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Six and Four stage Road Relays report

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Newham and Essex
The ‘new generation’ of British endurance running took a few more giant steps to the fore at the ERRA Nike National Relays amid blustery winds, spring-like sunshine and occasional showers in Sutton Park on Saturday 21 October.

 

European 5000m silver medallist Mr Farah anchored Newham and Essex Beagles to a victory that ended Belgrave Harriers’ five-year reign in the Men’s Six Stage race while a fabulous final leg by 17-year-old Steph Twell was not quite enough to snatch the Women’s Four Stage title from Birchfield Harriers.

 

Farah ran the fastest 5.9km stage of the entire afternoon in 17 minutes 2 seconds, even though he was under no pressure whatsoever, to carry the Beagles home in 1 hours 44 minutes 46 seconds. Tipton Harriers were second in 1:46:24, Bristol and West third in 1:47:01 and defending champions Belgrave fourth in 1:47:01.

 

Farah will now set off for South Africa on Monday for a month’s altitude training with his long-time domestic adversary, Chris Thompson (Aldershot, Farnham and District) to prepare for the European Trials which are incorporated in the UK Cross Challenge at Liverpool’s Sefton Park on 25 November and hopefully for places in the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in San Giorgio su Legnano, Italy, on 10 December.

 

More than one of Farah’s team mates – who helped Beagles add the Six Stage trophy to the 12 Stage one in the spring – will be eyeing places in Norwich Union GB squads at either the Euro Cross and/or the Chiba Ekiden Relay in Japan on 23 November,

 

Mike East covered the opening stage in 17:25, second only to Birchfield’s John Ndayisenga, who hails from . Mark Warmby blazed round the third stage in 17:15. Moumin Geele, hardly out of the Junior ranks, extended the advantage by clocking 17:31 on the fourth stage.

 

Chief hero for Tipton’s home-grown young Silver medallists was Phil Nicholls, who raced the fifth stage in 17:21 to put them out of the reach of their chasers – though evergreen Rob Whalley clocked 17:29 on the sixth stage to hoist Bristol and West into third place and earn his first national road relay medal at the age of 38.

 

Andy Vernon, silver medallist in the Junior Men’s race at last winter’s Euro Cross, gave notice of his determination to bid for a Senior place this year by clocking 17:24 on the fifth stage and lifting Aldershot, Farnham and District briefly into third place.

 

The Women’s 4x4.3km race was won by Birchfield Harriers in 59:33, six seconds ahead of Aldershot, Farnham and District with Charnwood third in 1:00:17. Commonwealth 1500m medallist Helen Clitheroe ran the fastest stage, 14:11, in an effort to impress the selectors of the Norwich Union GB Team for Chiba.

 

Clitheroe on the opening stage used her 1500m finishing speed to pass long-time leader Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield) with less than 100m to go and open a 7 seconds advantage. Dean, who went onto establish herself as a steeplechase international after winning last winter’s UK Cross Challenge, was given the same time, 14:18, as the fast finishing Jo Wilkinson (Bedford and County) but was pleased enough with her road performance before she returns to her athletics first love for the Birmingham Cross Challenge in Senneleys Park next Saturday.

 

Jenny Blizard (Rotherham) got closest to Clitheroe's time with 14.12 to make up 34 places for her team on the second leg, whilst Kenyan-born Cathy Mutwa clocked 14:13 on stage three as she picked off seven places to take Birchfield into a 34-second lead that proved insurmountable.

 

Not that young Twell accepted defeat in her Senior debut for Aldershot. Having come through the age groups accustomed to winning titles for fun, she took over for the fourth and final stage in fifth place, 59 seconds off the pace.

 

She finished second, only six seconds behind Birchfield; her time of 14:19 was the fastest on her stage by 27 seconds. The fact that the second-fastest was the vastly experienced and successful Alyson Dixon (Chester-le-Street AC) merely accentuates the value of Twell’s effort.

 

Not that she was entirely thrilled to have a Team Silver medal hung round her neck. She said: “I loved the race. I’m just a bit unsatisfied I didn’t do it for the Team. She [the Birchfield athlete, Emma Phillips] was in such close range when I got to the speed bump at the foot of the finishing straight. I think I should have tried to accelerate better along the top of the course.”

 

Assured by a club mate that they never expected her to lift Aldershot into the medals, Twell smiled and explained: “I tend to be rather hard on myself.” Which probably explains why, despite her tender years, she was in the Norwich Union GB Team that won the Junior Women’s title at last winter’s Euro Cross and is “really excited about” this year’s Trials at Liverpool.

 

For full results of the Road Relays, please visit the race results website.