THE Midland Road Relays at Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield are always a good barometer of fitness and mental toughness.
The men‘s teams are made up of 12 athletes whereas the women’s are of six. The men either run 2.995 miles or 5.4 miles (8.663km) depending on the leg number. All competitors in the women’s race run 2.995 miles.
The club’s best team performance of the day in terms of position came from the women’s A team who finished 20th in a time of 2-08.06.
Yvonne Caswell (22.22) set off on the opening leg and did herself justice with a consistently paced run.
Eloise Du Luart (18.18) overtook 15 rivals thanks to a terrific run that was the 24th fastest individual leg of the race.
Eloise looked suitably shattered as she crossed the line, having given her all and moved the team up to 23rd position.
Triathlete and rower Charlotte Best (21.19) would normally be just about finding her stride after three miles so this was a fascinating test of her sharpness, one which she passed with flying colours.
Helen Ferguson’s debut run over this course showed she is as adaptable and more than able to mix it at this level. Helen kept the team in a very respectable 24th position with a time of 23.09.
Emily Adams (22.57) picked up a place with a gritty display, while speed sensation Sarah Wheeler (20.01) was a late call-up but gave evidence of her versatility with a smashing run, overtaking three other clubs in the process.
The women’s B team finished 35th in 2031.23, all six runners doing themselves and the club proud.
Suzanna Brown (27.39) led the way before handing over to Sue Le Belleguy (23.19) who made a welcome appearance in a Stratford AC vest, taking the team from 46th place up to 43rd.
Wendy Bowyer (22.37) ran a fantastic leg before Tracey Cox (28.57) took the opportunity to gain some invaluable race experience, improving by two places with a plucky run.
Cheerful Jane Duncan (23.29) continued the good work by picking up another three places before long distance expert Vanessa Crookes (25.22) made light work of the final leg.
The women qualify for the National Road Relays automatically and will look forward to the event, which takes place at the same venue, with renewed optimism.
Race winners were Westbury Harriers with the fastest leg of the day by a massive 53 seconds, and a course record, being run by Annabel Gummow of Bristol & West AC.
There was much juggling of names and legs before the men’s race but everything was sorted out in time.
The A Team’s performance was much smoother than its administration and with some star names unavailable or injured, the lads did exceptionally well to finish 31st of the 41 complete teams.
Danny Tolhurst (31.36) threw caution to the wind and recorded a personal best by 18 seconds.
Jack McMullen (16.50) gained four places, while Sam Taylor (18.58), Andy Cockerill (32.01) and Keith Hawkes (19.57) dug deep to stay in a competitive spot. Sam improved 21 seconds on his time of 2011 and Andy was six seconds faster.
The stage was set for a splendid run from powerhouse Paddy Taylor (18.21) who overtook three rivals with ease.
One man who did not expect to feature in the A team was Paul Hawkins (39.20) who put in a trademark performance, producing a stamina-filled run.
Malcolm Bowyer (18.40) used his experience on an intelligently paced leg, followed by James Deacon (19.09) who just keeps getting better with each run.
Jamie Chorley (34.25) was a little apprehensive but produced a measured and promising performance
With the final three short leg runners (and the final long leg) setting off simultaneously due to race logistics, Jamie Lyall (18.23) and Kieran Tursner (18.08) had a battle royal which no doubt helped them to secure their excellent times and improve by one place overall.
Andy Brown (38.50) took no chances with a steady run for the B team and handed over to John Turner (21.08) who ran like the wind.
Four places were picked up during Mike Barrie’s sparkling effort. A time of 22.34 giving evidence of his focused training.
Just the wrong side of 40 minutes was Tony Jackson who was happy with 40.11 on a course not completely suited to his style.
Just 25 seconds covered the times for the short legs of Ben Twyman (22.03), Phil Brennan (22.24) and Phil Marshall (21.59).
Surprise package of the team and possibly the day was Steve List (32.55), better known for his rugby exploits than his running.
He was followed by his father Andy List (23.02) who also ran a really fine leg,while the versatile Steve Kirk (20.16) put in a somewhat unfairly overlooked run of real quality to bring the team home in 39th place.
The race was won by Bristol & West AC, the fastest short leg was by Tim Dalton of Severn AC (14.31) and two men recorded the same time (24.31) for the fastest long leg, Bristol’s Phil Wylie and Birchfield’s Tewodros Shifferaw.
Unfortunately Stratford’s men did not qualify for the Nationals but there were many positive runs during the race to admire and provide hope for future events.
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