This weekend I flew back to England to take part in the UK Fell Running Relay Championships which were held on the Long Mynd in Shropshire by my club, Mercia Fellrunners. After many years of failure (some years close, some years not so close), we were desperate to finally win the coveted prize in home terrain. Mercia had never won before, but had thrown away winning positions several times, and been unlucky with star runners getting injured the day before (etc....), but we finally managed to get out a full strength team for the first time since I have been in the club (even if I was lacking some training mileage this year).
Paul Jones did a good job on 1st leg, handing over in 6th place, 1:30 back on the best rival team. Steve Cale and Tim Davies did well on the long 2nd leg to pull up to 4th place (behind the other 3 favourite teams) about 1:45 behind the leaders. Then it was time for me and my partner, Andy Davies, to run. We had run together twice previously, in 2009 and 2010. Both times we had run the 3rd (navigation) leg, and both times we had won out leg convincingly. This time I was unsure of my physical shape, but was determined not to get dropped by Andy up the hill! We started fast, overhauling the 3rd team at the top of the first climb, and the front 2 teams were in sight in the distance. We ran strongly to the first checkpoint, and soon after 1 caught up the 2nd placed team. There was a route choice to the 2nd checkpoint, and we decided to take the left path option whilst the leading team ran straight through some rough heather. We made a gap of about a minute by the 2nd control over the 3 chasing teams, and then tried to push on around the flatter section of the race. The 3rd and 4th checkpoint were physically much easier, and the split times there were pretty close amongst the top teams. Contouring round to the 5th (and second last) control, we had just over a minute lead and were feeling confident. We picked up the tapes from the other legs to lead us the the checkpoint, but when we came to the hill top, there was no control! Confused, we ran on, but we had clearly been in the correct place. After a few meters we turned back to hunt again. We saw the 'marker' left by the course setter to indicate where the control should stand, but no control. By this time the 3 teams chasing had caught us. A consensus was reached that it was missing, so we all carried on. Andy and I managed to stay in front (just) on the steep descent to the finish, and sent out Simon Bailey (English champion this year) with a few seconds lead. Marshalls managed to get a checkpoint in place pretty quickly so it was only the first 4 teams (mostly us really) who were affected by the missing control.
Luckily, the minute or so that we lost was inconsequential as Simon ran the fastest leg time on 4th leg to win the 2012 relays for Mercia! Andy and I still managed to win the leg, and maintain our unbeaten record as a pair.
Leg 1,2 and 4 maps here
Results and splits here
I am now a Master of Sport and Exercise Science and have now graduated from Sheffield Hallam University, and I have been selected for the GB Performance team for 2012 and the World Cups in New Zealand in January.