Bournemouth AC team for the National 12 Stage Road Relays

Bournemouth AC their 12 best available men to Sutton Coldfield for the illustrious National Road Relays

A hard fought effort at the South of England Road Relays saw the Bournemouth AC men qualify for the National Road Relays, triggering a swift shift in focus toward getting a team together for the big showdown.

They were looking to field a team that was as least as good as the one they brought to Milton Keynes for the SEAA event if not better so they set to see who they could recruit. They had less than two weeks to get it organised though. Unfortunately most of the athletes who were injured for the SEAA one still weren’t fit for the Nationals. They did have Bryn Smith available this time and he stepped in to cover one of the vacant spots.

Szymon Chojnacki wasn’t available this time so Alex Goulding stepped up to join the squad as well. The rest of the places were filled by the same athletes who ran in the SEAA one.

The BAC team in their tent at the National Road Relays

The team get themselves prepped for the big event

This time the team got to travel up in style as the club hired a coach to take them up to Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield. The conditions on the day were extremely windy so that was inevitably going to make it quite tough going at times. The team set about pitching their tent and preparing for the day ahead.

After a sensational display in Milton Keynes, it was a no brainer that Ollie James should take the first leg again. The standard was expected to be even higher than at the SEAA Road Relays though, with the top 25 teams from the South, the top 25 teams from the North and the top 25 teams from the Midlands all invited to the party. It would be interesting to see how Ollie measured up against the best of the best.

Ollie James on the opening leg of the National Road Relays

Ollie James took up the opening leg for the yellow and blues

The course was quite undulating, with a lot of the first mile being uphill. The short route was 5km in distance and the long one was 8.6km. It was basically the same but had a very long out and back section before the last mile. A substantial part of the last mile was downhill, making it a fast finish for everyone.

Despite the testing conditions and undulations, Ollie ran extremely well again to complete the long course in 27:55, putting his average pace at 5:11 per mile. That put the club in 31st place at the point of transition to the second leg. Jack Goodwin had put Bedford & Country into the lead, completing the route in 26:04 and they had a four second lead over Western Tempo.

BAC team after tent blew away at the National Road Relays

Ollie returned to camp after his leg to find out the tent had been blown away

As he was in the SEAA event, Matt Brown was on duty for the second leg. He ran a 6:10 for his first mile, a 5:54 for his second mile and a 5:39 for his third mile. That put his time at 18:11 and his average pace at 5:49. It was a decent run from Matt but the standard was so high that he’d lost some places and club were now in a more realistic position at 42nd.

Matt Brown heads toward the finish in the National Road Relays

Matt Brown was on duty in the second leg

Benjamin Davies had increased Bedford & County’s lead to 18 seconds and it was now Leeds City who were in 2nd place after Mark Bostock gained six places. Liam Stone moved Aldershot Farnham & District up 11 places by completing his leg in 15:09 which was the fastest of any of the second leg runners.

Rob McTaggart in the National Road Relays

Rob McTaggart gained seven places on the third leg

Rob McTaggart picked up the baton for the third leg and he had a much better run than he did at Milton Keynes, gaining seven places and moving the team up to 35th. His time was 28:19 which he was quite pleased with.

Moving his club up four places in the rankings, Jacob Allen put Highgate Harriers into the lead with his time of 25:45. That was the fastest of anyone on the third leg. James West moved Tonbridge AC up 15 places with his time of 25:56.

Taking up the reigns for the fourth leg, Stu Glenister finished bang on 21 minutes, which was amazing given that he’d finished in exactly 20 minutes at Milton Keynes. This was a harder course and tougher conditions though so that was understandable. He’d lost 11 places though, putting the club down to 46th in the standings. Highgate stayed in the lead and had a 42 second advantage over Leeds.

Stu Glenister after completing his leg of the SEAA Road Relays

Stu Glenister left it all out there, just as he did in the SEAA Road Relays a couple of weeks earlier

Next up, it was Hugo Richardson on the fifth leg. He’d had a nightmare run at Milton Keynes, with a bad stomach forcing him to stop on a couple of occasions. This time he had no such issues though and ran superbly to clock a time of 29:54. That was an average pace of 5:34 and moved the team up to 45th place.

Hugo Richardson in the SEAA Road Relays

Hugo Richardson bounced back brilliantly after having some issues in the SEAA Relays

Graham Rush of Leeds was the fastest man on the fifth leg in a time of 26:30 and that moved Leeds into top spot. He’d opened up a lead of 19 seconds over Highgate.

