The winter squad kicked off their season in fine style at Bedford last Sunday, with the men's "A" team finishing 13th at the South of England 6 stage road relay championships. and the women placing 17th in their 4 stage championship. Despite the strong winds which seem to be synonymous with the micro climate of Bedford, our men’s A team performed very well amongst a strong field and were well supported by the B team who unfortunately could only field 5 runners, and bailed out in a solid 30th place.
Having run two solid relays legs for the club already this year, first up was Tom Phillips. Soon to be off travelling for the winter, Tom ended his track season early and had the relays as an early target. As we have come to expect, Tom did not let us down. Running as sensibly as ever, he sat in amongst the lead pack, avoiding the wind at all costs before opening his legs up with the tail wind and sitting in with the lead group. He was quick to inform us all of the variance of his miles splits running a 5.15 and following it up with a 4.41, but this was well within the capabilities of a 3.46 1500m man. He dug in well and set up the team nicely, handing over to James Stockings in 8th place having run 17.43 for the 3.5mile leg. James entered this race with hopes of matching the high relays standards he set with good runs at the Southern and National 12 stage road relays. He started well and looked strong, but unfortunately today wasn’t to be one for him to remember. Appearing to fade around the final third of the course, we unfortunately lost a bit of ground on the teams around us, finishing the leg in 18th and a respectable time of 19.18. Speaking to James after, he was able to pin point reasons why this race didn’t quite go to plan and is adjusting to life as a working man as he partakes in a month long internship. This will be one he puts down to experience and will attack the next race with the same enthusiasm and aggression that we’re used to seeing from him. Next up was Ryan Mckinley. Ryan’s commitment to this race was second to none, as he came straight off of a night shift as a policeman to then make the traffic dogged journey up to Bedford. He gave us a little bit of a fright turning up just as the first leg was about to take off!! However, he was quick to assure us he was ready to run. Ryan is currently building up his training and maintained a steady rhythm to run a well-paced, sensible leg and finish with a time of 19.37. We unfortunately dropped one place further back to 19th but had high expectations with Alex Cornwell taking over the baton on leg 4. It was a pleasing sight to see Alex back in a Woodford vest, having spent two years state side and one year out with a foot injury. Fully aware of the position the team was in, Alex took it upon himself to lay everything on the line and chase hard those ahead of him. He was rewarded with the A teams second quickest leg of the day, as he ran a time of 18.54 and moved the team up to 18th. Although he was disappointed with this run due to this own high standards, Alex closed down on many of the teams ahead of him and put our 5th man Donatas Tumaitis in a good position to hunt down those in his sights. Never one to refuse an invitation, Donatas felt more than obliged to take up Alex’s offer and chased hard to move the team up to 16th place clocking 19.30 and our 4th fastest leg of the day in the process. Donatas has been training very well recently and demonstrated his good form as he worked hard around the course into the ever increasing wind which was taking no prisoners. As he sprinted towards the finish line, Donatas handed over to our anchor man of Tomaz Plibersek. Having only recently returned to training after a trip to his native Slovenia, Tomaz was unsure what shape he was in. Whatever his physical fitness level, Tomaz’s tactical head was as tuned in as a digital radio as he decided to position himself behind Blackheath and Bromley’s 6ft tall final stage runner. This proved to be a wise decision as he cruised through the field, moving us up to 13th . He ran a 19.04 leg, clocking and our 3rd fastest time of the day. Just for good measure, Tomaz decided to thank his hare by outsprinting him in the last 50m of the race!!
First up for the B Team was newly appointed mens team manager Darren Southcott. Coming off the back of a 5000m pb, Darren was eager to start the winter season well and maintain his good form. Benefitting from the first leg, Darren tucked in well for the first mile before opening up during the second. He hung on well and felt he ran a well-judged race to finish in a pleasing time of 18.34. This left the team in 31st place for the opening stage and placed well amongst other B teams. Next up, was the ever improving Louis Clark. Louis has taken a new running oath of late, training with a consistent, structured program. He is reaping the benefits of this. Louis paced his race very well, looking comfortable and smooth as he moved around the 3.5mile loop in 20.15. This left the team in 37th position as he handed over to Pete Caton. Despite suffering with a hamstring injury of late, Pete was always committed to this race. He has only recently started running 10 mile weeks, but was still able to show that the aerobic base was fully in tact with a 21.10 clocking. Having focused on the shorter distance of 800m over the summer, Pete floated round the course to begin with as his legs were used to a far quicker turnover. He demonstrated this ability as he glided along with the tail wind down through the second mile. He stuck at it well and handed over to marathon man Daniel Steel in 41st place. With many athletes letting their feelings about the wind known, one man who took it in his stride was Dan, who showed his strength, put his head down and got on with the job at hand. He worked his way round the courses, reeling in athletes as though he was out on a Sunday run, wishing dog walkers a pleasant morning. Dan was rewarded with a 19.50 time for his leg and was our biggest mover of the day, gaining 7 places and moving the B team up to 34th spot. Dan handed over to his compatriot from the Comrades Marathon Harold Wyber, our 5th and final runner. Harold and Dan are often very evenly matched over distances from 5k to the marathon and the relays proved no different. Moving up 4 places to 30th Harold clocked 19.49, running one second quicker than Dan! Harold has raced over a variety of both conventional and unconventional distances over the summer and passed up the opportunity to run the southern fell championships to turn out in Green and White. It was pleasing to see him run well and shows the versatility he is capable of.
All in all it was a successful drive up north. The slight disappointment of having an unfinished B team was soon erased with a successful opener for the A team and bodes well for the winter ahead. The results were well celebrated over a post-race curry, demonstrating the team spirit is strong amongst the squad already. Bring on the Met League!
The journey to the Autodrome having taken most of them longer than expected, the girls were grateful to receive Team Captain Rachel Lund’s messages en route informing them she had declared the team and set up camp out in the shelter of “The Hangar”. Off first was Suzanne Turvey, looking to continue the fine form she showed last winter. Relieved to survive the narrow start, Suzanne ran strongly in the lead group for much of the race, only becoming detached when Chelmsford’s Jess Judd's kick in the latter stages strung out the field. Suzanne ran 16:53, our fastest leg of the day, to bring the team home in 19th place. Off second was Emily Moss, back in a Woodford vest after a successful summer competing in Aquathlon (winning the British 25-29 Age Group Championships, silver in the Europeans). Lacking a bit of fitness having missed training in recent weeks as she moved to London and started a new job, she ran a solid 18:09, moving the team up a place to 18th. On third leg and in her second 4.5k competition of the weekend (the first for Lea Valley rowing club), Rachel Lund showed her strength, running 18:29 to keep the team in the top 20. Off last was Kat Gundersen, unsure of her fitness but pleased to be back racing after a long break, she ran an encouraging 17:25 to bring the team home in 17th.