Road Running & Cross Country Team Events, August - October 2004
A record equalling fourth successive AAA 6-Stage title
Mark Miles, David Anderson, Kevin Nash, Jonathan Blackledge, Spencer Barden and Stephen Sharp - second fastest time ever in terrible conditions. Photo by Mark Shearman
As favourites and with a team two thirds comprised of men who had done it all before – and who’d set the fastest three times on the course – you’d have thought we’d be totally comfortable going into the race. Somehow, though, the pressure rises as the success goes on; favourites sometimes fail – we certainly have – and wins can never be taken for granted.
Paul Freary knows just how the pressure builds. For a couple of months he’d worked hard to get into top shape for this race and yet his team place, like that of others, was never guaranteed; here he was, sixteenth in the National Cross last February yet unsure of his slot in this event until ten days beforehand. Delighted to be “in the six” he planned to tune up with a final race but instead of providing the finishing touch to his form, that race gave him the nightmare of a “twanged” calf muscle. The problem improved considerably throughout the final week but he was fully aware that he could not now go to the start line totally confident that he could offer every sinew in his body to the cause. In spite of the fact that this had been his goal for months, Paul stepped out of the squad. That’s called “putting the team first” and far from letting it get to him, he curbed his disappointment and was out on the course to cheer on the six.
The strong winds of the previous day had died away by race time but a steady drizzle that began early in the women’s race just got worse throughout the afternoon until the roadways were rivulets and the area around the take-over zone a boggy morass.
Pre-race hype and irreverent mockery on an Internet message board had added spice to the occasion but in the face of this our lads were calmly confident and were about to put on a display that was clinical in its execution.
On the front rank, a slightly nervous Kevin Nash prepared for his task to bring us home as close as possible to the leaders. The officials walked the starters down to the line – a brief silence – and then they were away. Having survived the onslaught of 128 opposing elbows Kevin took up station in the leading bunch as the field careered down the slope, round the loop and off up the hill. Information coming back to take-over area gave no indication of our position for the next fifteen minutes – in fact every club but Belgrave seemed to be mentioned by the announcer. Eventually it was Tipton charging through the zone in the form of Matt Shaw. Aldershot and Highgate had both got great starts, coming through within three seconds of the lead but then, good as gold, in a tight bunch just 19 seconds back came “Nasher”. First stage times can fluctuate wildly from one year to the next and although Kev would have liked something faster, we were right where we wanted to be.
Jonathan Blackledge immediately injected some pace and men ahead began to wilt. Along the ridge he was into the top ten and then coming back along the bottom it was top five with Aldershot and Wells City in the last stages of being pulled back but Basingstoke’s Tulba coming up behind like a train. By the end of his stint young Jonathan had caught all but Tipton and Sale while giving way to Tulba who had come up nineteen places. Again, we had a man who felt he hadn’t run as well as he’d hoped – but all we can say is heaven help the opposition when he feels just right.
A stony-faced Spenny Barden moved out onto the road, a mere 16 seconds and three men away from the lead. If this operation was “clinical” then Spen was the surgeon; swift and skilful were the incisions he made into the opposition. By the top of the hill there was nothing in it and then out along the top he moved ahead and relentlessly went away. How many times have we put this man on “three” and seen him take us unto the lead. Much was happening behind. Sale were hanging on to 2nd, Ellis brought Aldershot’s red and green colours back into the frame, Derby came up 12 places and Highgate, who had sagged badly on the second stage, yo-yoed back to 5th with Keith Cullen pulling back 19 men. Illustrious names down the field failed to make an impression: Birchfield’s Kenyan Wilfred Taragon ran 17:44 while Blackheath’s man-of-the-moment Mike Skinner could only pull the Heathens up to 11th with a 17:28. … And all the while Spencer worked away at the front until a wonderful 45 seconds advantage was ours.
It was all over and yet we still had a three-man finish that could have dealt with anything that British athletics could throw at us. Usually preferring to chase, “Sharpy” took on the role of front runner with an assurance that had the lead going up to over a minute – and that from a Morpeth team who were now well into contention thanks to McCormick’s astonishing 16:41. Frazer Thompson, a training partner now of Jonathan B at Oxford University, matched Jon’s 17:41 to keep Aldershot in the hunt but it was desperately close for the minor medals, four seconds covering 2nd to 4th and then another six teams in the next 20 seconds. Stephen’s time was his best ever – superb running considering the conditions.