James Hulbert had been exhibiting some great form of late and he ran really well to get round in 18:48 but he did lose one place, putting the club back into 46th place. Leeds increased their lead further with John Beattie finished in 15:28. They were now 37 seconds ahead of Highgate.

Rich Brawn was covering the seventh leg and he started off quite slowly, with a 6:19 for his first mile. He found his rhythm after that though and started running okay. He’d been between 5:50 and 6 minute pace for his next three miles. Then it was onto the fifth mile had was predominantly downhill. Picking up the pace there, he cruised through to the finish.

James Hulbert comes in to complete his leg in the National Road Relays

James Hulbert completed the sixth leg in 18:48

The finishing straight was slightly uphill though and quite long so it was difficult to finish fast. Reaching the end of his leg in 31:20, Rich had maintained 46th position and it was Alex Goulding‘s turn to go next.

Rich Brawn heads toward the finish in the National Road Relays

Rich Brawn had a pretty good run on the seventh leg

The top two clubs had the fastest two runners on that leg, with Richard Allen finishing in 25:56 and Alexandre Lepretre finishing in 26:04. That put Leeds’ advantage up to 45 seconds.

Alex had been running well in training in the Tuesday night interval sessions and he’d also been doing the marathon sessions with Rich on the Wednesday night, plus attending the Thursday sessions as well. It wasn’t quite being reflected in his parkrun times thus far though and that was his frustration. He was determined to give his best for the relay though.

Putting everything into it, he got round in 19:08 which saw him lose one place to Rob Kendrick of Mansfield Harriers. Joe Blacknell gained a place for Aldershot Farnham & District with his time of 15:20 which was the fastest of the leg. He overtook Michael Ellis of Tonbridge AC.

Rich Brawn completing his leg in the National Road Relays

Rich makes a beeline for the changeover point

Jack Gray gained a place for Cambridge & Coleridge with his time of 15:22 which moved them into 5th place ahead of Bedford & County. They’d really slipped down the pecking order after starting so well.

Alex Goulding in the National Road Relays

Alex Goulding was drafted in for the Nationals

Stage nine presented Bryn Smith with his chance to step up to the plate. He was doing the Bournemouth Bay Run Half Marathon when the SEAA Relays were on so he missed that one. He finished in 1 hour 19 minutes in the Bournemouth Bay Run Half which isn’t quite as quick as he would have hoped. Over a short distance though, it was likely that he’d still able to produce the goods.

Clocking a time of 31:06, Bryn gained one place, moving the team back up to 46th. Again, it wasn’t one of Bryn’s best performances but since he hadn’t been able to train all the consistently of late, it was still a decent display.

Bryn Smith prepares for his leg at the National Road Relays

Bryn Smith in the starter pen waiting for his turn to go

It was on Stage 9 where the pendulum swung heavily into Leeds City’s favour thanks to Phil Sesemann. He clocked the fastest long leg of anyone on the day, getting round in a phenomenal 25:27. Flurry Grierson of Highgate could only manage 27:51, meaning they’d lost 2 minutes 24 seconds on the leaders which would be very hard to recapture with three legs left.

In fact, Bristol & West had almost caught Highgate up and were now just five seconds adrift. James Teagle moved Cambridge & Coleridge up to 4th with his time of 26:18. He’d overtaken Jonathan Cornish of Hercules Wimbledon who ran 27:02.

Chester Clarke in the SEAA Road Relays

Chester Clarke was back in action after running well at Milton Keynes

The tall, rangy figure of Chester Clarke was next out for Bournemouth AC and he paced his run pretty well to complete the short course in 19:09, gaining two places along the way. That put the BAC men up to 44th place.

James Ross of Highgate was the fastest man on leg 10, getting round in 15:39 but he only gained three seconds on Leeds as Gavin Chalmers did it in 15:42. James Stockings moved Hercules Wimbledon up to 4th place ahead of Cambridge & Coleridge with his time of 15:54. Luke Prior of Aldershot Farnham & District overtook Sam Kneerobinson of Bedford & County to put Aldershot into 6th place. He ran a 15:48 for his leg.

