Lee Mill Relays, 27th Nov 2016

Mixed team winners
Mercia was able to enter eight teams (32 runners) at Lee Mill Relays this year. Full Mercia results are here (teams) and here (individual).
 
The course was very varied with some rough stony landrover tracks, loads of splodgy boggy trods, a couple of very steep climbs and some technical descending including one very fast but tricky off-camber muddy diagonal down to the furthest point on the course. We had better weather conditions than last year, and it was a relief not to be battling 60mph+ winds, but it was still very heavy underfoot and difficult to find any rhythm in places.
 
We targeted the mixed category this year with a strong team of Paul Jones, Anna Bartlett, Mel Price and Simon Adney. Paul ran brilliantly despite cross country the day before and very nearly won the first leg outright, sending Anna out on a long lonely run where she was in second place for much of the leg. With no-one to follow, she missed the turn onto the diagonal trod about 4 miles in, but some epic descending down a boulder field got her back on track with only a couple of minutes lost. As ever, Mel ran solidly, racing Tom for much of the way around before handing over to Simon. Another good leg saw them finish seventh overall and easily win the mixed category.
 
The open men's teams both had good days finishing third (Virgil Barton on loan from Barlick, Carl Aveyard, Tom Roo and Simon Lanckham) and fifteenth (James Dowdall, David Chetta, Ben Beaumont and Mark Bollom). Particularly pleasing was a very fast run on the anchor leg for the men's A team by Simon Lanckham: it's really good to see younger runners breaking through.
 
We had an outside chance of doing something with the 50s team. All four had great runs, led out by Ian Grindley in our second fastest leg time of the day. John Taylor, running very high in the field and looking like he was suffering towards the end, Noel Hogan with a characteristically competitive effort and Tim Parker, almost clean at the end with his trademark brilliant choice of lines were each very close to the hour to bring the team in just a few minutes adrift of the category winners, Clayton.
 
The ladies team was without arguably the quickest five of the athletes who have contributed to the English and British Championship wins this season but were brilliantly led out by new signing Zoe Barber. Solid legs by Kirsty Briggs and Kate Whitfield released Sara Willhoit on the anchor, who ran a great leg to finish as our fastest lady on the day. To finish fourth with a weakened but still very decent A team and still have enough ladies (nearly) for a B team and another mixed team is a great testament to the current strength of ladies' running in the club. The B team (Naomi Watson, Suzanne Kapitanec, Maryke Fox and Kate Whitfield) included two relative novices and did extremely well too. Kudos to Kate for doubling up and replacing the injured Helen Stokes in the A team then doing a creditable time in the B team as well.
 
The M40s (Mark Hill, Chris Westwood, Robin Bacon and John Holland) and the second mixed team (me, Rachael Bollom, Jude Grainger and Steve Bajic) were put together to make best use of the remaining runners. Very pleasingly both teams were fast enough that there were no Mercians in the mass start and there was some very good running here - not least Robin Bacon who ran fast enough to justify a start in the 50s and Jude on the comeback trail after a long injury lay-off. Mark managed to get the better of me on the first leg, moving very efficiently through the boggy flatter bits, and John finished bravely after having injured his ankle part way round.
 
We also had four children, three dogs and a cyclist/coach driver along for the trip. It's great to see so many runners who have joined the club recently taking part, running well and enjoying the day.
 
Please do consider putting this in your diary for next year. It's a very laid back and friendly event despite some keen competition, and a great opportunity for some socialising, team building and good old fashioned hard running.