David Anderson gives every impression of enjoying a “scrap” but that pleasure wasn’t on offer on this occasion. Maybe we can give him an early stage another time. As it was, he cruised along in the teeming rain working that lead out to over a minute and a quarter from a Birchfield team that were boosted by Kahara of Kenya. More significant was the fact that Aldershot, with Chris Thompson to go on the last stage, were a further 30 seconds adrift.
The weather was by now at its most atrocious and yet we were treated to a couple of the fastest times of the day. Our own Mark Miles runs so well from the front, and wearing the broadest of grins he tore past his coach Bud Baldaro giving him a “high five” on the way to a 17:02 clocking – a new club record to eclipse his own 17:08 and 17:09. Awesome! Behind, Aldershot’s Chris Thompson was going even faster, his 16:39 being the second best ever for the lap but the Belgrave lead had actually gone up again and “Milesy” took our colours to the tape in a magnificent 1:44:35, just eleven seconds off our own course record and giving us a fourth successive win and the best four times for the race.
Teams: 1 Belgrave H 1:44:35; 2 Aldershot F&DAC 1:45:55; 3 Birchfield H 1:46:49; 4 Bristol & West AC 1:47:29; 5 Morpeth H&AC 1:47:37; 6 Salford H 1:47:53; 65 teams started; 63 teams finished.
Belgrave: K.Nash (13) 17:44; J.Blackledge (4) 17:41; S.Barden (1) 17:18; S.Sharp (1) 17:23; David Anderson (1) 17:27; M.Miles (1) 17:02.
Fastest: 1 C.Thompson (Aldershot F&DAC) 16:39; 2 N.McCormick (Morpeth H&AC) 16:41; 3 K.Cullen (Highgate H) 17:01; 4 M.Miles (Belgrave H) 17:02; 5 K.Zahara (Birchfield H) 17:10; 6 S.Hepples (Newham &EB) 17:12; 7 S.Barden (Belgrave H) 17:18; 8 R.Whalley (Bristol &WAC) 17:19; 9 G.Tromans (Coventry G) 17:22; =10 S.Sharp (Belgrave H) and P.Tulba (Basingstoke &MH) 17:23; =16 David Anderson 17:27; =33 J.Blackledge 17:41; =39 K.Nash 17:41.
Belles find it tough at Sutton Park
A top 20 place was hoped for, but despite strong performances from all of the girls it wasn’t to be for the Belles. In all seriousness, an international athlete of Birhan or Getenesh’s calibre will be needed to bring the team home in a top 15 position from now on as this competition has seriously picked up. It just reinforces the strength and depth of our men’s team as they continue to make winning look so easy.
The rain had started just before Tilly took on the challenge of stage one, and it didn’t stop all day. Although Tilly is one of our stronger runners at present and up for this gruelling first leg, the jostling at the start and the sheer quality of the field meant that despite a 14 second improvement from last year, Tilly brought the team back in 46th place.
Above: They're off. Behind the red and white Salford vest is Gemma Phillips of Kendall AC, Mark Miles' girlfriend. In the centre, for Belgrave, is Tilly Heaton. Photo by Alan Mead
Local girl Vicky Edwards took on the second leg with the aim of pulling the team up a few places. But the challenges of the hilly course and the bad weather meant that Vicky battled throughout. More used to longer distances and the challenges of triathlon it was a tough short sprint for Vicky who has been missed from the Wimbledon Park training group this past year.
Bristol now had a large and growing lead at the front of the pack and Windsor and Wakefield began the battle for the minor places. Louise Cooper for the Belles meanwhile had the opportunity to pull the Belles up 11 places into 36th place with another PB over the course, this time an improvement of almost one minute from her 2002 time
With the Belles down in 36th team captain Juliette Clark was told to do as much as she wanted to on last leg, after all she was running a half marathon the next day! But in true Juliette style, our captain valiantly picked up the baton and proceeded to work her way through the field clocking the Belles' fastest leg of the day and being the first Belle to break 16 minutes since 2002. Kate Reed from Bristol also clocked a fast last leg with the fastest of the day to bring Bristol home in a superb first position.
