on the first long (8.7km) and short (5km) legs saw them in their highest ever position at the end of a stage for a Herne Hill men’s team at this event. Laylee ran superbly on the always strong first leg, timed at a good 26:48 in 19th, then Ludewick veritably charged through the field to hand over in fifth place. Overtaking some high level athletes, his 15:19 clocking was the second best short stage of the day.
Andrew Warburton had it tough on leg three, but did well to still hold a top twenty position in 18th with 28:15. M45 Simon Coombes handed over in 24th with 16:59 on fourth stage. Jack Hillier remained in 24th on leg five, running the same time as Warburton had done, then new first claim man Daniel Shaw ran 16:23 to move up to 23rd at the halfway point.
Jack Brotchie’s 28:45 and Oliver Walker’s 16:49 both moved up one place each, so after eight stages Harriers were placed in 21st. M40 Jeff Cunningham next ran 29:08 to hand over in 23rd, before M45 runners Deron Fagan 18:56 and Andrew Perfect 29:07 left the team in 26th with one leg to race.
The anchor leg runner had a race on his hands, as Simon Wade was able to overtake Belgrave Harriers in the closing stages, but could not quite get ahead of Liverpool Harriers. The Herne Hill men’s team finishing position of 25th of 53 full teams compares well to their 18th at the Southern road relays last month.
The women were more depleted, with some stepping in when not really expecting a call up or at least to have run in a B team if there was one. Then a couple ran long stages instead of their preferred shorter races to guarantee representation at this major event in the club calendar.
Sarah Grover opened the team well, coming in 16th in 32:47 around the first challenging long stage. Zoe Tompkins then ran the fastest among the Herne Hill women’s team’s short legs in 19:21, which moved up to 13th.
Ella Newton had been ill throughout the week, but turned out for the team and her 20:21 saw them 14th at halfway through their six stage relay. Jenny Nandi was one who thought she would run a short stage, but answered the call for a longer run and her 35:32 placed 5th after four legs. Charlotte Kenyon ran 20:48 to moved up one place on fifth leg, before Eliza Cottington just lost out in a very close battle on the final stage as her time of 20:30 saw the team finish 15th just two seconds after almost two and a half hours of racing.
Following two cross country rounds in Lloyd Park, the final fixture of the East Surrey League saw some Herne Hill young athletes racing at a road race in Epsom in on Thursday evening. The team awards for the season were for all of the young athletes age groups combined, with the Harriers girls team placing second.
Under 13 boys Dylan Gillies and Alfie Bryan placed first and second in the overall standings in their age groups after placing fifth and sixth respectively on the night. In the Under 17 men’s category, David Aisa Miller placed second both on the night and in the overall season.
With the road relays taking priority where possible there were only a handful of others in road race action at the weekend. Hannah Edwards raced at the Kew Gardens 10km on Saturday and ran a good PB of 43:43, while at the Brighton Marathon on Sunday Jonny Whittall ran a big PB of 2:44:50, Josh Pewter ran 3:04:50 and Megan Gildea completed her first marathon in 3:19:22.