After a run which took them all the way to Sutton Park for the National 12 Stage Road Relays back in April, the Bournemouth AC men had the bit between their teeth for more road relay competition. It had proved to be a great outlet for the faster members of the squad to test themselves against the very best on the amateur athletics circuit. The yellow and blue army certainly didn’t look out of place on the big stage either, finishing in 43rd place that day, after a 28th place finish in the SEAA Road Relays in Milton Keynes a couple of weeks earlier.
The opportunity to compete in the Aldershot Road Relays this Autumn came up after a number of the top clubs in the south boycotted the 6 Stage SEAA Road Relays event which was to be held at Crystal Palace.
Unhappy at the way the SEAA had organised the event over recent years, the clubs had decided to breakaway with Aldershot Farnham & District hosting their own competition. They’d also received agreement from the ERRA that the Aldershot Road Relays would have equal billing to the SEAA Road Relays in terms of qualification for the National Road Relays.
That resulted in virtually all the top clubs in the south signing up to the Aldershot Road Relays. Hence the likes of Highgate Harriers, Tonbridge AC, Cambridge & Coleridge, Bedford & County AC, Hercules Wimbledon and Kent AC joined Aldershot Farnham & District at Rushmoor Arena for the big showdown. By all intents and purposes, it had become the main event for the 6 Stage Road Relays.
Bournemouth AC’s decision to put a team out in the Aldershot Road Relays was probably less of a political one and was more motivated by the accessibility of the location. The Rushmoor Arena was a feasible venue to get to whereas Crystal Palace was not. Plus of course, they wanted to test themselves against the very best.
One of the standout performers for Bournemouth AC in the 12 Stage Road Relays had been Rob McTaggart and he was very keen to get another squad assembled for Aldershot event. In they end they managed to get a fairly strong team together, with Szymon Chojnacki, Stu Nicholas, Ben Collins, Dan Trickett and Rich Brawn.
The first eight clubs would achieve automatic qualification to the National Road Relays, along with the first eight from the SEAA Road Relays event in Crystal Palace. The remaining qualification places were to be decided by the Secretary of the ERAA Committee out of those teams finishing in the next 10 places, with B teams also potentially being invited.
It was always going to be a tough ask for the Bournemouth AC men to measure up against such high quality opposition and make it through to the National Road Relays themselves but they were certainly ready and willing to give it a go.
Taking up the reigns for the first leg, just as he did in both the 12 Stage relays, was Rob McTaggart. Since most of the clubs tend to field one of their better runners in the first leg, it was vital for Bournemouth AC to get off to a good start and Tag was certainly capable of mixing it with the very best of them when at his peak.
Since he’d been marathon training, he hadn’t done a lot of short distance speed work so he wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to hit his top gear and then maintain it for the duration of the 6k leg.
It was a two-lap course which featured some undulations that could prove tricky. In fact, it started off on quite a testing uphill curve that was certainly enough to impact the early pace – and perhaps even more so on the second lap when the legs were beginning to tire.
Tag didn’t get off to a great start and was initially quite far down the field. But he soon set about recovering places, overtaking about 40 people in the space of that first mile, which he completed in 4:52.
The second mile was even tougher, containing a fair bit of uphill. Tag was running strongly though completed that in 5:02. By the end of that mile he was already on his second lap and so was tackling the same incline he had at the start of the race.
Getting through the third mile in 4:55, it was then just the final three quarters of a mile to go before passing over to Dan Trickett who was on the second leg. Blasting through that last kilometre or so at 4:56 pace, Tag was over the line to complete his first leg. Recording a time of 18:42, he’d come in as 19th fastest out of 79 runners and hit an average pace of 4:56 minutes per mile. It was a huge performance from Tag.
The quickest man in the first leg was Joshua Grace of Aldershot Farnham & District and he got round in 17:57, just ahead of Keiran Clements of Shaftesbury Barnet who arrived in 17:58.
Completing the second leg in 21:12, Dan Trickett had put in a good solid effort to see the Bournemouth AC boys through in 35th place. He then handed over to Ben Collins for the third leg.
Adam Clarke kept Aldershot Farnham & District in the lead with a 17:51 on their second leg. Jonny Davies of Reading had had a storming run though, whipping round in 17:38 which was easily the fastest out of anyone thus far. Andrew Penney had got Hercules Wimbledon up to 2nd place with his time of 18:22.
With the Great South Run coming up in a few weeks time, Ben had been hoping the course would be a bit flatter so he could really test out his speed endurance. Opening with a very quick first mile at 5:16 pace, it then became tough for Ben from that point on and he was unable to match his earlier speed.