Our fastest time in 2001, which earned us 7th place then, would only have brought us home in 11th place in 2004.
2002’s time of 64.41 would have achieved 23rd place rather than 15th and 2003’s time of 64.32 would also have achieved 23rd place had those times been run this year.
If we had our four fastest girls together, in form, repeating their previous bests, then we would have clocked 59.51 which would have earned us 3rd place this year. The dream is not impossible…..
Teams: 1 Bristol & West AC 57:46; 2 Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow AC 59:20; 3 Wakefield District H & AC 59:59; ... 28 Belgrave H 1:05:50; 93 teams started; 74 teams finished.
Belgrave: M.Heaton (46) 16:03; V.Edwards (47) 17:13; L.Cooper (36) 16:39; J.Clark (28) 15:55.
Fastest: 1 K.Reed (Bristol & West AC) 13.59; 2 H.Yelling (Windsor, SE&H) 14.03; 3 J.Bleasdale (Hillingdon) 14.14.
Bels start the season like Champions
The traditional opening match in Brockwell Park usually gives a clue as to the eventual league winners, the Thames boys always looking for the victory that sets them up for the rest of the series - and more often than not getting it. The Belgrave record in this South London park is less impressive but it all came good on this occasion with a very solid squad expected to be led home by Stephen Sharp.
Well, Stephen did plenty of leading. Reigate's Ali Moses, our own David Anderson and Kevin Nash, together with John McFarlane and Nick Altmann of Thames, were shown the route around the park by Steve before he accelerated away up the hill into the second circuit and established what seemed to be a winning break. David Anderson, due to run the Great South 10-miler the following day, had heeded the Captain's call to turn up and help kick-start our campaign. His intention was to run comfortably but help boost our score. What a boost! As the race drew to a conclusion and looking oh so relaxed, he cruised up to Stephen's shoulder and then couldn't resist a burst to take him seven seconds clear at the finish.
It was a fast time! Conditions were good underfoot, the grass having been mown just before the race, but there was, nevertheless, a blustery wind. Scanning through the results of previous years it seems that Stephen ran 40 seconds faster than his winning run of 2002 with both Belgrave men over a minute faster than any other run in the last decade - in fact the first eight were faster than any previous winning run during that period. Maybe the course was a little shorter?
Kevin Nash is again training big time and in spite of not easing down (and not arriving until 10 minutes before the start) ran a powerful race to go ahead of Moses half a mile out. For a while it seemed we might get a clean sweep but the Reigate man came back at him in the last few hundred metres.
The rest of our "ten" all ran extremely well with Knut Hegvold harvesting Thames men like cherries on the second lap and Tom Ellacott getting among the scorers in his very first run as a Belgravian.
Great running guys - but let's not get carried away. We are notorious for being unable to get the boys out for all four matches and have lost as many as one hundred points in a single race before now.
1 David Anderson (Belgrave) 22:22; 2 S.Sharp (Belgrave) 22:29; 3 A.Moses (Reigate Priory) 22:53; 4 K.Nash (Belgrave) 22:55; 5 N.Altmann (Thames H&H) 22:58; 6 E.Robinson (Aldershot F&D) 23:04; 8 R.Ashe 23:07; 15 W.Cockerell 23:46; 18 K.Hegvold M40 24:00; 25 R.Alsop 24:29; 31 J.Wolf 24:57; 34 T.Ellacott 25:02; 45 T.Hadfield 25:22; 49 J.Webb 25:26; 52 M.Humphrey 25:34; 58 P.Wytch 25:46; 63 C.Dickinson M55 25:57; 97 T.St Ledger M40 27:09; 119 T.Watt 28:35; 144 H.Corbett M45 31:35; dnf A.Welsh; A.Leane, J.Browne.
Teams: 1 Belgrave H 181; 2 Thames Hare & Hounds 219; 3 Herne Hill H 303; 4 South London H 445; 5 Aldershot, Farnham & District 453; 6 Guildford & Godalming 545; 7 Reigate Priory 560; 8 Ranelagh Harriers 639; 9 Dulwich R 750.
