20 Sep Regional 6 & 4 Stage Road Relays // Preview
After the ‘snow-out’ that was the Regional 12 & 6 Stage Road Relays back in March and the e-coli-affected National relays last year, this weekend sees a return to regional road relay competition for clubs across the UK.
Stanley Park, Blackpool will get its chance to host the Northern Relays following the cancellation of the 12 stage event in March, with Altrincham & District AC and Rotherham Harriers set to line up as defending champions.
Altrincham & District AC have only finished outside the top-3 twice since 2003 and bounced back from seventh place in 2011 last year to taste victory for the first time in the club’s history. According to club stalwart and two-time Manchester Marathon winner Dave Norman, Alty might find it tough to repeat the feat this year:
“We have three of last year’s winning team out injured and I am the only survivor. The aim this year is to qualify as we will then hopefully have Marius and Andy back for the Nationals”.
Liverpool Harriers could be the ones to beat. The Merseyside club have enjoyed gradual progression over the last few years, creeping up from fifth in ’09 and fourth in ’10 to third in ’11 and silver behind Altrincham last year.
Last year’s top-3 saw a completely different trio from the teams topping the 2011 podium (Leeds City, Morpeth & Derby AC) and was rounded off by Salford Harriers. Salford should feature again along with heavyweights Leeds City AC, Morpeth Harriers, Derby AC, BAL Premiership title winners Sale Harriers and Stockport Harriers.
Rotherham Harriers were the women’s 4 Stage winners in Leigh and will be looking to put up a strong defence of their title. The Yorkshire side upset the home favourites to enjoy a narrow ten second victory over Leigh Harriers and were backed up with a ‘B’ team in 6th. With such strength in depth, the top-ranking Northern side in last year’s final should feature once more.
Liverpool Harriers have only been outside the top-3 once in the last four years whilst Leigh Harriers, with GB international Lauren Howarth in their ranks, have enjoyed a similar rise to Liverpool’s men’s team having finished fourth in 2010, 3rd in ‘11 and second in 2012 – could 2013 result in gold?
The winner of the Midlands 6 Stage is usually more of a predictable affair, with Bristol & West AC and Notts AC sharing the victories in six of the last eight years. Bristol & West will be looking to make it a West Country double once more in the women’s event.
After the e-coli outbreak put a stop to the Midlands event last year, Notts AC fielded a team in the Northerns instead and finished eighth. The team went on to be the top-ranking Midlands side at Clumber Park (6th overall) and have finished in the top-2 in five of the last seven Midlands 6 Stage races.
Bristol & West AC go into the race as defending champions after adding the 2011 title to the one won back in 2008 while Tipton Harriers have plentiful talent at their disposal and are consistently in the mix, finishing runners-up in ’07, ’09 and ’10.
Birchfield Harriers, winners in 2009, OWLS AC (if they get the runners out) and Coventry Godiva should also be there or thereabouts. Outside bet: Heanor Running Club.
Perennial runners-up in the women’s event, Bristol & West AC, led impressively by GB junior Annabel Gummow, got their hands on gold again in 2011. After finishing second in ‘07, ’08, ’09 and ’10, the south-west side finally put an end to Charnwood AC’s six year winning streak – the two are likely to go toe-to-toe once more.
Birchfield Harriers, who finished second in 2011 and came out as top-ranking Midlands team – and second overall – at last year’s rescheduled 4 Stage final, will be looking to reverse the 6 Stage result from earlier this year when Bristol once again came out on top.
Rushmoor Arena, Aldershot will be the venue once more for the Southern 6 & 4, with Kent AC and Aldershot, Franham & District set to line up as defending champions.
Kent AC turned in an impressive showing last year to come out on top by a twenty four second margin, improving on their third place finish the year before to see off the challenge of home side Aldershot, Farnham & District.
Victorious in ’09, ’10 and second in ’11 and ’12, AFD will be looking to get back to winning ways whilst Bedford & County AC, who enjoyed their best Southern 6 Stage performance since 2007 with bronze last time out, should be in the mix.
Belgrave Harriers finished down in 13th last year before gathering themselves for a bronze medal in the National and will no doubt be looking to put recent controversy behind them with a strong showing. Big-hitters Woodford Green with Essex Ladies and 2011 winners (and defending National champions) Newham & Essex Beagles should challenge.
In the women’s event, Aldershot, Farnham & District’s name is likely to be already etched on the trophy. AFD teams filled the top-2 places in 2012 (& their three teams went on to finish 1st, 5th & 8th in the final!) and it’s impossible to look past the most successful women’s side in recent history defending their title again.
Serpentine RC – 10th in the National Relays – Thames Valley Harriers and Belgrave could be battling for a place on the podium.