‘Oooh, that’s well nice.’
‘Yeah man, but that one’s even better!’
‘I can’t see any people in other cars who look like runners and I need the loo, I hope we find it soon.’
‘Look at that house – it’s got a balcony and everything. I bet you’ve got to be proper loaded to have one of these!’
That’s the majority of what I remember about the journey with David down to Sutton Park outside Birmingham for the National 12 and 6 Stage relays. We’d already worked out that our initial plan of just parking anywhere and heading in to the park wasn’t going to work as the first carpark we’d arrived at was filled with families and not a single runner – a pretty good indication that we were not in the right place for a national road relay. A quick survey of the situation suggested that we could have a couple of kilometres to yomp across the park and the other carpark users were already looking shiftily at us as we completed laps of the carpark, eyes peeled for Vaporflys and club tents. Although I had vague memories of it from a high school relay, our spirit of adventure gave way to better judgement and we got back in the car to finding a better carpark and ogle at the posh houses on the way.
A few mansions later and we arrived in good time for the start of the relays. They were promptly off at 12pm for the Men’s 12 Stage and 12.20 for the Women’s 6 Stage relay. Valley Striders had teams out in both relays competing against the strongest clubs and runners in England on a really testing course with plenty of spectating spots to cheer people on. For those who do not know, the relays are split into long and short legs – with the long legs coming in at around 8.5km and the short legs a touch over 5km. To give you an idea of the standard on display, the fastest long leg was 25 minutes dead and the fastest short leg was 14.43 – absolutely insane and being able to watch that level of athlete running the same course as you have just run is a really cool experience.
Having qualified in 19th in the Northern 12 Stage two weeks earlier, the men’s team were lead out by Matt Hallam on the first leg and subsequently put in a series of consistently strong legs (I’ve never seen a sprint finish as fast as James Tarran’s on leg 2) to finish 46th out of the 65 teams completing all 12 stages. The women’s team finished 41st in the 6 Stage in a field that included two participants from the World Cross Country Championships that were held the week before. In addition to the two relays there were the National Young Athletes 5k races earlier in the day and Tally Diamond placed 16th in the Under 15s in 21.03. Full results are at the bottom.
I would recommend getting involved with the 12/6 Stage if you ever get the chance – clubs can enter multiple teams into the Northern Championship and aside from being a good honest hard run it is really fun to bounce back and forth all afternoon and track our runners and other teams throughout the day – it’s just as exciting being spectator as it is running your leg!
Men’s 12 Stage
46 Valley Striders AC 4:54:44
Matthew Hallam (45) 28:41, James Tarran (54) 19:12 ,Tom Thomas (52) 29:59, Daniel Fisher (54) 18:44, David Song (51) 30:29, Gwilym Thomas (50) 18:32, John Hobbs (48) 29:42, Matt Chadwick (47) 18:15, Jonathan Ball (46) 31:16, Adam Parton (47) 20:46, Rav Panesar (47) 30:21, Gary Mann (46) 18:47
Women’s 6 Stage
41 Valley Striders AC 2:52:21
Rachel Bentley (49) 38:23, Stephanie Gledhi (49) 22:57, Sarah Mann (47) 22:06, Myra Jones (37) 34:48, Ruth Warren (40) 26:09, Leila Kara (41) 27:58