1 Belgrave – 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 18, 25, 31, 34, 43 – 181
2 Thames H&H – 5, 9, 16, 19, 20, 21, 27, 29, 35, 38 – 219
3 Herne Hill – 11, 12, 17, 24, 28, 32, 40, 44, 47, 48 – 303
4 South London – 10, 13, 22, 41, 45, 56, 59, 60, 69, 70 – 445
5 Aldershot F&D 6, 7, 23, 42, 51, 57, 58, 61, 63, 85 – 453
6 Guildford &G – 30, 33, 36, 46, 49, 64, 68, 71, 74, 75 – 546
7 Reigate Priory – 3, 14, 39, 53, 54, 62, 73, 83, 89, 90 – 560
8 Ranelagh – 26, 37, 52, 55, 66, 77, 78, 80, 82, 86 – 639
9 Dulwich R – 50, 65, 67, 72, 76, 79, 81, 84, 87, 88 – 749
Great packing - but Ranelagh unstoppable on the Common
With a record turn-out of 16 Belgrave women, including 6 who were making their first competitive outing for the Belles, this was always going to be a good start to the season.
Rachel Weston took the honour of being first Belle home with 15th place. Let’s hope that Rachel can continue to stay injury free and be a regular scorer for the team this season, as things haven’t gone so well for her on the injury front in recent years. With this top performance of the day things are looking promising.
New girl Sarah Murphy showed that she will be a great addition to the team. She has competed internationally before, but hasn’t raced for many a year and now looks set to be making a strong comeback under Charlie Dickinson’s guidance. Sarah was just seconds down on Rachel and just one place further back was Tilly Heaton who seems to have recovered well from a mammoth 3 week bike ride across the country. Good packing from the team.
Vicky Clarke has really taken well to the cross country and although she left her arrival till late in the day, she more than made up for it in the race. Fifth to score, and slightly disappointed with her performance was team captain Juliette Clark. Sadly it wasn’t her day, but Jules’ performances so far this season reassure us that this is just a minor blip.
Our A team came home in second place in a closely fought battle with Thames Hare and Hounds. Ranelagh’s team performed superbly though to take the top honours, with Allison O’Neill over from France and finishing in third. Top individual was the consistent Lucy Hassell of Thames, with Eleanor Baker of SLH just seconds down.
We did provide the first B team (and second C team) which will no doubt surprise many of our observers. It’s great to see that the Belles are finally achieving strength in depth. Given that a number of our runners were out of action this is a promising indication of what we can do in the future.
We have to thank our new girls for joining in the spirit of cross country and look forward to them becoming regular team members on both road and cross country. Christine Bertram was our next new girl home, but sadly in a non-scoring position as we’re still waiting for her to be cleared having only just arrived from Germany. Victoria Jones is a 4 hour marathon runner but wanted to try out the fields for some strength work and finished a credible 76th. Kimberley Scarfe has been an outstanding triple jumper in her earlier athletics career but has switched to longer distances in her comeback to the sport. Charlotte Rehn and Sarah Castle would be the first to admit they’re not elite runners, however, they provided valuable support to our C team ensuring for the first time ever that we completed 3 scoring teams in the cross country, and neither appeared put off by the fields. Well done girls, and we look forward to you becoming regulars.
Thanks go to all the team for being there and putting the claret and gold vests in the picture. Rumour has it that 3 of Ranelagh’s top 5 scorers won’t be around for the next race in Richmond Park, so let’s pull all the stops out to get ourselves back at the top of the league again. It was a nice feeling being champions last year and we won’t give in without a fight!
1 L.Hassell (Thames H&H) 20:59; 2 E.Baker (South London) 21:02; 3 A.O'Neil (Ranelagh) 21:12; 4 M. Pannett (Dulwich) 21:52; 5 L.Shelley (Ranelagh) 21:59; 6 J.Ronaldson (Ranelagh) 22:06; 15 R.Weston 33:29; 16 S.Murphy 23:31; 17 M.Heaton 23:42; 21 V.Clarke 23:48; 25 J.Clark W40 24:03; 29 H.Smethurst W40 24:30; 33 A.Hegvold W35 24:37; 40 R.Powell 24:58; 45 C.Bertram 25:38; 68 H.Alsop W35 27:08; 77 V.Jones 27:43; 94 C.Eastham 28:41; 109, K.Scarfe 29:31; 144 C.Rehn W35 33:26; 158 S.Castle W35 39:03.
