Friday, 23 May 2014

British Masters Road Relays 2014 – An Alsop’s Salford Perspective

As last Saturday’s championship approached I had a growing anticipation of the race to come. It wasn’t quite the anticipation I had in the four years that I was a member of the Herne Hill team that finished runners up twice and won twice, but I was looking forward to a good day out in Sutton Park, with Salford. For starters there would be the usual bus full of Salford competitors and supporters, for the first time since I joined we would feature a ladies team in a masters relay, then there was the opportunity to catch up with old friends and competitors from years gone by, sadly Herne Hill, Belgrave and Edinburgh AC were without teams, but there were still plenty of people I knew, and lastly I was at least going to get a run this year, having missed out through injury last year. Still it was another injury that had put me into the Salford M45 B team, not a position I want to occupy but totally appropriate since I only started jogging a week earlier. I wasn’t alone, many of my Salford colleagues were returning from injuries, struggling with injuries or just hadn’t been able to make it to the start line at all through injury. But, what was good to see was so many old runners taking part and even more so, so many of them running really well, achieving times that runners many years younger would love to run.

All the Salford teams looked like they would be challenging for medals, could it be another Salford medal fest. As usually happens in the week before a major championship, there were dropouts, for various reasons, but we have numbers to cover and we were able to get five main teams out and a number of B teams to back them up, by far the largest contingent of teams and athletes in the whole event.

Arriving at Sutton Park it wasn’t just runners out enjoying the sunshine, the bottom end was packed with picnickers. As we approached the course the red and white Salford tent was standing out proud, with a number of the lads and lasses hanging around watching the first event, ladies and M65+.  We had a team in the W35 and, incredibly, three teams in the M65+. As expected the Salford A teams were in the hunt for medals and the Ladies were at one point leading the whole race. Unfortunately, on this occasion we just didn’t have enough strength in depth but it was a good start to the day, we’d shown our steel and there was more to come. The ladies finished 8th, and the gents in 6th, 10th and 16th respectively. Of course it wasn’t a complete medal free zone as Stan Curran picked up a bronze as 3rd fastest M65 and Hayley Kuter took silver in the W35 event.
One race down, two medals taken as Hayley and Stan set impressive times
After my own warm up, I’d kept it short as I didn’t know how much running my legs had in them, I spent some time chatting with the many runners I’ve encountered in my 25 years as an athlete. It was good to catch up with Jon James, who I’d roomed with when we both ran for England, he’s had his own injury problems so it was good to see him back running, even more impressive to see him take a medal as one of the fastest M45 legs.

I was on 2nd leg, the same as my mate Rob, so once the gun went there wasn’t a lot of time to hang around, last visit to the loo and then huddle around with all the other leg two’s waiting for your man to come in.
First man coming in to the handover area was Mark Johnson of Mansfield, with another impressive run, which would hold up as the 2nd fastest M35 leg. Just two seconds down was the first of Salford’s teams, Matt Shaw bringing the M35 A team in 2nd. These were followed in by a group of M35s before the first M45 team came home in 8th, Thames Hare and Hounds, one of the teams tipped for glory. Eight seconds further back our reliable rocket, Dave Lockett brought Salford M45 A home in 3rd M45 position, giving Rob Tudor two to chase. Steve Pennington handed over to me, M45 B, in 38th position, Mike Grace wasn’t far behind in 42nd with the M35 B team, not too far back, holding 6th M55 position was Stan Owen, with Gary Thomason bringing home the M55 B team a little further back. What an incredible job Dave had done to get A and B teams out in all three categories plus three teams in the previous race, expect to see B teams in the Ladies soon too, we’re going to need a bigger bus!

At the end of leg two Salford Harriers M35 team were leading the way, but not far behind, in 2nd and 1st M45, Jon James had a great run. Rob too had run a great leg, pulling the M45 team into 4th position overall and 2nd to Wells, but with an ominous Leicester lurking in 3rd. Woodford Green were leading the M55 race, with Cambuslang in 2nd and our Eric Williams having his own stormer in 3rd. My run was far short of spectacular but served it’s purpose in getting me round intact, not one painful moment during the whole 3 miles, and, even though I couldn’t be as competitive as I like, I still managed to gain 2 places. A mere 7 places further back another of our recovering injured, Dave Hudson, was running well for the M35 B team, showing promise for later in the year, and a little bit further back, Ian Johnson was pulling the M55 B team up 7 places.

