If there can be a worst time in the year to be injured, this is it for me – road relay time. Ok so the relay season is twofold, one in spring and one in autumn, but it’s the spring ones that have a special place in my heart. I’ve already had to miss the Northern and National 12 stages but hoped that I might be back in time for the Masters National event. Three weeks ago I didn’t think I would but then the physio gave me the all clear to start running again and this gave me the push I needed to try to get fit for this event. Tall order I know, but, with a bit of luck, it could be done. I had some luck, unfortunately it was bad luck. I knew I couldn’t just talk my way into a strong
Salford squad, I had to prove I was up to the job, so, after an encouraging two weeks of training, I started the Congleton Parkrun last Saturday. Unfortunately I didn’t finish it, within 3 minutes I was getting pains around my Achilles and even though I slowed down I could tell it wasn’t right. I was ok to jog back to the start, I did my stretching exercises and jogged another lap. Maybe it wasn’t that bad! The next day I could hardly run, I managed 5 minutes but it was pain all the way. I took Monday off but was back running on Tuesday. Wednesday I’d set up a time trial to force my way into the Salford team, it was a 1k loop and I figured if I could run 5 in about 17 minutes it might be enough, but as soon as I started running I could tell there was no point even trying, so I didn’t and told the team I was out. Sad moment for me, but at least it got rid of the uncertainty and the team was able to focus their own efforts.
I’m not a great one for watching, I don’t mind watching if I’ve already done my race or if mine is still to come, but I’d rather be doing than watching. However on this occasion I wanted to give my support to the
Salford lads and lasses, as well as catch up with my team mates, whom I got to know well over the winter. Plus being a big event there would be lots of people I’ve come across, in my years of running, that I don’t see that often, and, as I like a good chat, it was too good an opportunity to miss. My mate Rob Tudor was making his debut for Salford so I went down with him, joining us in the car was Wilmslow’s M50 star Graham MacNeil. With two such talkative guys in the car it was difficult to get a word in edgeways but I did at least manage to pass on my course knowledge.
Arriving in plenty of time I was surprised to see the majority of the
Salford guys already there. I’ll admit it felt awkward hobbling up to greet them, knowing I wouldn’t be helping them out to win a title, but I soon got over that and we chatted easily, as if the last 13 weeks had never existed.
Unfortunately for Salford I wasn’t the only one to drop out. Both Mike Deegan and Eric Williams had been late withdrawals from the M55 team and the ladies team lost so many they couldn’t get a team down, only Denise Wakefield, supporting her husband, was able to make the start line, but we still had men’s teams in all four categories, some feat, not only that but we expected them all to be challenging for medals. It wasn’t just Salford who suffered withdrawals, I was disappointed that my old club and twice winners, Herne Hill, couldn’t get a men’s squad, neither could four times winners,
and West, or last year’s winners runners up, Ronhill Cambuslang. All teams which could have challenged for the championships, if they had turned out their best athletes, and who contained a number of my running friends. Bristol
The first race off was the ladies, all age groups, and the M65+ men. Arena were straight to the front in the W35, followed in by Coventry Godiva’s W45, Heanor, Charnwood and Bristol and West’s W45 teams. Bingley were the leading W55 team and Elswick the leading M65 team. There appears to have only been one W65 team, Barnet, who were guaranteed a win in their category. Lying in 10th M65 position was
Salford’s Vin Murphy. Not that far behind was Denise Wakefield, but with nobody to hand onto that was the end of our ladies challenge. After two legs it was Heanor at the front, ahead of Royal Sutton Coldfield and Wilmslow, Bristol were now leading the W45, just ahead of Winchester, with slipping to third. Bingley were still clear leaders of the W55 but Coventry now led the M65. Roland Bowness had managed to move Oxford Salford up to 9th but with only one leg to go it was looking unlikely our M65’s would get into the medals. The 3rd leg saw Winchester W45 take the overall lead and thus win the W45 competition from Bristol and Coventry, The W35 still had one leg to go, Serpentine were now leading that competition, ahead of Arena, by 2 seconds, and Wilmslow. Bingley finished where they started at the front of the W55, with Barnett securing the gold in the W65. In the M65 race were clear winners from Elswick and Trentham. Sidney Sacks, Salford’s photographer brought us home in 8th position, and whilst he prepared to run and did his leg, I took over photographic responsibilities, those’ll be the blurred ones on the Oxford Salford website. The W35 ended in victory for Serpentine, who stretched clear of Arena, with Telford snatching the bronze medals.
Then it was on to my event. The M35, M45 and M55 races. I’d decided that I would jog around the course continuously whilst the race was on, this would give me an opportunity to cheer on the
Salford lads at different points each lap, so I set off with club mate Graham Chesters, who was also supporting. Poor Graham had to keep slowing down so I could keep up with him, my Achilles not being able to cope with too fast a pace, thank goodness I’d pulled out of the race, our M45 team would have dropped back so dramatically I’d have had to hang my head in shame for years.
Early leaders in this race were Tipton, taking it seriously with Martin Williams at the front, but, showing why he keeps winning things,
Leicester’s Gordon Lee brought their M45 team in 2nd, just 9 seconds behind. Aldershot and Horwich filled the medal positions for M35, with Pumlani Bangani bringing Salford home in 10th position, less than a minute behind the leaders. Dave Lockett was on 1st leg duty for the M45s, he had been right behind Pumlani in the early stages, but having been ill all week he faded a little in the 2nd half of his leg, but he’d done the job we needed, bringing us home in 5th position, with a solid team to come. Redhill and Wolverhampton & Bilston currently held the medal positions behind Leicester. A little further back our Stan Owen had the lead in the M55 competition, ahead of Cobra and Les Croupiers.
|Dave and Pumlani battle it out|
|while Stan Owen holds the lead in the M55|
Coming down the age groups Mike Hagar took over for Tipton and although he was overtaken by
Aldershot, he did enough to hold onto 2nd in the M35 race. Leicester’s Rob Sheen brought them home in 3rd place, over a minute ahead of 2nd M45 team . Hallamshire now occupied the 3rd M35 position with Tynebridge doing likewise in the M45s. The Oxford Salford boys had mixed fortunes, Darren Moran had dropped back to 13th in the M35s, as other teams wielded some big guns, but Derek Crewe ran brilliantly bringing our M45 team in 4th, just behind Tynebridge. Salford’s M55 team clung onto 1st place as Phil Quibell ran a great leg, though both Dulwich and Blackheath were breathing heavy down his neck.
|Darren and Derek fight for Salford supremacy|
|Phil Quibell still leading for Salford|
|Paul and Billy still fighting it out for supremacy|
|Smooth looking Mike Wakefield|
At halfway, for the M35s, Ben Reynolds took THH into a lead of nearly a minute. Tipton were still hanging in there with 2nd and
Aldershot still had designs on a medal, in 3rd. Tony Taylor moved us through the field as we entered the top 10 for the first time, in 9th. Leicester dropped down the field a little but still led the M45s by over a minute. Now it was Salford who were holding 2nd position, as Paul Simons, former 12 stage winner, dug deep to bring us ahead of Sunderland. The M55s finished on this leg and it was Les Croupiers who took gold, Wirral came through to take the silver and Dulwich took bronze. Not too far behind was Stan Curran, originally down to run in the M65 race, he gave all he could, but was unable to hold of a couple of pairs of younger legs and finished with in 4th position.