Teams: 1 Ranelagh H 'A' 39; 2 Belgrave H 'A' 94; 3 Thames H&H 99; 4 South London H 106; 5 Dulwich R 141; 6 Epsom & Ewell 196; ... 9 Belgrave H 'B' 245; ... 25 Belgrave H 'C' 604; 38 teams closed in.
Juliette moves up to third
The second best ever team performance by the Belles at Rushmoor Arena was achieved with some pretty solid running. Best run of the day came from Juliette Clark who moved up thirteen places on stage three to become our third fastest women on this 3.851 km lap, just a few seconds behind Angela Walker’s 14:04 from last year.
Helen Smethurst and Rachel Weston also recorded their best times for the circuit. Louise Cooper was not happy with her own performance; she was only a few seconds outside her previous runs but recent personal records on the track pointed to something better.
1 Bedford & County AC 53:28; 2 Medway & Maidstone AC 53:49; 3 Highgate H 54:32; ... 11 Belgrave H 58:25; 51 teams started; 42 teams finished.
H.Smethurst W35 (23) 14:39; L.Cooper (19) 15:13; J.Clark W40 (6) 14:08; R.Weston (8) 14:25.
Fastest: 1 J.Bleasdale (Hillingdon) 12:53; 2 E.Baker (South London) 12:58; 3 H.Simkova (Medway & Maidstone) 13:10.
Above Jonathan Blackledge, Stephen Sharp, Mark Miles, Kevin Nash and Adam Leane keep charge of the SEAA 6-Stage trophy. (Paul Freary was on a hot date). Photo by Alan Mead
Aldershot Men's 6-Stage Road Relay, inc SEAA Championship, Rushmoor Arena, 25 September 2004
Bels kick like mules for a third Rushmoor win
The bare facts - that we won for the third successive year, by over a minute - don't do justice to what was a hugely exciting race. Rumours that Highgate Harriers would be strong were confirmed when Keith Cullen, Ben Noad and Ben Pochee were seen on course. Aldershot were without Chris Thompson and Chris Bolt but Harrow AC looked more than useful while Bedford and Newham & Essex Beagles always threaten.
As the steady drizzle transformed itself into a downpour, the starter's gun fired and Adam Leane got us away. "Leaney" hasn't been showing his top form for a while but having been diagnosed as anaemic and undertaking a course of treatment prior to his encouraging run at Wimbledon two weeks earlier, hopes were high for another advance. It didn't come. His run was probably on a par with his Surrey outing but "Leaney" was unable to get near his 18:29 of 12 months earlier. Harrow AC led a tight bunch including Thames, Shaftesbury and Wells City after stage one while our man came home in 24th, one minute and ten down.
Paul Freary splashed after the men ahead as the rain became heavier still. Soon runners were coming back to him as he took his first lap in 9:09 and started to dig in to attempt a similar second circuit. Fourteen men felt Freary's draft and in poor conditions he was right up to his normal high standard - but surprisingly the leaders had gone away by a further seven seconds as Dave Mitchison took the Beagles into a ten second advantage over Wells City with Bedford in third. Aldershot seemed to be shadowing the Bels as their first stage 25th was converted to a second stage 11th.
Having reduced his best time by half a minute last year, Jonathan Blackledge was fully expected to chop off more in 2004. He did! Doesn't this boy know how to give everything! The rain eased, and then stopped. A ray or two of sun peeped out for an instant to admire the sight of a Belgrave figure pulling back four more places. As he stormed the slope to the takeover area it was obvious that Jonathan had held back nothing and with legs buckling in the last few strides he touched hands with Kevin Nash. We were halfway but in spite of Jon running third fastest of the stage and 12th fastest of the day, Wells City were still over a minute up the road. The Beagles were in second, 17 seconds down, while Highgate had risen to third and still had Cullen to come. Maybe we could get into the medals.
