THE ANNUAL Midland 6 Stage Road Relays attract clubs from a wide area, with each striving to enter as many teams as possible in the separate men’s and women’s races, and Stratford Athletic Club are no exception.
The course through Sutton Park in Birmingham is relatively short (5.88km for men, 4.3km for women), but technically difficult with a steep hill at the start and undulating throughout.
Stratford AC team manager David Smyth did a superb job in getting two men’s teams and one ladies’ team lined up at the start for their respective races, with more than 100 teams in each event.
Among some of the regulars, the teams were noticeable for the numbers of semi-retired and newcomers to racing.
Rich Shephard (who arrived by bike as part of his triathlon training!) led off for the A team in 20:19, followed by Danny Tolhurst.
Danny admitted that “I haven’t trained for ages and I knew this race would be a shock to my system” but, despite feeling like a lie down before halfway, he managed a very respectable 22:54.
Next up was captain David Smyth, with a fast and furious 22:59.
Paul Saunders ran a very creditable 25:34, while the team was brought home by the ever-reliable Graham Taylor (23:22) and Anthony Howell (24:11) to finish in 60th place overall.
James Deacon (26:25) set up the men’s B team before handing over to Phil Brennan (27:10).
Despite a lack of recent racing experience, Matt Sims ran an excellent 26:06, before handing over to the ever-cheerful Stuart Griffiths (27:07).
Paul Hawkins, making a rare and welcome appearance on the road racing scene, ran a typically gritty 30:17 and Dave Wolstencroft, 28:15, brought the team home in 94th place.
Maria Haslam led off for the women in a stunning 18:39 and Ceri Shephard (19:39) followed.
Lynne Hinson was next and, confessing to being slightly apprehensive about the course, she did well to finish in 20:51, leaving Jackie Lowe (25:14) to bring the team home in 57th place.
Stratford’s strong team spirit was in evidence throughout the afternoon, with all the competitors agreeing they enjoyed the challenge.
Report compiled by Phil Brennan.