Bedford & County’s Senior Men’s team were in action again on Saturday in the National 12 Stage Road Relay Championship, which is held at Sutton Park Birmingham. Entry to the race is by invitation only with all teams having to qualify from either the English Areas, or the Scottish or Welsh championships. Bedford went into the race with a slightly weaker team than their medal winning team from the South of England relay two weeks ago, but hopes were still high of a top 10 finish.
The 12 stage sees teams of 12 runners complete legs of 5.4 and 3.2 miles respectively and after just over four hours of racing Bedford had to settle for 11th place after showing at the front for over half the distance. The standard was particularly high this year with Bedford’s final finishing time of 4h 21m 37secs, for the 52 miles, usually good enough for a top 6 finish.
Ben Davies, as he had in the Southern, got the team off to a great start finishing the opening leg in 9th place with the superb time of 26:19.
On leg 2, Irish International Matt Bergin wasted no time in attacking those ahead of him, storming into 2nd place with the 3rd fastest short leg of the day of 14:57 for the hilly 3.2 mile short leg.
Despite being chased down by several internationals, Matt Bray’s excellent run of 27:10 ensured that Bedford only slipped one place, with Andrew Headley going off in 3rd place.
Against all expectations, the team only slipped one place with Andrew coming home in 4th with a super run of 16:21 for the short leg.
With the 2nd fastest time of his leg, former England international, Ben Alcock stormed back into 2nd place with the great time of 26:22. At this stage of the race, all the favourites were beginning to close and it looked to be only a matter of time before the front loaded Bedford drifted back through the field.
However, against all expectations Jono Janes moved further away from the 3rd placed team to ensure that Bedford reached the halfway point in 2nd place. Jono recorded an excellent 15:59, the 4th fastest of his leg.
Leg 7 has traditionally been the one where those teams looking to win field their best runners, and so it proved, with several of Britains best 10,000m runners chasing down Josh Lunn. Josh’s fine run of 27:24 was however still sufficient to keep Bedford within 30 secs of the podium places , despite the team slipping down to 5th. But with only 79 secs covering 8 teams after 2 and a half hours running, the race really was hotting up.
Next up was the returning Michael Harrison, who still a long way from full fitness could not hold back the tide, and slipped to 9th place, recording a solid 17:15 short leg.
A far from fully fit Jack Goodwin, in only his 2nd race for almost 12 months, ran as well as could be expected, but slipped back to 10th, recording 27:52.
Leg 10 saw Pete Benedickter, another on the comeback trail, hang on to 10th place, with a great run of 16:30.
A late withdrawal led to Mike Channing having to move onto a long leg, but he didn’t disappoint, his 28:30 sufficient to lift the team back into 9th , overtaking halfway leaders Cardiff.
It fell to Craig Emmerson to bring the team home, but alas the Swansea and Shaftesbury teams had both saved a fast runner for leg 12. Craig gave it his all, running as fast as could be expected, but his 16:58 wasn’t quite good enough to hold them off as Bedford came home in 11th place.
It was however a great team performance from the squad in an event that really tests the depth of the best distance running clubs in the country.
Benjamin Davies (9) 26:19
Matthew Bergin (2) 14:57
Matthew Bray (3) 27:10
Andrew Headley (4) 16:21
Benjamin Alcock (2) 26:22
Jonathan Janes (2) 15:59
Josh Lunn (5) 27:24
Michael Harrison (9) 17:15
Jack Goodwin (10) 27:52
Pete Benedickter (10) 16:30
Michael Channing (9) 28:30
Craig Emmerson (11) 16:58