With a summer season wrecked through a hip injury that had only cleared up a few weeks earlier, Kevin Nash was back into heavy training. Anything could happen here - but what did unfold was perfect. Positions three to six closed up together as "Nasher" pushed on, sat in and then made his move. The Bels were into third - alright, only by two seconds from Bedford - but with only a few weeks of running behind him Kevin was 21 seconds faster than his previous best for the course. His run was the key that unlocked the door to the impossible - we could win this! Bowditch had taken the Beagles a few strides ahead of Wells City but the leading pair were now just half a minute clear of a Belgrave team that had a kick like a whole rake of mules.
With barely a pause to regain breath after his track season, Stephen Sharp has trained on through and started running twice a day. With Maria urging him on in all he does, surely the time has come for a big breakthrough - and maybe that breakthrough started today at Rushmoor. Smoothly the men ahead were pulled back and Steve was snapping at their heels as he ended his first circuit, listening for coach Terry Noad to call out his time and getting nothing more than Belgrave screams of encouragement. "Well I wasn't going to tell you how fast it was," said Terry, "You'd have just worried about how you were going to do another lap at that pace." With the Beagles already discounted, soon it was Wells City plumb ahead and then drifting back behind as claret and gold hit the front. First words from Steve after the take-over were, "What time was it?" The reply of "seventeen ..." was drowned in a cry of delight.
Once the vision of a win had been allowed to enter our minds, the next dream was of a 30 seconds advantage before Highgate's Keith Cullen went out. In fact it was one and a half minutes. Frankly, Mark Miles was prepared to go out on Cullen's shoulder; such is the confidence of our man. Mark was completely in control as he ripped up the tarmac to totally destroy our club record for the course. Yes, Cullen did pull back a little as he set the day's fastest time, but Mark was second fastest - and he's not near top fitness yet. We could be in for a very exciting winter season.
As had been the case all afternoon, Aldershot's moves matched our own and they slipped into second but, like last year, they were pushed back to bronze in the dying seconds of the race, this time by Cullen as Highgate took the silvers.
What a race. New man John Clarke, introduced to us by Paul Evans, ran in the Bs but watched the A race unfold like the rest of us. "I've never been part of anything like this," he told us. "I can't wait for more of it."
1 Belgrave H 1:50:00; 2 Highgate H 1:51:07; 3 Aldershot Farnham & DAC 1:51:18; 35 Belgrave H B 2:04:51; Belgrave H C dnf; 80 teams started; 66 teams finished.
A - A.Leane (24) 19:13; P.Freary (10) 18:27; J.Blackledge (6) 18:11; K.Nash (3) 18:35; S.Sharp (1) 17:57; M.Miles (1) 17:37.
B - C.Axe (56) 20:31; J.Clarke (46) 20:21; B.Barton M40 (43) 20:51; J.Galley M40 (38) 20:43; R.Poulter (42) 22:26; M.Byansi (35) 19:59.
C - Don Anderson M45 (75) 23:40; A.Welsh (73) 24:33.
Fastest: K.Cullen (Highgate) 17:24; 2 M.Miles (Belgrave) 17:37; 3 S.Sharp 17:57 (Belgrave); 4 A.MacLean (Team Solent) 18:00; 5 B.Noad (Highgate) 18:01; 6 M.Smart (Harrow) 18:03; =12 J.Blackledge 18:11.
Autumn season starts with a win
The Autumn season kicked off with a fine afternoon's racing at Wimbledon Park - the seventh occasion the Surrey relays have been held at this venue. For the Belgrave men it was seventh heaven as a second successive win continued a tremendous sequence that started with a low point (an incomplete team) in 1998, and then followed up with 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st and 1st. The women's team have picked up bronze medals three times in that period but on this occasion finished just out of the frame. Their sequence now runs: 3rd, 2nd, 6th, 3rd, 3rd, 4th for the last six races.
And maybe it's about time that we recorded our thanks to Herne Hill's John Gebbels. With an able band of helpers, he has organised the event on each occasion at Wimbledon, after the race moved from the busy roads around Walton (and of course he was much involved before the move).
By the time the starter's whistle blew at 12 noon, twenty-four Belgrave men and six women had gathered for the race - which must itself be a record. The weather was ignoring the meteorologists' predictions and remained sunny and warm - but a mischievous wind took delight in lurking around corners and viciously leaping up to blast the runners when they least expected it, reserving its strongest gusts for each ascent of the hill past the tennis courts. It became apparent that all times were about ten seconds slower than might have been run in calmer conditions.
