Midland Road Relays - The Phillips' Perspective (03/04/2019)

Tony Phillips provides his view on the Men's Midland Road Relays held recently:

"The road relay season began a week last Saturday at Sutton Park and ends next Saturday with the National Road Relay at Sutton Park. The road relay season was not always so limited.

In the past there was a full programme of relays that followed the National Cross Country Championships. Road relays were held at Leicester, Harborne, Warwickshire, Tipton, Wolverhampton, Rugby, with Swindon included on a spare Saturday. The London to Brighton Relay was held during this season, and the road relay programme finished with the Manchester to Blackpool Road Relay for the leading Midland and Northern clubs; it was an exciting end to the season.

The country's best middle and distance runners ran in the relays, and they followed with top performances on the track or marathon. The relays provided first class competition, and were very competitive.

Traffic problems ended all of the relays in the 1960's and '70's . The Midland Road Relay was started in the late 1960's by David Denton the Midland Secretary and a Tipton Harrier, the first being held Lilleshall in 1968, Wordsley in 1969, before moving to Sutton Park in 1970.

The London to Brighton Relay ended in 1966 and events were held in Leicestershire 1967 - 69, before moving to Sutton Park as the National Road Relay in 1970.

Since then Tipton Harriers have been the most successful club, winning on 15 occasions, the last being in 2012.

The 2019 Midland Road Relay was held at Sutton Park two weeks ago when they finished 5th, and with the possibility of additional runners being available, though Sean Byrne has retuned to army duties, Tipton should offer a stronger performance and could be among the upper section of teams at the finish in the National.

The Midland Road Relay was held at Sutton Park in ideal conditions with sunshine and a cool breeze across exposed parts of the course. It was run over 12 stages with the 4 long legs of 5.38 miles at the beginning and 8 short legs of 3.17 miles to follow. There is some conflicting views on this sequence of stages as well as the number of each distance. Views should be communicated to the Midland Counties AA through the club representative.

Tipton Harriers finished 5th in a creditable performance, following Bristol and West AC the winners in 3h 55m 33s, Birchfield second in 3h 55m 46s, Notts AC third 3h 57m 18s. Fourth were Cheltenham and County (4h 02m 14s) and fifth Tipton Harriers (4h 04m 33s) and sixth Coventry Godiva Harriers (4h 12m 31s).

After the first stage Notts AC dominated the race until stage 10 when the lead passed to Bristol, with Birchfield third. Cheltenham were in fourth position most of the race with Tipton following in fifth place from long stage 1 in which they remained, after Peter Brookes was below his best after injury and was 11th at the end of stage 1 Tom Bains ran a good long stage 27m 38s to bring Tipton up to 5th place, where they remained until the final stage. Joe Smith 28m 21s and Jonathon Carter 28m 08s completed the long stages with solid runs.

The eight short stage runners ran consistently in 5th place, Harvey Maguire 16m 49s, Richard Carpenter 16m 14s - a good run as did Sean Byrne 16m 12s, Karl Welbourn 16m 31s, Adam Soley 16m 48s, Martin Williams 16m 31s, Philip Wilson 16m 24s, improving again after a layoff, with Tom Holden 17m 02s completing the final leg comfortably well ahead of Coventry.

The 'B' team competed well to finish 14th 4h 28m 32s, and third of the 'B' teams, with 56 teams completing the race. Ben Gamble started off the B team, and after a break, ran a solid race to give the team a good start in 19th place in 28m 32s. Steve Corbishley gained three places 29m 23s, Adam Guy gained another three places in 30m 52s, the highest the team achieved in 12th place, that Luke Vine maintained with a promising run that was the fastest of the short legs for the B team, 17m 36s, Thomas Brown 18.16 lost one place that Gareth Maguire regained, 17m 54s, Zabie Hassan with a steady run dropped two places, 19m 41s, Phil Clamp 18m 21s good effort but dropped one place that James Booker regained 18m 06s, Dean Hill moved up a place to 13th with a determined run, 18m 25s, and Tom Acha after a steady run, 21m 33s, completed the course in 14th position, and team time 4h 28m 32s.

The 'C' team were 47th 5h 12m 57s, the best runs were from Stephen Pearson on leg 7, 18m 35s and Nick Hardy 16m 51s on leg 11 gaining 3 places. A good club turnout with some solid performances. We look forward to improved performances in the National next Saturday."