With a great deal of key last-minute withdrawals to cope with, Morpeth Harriers Men’s Team Manager David Swinburne still managed to get twelve runners from his ranks to toe the start line at the annual English Road Running Association 12 Stage Road Relays on Saturday 14th April 2018, which were held at a sunny Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham.
The twelve who ran, certainly did their best to pull off a respectable
team performance, by finishing 30th out of 63 complete teams.
However, Swinburne, who himself is to be praised for his efforts to name a travelling squad,
and other club officials, still feel a little let down by those who failed to rally to their clubs call
to compete in such a premier competition after promising they would, whilst not apportioning
any particular blame, the club have again missed out on an opportunity of retaining
their national status as a high performing organisation.
Saturday still however brought its high points for Morpeth, they were the first of two competing North East clubs, Tyne Bridge Harriers finished six and a half minutes adrift in 34th spot.
Morpeth Harriers were eighth home from the North of England, with key player Carl Avery getting them from 18th to 10th on the third leg, by posting their fastest Long Stage (5.38mile) time of the day of 26m42s.
Sam Hancox, recent winner of the Blyth Valley 10k, had the squad well placed on the Long opening leg, when he finished thirteenth in 27m08s, the clubs second fastest Long Stage time of the day.
Although posting his clubs fastest Short Stage (3.16mile) time of 16m39s, Under 20 athlete Kieran Hedley, lost a couple of places on the second leg, mainly due to faster runners around him, but kept his club within a challenging reach as he handed over to Avery.
Fourth leg saw Alistair Douglass move back to fourteenth, as he posted 17m17s.
On the fifth Long Leg, Ian Harding got the squad back up to twelfth, as he clocked 27m55s.
Morpeth fell back to seventeenth on the sixth leg, courtesy of Jordan Scott as he posted 17m33s.
The seventh and eighth legs for Morpeth were completed by Thomas Straughan (28m51s),
and Tom Innes (17m45s), as they held nineteenth place throughout.
Andrew Lawrence (30m22s), Rob Hancox (18m56s), Neil Gunstone (34m44s),
and Graeme Thorpe (18m05s), all ran courageously over the final four legs,
as they slipped gradually firstly to 25th, and finally to that 30th placing.
The squads total time taken was 4hrs 41m57s, which was just over 24 minutes adrift of winners Tonbridge,
who finished about ninety seconds ahead of London club Highgate Harriers, making it very much
a Southern dominated affair, with 2017 winners Swansea finishing third, with Leeds City finishing fourth,
as first from the North, and third English club.
Meanwhile, Team boss Swinburne, is still hopeful that he will receive more positive commitment
from his competing community in forthcoming events that are to be targeted.