For the men's A team it was solid running right the way through the squad, nothing outstanding but no more than 30 seconds covering the lot of them. Several men ran slower than might have been expected but it was obvious that the windy conditions had much to do with that. Mark Humphrey suffered on leg one as he went off too fast but nevertheless came home inside his predicted time. It was great to see Essex Team Manager Tony Barden back in action and when he was followed up by our old Captain "Gerry" Adams it was quite like old times - except that between them they were about three stone heavier and three minutes slower than they were a few years ago.
Measuring his progress towards top fitness, B-runner David Anderson provided fireworks on leg two as he set out after the fourteen men ahead of him and succeeded in picking off the lot. His 13:50 was over half a minute faster than anyone else achieved - and that in spite of leaping a steeplechase barrier as his stage commenced, forced to get into the take-over zone the hard way when officials decreed that he was entering the area from the wrong direction, and then hurdling a fence to avoid running down a mother and baby while running on the paths within the park towards the end of his lap.
Adam Leane had made good progress for the 'A's so with two stages gone Belgrave occupied 1st and 3rd - with the teams the wrong way round! A true Geordie, David was again in the non-scoring 'B' outfit to preserve his North Eastern Counties qualification.
The correct order was established by the halfway mark as Lee Greatorex moved the 'A's into second place. Thames were away in front but Roger Alsop had one of our best runs of the day as he closed the gap to just 1 second, leaving Will Cockerell to open up a winning margin. Veteran Knut Hegvold ran well on the final leg to double our advantage as Thames faded and South London Harriers came through to win the "silvers".
Others to impress, among the 'B's, were James Browne - who surely would have been in the first team but for a climbing accident in Yellowstone Park a month earlier - and Junior Galley who never seems to have a bad run in relays but does worry the supporters sometimes: on this occasion Junior was still clad in full tracksuit as Dave Anderson entered the arena in the lead.
Anne Hegvold has been out for some time through injury and was apologetic for "only" offering 7th place after the first leg, but Syreeta Stracey was delighted when she found she was close to her previous best for the course in spite of having "not done much lately". Syreeta's effort brought the Belles up three places and Helen Alsop and Rachel Weston kept that forward momentum going - but there were no medals this time around.
1 Belgrave 1:30:58; 2 South London 1:33:50; 3 (n/s) Belgrave 'B' 1:34:46; 4 Guildford & Godalming 1:35:05; 22 teams started and 19 teams finished.
A - M.Humphrey (10) 15:29; A.Leane (3) 15:08, L.Greatorex (2) 15:15; R.Alsop (2) 15:00; W.Cockerell (1) 15:03; K.Hegvold M40 (1) 15:03.
B - A.O'Beirne (14) 16:22; David Anderson (1) 13:50; J.Galley M40 (3) 15:52; J.Webb (4) 16:40, S.Zealey (3) 16:26; J.Browne (3) 15:36.
C - A.Barden (15) 16:28; G.Adams (16) 17:13, T.Watt (14) 17:20; P.Doyle (Ranelagh guest) (11) 15:07.
Fastest: 1 D.Anderson (Belgrave) 13:50; 2 I.Harkness (Thames 14:30; =3 A.Moses (Reigate P) & S.Major (South London) 14:32; 5 N.Altmann (Thames) 14:34.
Veterans - A.Binda (4) 16:54, H.Corbett (9) 19:11, R.Walsh (12) 20:40.
1 Ranelagh 1:11:10; 2 South London 1:11:27; 3 Wimbledon Windmilers 1:12:17; 4 Belgrave 1:14:51; 18 teams started and 15 teams finished.
A - A.Hegvold W35 (8) 18:25; S.Stracey (5) 18:47; H.Alsop W35 (5) 19:34, R.Weston (4) 18:05.
B - S.Gailey (10) 19:59; C.Eastham (11) 21:32.
Fastest: 1 J.Ronaldson (Ranelagh) 16:30; 2 L.Crawford (South London) 16:50; 3 N.Buckley (Wimbledon W) 17:18; 4 R.Disley (Thames) 17:23; 5 C.Evans (South London) 17:26.
