Glory and Honour: Northern Four and Six Stage Relays, Birkenhead Park

Race date: Sunday 24th September 2023

Traditionally, the true test of a club’s status on the road is how well it does in the big relays. All clubs may have their stars who shine individually in open events but, against an ever more congested fixture list, getting all their best athletes in the same place and at the same time has been a difficulty confronting team managers since time immemorial. Therefore, eschewing the pleasures of the Sheffield 10k, an over-priced charity event which doesn’t appear to be interested in club athletics, a posse of ten Steel City crossed the Pennines in search of glory and honour.

The course was a single traffic free loop of Birkenhead Park with rolling paths and a few narrow twisty sections around small ponds together with a gentle but draining final kilometre up a slight hill to the finish. Distance was officially stated to be 5.1km but in a race like this, as with cross country, it’s position, not time, that counts. These relays always have plenty of support on the course as competitors are either doing their own warm up before their turn or doing their post race recovery.

It takes nerves of steel when lining up on first leg against the best in the North but Rob Byers, who we all thought was a sensible lad, went through the first mile in under five minutes suffering the consequences later on. Rob blames the unsavoury conditions presented by the holding pen at the start with a hundred or so sweaty blokes squeezed into an area no bigger than a camper van. (A more unusual one for the Runner’s Book of Excuses). Unfortunately this ambitious opening seemed to be a trend and whilst Hannah Mainprize confessed that she too had “set off stupidly fast” a brief examination of Strava shows that these two were not alone. In a relay, especially for the later legs where the field becomes ever more spread out, pace judgement is an important ingredient so if you have a magic spell please share it.

Negative splits were a rare sight amongst the Steel City teams with blame partly apportioned on the false flat heading towards the finish line..

Steel City’s women did their club proud coming home fifteenth of the sixty complete teams. This illustrates the strength in depth that our women currently hold as it is understood that a hen party caused additional problems for the selectors. First home were Leeds City AC in 01:07:32 whilst fastest leg was Lauren Heyes (Hallam) 16:13. The women face a big step up if they choose to compete at the National Road Relays in Sutton Park for which they automatically qualify. A couple of lads stepped up to complete the men’s team and special mention goes to Brendon Wain who competed although not fully fit; those who know Brendon from Thursday track sessions will understand that this was well below his best. The men came home in fifty second place behind Leeds City AC who  came first in 01:28:15. Fastest leg was U23 Rory Leonard (Morpeth)  in 13:55 with twenty eight men running sub fifteen.

No t-shirts, non even if you forked out an extra ten quid. Left to right: Rob, Kathryn, Brendon, Liam, Caroline, Malcolm, Seth, Gillian, Naeem, Hannah. Yet again, Seth wins the wonkiest race number award.

Although Gillian did remark how much it hurt, the overlying feeling coming from this outing was how much fun it was and the resolution is to get strong teams out for the six and twelve stage relays next spring.

Senior Women 4x5km’ish

Posn Name Time
16 Caroline Brock 18:00
14 (+2) Hannah Mainprize 19:04
19 (-5) Kathryn Liddiard 20:52
15 (+4) Gillian Allen 18:42
15 Total Time 01:16:38

Senior Men 6x5km’ish

Posn Name Time
40 Rob Byers 15:59
52 (-12) Liam Brennan 17:50
65 (-13) Brendon Wain 19:14
65 (-) Malcolm Baggaley 19:05
58 (+7) Seth Kirby 16:46
56 (+2) Naeem Stevens 16:51
56 Total Time 01:45:45

Results with all the gory details may be found here: Northern Road Relays, Autumn 2023  Someone did remark that “it almost felt ‘parkrun-esque’ with the occasional park user walking their dog on the race route” but this event kicks Parkrun into a cocked hat.

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