Cheltenham Harriers claimed a historic first Midland Six Stage Road Relay Championship bronze medal with a fine team display in Sutton Coldfield. The first leg saw Harry Bishop take on the challenging 5.85km circuit, with his 18:24 clocking bringing the team home in fifth place as Coventry and Birmingham led the field home ahead of likely medalists Notts and Bristol. Starting 45 seconds behind the leader Graham Rush then took the Harriers into the lead before the half way point of his leg as recorded the second fast stage of the day. Rush’s time of 17:38 also took ten seconds off his own club record for the course and gave the team a 38 second lead ahead of both Birmingham and Notts. Phil Beastall then extended the Cheltenham lead to 43 seconds at the halfway point of the race with an impressive 18:27 as Tipton, Notts and Bristol followed. Leg four saw Alex Lee make his A team debut and run well to record 18:55 to bring the team home in second place 23 seconds behind Notts and 53 seconds ahead of Tipton
Leg five then saw Marc Fallows thrown into the A team at short notice as an accident on the M5 forced team manager Andy Prophett to reshuffle his teams. Fallows had been expected to run the first leg for the B team, but the traffic delays meant that he only arrived at the park as the race started and by then he had been moved to the fourth leg for the B team. However, it became apparent that the A team’s sixth leg runner Anthony Bailey would not make it to the race in time and that Ben Price who was taking the fifth stage was also cutting it fine. Fallows recorded a solid 19:49 as he was overtaken by Tipton, but crucially kept the Harriers 50 seconds clear of fourth placed Bristol. Fortunately Price had arrived in time for the final leg and clocked 19:06 to keep Bristol 53 seconds behind as the Cheltenham team took third to earn the Harriers their first ever Midland Road Relay medal.
The Harriers B team also secured a place in the National Championship as they finished in sixteenth overall and as third B team home. Alex Bampton’s 19:25 was followed by Will New recording a course PB of 19:15 before Roger Mullins took the team up to thirteenth at halfway with 20:41. Will Woodcock moved up from the C team in the reshuffle to record 21:34 before Matt Crew’s 20:15 and James Miller’s 20:11 moved the team back up into sixteenth place. The Cheltenham C team of Andy Prophett (20:20), Gavin McCaugherty (20:29), Marcus England (20:58) were 26th at the halfway point before Matt Evans (22:00), Russell Forsbrook (20:46) and Andy Gore (20:33) brought them home as the highest placed C team in 27th position. Not to be outdone the D team were the leading D team in fortieth place thanks to the efforts of Gareth Edwards (21:42), Dave Aubrey (21:30), John Merrett (20:56), Dan Minors (22:19), Mike Gray (22:47) and James Wilkinson (21:57). Unfortunately the E team ended up one athlete short after Bailey’s withdrawal from the A team, but Ian Giles (23:05), Jacob Pickering (21:17), Lee Groenewegen (23:02), Andrew Kaighin (21:25) and Miguel Mundinano (22:10) all enjoyed a useful run out.
Elsewhere Jon Barnes won the Hereford Marathon in 2:49:22 for a six minute victory whilst Vickie Wilkinson was the first lady home at the Cheltenham parkrun in 20:08 at an event that saw Paul Wade (18:06) finish third and Ben Sluman (18:55) place ninth. At the Weymouth parkrun Dave Roper took the win in 15:56 and Jo Wilkie was the second lady in 20:42. Mark James finished second at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester in 17:46.