Auckland Castle 10k, inc. AAA Champs & CAU Inter-Counties Champs., 15 August 2004 Pictures
A second AAA title slips away!
For a brief period in April this year we were champions at every national endurance team event: AAA 10k, AAA half marathon, AAA 6-Stage road relay, AAA 12-stage road relay, ECCA National CC Relay and ECCA National CC Champions. (Ok the men weren’t the AAA Marathon Champions – but the women were!). Sadly we weren’t able to bask in that glory for very long as a bad day at Sutton Park for the 2004 12-stage had us placing “only” second to an Aldershot squad at full stretch and now, up in the North East, the AAA 10k team race slipped away from as as well. It just goes to show that it is even tougher staying at the top than getting there!
One would have thought that we had the team in Bishop Auckland to handle any eventuality. Announcer Bud Baldaro certainly thought we were out and out favourites, but with Kassa Tadessa sagging badly in the second half of the race and Mark Miles getting to the furthest point away from the finish and finding that "there was nothing in the tank," we lost two forward positions. Mark Thompson ran stride for stride with with Milesy on lap one but had a bad time between 5 and 7 km; he got through it though and picked up well in the closing stages to run home the leading Belgravian.
David Anderson is highly thought of in his native North East (as he is in London, of course) and he made further good progress on this tough course, coming back nicely from his injury although still feeling slight Achilles twinges that he admits to having to "manage". He was "gutted that we were only second".
It was unusual for Paul Freary not to be in the scoring team. He caught Kassa with 100 metres to go only to find our man in the Surrey singlet waking from his trance at the sight of a Belgrave vest alongside him and picking up the pace again. Even at the presentation Paul was announced as third scorer for a third-placed Belgrave team. Swift investigation by the Team Manager revealed that the recorders had not counted Mark Thompson as a Belgrave man. Protests had to wait until the end of the prize-giving when it was agreed that we should be placed ahead of Morpeth and only 2 points behind Salford - in spite of our problems! Unfortunately the Morpeth boys had gone home with their "silvers" by then.
South London's Natalie Harvey was in superb form, storming away from the female opposition to set the fastest 10k time in Britain in 2004. The Surrey men's and women's teams travelled and stayed with us over the weekend and included another SLH lady and with one other also present on the day, South London were amazed to find themselves AAA Champions. For good measure the Surrey women's team (not including Birhan Dagne and Natalie Harvey) ran so solidly that they took the Inter-County title. Our own Birhan Dagne was second in the AAA race after battling with the Kenyan opposition but suffered a groin strain which hampered her slightly.
So, all in all, a disappointing race for us. We have a chance to make amends next year when once again the AAA 10k will be held in Bishop Auckland.
Open Race. 1 E Kimeli (KEN U20) 28:56; 2 J Kimtai (KEN/Tipton) 29:29; 3 K Katui (KEN) 29:33; 4 T Eticha (SUI) 29:40; 5 G Tromans (Coventry) 29:50; 6 M Smith (Tipton) 30:07; .... 13 M Thompson (AUS/Belgrave) 30:53; 19 David Anderson 31:39; 21 K Tadessa 31:53; 23 P Freary 31:56; M Miles dnf.
AAA Team Race. 1 Salford 51 (10 T.Abyu, 11 A Jones, 30 L Dunn) 2 Belgrave 53 (13 Thompson, 19 Anderson, 21 Tadessa), 3 Morpeth 60 (16 M Hudspith, 17 N.Wilkinson, 27 D.Swinburne).
Inter-County. 1 Gtr Manchester; 2 North Eastern Counties; 3 Warwickshire; ... 6 Surrey (Tadessa, D.Symonds Thames H&H, R.Reeder Stragglers).
Open Race. 1 N Harvey (SLH) 33:02; 2 M Wangari (KEN) 33:44; 3 M Otwori (KEN) 33:56; 4 B Dagne (Belgrave) 34:24.
AAA Team Race. 1 South London H; 2 Derwentside, 3 Newton Aycliffe.
Inter-County. 1 Surrey; 2 Norfolk; 3 North Eastern Counties.