National 6 and 4 Stage Road Relays 2017 – Race Report

7th October 2017 – Sutton Park
Report by Ben McCormack

This might be a run, and it might be in a park. But it’s most definitely a race…

Sutton Park is one of those venues where you feel you are running in the footsteps of the legends of the sport. It’s been the location of the national road relays for many years, with the young athletes relays having been held there for even longer.

This year’s national 6 and 4 stage relays were held on 7 October. We had two women’s teams in the 4 stage, and – for the first time – we’d qualified a men’s team into the 6 stage. The men’s is run over a 5.8k loop and the women’s over 4.3k, and the atmosphere all day was electric; one of the many great things about road relays is that there’s the opportunity to support your team mates when you aren’t running.

Rumours of M.Farah (Newham and Essex Beagles) toeing the line turned out to have been exaggerated, but the cream of UK distance running was on show nonetheless: Jess Judd, Tom Lancashire, Emilia Gorecka, Dewi Griffiths et al.

All our teams managed to (a) get to the park (though in the case of the Tollefson car, only just) and (b) make it to the start pen on time. So lessons are being learned, and possibly some good has therefore come of Ben Hobson’s failure to meet (b) above at last year’s Northern relays.

The standard of running is ridiculously high and no more so than on leg 1 of the men’s and women’s races. In fields of around 90-100 teams, we came in 70th in both. We put out our top two runners Steve Curley (16.01 5k this year) and Lis Kilcourse (2.59 marathon this year) on leg 1, both of them had great runs and both were our fastest runners on the day by a good margin. Not a leg for the faint hearted. Lis has just returned from a couple of months out with injury so it was good to see her back in a race so soon. Steve ran strongly, but to be honest the rest of the men’s team were just pleased to see Steve making sure that he finished the race after his Sale Sizzler 4.8k earlier in the summer.

Behind Steve in the men’s team we had a really consistent set of runs which ultimately got us into 67th by the end of the race. Jonny Harris, Andy Haney, Fraser Macdonald Oulds and Ben Hobson ran times that were within 12 seconds of each other. Gary Scott came up about a minute slower than the rest but had the reasonable excuse that he had to stop, mid race, to be sick. Gary can still be rightly proud of his run and that he got to the end of the loop in spite of his dicky gut. And if nothing else, he has a Sutton park 6 stage time that he should easily be able to beat next year…

We watched the races unfold from a spot in the forest a few hundred metres from the handover area. Paul and Zak’s high-end brownies kept us going as we monitored the races going past – they are run at the same time so there’s never a shortage of drama. At one point three large pedigree bulls wandered across the course, narrowly avoiding a collision with one of the runners. None of us captured the moment on camera perfectly, but you can see that it wouldn’t have been much fun to run into these three lads…

The women’s A team made it to 58th, with solid runs from Emma Tollefson and Sarah Renshaw and a storming last leg from Stephanie Stevens. Rumour had it that earlier in the week Sarah was wondering if she really had to bother coming all the way down to the west midlands for a 4.3k race. But she should be very happy with her performance and – like the rest of the team – will, I suspect, be back for more in the future.

Behind them the women’s B team of Emma Flint, Emma Butler, Charlotte Tollefson and Stephanie Bird kept 7 other teams at bay to finish in 79th. Particular thanks are due to Stephanie for stepping up to an event at this level for the first time and still having the energy to carry a gazebo across the car park straight after her run.

The women’s race was easily won by Aldershot (who had a B team also in the top 10), Leeds and Swansea taking the other medals, and Jess Judd taking fastest lap. In the men’s Swansea won by a good margin after London Marathon start Josh Griffiths and Dewi Griffiths put in fierce legs on 5 and 6. Behind them Tonbridge took silver and Lincoln Wellington (possibly our second favourite club) held on for bronze, with former national XC champion Jonny Hay coming within 4 seconds of catching them for Aldershot. The atmosphere was something else during that final leg as the teams of the guys in 3rd and 4th raced through the woods shouting on their runners.

On a weekend where a CR pulled on an England vest for the first time (kudos to Jerry Smith) it was quite something to see our club represented in these relays. We have truly come a long way since Tony put an advert in the free paper asking if anyone wanted to come for a run with him. It was great to see us represented by a group of runners who have been nurtured and have improved within the club.

Click here for the ladies results
Click here for the mens results