BMAF XC Relays

Saturday 30/10/2021, Long Eaton

By Glenn Savage, Men's Masters Team Manager

After an unprecedented 18 months or so that have impacted on the lives of so many in ways we could never have imagined, and deprived us of so much that we take for granted; recent weeks have seen a welcome return to the calendar for one of the oldest and purest forms of racing, our beloved cross country.

West Park in Long Eaton again played host to the annual British Masters Cross Country Relays with the cream of the country’s veteran runners proving that age is no barrier.

The fast, flat 3K course threatened to be slightly heavier going than usual when Saturday morning greeted us with torrential rain. However, this cleared by the afternoon and we were treated to a glorious sun-kissed autumnal day, if not a little blustery.

As all the ladies’ age groups toed the line together for the first set of races, Sale Harriers had two teams ready to challenge in their respective categories.  First of all we had high hopes for our W35 team. Louise Whittaker got the team off to exactly the kind of start needed, finishing 3rd on the 1st leg in a fantastic 11:31, which turned out to be the 7th quickest of the day.  The challenge now was to maintain this start and not succumb to the pressure from the chasing pack and Emma Finney did not disappoint.  A fine 12:35 kept us in a medal position going into the final stage.  Harriet Hamilton ran a superb 12:05, but was chased down by Charnwood’s Juliet Potter running the day’s fastest leg.  Agonisingly close to a podium position, it was nevertheless an excellent performance from the team.

Our W45 team had no idea upon arrival of the drama that was about to unfold.  Whilst warming up, our 2nd leg runner Carla Ousey had the misfortune of twisting her ankle.  Carla would no doubt have battled on gamely, such is her spirit and fortitude, but having an able deputy on hand in the shape of team manager Anne Chinoy made the substitution an easy choice.

It is quite common for many teams to put their stronger runners on the first leg to get off to the best possible start, so Julia Reynolds had some stiff competition to contend with.  She met the challenge head on and put in a great effort, running 14:48.  Anne then gained 6 places with an excellent 12:35 - 2nd fastest V45 in leg 2 and 8th fastest V45 of the day; a remarkable effort given the limited time she had to prepare.  It was left to Caroline Kinghorn, dropping down from her own W55 category, to anchor the trio to a very creditable 7th place with her 14:57 effort.  Caroline has become a great asset to our ladies teams, and it is hoped that with other runners available in the W55 age group we could definitely challenge for medals.

It is worth mentioning that Anne, Julia and Caroline had all completed the London Marathon at the beginning of the month so may have not yet fully recovered, which makes their performances seem even more impressive.

At the start of the week, it was hoped that we could have teams competing in three different age categories of the men’s races.  However, some late withdrawals meant us having to rely solely on our M35s to fly the flag for Sale, and the quintet on duty certainly didn’t let anybody down, cheered on by watching team manager Glenn Savage and club legend Brian Goulden.

Chris Standidge was our 1st leg runner, and the decision to start with him paid off as he ran a brilliant 10:24 to take the team into 8th place.  Tom Stephenson was up next and he ran a superb 11:02 to keep the team in a strong position.  The 3rd leg saw Andrew Curvis, a relative newcomer to the club (and the sport), gain 3 places with his fine 11:06 to move us back into the top 10.  Jon Smalley, another recovering from a recent marathon PB in Manchester, battled to a strong 11:26.  Aaron Steele was the man trusted in bringing the team home and he produced a great performance (11:47) to secure an excellent 11th place.  The standard of runners on show from all corners of the UK means that this is a fantastic team performance, and it was great to see the enthusiasm of these lads.  It bodes well for future championship events, where medals must be a distinct possibility.

As always, this event offered a great friendly atmosphere though the competition was fierce.  A thoroughly enjoyable day and great performances from all three of our teams.