Dan Trickett in the SEAA Road Relays

Dan Trickett checks his pace as he makes his way round

After running the shorter leg at Milton Keynes, Dan Trickett stepped up to do the longer leg at Sutton Park. He’d been running superbly in training and looked ready for a tougher outing. He wasn’t quite at his best though on the day but still managed to get round in 32:34 which kept the team in 44th place.

James Kingston of Tonbridge was the only man to go under 26 minutes in the final long leg. He got round in 25:49 which saw Tonbridge move ahead of Bedford & County and Belgrave Harriers and into 7th.

Jack Millar put Bristol & West into 2nd place with his time of 26:21 leapfrogging Highgate and moving 13 seconds ahead. That ensured it would be a very tightly contested battle for 2nd going into the final leg. With a three and a half minute lead, Leeds looked to have it sewn up before Matthew Grieve set off on the anchor leg.

Adrian James on the track in the SEAA Road Relays

Adrian James was on the anchor leg, just as he was in Milton Keynes two weeks prior

Just as he did at Milton Keynes, Adrian James took up the anchor leg for Bournemouth AC. There had been a mass start for both him and Dan so they at least had people around them to race against. The team needed Adrian to come up with the goods to keep them in the position they were in. Adrian duly rose to the occasion, putting in a blinding run to finish his leg in 18:12.

Adrian James at the SEAA Road Relays

Adrian ensured the club finished in 44th place

That made him the second fastest of the shorter leg runners and he was only a second off Matt Brown’s time. It was a great way to round the competition off for the BAC men and they had indeed taken a creditable 44th place.

Thomas Bridger of Cambridge & Coleridge ran the fastest short leg of the day on their anchor leg, blasting through in 15:04. Matthew Grieve saw Leeds safely home for the win, getting round in 15:30 which was the same time that Ben Robinson managed for Bristol & West. That was enough to see them keep 2nd place and they ended up 34 seconds ahead of Highgate who were 3rd.

Benjamin Murphy’s time of 15:12 saw Tonbridge move up two places and into 5th position with Cambridge & Coleridge taking 4th. Hercules Wimbledon were 6th and Aldershot Farnham & District took 7th. Belgrave Harriers were 8th and Bedford & County ended up sinking to 9th. Swansea Harriers just pipped Kent AC for 10th place by 1 second in a dramatic sprint finish with Jac Hopkins making up 14 seconds on Ben Harding to enable that to happen.

Stu Glenister and Matt Brown enjoying a beer at the National Road Relays

Stu and Matt enjoy a beer as they watch the closing stages of the event

Bournemouth AC‘s total cumulative time was 4 hours 55 minutes and 36 seconds which was a bit slower than what they managed at Milton Keynes. The course was a lot tougher though, as were the conditions so that was to be expected. They’d finished ahead of Bolton United Harriers, Knowle & Dorridge RC, Liverpool Harriers B team and Royal Sutton Coldfield AC.

There were 56 teams in total who completed the full 12 stages of the relay and a further nine teams that were incomplete but took part anyway.

Leeds City’s finishing time was 4 hours 11 minutes and 28 seconds. All their runners on the long leg were inside 27 minutes and all the runners for their short legs were inside 15:45. That goes to show the incredible strength in depth that the club has in its ranks. Bristol & West finished in exactly 4 hours 15 minutes and Highgate Harriers secured a total combined time of 4:15:34 which, in the end, put them just a second ahead of Cambridge & Coleridge after Thomas Bridger’s blinding run.

Leeds City’s B team actually finished in 20th place which proves they are blessed with a wealth of talent that is almost unfathomable to comprehend. Cambridge & Coleridge’s B team were 23rd and Highgate Harriers’ B team were 26th. Considering that six of the teams that finished ahead of Bournemouth AC were B teams, that actually makes them 38th best club in the country. A couple of the teams that finished ahead of them were Welsh as well so technically you could even discount them.

BAC men's team for the National 12 Stage Road Relays

It was a fun day out for the Bournemouth AC men

It was definitely a day where the Bournemouth AC men had done themselves proud and against a collection of the most elite clubs in the country, they had competed well and put in a commendable display. They may not have the talent in their armoury to be contending to win an event like this but it’s important to give their top athletes the platform to compete against the very best in the sport. That is what the road relays are all about. If the club wants to attract and retain the best talent around, they need to be have representation at this sort of level.

Aside from that though, it was a great day out, whatever the result, and that was what mattered most. It was an event where the team came together, bonded and supported each other. And by doing so, they grew as a team and made memories that they can take with them for years to come.