National 6 Stage Road Relays - The Phillips Perspective (13/10/2018)

Tipton Harriers competed with the best road relay runners in the National 6 Stage Road Relay Championships last Saturday in Sutton Park. Following the team's good result finishing runners up in the Midland event two weeks ago expectations were that Tipton could achieve a top ten placing but finished 16th, up eight places from last year's 24th.

The top ten was achievable with Tipton only 51s from the target, but four minutes behind the winners. A return to form and with a full turnout Stockport Harriers won the relay for the first time, in a  time of 1h 45m 07s, with Leeds City second and Aldershot, Farnham and District third.

After a morning's heavy rain for the young athletes relays, the weather improved with some sun, providing reasonably good conditions, with runners facing a strong breeze on the outward and upward stages, and a helpful following wind on the home run.

Tipton's time was about the same as the Midland, over the same 6 x 5.88 km course, 1h 49m 55s compared with 1h 49m 51s. There were two team changes, Joe Smith and Martin Williams returning. Stuart Hawkes started off the relay and ran faster than in the Midland giving Tipton a sound start in 24th place, timed at 17.55, in a fast run stage, some 47s behind Liverpool, who had the second fastest runner of the day to start, Jon Mellor.

Joe Smith took over but was below his best to come in 29th, five places down. Peter Brookes was in good form though a bit below his Midland time 18m 07s compared with 17s 49s.  Tom Bains then ran the fastest of the Tipton team and the sixth fastest of the day on leg 4, a fine run to gain nine places in a time of 17m 46s. Ian Williams had the task of keeping the team in sight of the leading teams, and with a competitive run dropped just one place in 18m 32s, slightly below his Midland time.

Martin Williams ran the final stage, with his usual  best effort he brought Tipton home in 16th place, with a comparable time in the Midland of 18m 54s. An improved performance but with more to do to make that top 10.

Tipton had two teams qualifying for the National Relay, and the 'B' team finished 43rd out of 76 teams completing the course, in front of 'A 'teams like Reading, Sale and Coventry.

Steve Brookes found it tough on leg 1 coming in 66th on a 1st stage, though he ran about the same tim as the Midland, Tom Holden ran well to make up 12 places to 54th, and Louie Boot picked up two places, Ben Gamble, good to see him in the teams again, maintained the position, before Phil Wilson, running better again, took seven places and improved his Midland time by 14 secs in 18m 51s, and Richard Carpenter gained two places to keep the 'B' team in 43rd.

An encouraging day for the senior men.  Now the winter cross country starts very soon with another relay but cross country this time, to set off the cross country season that could prove another improving and successful period with the club's full turnout for the league, regional and national meetings.
Tony Phillips (Life Member)