Nevertheless, he kept going and gave it all he had, ultimately completing the leg in exactly the same time as Dan had , which was 21:12. That gave him an average pace for the run of 5:41 and meant the Bournemouth AC team were now in 41st place.
Ellis Cross maintained Aldershot Farnham & District’s advantage with a very switch 17:45 on the third leg but Ben Cole of Tonbridge AC also had an excellent run, getting round in 17:49 and elevating them to 2nd position.
Rich Brawn was on the fourth leg for BAC and he opened with a 5:32 first mile which was followed by a 5:45 second mile. Finding the hills tough to contend with, he was struggling to get anywhere the pace he’d been hoping to go at.
A 5:52 third mile was then followed by a fast finish for the final three quarters of a mile which he ran at 5:24 pace. That put his time at 21:02 and he had shipped a couple more places, seeing the team drop down to 43rd place.
Tonbridge, Bedford & County, Cambridge & Coleridge and Highgate all made up some ground on Aldershot in the fourth leg which helped keep it interesting, with Jamie Goodge of Tonbridge and Darren Deed of Bedford & County both finishing in 18:21 and Ricky Harvie only managing an 18:52 for AFD.
Rocketing through the first mile in 5:17, Szymon Chojnacki was on duty for Bournemouth AC in the fifth leg and he wasn’t taking any prisoners. Following his fast start up with a by a 5:32 second mile and 5:37 third mile before re-establishing his earlier pace for the remaining three quarters of a mile.
That led to an excellent finishing time of 20:28 which moved the yellow and blues up to 36th in the overall standings, meaning Szymon had gained seven places during his foray.
Usually one of the first people to put their hand up when a league match or team event of any description arises, Szymon has been a great asset to the squad since arriving and exudes exactly the kind of attitude that the club needs from its members when looking to compete on all fronts.
At the front of the field, James Kingston had put Tonbridge into the lead with a sensational 17:36 leg which saw him leap frog Sam Eglen of AFD who got round in 18:08. That was the fastest anyone had run thus far.
Jonathan Escalante-Phillips had a good run for Cambridge & Coleridge as well, registering a 17:52 for his leg which elevated his club to 3rd position. Now it was all to play for on the last leg with the race poised for an exciting finale.
Taking up the anchor leg for Bournemouth AC, it was Stu Nicholas and he delivered a very strong performance with a 5:14 first mile, a 5:33 second mile and a 5:31 third mile before brining it home for the team with a 5:31 pace last three quarters of a mile.
That put his time at 20:25 which was just three seconds quicker than Szymon. It was enough to give Bournemouth AC a 35th place finish, even though there were some very quick runs from the Cambridge & Coleridge D team and the Hillingdon AC anchor men who were hot on his heels.
That all culminated in a final cumulative time of 2 hours 3 minutes and 1 second which was a decent overall display from the BAC men. The standard of the clubs and teams they were up against though was just so high that they were always going to struggle to make it into the top eight or the ten places after that afforded consideration for the National Road Relays.
On the final leg for Aldershot Farnham & District, Jack Rowe stepped up to the plait and delivered the quickest run of the entire afternoon, blasting round in 17:30. That was enough to see AFD restore their lead over Tonbridge and pick up the victory in a scintillating race.
That meant a final cumulative time of 1:48:03 for AFD, giving them a 56 second advantage over Tonbridge in 2nd on 1:48:59. Cambrdige & Coleridge took 3rd in 1:49:49, with Bedford & County coming in in fourth in 1:49:51.
A very quick time of 17:42 from Jacob Allen gave Highgate Harriers 5th place in 1:50:10. He’d overtaken Fred Slemeck of Hercules Wimbledon, meaning they would have to settle for 6th place in 1:50:40.
Kent AC claimed 7th place in 1:52:54, putting them just ahead of the advancing Aldershot Farnham & District B team who ended with a cumulative time of 1:52:58. Joe Morwood ran the anchor leg for them in 17:52, underlining the tremendous strength in depth that the club possesses.
Andrew Coley-Maud was on the anchor leg for Guildford & Goldalming and his blistering time of 17:54 moved them up from 17th place to 9th and saw them seal the final automatic qualification place for the National Road Relays.
That meant Southampton just missed out on automatic qualification but they will surely be one of the chosen ones to be awarded a place at the Nationals after their 1:53:30 cumulative time put them in 10th. Other clubs that will be contending for a place are Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, Winchester & District and Thames Valley Harriers.
It was a good little sharpener for Tag and Rich on the weekend before the London Marathon and for Stu, it was part of a double race weekender as he was in action at the Solent Half Marathon the following day. That didn’t stop him running a 17 minute parkrun on the Saturday morning before they left to head off to Aldershot though.