By the end of Leg 3 our M35 team were back in 2nd place, as former Belgrave colleague Simon Marwood of Altrincham passed our Jon Dance, but the gap was only 6 seconds. Thames Hare and Hounds were now in 3rd with, to my mind, one of the top runs of the day by Martin Rees (M60) bringing M35 Les Croupiers into 4th. Paul Simons, yet another long term injury sufferer had earned his place in the Salford M45 B team through persistence against pain but how he wouldn’t have wished he was in the sort of shape he’s capable of. I’ve raced against Paul for many years and he’ll always give everything he’s got for the team, and he did, taking the lead in the M45 category, 8 seconds ahead of Leicester, with Thames Hare and Hounds M45 team in 3rd. This was the last leg for the M55 race which Woodford Green won, Phil Quibell brought home Salford in 2nd place, ahead of Bristol and West. That was Salford’s first set of team medal sorted. Salford M45 B team was still winning the battle of the Bs as Paul Birkett gained a further 4 places. The M35 B team were just over a minute behind as Phil West also gained 2 places, and Tommy Temple showed B consistency as he moved up the M55 team by 4 places.
M55 silver; Phil and Stan, minus Eric
Halfway through the main race and Salford’s M55 teams had set our standard with 2nd and 25th, at the end of the next leg we’d know the fate of the M45 teams.

Altrincham showed their intent on this leg, Matt Barnes set the day’s fastest time as he opened up a minute and 21 second gap over Thames Hare and Hounds, who had come through into 2nd with a fine run by Simon Wurr. John Lloyd had run well to keep Salford M35 in 3rd but Les Croupiers were now only 4 seconds behind us. It made a nice change for Salford M45s to be heading Leicester at the start of the last leg, but with Gordon Lee on that leg for Leicester it was always going to be tough to maintain the position. Gerry O’Neill is new in the team but he showed what a fine prospect he is, running not much slower than established luminaries Dave Lockett and Rob Tudor, unfortunately it wasn’t enough as Gordon went on to set the fastest M45 time of the day. 2nd again for Salford M45, but we’ll have our day. Ben Reynolds secured team bronze for Thames Hare and Hounds M45 team. Ian Jackson moved M45 B team up a further 5 places to 27th overall and Sean Cordell kept the Salford M35 B team in touch moving them up 3 places. More medals secured as the M45s finished in 2nd and 13th respectively.
More medals as the M45 race finishes; Dave, Rob and Paul, minus Gerry
At the end of leg 5 Altrincham were still in the lead, 1 minute 23 ahead of Les Croupiers, who’s Robert Sage had pulled them from 4th to 2nd. Pumlani Bangani kept Salford in the hunt, in 3rd, 9 seconds further back, with Thames Hare and Hounds dropping to 4th.  Salford’s remaining B team moved up 14 places, thanks to Trevor Raynor.

Was there any doubt? with Dave Norman on last Leg, Altrincham clinched the 2014 title. Les Croupiers put up a good show as Graham Breen ran fastest on leg 6 to secure silver for them and Glyn Billington kept Salford steady in bronze position. Thames Hare and Hounds vanished as they failed to run a 6th man and Albert Castile pulled Salford B up one final place, finishing in 23rd.
Completing the set; Matt, Billy, Glyn, Jon, John and Pumlani
The end of some successful Salford plundering, with two team silvers, one team bronze and individual medals for Stan, Hayley and Matt. A total of 16 medals as Salford once again showed their support for Masters athletics.

Written by Roger Alsop
Photos, thanks to Sid Sacks, who also ran.


  1. Hi Roger, great report and good news you got round without any issues. I'm sure you'll soon be way off in the distance from me. As the old saying goes 'class is permanent whereas form is temporary'. You definitley have the former and just need a bit of luck in getting some regular structured training in to quickly improve your times and to get back to your true place in races.
    Cheers Paul Birkett

  2. Cheers Paul, not ready to give up yet, just need the body to settle down so I can train hard again. Hope you're ok, will be good to see you able to perform to the form we know you can show.