Kenny ‘The Recruiter’ Mac takes us on the rollercoaster that was Saturday’s Northern Relays, still managing to find time to get Keith Rooney into the report. Well done, Kenny Mac.
Blackpool: the quintessential English seaside town, famous for Rock, Rollercoasters and now for hosting the Northern Relays. Also the location for the Annual Pilgrimage by itinerant Glaswegians, hell bent on drinking the town dry and engaging in the well-practised art of fighting with beer bottles and urinating in phone boxes.
The venue was Stanley Park, just outside the town, landscaped and completed in 1926 by the 7th Earl of Derby, Sir George Edward Villiers Stanley. I think the Earl of Lancashire must have been busy that day! The Park is 2.2 square miles and hosts Lancashire County Cricket Ground, a golf course, a boating lake and Blackpool and Fylde Football team. As a Dundee supporter I find it rather disconcerting that all Blackpool teams seem to wear Tangerine and Black, the colours of Dundee United!
We had two Men’s teams and one Ladies team together with our very first complete Under-13 boys team with Leodhais, Will Kerr and Lucas Sutherland. Now with such surnames that would befit the side of a shortbread tin, alas, only one of them is Scottish! The Under-13 race was to start at 1130hrs so I volunteered to drive the trio down in my aged but so far reliable charabanc. A brief detour down the A19 to pick up Kevin Jeffress from sunny Seaham harbour and we were on the road. The lads were nervous but excited on the way down and traversing across the A66 we hiked through the town of Kirby Lonsdale before accessing the M6 then the M55 to the final destination of the race venue.
As we got onto the M55, Facebook lit up like a Christmas tree with Keith Rooney posting that he had finally achieved the Holy Grail of sub 20 mins for 5k. At the same time on Radio 5 live somebody brought up a Churchill quote about Russia (For those folk that left School early I don’t mean the Car Insurance people). No. Churchill said Russia was “a Riddle wrapped up in an Enigma” and I could not help but see the similarities to the Roonmeister. Ps Well done Keith.
A quick visit to registration and we decided to put Lucas Sutherland 1st, Will Kerr 2nd and Leodhais last leg. There were 40 plus teams in this race including our near neighbours Chester Le Street. Lucas went off a a steady pace, he is better known for prolifically putting the ball in the onion bag for North Shields FC and he equipped himself well in holding his own and not being fazed by the race tempo.
Handing over to Will Kerr who plays Cricket for Tynemouth, Will maintained his position and ran a smooth race finished exhausted and chuffed with his performance.
In last leg was Leodhais. Leodhais was in no man’s land as the first athlete in front of him was approx 600 metres ahead. Leodhais has been doing track work all summer and this endeavour paid off as he flew around the track to catch the lad who had started 1k ahead of him. Results are not out but the Young Highlander reckons he did 6.20m/mile followed by 5.21m/m for his 0.91 mile.
Soon the TBH bus arrived and in militaristic style the tent and flag was erected in the far corner of the field. A quick warm up and a survey of the route revealed it was hillier and very different to that of the Youths. Kevin Jeffress and I were off first in the A and B team respectively and we zoomed off from the starting point which was on the running track. The course circumnavigated Stanley Park and then edged alongside it. Kevin Jeffress came home in 21.48, the fastest time of any TBH on the day and started us in 30th position. Next was Sparrow, who has had an excellent track season but was inconsistent in the longer races. Sparrow didn’t let the side down and for somebody who likes to smile and enjoy the race, I witnessed him grimacing and gurning in the last 800 metres to get home in 22.21, the second fastest TBH of the day. Taking over for me in the B leg was John JH who edged home in 24.37.
Sparrow passed the baton to Shaun Brown and Shaun took his time to get to grips with the course, losing a few places in the inclines but shook himself and recovered gaining several more places in a time of 22.23 and pushing us up 5 places. The B team representative in the 3rd leg was Elliott Hails who maintained his position of 65th in a time of 25.00.
Next up was Darryl Davison who has been flying in training and Darryl caressed the course in 22.37. Darryl was not happy with his run and on finishing said he found it difficult to judge the pace as there was nobody around him at the start. Darryl still managed to get us two places and inside the qualifying places, so if that was a bad run I can’t wait to see him doing a good run.
B team runner was Chris “Golden Mile” Graham and Chris has excelled himself this summer and romped home in 24.21.
We were now in the hunt for qualification to the Nationals and it next up was Jack Neeson. Jack is a quiet lad who lets his feet do the talking. Now we were getting “in the mix” the pressure was on him. He handled it well and kept his head improving one place to 23rd position in a time of 22.44. Paul Hilton was TBH B team fifth and last representative due to a serious of unfortunate events and Paul ran strong and true, gained places and came home in 23.57.
The last leg for the A team was given to Super Vet Keith Smith who seems to prefer running in summer than winter and he handled the pressure superbly maintaining his position, despite getting misdirected by a Marshall and got us home in 23rd position and meant we had qualified for the Nationals in Sutton in a few week’s time. This was without our three fastest runners competing yesterday. This bodes well for the future of the club and with Cross Country relays and 12 Stage relay coming up there will be a clamour for places.
Let’s not forget the ladies. The ladies team of Elspeth Lawson, Lizzy Clamp. Annette Kelly and Julie Shaw came home in 38th position. The girls all ran consistently with Annette Kelly and Julie Shaw running the exact same time. I observed Lizzy running around on her leg cursing like a Trawlerman as she again was misdirected. Julie Shaw is one of the most reliable runners we have at the club and she is always at the start line of races, representing TBH all over the Country. Elspeth who has not been training as much as she would like has promised to come back to full training and Annette will learn a lot from yesterday’s event. Overall, 38th position is very credible and we can improve on it next year. Its a great day out and I would urge all runners to give the Northerns a go.
Well done to all who ran.